Historians and semanticists will long debate whether Yasser Arafat actually satisfied the U.S. conditions for meeting with the PLO. His supposedly clear words at the pivotal press conference Dec. 14 were barely more forthcoming than what George Shultz termed ambiguous the day before. It seems that the Administration heard Arafat as it wanted to hear him, not as he is. Now, unfortunately, only Israel sees Arafat as a deceitful terrorist.
More important as negotiations begin is one absolute essential: Israel's security. The Nazi Holocaust is this century's reminder of two millennia of Jewish oppression. Israel is the Jewish sanctuary that ensures against another Holocaust.
Israel, moreover, is the United States' only reliable ally in the strategic Middle East, necessary to guard against Soviet adventurism and to protect the West's access to oil. Israel also is the only democracy in a region overpopulated with extremists and terrorists. So Israel's security is not only vital for itself but for the United States, too.
Despite serious doubts about the U.S. policy reversal, supporters of Israel hope that it leads toward peace. However, there can be no peace if the Palestinians are represented by an organization whose charter still calls for the destruction of Israel. The United States must insist that the PLO change its ways, not just its words, or else permit only those Palestinians truly committed to peace to carry forward negotiations. And there can be no peace with the creation of a Palestinian state, likely allied with hard-line Syria and the Soviet Union. Instead, peace will come quickly when Israel believes that the legitimate interests of Palestinians can be accommodated without risking Israel's survival.
TERRY B. FRIEDMAN
Assemblyman, 43rd District