Thanks to the tireless efforts of Secretary of State James Baker, there is at last a real chance for peace in the Middle East for the first time since the modern state of Israel was established in 1948.
The only remaining question is whether the effort will founder this time because of Israeli opposition rather than prior intractable Arab resistance to any arrangement which envisioned Israel as a permanent state in the region.
For years, the Israelis had sought negotiations without preconditions in an effort to attain a stable and secure peace with their Arab neighbors, only to be persistently rebuffed by the hard-line Arabs. Now that most Arab states have accepted that proposal, it is the hard-line Shamir government in Israel which is suddenly posing preconditions which imperil the convening of a conference under joint U.S.-Soviet sponsorship.
Acting under intense pressure from the world community, Shamir has agreed to come to the conference -- but only with the precondition that no Arabs from East Jerusalem be present, nor any with connections with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
In practical terms, it matters little whether such individuals be included, simply because any Arabs other than puppets or quislings are going to be working from the same agenda: return of the occupied territories, definition of fixed borders, a negotiated agreement over the status of Jersualem and an autonomy that almost certainly would lead to a Palestinian state.
This being the case, Israeli insistence on a veto over Palestinian representatives becomes a pointless insult. In the end, the Israelis have no more right to dictate to the Palestinians who will be their representatives than the Palestinians have to dictate to the Israelis who will be their representatives.