Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nearsighted U.S. Foreign Policy on Plo, North Korea

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nearsighted U.S. Foreign Policy on Plo, North Korea

Article excerpt

What is Secretary of State Warren Christopher doing in the Middle East? His main objective is to revive talks on an Israeli-Syrian peace treaty, which would make a nice bookend to September's Israel-PLO agreement. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, however, made it clear during his visit to Washington last month that the time is not ripe for a deal with Syria.

For one thing, the Israeli public is overloaded and overwhelmed by the risks and dangers of the PLO agreement just signed. It is simply not prepared for simultaneously undertaking the even larger, existential risk of giving up the Golan Heights, too.

Rabin's second reason for caution is even more telling. What counts, he said, is not agreements but their implementation. The first task of any Middle East diplomacy has to be translating into reality the piece of paper signed on the White House lawn in September.

In the international arena, unlike the cozy world of corporate law, there is no enforcement mechanism. Treaties have to be self-executing. If the parties do not carry out their obligations, treaties are worse than useless.

Considering what has happened with the PLO agreement, Israel is understandably wary of signing yet another piece of paper with an Arab adversary. After all, in the Israel-PLO agreement, Israel does all the giving: autonomy, territory, policing powers, an embryonic Palestinian state. In return for what? In return for two things: a renunciation of terrorism and a change in the PLO charter that calls for the destruction of Israel. Arafat has delivered on neither.

Terrorism continues at a more deadly pace than ever. Arafat's response? After one particularly brazen murder carried out by his own PLO troops, it took a public appeal by the president of the United States to extract from Arafat a statement - faxed, not spoken (the diplomatic equivalent of "dictated, but not read") - condemning the killing. Apart from that and with shootings happening almost daily, silence. As for changing the PLO's charter to eliminate the clauses that call for Israel's destruction - nothing.

Syria's President Hafez Assad does not even pretend to offer what the Egyptians pretended to offer at Camp David: normalization and an exchange of civilities. …

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