Barring something that happened at the summit that we don't know about, the Middle East, Arab-Israeli department, has been left as it was. That puts on the parties a burden they are not handling well enough. Some energy, some vision are needed. Politics as usual won't do.
King Hussein of Jordan, who had been talking of talking with Israel, has been coming in from the cold of the consequent risks and seeking warmth in an Arab consensus so broad -- with the PLO, with Syria -- it prevents movement. One evident Israeli response was to send jets into Syrian airspace on Tuesday to shoot down two patrolling Syrian MiG23s in the first such shootout in three years.
On his part, Shimon Peres realies Israel desperately needs to maintain its current share-the-burden consensus in order to attack the savage inflation. Plainly, he hesitates to break up Israel's national unity government, as he would have to do to get serious about negotiations with Hussein, when he still has no assurances of even starting negotiations with Hussein.
A month ago the operating Israeli theory was that the Achille Lauro affair and the PLO's London debacle had shrunk Yasser Arafat's claims on his fellow Arabs to size. The wishful thought was that Hussein could now form a negotiating team including, along with Jordanians, Palestinians who did not have a declared PLO stamp and who thus would be okay to Israel.
But the PLO's Arab standing has never hinged on its reasonable behavior; rather, it has hinged on the Palestinians' call on Arab guilt for having abandoned them. Arafat, in short, is back, evasive as ever, unslippable as a shadow. To the misfortune of his people, he persists in treating unequivocal recognition of Israel -- the sure icebreaker, the move that would do more than any other to bring the Palestinians toward their promised land -- as the last thing on his mind.
Egypt's Hosni Mubarak thought it would help to get the PLO to swear off terrorism; at the least, standing with the PLO would help Egypt regain the comforts of the Arab fold. He has now induced Arafat formally to swear off terrorism outside Israel. That is a limited constraint, even if enforced, given all the terrorism that has spun off from the PLO's training and example. By asserting a continuing right to conduct "armed struggle" inside Israel, moreover, Arafat can only have confirmed the general Israeli disposition to regard the PLO as murderous and duplicitous.
To have any chance to soften that disposition, Peres needs an opening on the Arab side. Some friends, some enemies and frustrated observers urge Israel to break the chain of mutual rejection by signaling its terms of welcome to the PLO. But exhorters must concede that the steady thrust of Israeli opinion blunts all such exhortations.
Nor does it seem that Peres will expand the opening he made last month in, apparently, a secret meeting with Hussein in France and in public statements. The opening consisted of some give on the Jordanian demand for international company in negotiations, plus veiled hints of flexibility -- hints that it will take some further promise of diplomatic prog
By one keen view in current circulation, Israelis see good reason -- beyond their familiar distrust -- to sit tight. They are coming off their 1984 blues, feeling good to have left Lebanon and feeling even better to have at least begun showing themselves they have the stuff to accept austerity. They observe that Egypt's policy of a "cold peace" has left them with not much more than a condition of nonbelligerency in the Sinai, and they ask what more they might get, and at what price, beyond the nonbelligerency that Hussein's policy of implicit accommodation already affords them in the far more sensitive West Bank.
The Arab-Israeli dispute, it seems, is sinking back into a familiar slough. In these circumstances, calls are bound to multiply for American diplomacy to intervene more forcefully in order to give the parties extra courage and the useful pretext of being able to say the United States is twisting their arm. The Israelis are sure they will bear the brunt of this tactic; it sets them on edge to contemplate it.
Nonetheless, it seems to me right that the Reagan administration should swallow its earlier disappointments in the Middle East and undertake a steady intervention. The difficulties do not need to be belabored. The important thing is that in Shimon Peres, whose assured time is running out, and in King Hussein, there is a serious implicit partnership whose possibilities cry out to be tested. It won't get easier; it could get worse.