Land for Peace Means Peace, No Less


October 26, 1991|By DANIEL BERGER

The meeting of Arabs and Israelis in Madrid next Wednesday will symbolize what they share as much as what separates them.

Spain is gearing up to celebrate next year the 500th anniversary of more than Columbus' discovery of America for Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. It is also the 500th anniversary of their conquest of Granada, the last Arab kingdom on the Iberian peninsula, which unified Spain. And it is equally the 500th anniversary of their expulsion of the Jews, which established Spain's character as a militantly Catholic superstate.

Mosques and synagogues alike became churches or stables. ZTC Jews and Muslims alike fled to countries of tolerant Islamic rule. So at least the Israeli and Arab delegates, all schooled in the ironies of history, should harbor similar wry feelings at the welcome accorded them by the current Spanish monarch.

That, of course, is not enough to overcome their difficulties, but it might serve as a goad.

Much is written about what Israel must -- and refuses to -- give up to attain peace. It is all quite valid. But now is the time to focus as well on what Arabs must concede to get land, Palestinian sovereignty and Syrian repossession of the Golan Heights.

Most Americans probably think that the Arabs should get these things and should concede peace to get them. But it is important to recall that the Arab-Israeli difficulty was seemingly insurmountable long before Israel acquired East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, which it did in response to an Arab war of intended conquest.

In a purely sporting sense, Israel is entitled to every square inch it holds and Egypt, Syria and Jordan deserve to have lost it. But Israel's occupation is also hell for the Palestinians there. No one should have to live as they do, and anyone who must is entitled to rebel. This, and not any supposed legality about land title, is the reason Israel should try to find a way out.

So the time has come to switch the spotlight from Israeli intransigence to the Arab intransigence that fixes Israel in place. Washington and Moscow must not only convince Israel to give up land and desist in new provocative settlements but convince the Arabs to do what it takes to move Israel.

The principle supported by Washington (and by Israel's opposition Labor Party) is land for peace. The sloganeering is imprecise about how much land. It has been silent about how much peace.

Peace means revocation of the clauses in the Palestine National Charter (the PLO's constitution) that call for the destruction of Israel and its replacement by a secular Palestine, and for the reconquest by displaced Palestinians of their pre-1948 homes in Israel.

Peace means the renunciation by all Arab governments of a Palestinian ''right of return'' to what is now Israel. Peace means the willingness of Arab states to accept, as their own first-class citizens, so-called ''Palestinians'' born on their territory whose grandparents may have lived in what is now Israel.

Peace means a coordinated resettling of Palestinians from squalid refugee camps or expatriate jobs in Arab countries they will call their own. How bizarre that the concept of ''Arab nation'' never meant the right to live in it!

Peace means the Arab League's dismantling of the Boycott of Israel Office in Damascus that -- since 1951 -- has enforced an embargo on Israel and secondary boycott on Western firms that deal with Israel.

Peace means recognition of Israel, which only Egypt has formally taken. It means permanent contact and discussion (by Syria, Jordan and Lebanon at a minimum) of such common problems as terrorism, security, migration, trade, water and the environment.

Peace is not love. No one said Arabs must like Israel. Peace in its passive sense is not even goodwill. But peace does go further than just those state actions. Peace is the absence of state-sponsored calls in schoolbooks and in mosques for Israel's destruction and for hatred of Jews. Americans don't hear these calls; Arabic-speaking Israelis with good radios do.

Well, no one said the Arabs have to grant all that overnight. Just as no one expects Israel to abandon settlements and vacate land in one go. The responses of one side, and the actions of the other, would be phased.

Israeli hawks keep emphasizing that Israel is asked to give up security (in terms of buffer land) and to commit national suicide. So it is up to the Arabs to think up a greater security, which ## would be the absence of threat. The question of Israeli abandonment of the Golan Heights is intimately connected with Syrian armaments. President Hafez el Assad could hardly pretend otherwise.

Hard as it is to imagine the Shamir government making the concessions, it is even harder imagining Arab rulers and PLO-approved delegates doing so. There is the tradition of assassination in Arab politics. Politically incorrect people have a habit of getting bumped off. This gives the assassins, however few, a veto over moderation. It may not be fair, but it has proved effective. A great deal of courage and leadership by Arab rulers is required to do what is necessary to require concessions by Israel.

Israel should, in the end (and that is a long way off) give up virtually all the territory under discussion. But only for peace. Not for less than peace. Not for more hostility.

Washington should leave the Palestinian delegates and Arab governments in no illusion about that.

Daniel Berger writes editorials for The Sun.


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