WASHINGTON (Sep. 3)
William Quandt, who directed Middle East affairs in President Carter’s National Security Council, said Thursday that the Soviet Union must be brought into the Middle East peace process if progress is to be achieved.
The United States can no longer be the lone intermediary in the Mideast, Quandt said in a talk at the Brookings Institution, where he is a senior fellow.
Quandt, who said he had long been opposed to including the Soviets, said his views changed after his summer tour of Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Syria, that, he said, left him “skeptical and pessimistic” about any chances for progress.
If peace could be achieved through negotiations just between Israel and Jordan, then the U.S. could be the lone intermediary, as it was in the Egyptian-Israeli peace talks, Quandt said.
But, he stressed, Jordan cannot make peace with Israel without either the support of Syria or the Palestinians, and the U.S. “does not have much influence” with either. However, the Soviets do, he added.
CRITICAL OF REAGAN ADMINISTRATION
At the same time, Quandt criticized the Reagan Administration for failing to be more actively involved in the Mideast peace process. He said the Administration mistakenly believed that it should only act after the parties involved have taken the “necessary” steps to move toward negotiations.
But, Quandt argued that once the parties have shown willingness to negotiate, the U.S. is needed to push them along. “Any time we have made progress in the past, it is been after a heavy dose of leadership from the United States from the outside,” he said.
He explained that when Israeli and Arab leaders have to make difficult political decisions “it’s a lot easier to say ‘the Americans made us do it’.” He pointed to the Israel Cabinet’s decision to abandon development of the Lavi fighter plane which he noted many in Israel wanted to do, but found it helpful to stress that the decision was needed to prevent a deterioration in relations with the U.S.
On the Soviet Union, Quandt said that there had been “encouraging talks” about the Mideast recently between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, as well as signs that the USSR was moving from its “traditional positions” of “inflexibility” in the Mideast where it only dealt with the intransigent Arab countries.
He said the Soviet Union appears to support an international conference that would neither dictate the terms to the parties nor impose a veto on any decisions reached through bilateral talks. He said the Soviets also seem to support the Palestinians being part of a Jordanian delegation without any formal participation in the negotiations by the Palestine Liberation Organization.
But Quandt said that the Soviets, like the U.S., do not consider the Mideast peace process a priority item.