By the time this reaches readers about two weeks hence, they and the world will have been on exactly the kind of hair-raising roller coaster that tested the nerves of Center, Sadat, and Begin—and their aides—during Camp David. The newspapers and the radio waves will have been full of recriminations, upsets, despairs, bursts of hope, and accusations of duplicity.
We are heading into a kind of planetary. wrestling match, replete with the most frightful grimaces, exquisite howls, agony, and sudden eye-gouges between among and within all the far-flung capitals involved. Every twenty-four hours or less all hope will have been lost. But I hope, believe, and incautiously predict that things are going to turn out for the better. These are the vicarious and symbolic wars in which bargains are reached in bazaars—and peace made. The process is underway, the baby is being born. And for that we must be grateful first of all to President Carter. It is his triumph.
Every participant will have suspected every other participant’s veracity, and all will be right. Everybody’s been lying. The climax was the lovey-dovey act with which Carter, Sadat, and Begin ended the summit. If the walls were tapped, the secret police know the private air was full of obscenities. Sadat and Begin got themselves jailed and between jailed and jailer there is something other than love. Once sprung, Sadat and Begin have been doing their best, very politely of course, to put the knife into each other. But the film-flame, the charades, the joint session of Congress are in a sense truer than the shabby realities. This is the beginning of peace between Israel and the Arabs and that is a prime event of history.
Never was mendacity—not just ambiguity—so unavoidable. Each major participant is talking out of both sides of his mouth in the effort to reconcile the theoretically irreconcilable. Each political leader is trying to mollify and hoodwink the diverse parts of his own constituency and keep them reasonably quiet until the deed can be done. The leaders in each capital concerned are all talking with forked tongues to mutually hostile elements. If Carter has to do a balancing act between Jews and Arabs—a feat even and seems to have given up centuries ago—King Khaled of Saudi Arabia, the Santa Claus of the Arab world, has to maintain friendships with forces, symbols, and men as far apart as the PLO and Egypt, Arafat and Sadat. But it will be sorted out, I believe, because meshugah as they and we all are, peace is to everybody’s advantage, and Carter’s persistent hand has set them firmly toward it.
The key, the clue, in the midst of all this confusion, the point to keep in mind on the roller coaster, a source of hope every time all is lost, may be found in a paragraph this morning, Wednesday, September 20. In an alarming dispatch in The Washington Post, about the hostile reactions from the two Arab Kingdoms.…
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Copyright © 1978 I. F. Stone