One must presume that Philip Geyelin's column of April 1 ("An Israeli Recipe for Violence," op-ed) was not unrelated to the date of its publication. How else are we to account for his misrepresentation of Israeli policy, for his ill-founded characterizations and for the simplicity of his assertions?
Geyelin correctly perceived that behind the recent events on the West Bank there was a rational and coherent Israeli policy. Wisely, unlike The Post's editorial of March 23 ("Death on the West Bank"), he went to the source of the policy, the civilian administrator for the Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District, Prof. Menachem Milson, and read his article "How to Make Peace with the Palestinians." At this he took leave of his wisdom.
Apparently Geyelin is uncomfortable with what he perceives as the basic assumptions of Milson's plan--that the PLO is implacably hostile to Israel, that there are significant moderate elements within the Palestinian community ready to negotiate with the Israelis, and that through "physical terror, or bribery, and other nefarious means" the PLO corrupted the election process of 1976. Ironically, while Geyelin dismissed each of these three assumptions as fallacious, he misrepresented at least two of them.
Milson developed his plan for peace when autonomy negotiations between Israel and Egypt were stymied and when no local Palestinians had come forth to participate in the negotiating process outlined by the Camp David Accords. He sensed that Israeli policy makers had but a limited understanding of Arab politics and history. Optimistically, the Israelis had hoped that economic progress on the West Bank would mollify rather than strengthen radical elements, that Palestinians would be content to reap the benefits of prosperity. Furthermore, Israeli officials had not followed the model that Anwar Sadat himself had set for reviving political parties in Egypt--political activity, yes; freedom of the press, yes; opposition to the regime, yes--but all within limits that would stop short of incitement against the government's very existence.
Milson took seriously a suggestion by Mustafa Khalil, Egypt's chief negotiator on Palestinian autonomy, that the residents of the West Bank organize themselves in political parties. Their criteria for establishment should be a) recognition of Israel, b) negation of terrorism and c) acceptance of the peace process. Milson reasoned that the PLO would be unwilling to pay this political price for organization, and therefore he prescribed a system of patronage, including political economic relationships, as well as access to key officials in the Israeli regime. Moderate Palestinians must be encouraged to assert themselves. They must be protected against assassination, and the stranglehold of the PLO on the West Bank must be broken. Only then would Palestinian representatives participate in the peace process, and only then would the PLO understand (as Sadat did in November 1977) that a political price must be paid for peace.
Geyelin is required neither to approve of this plan nor appreciate its sobriety and subtlety. He should, however, understand the plan. Unfortunately, he treats us to some nastiness. His hostility is rather tasteless. He labels Milson's plan "holy writ" at one point. Later he calls this published plan "a Begin plot." His description of patronage as "bribery" is an indictment of American policies, let alone either Arab or Israeli customs.
We are told that Milson is at "odds with everything that we know about the administration's plans for advancing the Camp David peace process." He then informs us that Reagan plans to bring Palestinian representatives into the discussion "perhaps even the PLO itself if it could first be prevailed upon to recognize Israel's right to exist." Yet there is no indication of how or why the administration might succeed where previously it and its predecessor had failed. Milson's plan is deliberately designed to achieve Palestinian participation. How, then, does it contradict Reagan's hopes?