Self-Interest Was Key to Mideast Accord

Article excerpt

It was not altruism or a sudden access of affection for each other that moved Israel and the PLO to the ceremony on the White House lawn. It was self-interest: a realization that making peace with this enemy was better than the looming alternatives. And self-interest is the key to making the agreement work.

Yasser Arafat and his colleagues have compelling reasons to prevent terrorism or disorder in the small areas they will initially govern. They know that their chance of expanding self-rule in the West Bank - and eventually of establishing a Palestinian state - depend on their demonstrating to Israel that they can be a reliable neighbor.

For its part, Israel has every incentive to help the PLO succeed in Gaza and Jericho. Calm and improving societies there would be a vital political justification for the gamble Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his colleagues took.

The United States and other Western countries have their own self-interested reasons for wanting to help the PLO succeed in the interim self-rule plan. Success would be a key to reducing tensions in the entire Middle East, and reducing the threat of the two radical states that have denounced this agreement: Iran and Iraq.

The help that the Palestinians need from the friendly world is economic. The PLO leadership must produce improvements in the quality of life for Palestinians in Gaza and Jericho to have their support. Gaza is one of the most depressing places on earth: 800,000 people, most of them crowded into miserable refugee camps with no sewage systems. …