Hope for the Mideast?

April 12, 1991

In the Mideast hope too often turns out to be a mirage and peace plans lay scattered in the sands like the remains of strayed people and defeated tanks. But the wish always is that maybe this time things will work out.

This time got a big boost Thursday when Saudi Arabia told Secretary of State Baker it would not give any more money to the Palestine Liberation Organization. The PLO got into trouble with most Arab governments when it sided with Iraq during the gulf war. But both it and its leader somehow have managed to come back from defeat and miscalculation time and again.

The PLO lives on contributions from Arab nations. It also lives on threats and blood, usually the blood of the Palestinians whose interest it says it represents. Because of its terrorist aspect, Israel refuses to deal with it and so the problems of the area cannot be discussed by the peoples most involved. The result: continuing inaction and tension.

Surely the Palestinians need to be effectively represented in any talks. But if the Saudi action means the Arab states are going to stay mad at the PLO, this sends a message to Israel which even the hard-line government of Yitzhak Shamir might find difficult to ignore: That this is a rare opportunity and some understanding, flexibility and innovation on both sides might prove productive.

Maybe this opportunity will not turn out to be a mirage.

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