Peace process obstructionists sabotaging Jewish state

When Israel was involved in almost continuous wars, the solidarity of American Jews and of Israel's friends in the Congress was ardent and unreserved. Peace seems to be a more difficult idea for these friends to embrace.

The realistic alternative to war is negotiation. This requires compromise, ambivalence and reciprocal concession. Diplomatic solutions are those in which no party may claim total victory, or suffer the humiliation of total defeat.

This is all very well for diplomats, but the public on each side prefers swift and clear results in its own favor. It is taught by its leaders to see the human spectacle as a conflict between brilliant light and celestial darkness. Once these images are fixed, national leaders find it hard to move toward a more flexible stance.

Having presented my credentials to President Truman back in 1950 as Israel's ambassador in Washington, D.C., I claim a uniquely long experience in studying American-Israeli relations.

Today, for the first time, many Israelis are asking what exactly is involved in the words "friends of Israel."

Some of those who take pride in that attribution have captured media headlines in recent weeks. They advocate U.S. legislation for moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem without coordinating the timing with other more urgent Israeli and American foreign policy objectives.

They have hesitated to honor presidential commitments to give financial aid to Jordan in tribute to King Hussein's wholehearted advocacy of peace with Israel and the development of regional cooperation across the Israeli-Jordanian boundary.

There have been congressional initiatives for denying the aid to the Palestinian Authority once promised by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

The effect would be to condemn the populations of Gaza, Jericho and other Palestinian urban centers to continued squalor, leading inevitably to the collapse of security and the triumph of fundamentalist violence and despair.

Some Jewish groups have lent hospitable ears to an insolent Israeli lobby that seeks to prevent the conclusion of a peace treaty between Syria and Israel.

Individual professions of friendship are matters of intention. Public groups must be judged by criteria of consequence.

The consequence of the positions and advocacies described above would be to derail the most far-reaching and internationally supported peace process ever conceived by Israeli and Arab representatives acting in unprecedented concert.

The Middle East would be restored to the era of rigorous occupations, and revolts that prevailed in this region before it was illuminated by clear omens of a new regional order.

These are anti-Israeli positions in terms of consequences, and therefore the argument of innocent intention loses all relevance.

All the positions I criticized are based on the refusal to regard the Israeli government and the parliament that has endorsed its policies as central actors in the Middle Eastern drama. This is particularly disquieting when we reflect that the United States and Israel are united for the first time in total support of a common foreign policy objective.

The success of the peace process through a peace treaty between Israel and Syria would resemble the American opening to China and the collapse of the Berlin Wall in its transforming effects. The tragedy of Bosnia and the collapse of deference to the United Nations would be offset by an achievement that has come into view for the first time.

Those who attempt to discredit the peace process compound their provocative initiatives with an eerie silence about the achievements that the American-Israeli-Arab diplomacy has already recorded.

Israel is exchanging views, ideas and expressions of relief with Egypt. We are exchanging proposals for regional cooperation with Jordan. We are exchanging projects of anti-terrorist action with the Palestinian Authority. (Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is the most frugal man in the distribution of praise in world history, and his recent reference to Palestinian cooperation in this cause should be taken at its literal value.)

We are exchanging serious negotiating positions with Syria. We are exchanging projects of cooperation with Arab states in North Africa and the Gulf area. And we are not exchanging bombs, missiles and artillery shells with any army or established authority in the Middle East.

It is astonishing to find the official opposition pretending that these are apocalyptic times.