THE PARLIAMENTS of Lebanon and Israel have now approved the withdrawal agreement, which, as the release of the text makes clear, is much more than a withdrawal agreement. It ends the formal state of war between the two states and bids to shift their relations toward something approaching a normal definition of peace. The terms give Israel rights that a stronger negotiating partner would not have stomached. But Lebanon's duly constituted authorities saw in those terms the only available way to start their country's return to national integrity. They made, we think, a mature choice.
Syria rants that it will do "all in its power" to block the agreement. Think of it: Syria opposes an agreement that a second country, a friendly one, has made with a third country--even though the agreement would move Israeli troops out of Lebanon and thereby remove the imminent threat those troops now pose to Damascus. Very soon the Lebanese can be expected to ask Syrian troops also to withdraw; it takes Syrian withdrawal to put the new agreement into motion. A Syrian refusal would transform Syria's troops from formally invited "peacekeepers" --their status since the mid-1970s--to unwanted and unauthorized occupiers.
Not without reason, the Syrians fear that just as Israel took Egypt out of the battle at Camp David, so now it has taken out Lebanon. The new step tends to isolate Damascus not only militarily but diplomatically. Do the Syrians see how ironic and grave are the consequences? Yet while Lebanon is regaining what it can of its sovereignty, Syria is accepting deeper inroads into its. In its rage and anxiety at Lebanon's pact with Israel, Damascus has made its own devil's pact with a foreign power, handing over to the Soviet Union large defense responsibilities and even control over parts of its territory. For what? Does President Assad really think the Kremlin can get for Syria one inch of the Golan or one bit of satisfaction for the Palestinians? Does he think the Kremlin has no designs of its own?
For the second time in its two chances so far, Israel has made an Arab neighbor an offer it could not refuse. The record could not be plainer that gains in the Middle East come only through negotiation. The point has evidently not been lost on Jordan, which, though it has been unable to bring itself to the table, has endorsed the Lebanon-Israel accord. So has Egypt, the Arab stalwart. The private sympathies if not the public voices of all but the rejectionist Arabs seem to be behind the new agreement. Partisans of peace, rather than pecking at the flaws in a necessarily imperfect text, should be encouraging Syria, and Jordan and the Palestinians, to take their turn.