JESSE JACKSON, the civil-rights leader, reports progress in his effort to advance both the cause of Palestine and the cause of peace on his well-publicized Middle East tour. A few others do not perceive the same result. In Israel, he forfeited by his manner any chance he might have had to convince the Israelis -- both those who received him and those who did not -- that he could be trusted to appreciate their interests. Not the politics of the region but his own personal style became the focus of his stay. He was received by the Palestinians, including the leadership of the PLO, as a warm and true friend. He responded in kind.
In a certain sense, the Israelis treated Mr. Jackson better than the Palestinians did. The Israelis reacted angrily but talked to him straight. The Palestinians flattered him but, at the same time, took advantage of him, offering some familiar formulas that he -- but, apparently, only he -- took as a breakthrough. It serves the PLO's current purposes to have Mr. Jackson return to the United States spreading word of its new "moderation" and its new worthiness to be received as a partner in dialogue with the United States. In fact, when Mr. Jackson asked the PLO to halt violence against Israel, recognize Israel and join the Camp David process, it said no. His claim on Friday that he had obtained the PLO's pledge of a ceasefire in southern Lebanon seemed contradicted by the sound of gunfire on Saturday.
It is doubtful that after his experience in Israel Mr. Jackson or anyone else expected the Israelis to take him seriously. That leaves his mission to be judged mostly on the basis of the PLO's response. But Mr. Jackson, and other blacks who have recently joined the Mideast debate, should be only sobered, not discouraged. It remains possible that they will be able to help move the PLO toward peaceable goals. Their contribution is likely to reflect the amount of persistence, realism and fair-mindedness they bring to the task.