TO ISRAELI Prime Minister Begin, the American Israeli "memorandum of agreement," listing American undertakings accepted in connection with the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, is a "beautiful document." So far unpublished, it evidently is a kind of American safety net under the treaty, commiting the United States essentially to consider certain steps, including military ones, if the treaty is violated. If the memorandum was indeed required-as we are inclined to believe it was-to bring Israel to the signing, then any comments about it must necessarily be subdued. The memorandum, we note, did not keep Egypt from signing the peace treaty, as unhappy as Cairo now turns out to be.
But the memorandum does give concern. As Egypt is not entirely trustworthy. The Egyptians complain that the memorandum "could be construed as an eventual alliance between the United States and Egypt." At the least, it raises the question of whether the United States has committed itself to examine the question of violations (Egyptian violations) partly through Israeli eyes.Egypt asks whether, in light of the memorandum, the United States "could be accused of collaboration with Israel to create such circumstances that would lead to American military presence in the area," and whether the document might "pave the way for other alliances to be formed in the area to counter the one whose seeds could be found in the proposed Memorandum."
This administration, like its predecessor, has always known that one result of trying to bring peace to the Mideast would be the enlargening of the American role in the area in order to steady and broaden that peace. We think the United States has no other responsible choice. Yet American officials habe been reluctant to talk much out loud about this prospect, and the upshot is that not many Americans are fully ready to cope with the new role. Everyone realizes it will cost more money; that is the easy part. The tough part lies in political assurances of the sort that the president seems in this memorandum to have given.
We do not say there is no good reason, or no good explanation, for the new memorandum. On the contrary, we think it offers assurances essential to Israel's embrace of the peace treaty. But the assurances will have diminished value, and the president will have bought himself a pack of trouble, if he does not promptly spell out what he has in mind. Most Americans, we believe, are eager to do what is necessary to make the new peace treaty work and to bring other Mideast parties into it. The hint in the new memorandum, however, is that Mr. Carter may have compromised future American freedom of action-without informing the American people. In fact, there is a sense in which it may have been virtually impossible to give the Israelis, and for the matter the Egyptians, the various commitments they needed to sign a treaty without compromising American flexibility in some measure. But that needs to be talked out too.