More than a photo op: Sinai Summit: Powerful forces for peace and against terrorism.

March 14, 1996

ENCOURAGEMENT of the peace between Israel and its neighbors and opposition to terrorism were sufficiently important for the leaders of 23 nations, the PLO, the European Union and the U.N. to drop their other business and join the prime minister of Israel at the meeting hosted by the presidents of Egypt and the United States.

This was at Sharm el-Sheik, an Egyptian resort that was once a naval base. Some of those attending, such as President Boris Yeltsin of Russia, have their hands full at home. Yet they showed up. The weight of this symbolic meeting makes it more than symbol.

The Arab leaders who attended included the head of the Palestinian Authority and the king of Jordan, principal players in the peace. Arab states that sent ministers were Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

They are all for the peace and against the terrorism. They are morally bound to consider favorably the concrete measures that the working party this conference set up will propose. It is too early to assume that this conference did nothing tangible to cut the life support systems of terrorism.

The large attendance made absentees conspicuous. The most conspicuous is Syria, which had opened an option for peace through negotiations with Israel. President Hafez el Assad has not closed his other option. Hezbollah guerrillas fired rockets from Syrian-occupied Lebanon toward Israel during the conference. Also absent was Lebanon, which has no real independence of Syria. And Libya, Sudan and Iran. The latter is not Arab but supports terrorists.

To retrieve the momentum for peace, the Palestine Liberation Organization must amend its charter to accept Israel; and Israel's security forces must vacate most of Hebron on schedule. If these things happen, the summit succeeded; if they are behind schedule, it did not; if they fail to happen, the terrorism succeeded.

If the outside help to terrorists fades, this conference accomplished something. If President Assad wants the benefits of the peace process, he must join it wholeheartedly. When terrorists can no longer operate from Lebanon, he will have done so.

Pub Date: 3/14/96

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