Jimmy Carter has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat! As of this writing, the American President, Menachem Begin, and Anwar Sadat together appear to have taken the biggest step toward peace in modern Middle Eastern history.
All three of these statesmen are deeply devoted to their respective faiths. President Carter is an avowed born-again Christian; Mr. Begin is a staunch believer in the Jewish faith; President Sadat is a devout Muslim. All three are noted for their courage and faith. All three have undertaken grave risks to their own political futures from the very inception of these prolonged negotiations over a period of many, many months. But their courage appears to have paid off in a handsome reward for perhaps all of mankind in spite of the great risks they still must face in the future.
Let's face it. If Mr. Carter's peace mission had utterly failed, the political fallout at home would have been incalculable. If he had been denied the triumph and come home empty-handed, his Republican opponents would have received a great boost in their political fortunes. Not knowing the end result, it took a great deal of courage for him to perhaps stake his political future on the recent peace talks in Palestine.
Prime Minister Begin has been the proverbial "man on the spot." He has been the natural scapegoat for failure from the onset of his government. But he also is a man of great courage. Mr. Begin placed the life of his government on the line in the cabinet vote on an Egyptian-Israeli peace pact. And even in the presence of President Carter he has experienced the humiliation of a cruel heckling from the floor of the Knesset by members of his own Likud Party.
I can only repeat what I have twice written in previous issues of The Plain Truth: "However, because of his political posture in the past, and his genuine credentials as a hawk, he [Mr. Begin] stands, in this writer's view, as the one man who might be able to make the kind of a deal with the Arab nations that would bring about a return of much of the occupied territory in return for the Arab nations' recognition of Israel as a state, which recognition alone is the only real basis for peace in the area..." (December 1977, January 1979). In the latter issue I also wrote that "Prime Minister Begin may eventually enter history as the one man who finally brought the state of Israel an honorable peace with security."
President Anwar Sadat is no stranger to courage either! He knows there is and has been strong opposition in the whole Arab world to his peace initiatives with Israel. Many of his fellow Arabs opposed his epochal journey to Jerusalem to address the Israeli parliament; they fought Camp David; they expressed opposition to his recent peace efforts in Palestine in conjunction with President Carter and Prime Minister Begin. And he also knows very well that he does not have unanimous support even in his own cabinet and parliament. This is a high-risk business for political leaders. They must enjoy at least a modicum of success in their peace efforts just to ensure their own political survival.
Anwar Sadat has been tied to various military treaties with just about I every Arab country in the Mideast. Not a single one of these countries is even remotely satisfied with the proposed solutions to the Palestinian problem. None can perceive the benefits of just an opening wedge — a small beginning that could eventually lead to full autonomy both on the West Bank and on the Gaza Strip. It is natural for human beings to want it all now, no matter how impractical such impatience might be in the step-by-step world of international diplomacy.
Other dangers are ever present. The Iranian revolution has at least temporarily strengthened the hand of the PLO. The more militant elements of the PLO will apparently continue to completely overshadow the more responsible Palestinians who would recognize and respect the basic right of Israel to exist.
In short there was every good reason for both Israel and Egypt to overcome all obstacles, come to terms and send a happy Jimmy Carter home with an agreement practically in his pocket. This they did!
But it took the exhausting ordeal of around-the-clock deliberations and the tireless efforts of Carter, Sadat and Begin to close the gap. Of course, they all possessed the sure knowledge that if they failed to seize the opportunity of the moment, external pressures from neighboring nations would make the going much harder the next time around.
They knew they could not afford the luxury of quitting. They knew they had to stubbornly persevere! Both Egypt and Israel remembered that they had come a long way since their troops were apparently hopelessly tangled around the Suez Canal in the wake of the Yom Kippur War.
Out of this diplomatic powder keg emerged the unprecedented technique of "shuttle diplomacy." Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger would seek to narrow the gap in negotiations just a little more with each trip. Weeks went by with little apparent success. And Kissinger was being increasingly assailed as an emissary of evil by well-meaning, but deceived, street demonstrators. More and more it began to appear as if the talks might suddenly abort and gravely threaten the already precarious cease-fire.
Being human, Kissinger himself must have been sorely tempted to throw in the towel. But good sense finally prevailed and the breakthrough suddenly came amid the gloomiest of dire predictions. The parties had persevered!
The subsequent negotiations between Israel and Syria over the status of the Golan Heights were no easier. The dismal prospect of failure reared its ugly head on more than one occasion. At one point in the talks it appeared that Kissinger would be obliged to announce the suspension of negotiations. Indeed, a hall was rented at Lod Airport for that very purpose.
Time and time again former Secretary Kissinger was tempted to
"The road to peace in the Middle East will not be an easy one. Even with the "magic" solution to the Israeli-Egyptian deadlock, other key nations still remain to be brought into the peace negotiations."abandon ship. But he pressed on, and in the end he persevered. When the negotiations were favorably terminated, Golda Meir was prompted to say: "Today all our efforts that seemed impossible are crowned with success. From today on, I hope that quiet will prevail on the northern borders, a day when mothers and children both in Syria and Israel will be able to go to sleep quietly."
History then repeated itself at Camp David. At one point in the negotiations there, President Sadat was prepared to abandon further discussions. Obtaining vital concessions from Mr. Begin took patient and skillful negotiating. Jimmy Carter must be given every credit for his persistence! Indeed it was he who had boldly brought the two Mideast leaders together to help them construct a viable framework for peace.
Then, in the aftermath of Camp David, the peacemaking process began to flag. Again the American President, almost in the role of a secretary of state, picked up the baton and even humbled himself by going directly to the key countries. He lent the prestige of the U.S. presidency to the arduous negotiations — even indulging himself in a mini version of "shuttle diplomacy."
And even in the wake of apparent success; all the parties affected are going to have to keep on trying — perhaps at times when damage to dignity and the prestige of one's country would normally dictate an automatic termination to the negotiating process. The stakes are too high in this nuclear age! We simply cannot afford another major Mideast war.
One of the seven laws of success is perseverance! As Mr. Herbert Armstrong has written: "Nine in ten, at least once or twice in a lifetime, come to the place where they appear to be totally defeated! All is lost — apparently, that is. They give up and quit, when just a little more determined hanging on, just a little more faith and perseverance — just a little more stick-to-it-iveness would have turned apparent certain failure into glorious success."
Nations are not exempt from obeying this vital law of success. As I have written before, the road to peace in the Middle East will not be an easy one. Even with the "magic" solution to the Israeli-Egyptian deadlock, other key nations still remain to be brought into the peace negotiations. And, of course, Old Jerusalem will sooner or later have to enter into future talks. Control of the sacred city is the most emotional and potentially explosive issue in Palestine.
These knotty problems are going to try the patience of Middle Eastern and Western statesmen alike. These issues will not conveniently disappear. However, they will subside in the face of leaders who are not only totally committed to peace, but who are willing to consistently persist and persevere far beyond what would normally be required.