Dealing with Netanyahu U.S. policy: Continue supporting Israel and the peace process.

June 05, 1996

AMERICAN SUPPORT of Israel is deep, permanent and bipartisan. It is, at bottom, support for Israel's national existence, which has been under attack since the nation's birth in 1948. It is not dependent on Israeli leaders toeing Washington's line, but it is not and never was an uncritical endorsement of anything an Israeli leader might say or do.

The U.S. can help Israel's security best by helping suppress terrorism and by brokering a just and lasting peace. Benjamin Netanyahu has been wise in his statements since winning the premiership. He immediately sought to line up meetings with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan. He notably refrained from mentioning Syria and President Hafez el Assad's minions took offense at the snub, one of the few indications the Syrian president might really wish peace.

Mr. Netanyahu has said that the fait accompli in the peace process with the PLO will not be rolled back. This is a substantial retrenchment of his Likud Party's territorial aspirations. But he also campaigned on positions that undermine Palestinian confidence in the Oslo accords and faith in negotiations.

Nothing in Israel's election should change Washington's policy, even if it changed Jerusalem's. President Clinton should press Mr. Netanyahu to carry out the Peres commitment to redeploy troops away from Hebron. Mr. Clinton should oppose more Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which Mr. Netanyahu is committed to resume building. The U.S. should keep an open mind about Palestinian statehood and ways to resolve Israel's impasse with Syria.

The U.S. may not win on all these points. Its pressure may help Mr. Netanyahu do what must be done. Honest disagreements are possible between trusting friends. Mr. Netanyahu rightly promised to be prime minister for everyone in Israel and to "further the process of dialogue with all our neighbors to reach a stable peace, a real peace, a peace with security." The U.S. should do all in its power to help.

Pub date: 6/05/96

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