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Former State Dept. Official Predicts the U.S. Won’t Embark on New Mideast Peace Effort in the Near F

November 30, 1984
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The Reagan Administration will not embark on a new Mideast peace effort in the near future — in part for fear of upsetting the delicate balance in the Israeli government.

This was the prediction voiced here yesterday by Lawrence Eagleburger, who recently retired as the State Department’s senior Mideast policymaker. His view was disputed by Ambassador Sol Linowitz, who was President Carter’s special envoy to the inconclusive Israel-Egypt talks on Palestinian autonomy in 1980.

The two men spoke at a day-long seminar on Israel-U.S. ties at Haifa University. The university’s president — and the moving spirit behind the event — is Ephraim Evron, formerly Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Eagleburger said the U.S. ought to know that there were times “to shut up” — and the present was one such time.


But both Linowitz and Labor MK Abba Eban warned that ongoing inaction could be dangerous, and both urged Washington to revive its peacemaking efforts. Linowitz advised that there should be a resuscitation of the autonomy talks, and said he was convinced the still-outstanding issues, such as land-rights and water-rights, could be resolved.

Eban dismissed the autonomy talks in 1979-81 as “desultory” and urged that Washington build on the new Israel government’s readiness to withdraw from Lebanon as a first stage towards regional progress.

Former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, who is remembered in Israel as the man who organized the vital Yom Kippur War arms airlift, said that to ask if Israel was perceived in Washington, and especially in the Pentagon, as an asset or a liability was “the wrong question.”

Fundamentally, he argued, American foreign policy was founded on moral considerations: only policies which were broadly supported by public opinion as “right” proved viable and long-lasting. And support for Israel’s security and survival fell squarely into that category and accounted for the sturdy basic strength of the Israel-U.S. relationship, the former Defense Secretary (and later Secretary of Energy under Carter) contended.

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