SYRIA'S decision to accept the peace-conference terms laid down in a letter from President Bush causes mixed feelings in Washington. The readiness of a key Arab participant to move ahead along the lines favored by the United States is encouraging.
But the Syrian move also puts the Bush team back in face-to-face confrontation with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and his government. The Israeli administration had earlier rejected the letter just endorsed by Syria's President Hafez al Assad. The sticking points were the presence of a United Nations observer at the talks and the possibility of reconvening the conference after its initial session.
In accepting the Bush formula, Mr. Assad emphasized that the conference would rest on UN Resolution 242, which calls on Israel to relinquish lands taken in 1967 in exchange for formal peace with its neighbors. But Mr. Shamir's interpretation of the resolution differs sharply from that accepted by either Syria or the US - that the return of land to Egypt a decade ago already fulfilled Israel's obligations.
The interpretations of either side should not, however, preclude the beginning of talks. Strong differences are a given.
The immediate question is how Shamir will respond to the pressure created by Syria's apparent acceptance of the US terms. …