Saunders Calls for Resumption of the Diplomatic Process to Seek Self-determination for Palestinians
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Saunders Calls for Resumption of the Diplomatic Process to Seek Self-determination for Palestinians

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Harold Sounders, who as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs in the Carter Administration helped negotiate the Camp David agreements, called for a “resumption of the diplomatic process” to seek self-determination for the Palestinian people.

Sounders, now a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said the United States should seek to make up some of the defects of the Camp David accords by pressing for self-determination for Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza. However, he added, this did not necessarily mean a Palestinian state and also required safeguarding the self-determination of both Israel and Jordan.

Sounders’ remarks were made yesterday at the close of a three-hour panel discussion on the Middle East which was part of the AEI’s Public Policy Week held at the Mayflower Hotel here.

He said it has been so very long since negotiations have been held that it is now necessary to determine the basis on which each of the parties — Israel, Egypt and Jordan — would be willing to enter the talks. Because of this. Sounders said, the Camp David agreements would now be only one of the elements in the negotiations and not the framework for the negotiations.


One panelist, Anthony Cordesman, international policy editor of the Armed Forces Journal International, charged that Israel’s Likud government has been a “strategic liability” to the U.S. rather than an asset.

He called the strategic military alliance between the countries announced last week by President Reagan and Israeli Premier Yitzhak Shamir, “cosmetic,” claiming that the Israeli military could not play a role in the defense of the Arab world in the foreseeable future because it would “alienate” more Arab countries than there would be benefits to the U.S. from the Israeli military contribution.

Cordesman also said that for the U.S. to pre-position military supplies in Israel or even if “it used Israeli medical facilities”, it also would be costly to the U.S. in the Arab world. He rejected the view that Israeli military action in Lebanon had provided military benefits to the U.S. because of the lessons learned by the Israelis, saying “those lessons were of marginal value.”

Cordesman charged that “every Israeli use of U.S. technology transfers data to the Soviet Union” in such areas as electronic warfare and air defenses. He said it thus provides billions of dollars of information to the Soviet Union while costing NATO billions of dollars needed to match the knowledge gained by the Soviets.

In remarks that seemed to echo the views of those in the Pentagon opposed to closer U.S.-Israeli military ties, Cordesman said Israel would probably have to receive from the U.S. $2-$2.5 billion annually in foreign aid grants in the next decade to meet its defense needs.

“If Israel is to be as dependent on the U.S. as it virtually must be, its going to have to trade some of its political ambitions for that aid and is going to have to act like a strategic asset and less than like a strategic pain in the ass,” Cordesman said.

He listed requirements he believed Israel should meet. “At a minimum, it should put an end to military adventures” such as its invasion of Lebanon, he said. He said Israel should also show “military restraint”, show active support for Jordan’s internal and external security, be willing to see strong U.S. military ties to Arab countries, show greater responsibility in Lebanon and move toward some kind of settlement for the West Bank.


Philip Habib, who was President Reagan’s special representative to the Middle East and recently joined the AEI as a senior fellow, stressed that while attention is being focussed on the crisis in Lebanon, the overall problem of Middle East peace should not be ignored.

“The search for a comprehensive peace in the area must not diminish when one has to deal with crises in an area in which crises are endemic,” he said. “If there is to be an end to recurrent crises, it will come from a more comprehensive peace in the region as a whole,” Habib said.

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