As a public figure, Andrew Young is still very much alive, despite his resignation (or ouster) as the United States ambassador to the United Nations.
Jimmy Carter, already in critical political condition, is now regarded by most professional politicians as probably a terminal case.
American relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), formerly on the back burner, have suddenly become a volatile and divisive issue in the United States.
Meanwhile, an emotionally-disturbed Israel has just begun to add up its self-inflicted wounds.
That about sums up the fallout so far from the uproar precipitated by the Israeli government when it decided, seemingly oblivious of its own long-range interests, to go public with its protest against the meeting in New York between Ambassador Young and Zedhi Terzi, the chief PLO representative at the U.N.
It is still not clear why the Israelis, forewarned of the probable consequences, chose to inflate the Young-Terzi incident into an international crisis instead of dealing with it through quiet diplomacy, which could have averted the present trauma.
In an Israel aready tense and suspicious about U.S. policy, it apparently gave the government some immediate satisfaction to put Carter and Young on the spot publicly -- but at what a price!
In the ongoing Middle East peace negotiations, Israel needs all the good will, support and cooperation it can get from the United States president, but he is not likely to appreciate the damaging situation that was forced on him by the dramatization of the Young-Terzi meeting. Carter was compelled to choose between the cost of ousting Young, or, possibly, the even greater cost of keeping him. All loss, no gain, either way.
Losing his U.N. job will not end Young's influence. Quite the contrary. But Israel has transformed an old friend into a newcritic. Over Over the years, as a congressman as well as a diplomat, Young consistently supported Israel. As an influential member of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus, he uniformly backed economic and military aid to Israel, and encouraged his colleagues to do likewise.
In the wake of Young's "resignation," however, leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus, like other spokesmen for the American black community, are reappraising their hitherto almost automatic support of Israel, especially Israel's insistence that PLO officials be treated under all circumstances as "untouchables."
The relatively quiescent question of U.S.-Palestinian relations has abruptly been shoved front and center by the Young incident, which could end up as a significant setback for the Israelis.
It is one thing for the United States to agree not to recognize or formally negotiate with the PLO, as long as it refuses to recognize Israel, but are we also obliged to avoid all contact (direct or indirect) with the PLO, even on a social or procedural basis?
Ambassador Young frankly regards such ostrich diplomacy as "ridiculous" and as "foolish." Many other Americans are coming to the same conclusion.
For over 30 years, we completely cut ourselves off from mainland China out of deference to the late Chiang Kaishek. In Iran, the revolution caught our government off guard, because, to please the shah, we avoided all contact with the Iranian dissidents. In Nicaragua, we shunned the winning Sandinista rebels for fear of offending the country's dictator, Anastasio Somoza.
In meeting with Terzi, Andy Young apparently was acting on his own initiative, although he was under instructions to seek postponement in the United Nations Security Council of an Arab-PLO resolution that spelled trouble for the United States and Israel. He succeeded, but, in the eyes of Israel and the State Department, in the wrong way.
Young's cover story was that his meeting with Terzi was accidental and mostly social. This diplomatic dissembling was intended to save U.S.-Israeli relations from further exacerbation. If allowed to stand, there would have been no disastrous aftermath, but once the Israelis publicly protested, the fat was in the fire. Why did they do it? From Tel Aviv, The Washington Post reported, "Israeli officials shrugged off business." Today, though, they are beginning to realize he was acting as a friend when he cautioned them not to blow up the matter if they wanted to avoid an anti-Israeli, pro-Palestinian backlash in the United States, especially among blacks.
How right he was. The issue has already grievously split our black and Jewish communities, and nothing could be worse for Israel than an America divided over Israeli support.
Rep. Parren Mitchell (D-Md.), former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, spoke for many when he said, "Out on the streets, the perception, the feeling is that the Israeli government went out of its way to embarrass and humiliate a black man. . .The feeling is that somebody did Andy Young in. And when you ask who did him in, the people say the Israelis."
Young's own view is more impersonal. He thinks that "nobody in Israel is capable of statesmanship at this time because everybody's playing diplomatic politics." The London Economist agrees. It says:
"The worst-ever crisis of Israel's confidence in America has caught Mr. Begin's government in an advanced state of paralysis. The prime minister is recovering from a stroke; his ministers are at odds on every possible issue; and nobody seems capable of hauling the economy out of the mire."