Report Warns That Hopes Are Fading for Israeli-arab Peace
Menu JTA Search

Report Warns That Hopes Are Fading for Israeli-arab Peace

Download PDF for this date

A four-man private study group that includes Philip Klutznick, a prominent American Jewish leader and former Assistant Secretary of State Harold Saunders, has warned the Reagan Administration that hopes for a negotiated peace in the Middle East “are fading” and urged the U.S. to broaden and intensify its role as an impartial mediator in that region.

The report, released yesterday by the Seven Springs Center of Mt. Kisco, N.Y., an organization specializing in scholarly studies, stressed that Palestinian national aspirations, including the desire for an independent state “must be fairly faced and dealt with in negotiations in ways consistent with the rights and security of their neighbors or the prospect for peace will be radically diminished.”


The report also stated that “no peace will be possible without the Palestine Liberation Organization being involved in the process.” Its conclusions were based on a visit to the Middle East last summer by the four co-authors. In addition to Klutznick and Saunders, they are Merle Thorpe Jr., president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, and John Greene Jr., president of the Seven Springs Center.

According to their report “Hopes for a negotiated peace are fading just at a moment when acceptance of Palestinian national identity in the Arab world and beyond and growing Arab willingness to accept the Israeli state have created the best possibility of an Arab-Palestinian-Israeli negotiation since Israel was established.”

The report said further that there was “widespread conviction in the Middle East that only the United States can effectively help to achieve peace but there is deep doubt that the United States is prepared to play a role as a just mediator and to work actively for a negotiated peace.” It called on the U.S. “to wed military and diplomatic strength in a coherent strategy” that goes beyond the Camp David process between Israel and Egypt and to mount “a parallel campaign” that would involve other Mideastern states such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria in peace talks with Israel.

Klutznick, a former member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations with the rank of Ambassador, was president of the World Jewish Congress from 1977 to 1979 when he took a leave of absence to become Secretary of Commerce in the Carter Administration. He is present honorary president of the WJC and honorary international president of B’nai B’rith.


He expressed views similar to those contained in the report in an article published on the Op-Ed page of the Washington Post last month favoring Saudi Arabia’s eight-point peace plan for the Middle East.

He wrote: “The acceptance by Jordan, the PLO and others of the overall approach embodied in the Saudi eight-point ‘peace plan’ may be a crucial turning point … For the first time, even if indirectly, important Arab parties have turned away from ‘outlawing’ Israel as an illegitimate entity and have looked to negotiations with recognition and ‘co-existence’ as the eventual goal.”

Since Klutznick’s article appeared, the Arab states and the PLO flatly rejected the Saudi plan at the Arab summit meeting in Fez, Morocco. Israel denounced it as an instrument for its annihilation.


Saunders, who served as Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs in the Carter Administration, explained to reporters after the four-man report was released that it was not necessary for the U.S. to avoid all contacts with the PLO.

The U.S. had promised Israel in 1975 that it would not recognize the PLO or negotiate with it until the latter recognized Israel’s right to exist and accepted Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. Saunders said that pledge was interpreted to foreclose even exchanges of views with the PLO until the conditions were met.

The report said the U.S. “would be violating no formal agreement if it explored the PLO’s readiness to negotiate peace. The objective is to negotiate peace among the parties to the conflict, and the PLO will have an important influence on that process.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund