نصف الكأس الفارغ في سلام الشرق الأوسط
كلمات مفتاحية: 
Peace Process
U.S. policy
النص الكامل: 


Looking around the Middle East and the world scene, one is struck by an extraordinary constellation of circumstances that seem conducive to a just and durable solution of the Palestine problem and its derivative, the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Globally, there is the steady convergence between the two superpowers on the resolution of regional conflicts; the virtual end of the cold war; the growing Soviet flirtation with Tel Aviv accompanied by the relative cooling of relations with Damascus; and the mounting universal concern, in spite of the distractions of the collapse of Eastern European communism, for the tribulations of the Palestinians under prolonged occupation and at Israeli brutality in the suppression of the intifada.

Regionally, the most remarkable development has been the steady crystallization, since the early 1970s, by the mainstream PLO leadership of a pragmatic solution of the Palestinian problem accommodating the concepts both of Israeli statehood and Palestinian sovereignty-a crystallization that found its culmination in the declarations of the PNC held in Algiers in November 1988 and later in the successive statements of Arafat.

A second, no less remarkable, regional development was the parallel evolution of a collective pragmatic inter-state Arab posture reflecting and deriving from this Palestinian process. This Arab posture has been successively expressed in the Fahd Plan in 1981, the Fez Summit in 1982, and the Casablanca Summit in 1989. At the Fez Summit in 1982, the Arab heads of state, for the first time since 1947, collectively endorsed the concept of guaranteed peaceful relations with all states in the Middle East. At the Casablanca Summit in 1989, the Arab heads of state, for the first time since 1947, collectively endorsed the concept of partition (a two-state solution) and for the first time since 1967, collectively endorsed UN Security Council resolution 242.

Also, in spite of (or is it because of?) the continuing confrontation between Saddam Husayn and Hafez Asad, and despite Iraq's emergence from the war with Iran with the military upper hand, Baghdad has been a staunch supporter of Arafat's moderate pragmatic policy. This has re- moved the outbidding competition over the Palestine problem in Iraqi- Syrian relations (at least from the Iraqi end) which in the past has been a serious obstacle to the development of a collective pragmatic inter-Arab approach.

Last but not least, the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty has survived the Israeli raids on Iraq (1981) and Tunis (1985), the annexation of the Golan (1981), the carnage of Lebanon (1982), and the smashing of countless bones in the occupied territories since December 1987. Not only has the peace treaty survived, but Egypt has been readmitted to the Arab League, is a founding member of the recently formed quadripartite Arab Cooperation Council, and has resumed diplomatic relations with Syria.

In Israel, the military balance of power with its Arab neighbors stands more in its favor today than at any other time since its establishment. Militarily, Egypt, the largest Arab power, is neutralized. Iraq, the second most powerful Arab country, is preoccupied with demobilization and postwar reconstruction, with its confrontation with Syria, and with its need to face eastwards to deter possible Iranian revanchism. Syria is militarily isolated from Cairo and Baghdad, deeply mired in Lebanon, and unable to persuade Moscow to endorse its armament demands beyond a level of barely credible deterrence. Jordan, small as its armed forces are, has severed all administrative and legal links with the West Bank. In addition to all this, there is the steady evolution of Israel's nuclear, thermonuclear, neutron, chemical, biological, satellite, warhead, and delivery capabilities.

In the United States, literacy in foreign affairs has returned to the White House after an eight-year sabbatical, and the new administration has from the outset had its dirty work done for it (whatever former Secretary Shultz's motives may have been) in the opening of the U.S.-PLO dialogue.

And yet, surveying this extraordinary constellation of propitious circumstances, one is nevertheless driven to conclude that the glass of Middle East peace is half-empty.

Whence this pessimism? It derives from two sources: a deeply pessimistic assessment of the mind-set of the incumbent Israeli leadership, and the sanction given by Washington to the Israeli government's twenty- point initiative of 14 May-henceforth the Shamir Plan. [1] 

The Shamir Plan

Shamir's plan, formalized by the Shamir government, envisions five sequential stages:

Stage I. "First and foremost, dialogue and basic agreement by the Palestinian Arab inhabitants of Judea and Samaria and the Gaza district [sic] [2] ... on the principles constituting the initiative." The dialogue is to take place with Israel. Jordan and Egypt may take part if they so wish.

Stage II. Once the inhabitants agree to these principles, "immediately afterwards" would begin "preparations and implementation of the election process." During this stage "there shall be a calming of the violence in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza district."

Stage III. An election held "in an atmosphere devoid of violence, threats, and terror," takes place for "a representation" of these inhabitants.

Stage IV. Immediately afterwards this representation will conduct negotiations for a five-year transitional period of "self-rule." This representation will be "the self-governing authority" during the five-year transitional period (the interim agreement).

Stage V. Three years after the start of the transitional period, negotiations will begin between Israel and Jordan, with the participation of the elected Palestinian representation, on the permanent solution. The transitional period will last until the signing of a peace treaty with Jordan. Only at this last stage will issues of substance pertaining to the permanent solution be raised.

The main points to note in all this are fairly obvious:

(a) The Palestinian negotiating side is to come exclusively from the occupied territories.

(b) The principal Arab protagonist at the crucial stage V is Jordan- the main thrust of the plan being a bilateral treaty between it and Israel.

(c) The duration of stages I-IV is not specified. The transitional period, although ostensibly limited to five years, automatically becomes open-ended since its duration is linked to the signature of the treaty with Jordan and since it is not explicitly stated that such signature must occur within or at the end of the transitional period.

(d) The intifada will have to end before elections.

(e) The sequence of stages has to be inaugurated "first and fore- most" by Palestinian "basic agreement on. . .the principles constituting the initiative."

Further light is thrown on these principles in three introductory sections of the plan, carrying, respectively, the titles "General," "Basic Premises," and "Subjects to be dealt with in the peace process."

The first section ("General") spells out the following concurrent objectives:

- Termination of the state of war with the Arab states;

- "A solution for Judea, Samaria, and Gaza district";

- Peace with Jordan;

- Resolution of the "problem of the residents of the refugee camps" in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza district.

The second section ("Basic Premises") spells out the assumptions on which the initiative is based, as follows:

- Direct negotiations on the basis of Camp David;

- Opposition to "an additional [sic] Palestinian state in the Gaza district and the area between Israel and Jordan;"

- Refusal to negotiate with the PLO;

- "No change in the status of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza district other than in accordance with the basic guidelines of the government."

Under the third section ("Subjects to be dealt with in the peace pro- cess") four subjects are enumerated:

-Strengthening and extending the peace with Egypt on the basis of Camp David;

- Ending the state of war between the Arab states and Israel;

- Resolving the "problem of the residents of the refugee camps" in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza district;

-Holding the elections.

What are the "basic guidelines of the government" referred to under "Basic Premises" and in the context of which the principle of no change in status of the occupied territories is mentioned? These include provisions for a coalition government balanced between its two major partners in such a way as to accord each partner veto power over policy decisions. Thus, in the absence of agreement by these partners on a substantive change in the status of the occupied territories (a most unlikely eventuality), current policies are bound to be maintained.

Two additional issues, while not specifically addressed in the plan, loom large in this regard: settlement, and East Jerusalem. The basic guidelines call for the establishment of eight settlements in the government's first year (1989), with each additional settlement after that requiring the approval of the Treasury (i.e., of the Labor Alignment, whose leader, Shimon Peres, is finance minister). Elaborating on this, Shamir had this to say in his speech explaining his plan to the Likud Central Committee on 5 July 1989: "The government's basic guidelines state that the existence and development of the settlements established by the various Israeli governments will be guaranteed. . . .there are differences of opinion on this matter between us and our friends in the U.S. Yet the settlement activity will continue." [3] 

Concerning East Jerusalem, the position of the Israeli government is well known: united Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel, one indivisible city under perpetual Israeli sovereignty. This militates against the participation in the envisaged elections of the Palestinian inhabitants of East Jerusalem who constitute the largest and most sophisticated Palestinian urban concentration in the occupied territories. In his 5 July speech, Shamir took pains to point out that the policy on united Jerusalem precluded the participation of the Palestinians of East Jerusalem in the elections, and that the policy was an integral part of the basic guidelines of the government.

The above items in combination constitute the principles of the Shamir Plan. It is these principles that the Palestinians must "first and foremost" agree to at the outset of stage I before the other four stages can follow. Further light may be thrown on Shamir's attitude from the fact that all these principles were consolidated in the Likud platform, which Shamir himself read out at the meeting of the Likud Central Committee on 5 July 1989. This platform further states that "Likud representatives are obliged to work in the cabinet and the Knesset according to this plat- form." On ending the intifada as a precondition of implementing his plan, Shamir stated on 5 July: ". . . The implementation of the initiative. . .will never materialize as long as violence continues."

Three references are made in the plan to the Camp David Accords and one to Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. Shamir, of course, had opposed Camp David when it was formulated, but here is his latest interpretation in this country of the Accords in an interview with Leslie Stahl on "Face the Nation," 19 November 1989:

Shamir: "We have some differences of view with the United States... .The Americans believe that the end solution has to be something in the spirit of land for peace."

Stahl: "Camp David."

Shamir: "It's not Camp David."

Stahl: "Land for peace?"

Shamir: "Excuse me, it's not Camp David."

Stahl: "Land for peace?"

Shamir: "In our opinion, we have to resolve the conflict, but the territories are part of our national heritage."

On this point, Shamir stated in his speech to the Likud Central Committee: "I cannot conceive any territorial component in the permanent solution which may, at the end of the process, be acceptable to us and our neighbors."

As to resolution 242, Shamir's interpretation consistently has been that it is inapplicable to negotiations with Jordan because it has been exhausted by the withdrawal from Sinai. To be sure, at the start of negotiations for a permanent solution the Palestinians "shall be entitled to present for discussion all subjects." On the other hand, at the Central Committee meeting Shamir declared: "The IDF and the security forces will be in the area. They will constitute the guarantees that the negotiations on the implementation of the initiative will be conducted exclusively along the path acceptable to us."

What is extraordinary in all this is that Shamir's declared objective in the plan is to lasso Jordan into signing a peace treaty based on what is in essence the Jordanian Option Resurrected a la Likud. Except that in the Labor prototype, an Israeli-Jordanian condominium of sorts was to be instituted in selected areas of the occupied territories (separated from one another by settlement blocs and other Israeli-controlled areas), thus giving Jordanian "presence" a territorial bouquet.

Does Shamir really expect Jordan to agree to his version when it rejected Labor's? He could be bluffing. But he may also be relying on the implicit threat contained in one of the "Basic Premises" (now incidentally endorsed by Labor), namely Israel's opposition to "an additional [sic] Palestinian state in the Gaza district and the area between Israel and Jordan."

To be sure, the Labor Alignment and Likud do not see eye-to-eye on all the details of a desirable settlement. Labor most probably still aspires to revive its own version of the Jordanian option. The Alignment is almost certainly responsible for the references to Security Council resolution 242 in the Shamir Plan. It is more chary of alienating world opinion and particularly the U.S. administration. It is less finicky with regard to the status of the Palestinian delegates. Nevertheless, Labor is the joint sponsor of the Shamir Plan which, therefore, represents the least common denominator between the two components of the current Israeli government.

The Likud Mind-set

What we have here is a mind-set. For Shamir, there are Arabs in what he calls Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza "district." There is no Palestinian people.

For Shamir, there are "residents in the refugee camps" in what he calls Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza district. He seems loath even to bestow upon them the honorific of "refugee." And, of course, he has no cognizance of the 1,411,000 registered Palestinian refugees in the twenty-three refugee camps of Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan [4] - not to mention the unregistered ones.

For Shamir, there is no Palestinian territory. The West Bank and Gaza Strip, 92 percent of whose people are Palestinians, for him is not Palestinian territory. For Shamir, there was no Palestine, although when he first set foot in it in 1935, only 5 percent of it, as he well knows, was Jewish-owned while the Jews constituted less than one-third of the population, most of whom, like himself, were recent immigrants. For Shamir (and now apparently the Labor Alignment, given its endorsement of the plan), the only Palestinian territory that exists is east of the Jordan.

For Shamir, there is no Palestinian diaspora. If there is a diaspora, it is of no interest to him. For Shamir, there is no connection historically, logically, or in the chain of human causation between the establishment of Israel and the Palestinian diaspora. Indeed, for Shamir there is no Palestinian problem. In a speech on 5 October 1981, in New York, he said:

It is important to understand the "Jordan is Palestine" aspect and that the conflict is not and never was between Israel and a stateless people .... If it [the conflict] is perceived in this light, you have on the one hand a Palestinian- Jordanian Arab state and Israel on the other. Then the problem is reduced to a territorial conflict between these two states. 

Et voilà!

For Shamir, as he told the Likud Central Committee, "the terrorist organizations have not budged one inch from their despicable path." For him, it mattered not at all that Arafat turned the Palestinian National Charter on its head, that he accepted 242 with "no trimmings" at the behest of the State Department. Or that he accepted partition (a two- state solution), which no Palestinian leader had ever done since partition was first proposed in 1937. Arafat had caused the Palestine National Council not only to accept partition but to declare partition as a source of legitimacy of the Palestinian state, explicitly mentioning "the Jewish state" in the same context. He repeated the American catechism concerning Israel's right to exist and resolution 242 word for word, letter for letter, down to "renouncing" terrorism with all the implications of the initial "r" instead of an initial "d." But for Shamir, "the terrorist organizations have not budged on inch from their despicable path." For Shamir there is no possibility of change in PLO attitudes. For Shamir, even if there were a positive change, it is of no relevance to him. And this is so because the mind-set we are looking at is the manifestation par excellence of the solipsism of nationalism. All national movements pass through greater or lesser solipsistic phases. In Shamir, vintage solipsistic Zionism is personified. With such a mind-set it is difficult to conclude that Shamir is in hot pursuit of peace. But by the same token, it is possible to understand why Shamir (to quote John Le Carre in a different context) experiences such "withdrawal symptoms" at Arafat's "peace threats."

This mind-set has very deep moorings in the evolution of Zionism since World War I. One has to dig through three geological layers to get through them. The deepest layer involves the foundation of Revisionist Zionism, in 1925, by Vladimir Jabotinsky. Revisionist Zionism rejected the interpretation of the British Mandate over Palestine given in 1922 by Winston Churchill (no anti-Zionist), then British Colonial Secretary. Churchill had declared the Balfour Declaration to be applicable to Pales- tine (i.e., Cis-Jordan) but not to Trans-Jordan (i.e., the East Bank of Jordan).

The World Zionist Organization (WZO) under Weizmann accepted this, while Revisionist Zionism under Jabotinsky wanted to revise the Mandate (hence its name) so that Zionism could establish a Jewish majority on both banks of the River Jordan. But the dispute was not at bottom over the territorial extent of the Jewish state. The WZO had its own territorial ambitions east of the Jordan, which it had submitted at the Versailles Congress in 1919. The dispute was a function of a clash be- tween two domineering personalities, Weizmann and Jabotinsky, over tactics and timing and the role of the imperial sponsor, Britain.

The conflict between the WZO and Revisionist Zionism continued to fester and escalate, increasingly acquiring Left/Right ideological dimensions until 1935, when Revisionist Zionism institutionalized itself in a new organization: the New Zionist Organization (NZO).

Thenceforth there were two transnational Zionist organizations: on the one hand, the WZO, and on the other, the NZO. Just as the WZO had its labor federation, the Histadrut, the NZO now established its own labor federation, the National Worker's Organization. Just as the WZO had its underground army/militia, the Haganah, the NZO now created its own militia, Haganah B. The resultant of this split was the virtual evolution of two yishuvs (i.e., Jewish communities) in Palestine: the official pro-WZO yishuv and the dissident pro-NZO yishuv. [5] 

The second layer emerges in 1935 when the NZO militia, Haganah B, developed into the Irgun Zvai Leumi (National Military Organization). The Irgun Zvai Leumi, Irgun for short, developed its own strategy for the implementation of the Revisionist territorial goals of the NZO-a strategy best exemplified by the insignia it adopted: a rifle across Palestine and Jordan with the Hebrew words Raq Kach: "Only Thus." The Irgun introduced into Palestine the idea of placing electrically detonated mines in market places. In about twenty such incidents in the period September 1937 to July 1939 the Irgun translated its insignia into deed, killing or maiming at least 500 Palestinian civilians. [6] One of its militants was Itzhak Yzernitsky, who arrived in Palestine in 1935 at the age of twenty from what is now Byelorussia. One of his first alleged exploits after joining the Irgun was to blow up a WZO kiosk for the collection of contributions to the Haganah in 1938. [7] 

The third layer involves a group which broke away from the Irgun in 1939. Because of the war with Hitler, the Irgun had decided on a truce with Britain for the duration of the war. But one Irgunist group dissented. Its leader was Abraham Stern, also known as "Yair" (the Illuminator). Stern/Yair summarized his principles in a manifesto issued in 1939 under the Hebrew title "Ikarei ha Tehiyyah" ("The Principles of the Revival"). It outlined three fundamental doctrines for the new dissident movement "Lohmei Herut L'Israel" ("Fighter for the Freedom of Israel"), Stern Gang for short. These doctrines were:

- Eretz Israel is the land between the brook of Egypt and the Euphrates, as stated in Genesis 18:15;

- The Third Temple must be rebuilt;

- The Palestinians must be "transferred," i.e., expelled. [8] 

Stern/Yair was killed in 1941 by the British police. He was succeeded by a triumvirate at the center of which stood Itzhak Yzernitsky, later Yitzhak Shamir.

It is not, however, only a matter of cumulative historical conflict and ideological lineage. The rift between Labor and Revisionist Zionism is also about pride of place on the tablets of history and posterity. Major themes in the still-ongoing Labor-Revisionist polemic concern who in the past did what to whom and who contributed more to the creation of the Jewish state in 1948. In 1933, for example, the Laborite Chaim Arlosoroff, the brilliant head of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency, was gunned down in Jerusalem by Jewish assassins. Labor accused the Revisionists, who of course denied the charge. Fifty years later, in 1982, Menahem Begin, wincing from renewed Labor charges of Revisionist responsibility, formed a commission of inquiry to refute these accusations.

As to the relative contributions of each side to the creation of Israel, who, Likud polemicists still ask, defied the British in the 1940s? (Answer: the Irgun and Stern Gang.) And who joined the British in a "hunting season" against their compatriots? (Answer: the Haganah, i.e., Labor- the reference being to Haganah collaboration with British security forces in the mid-1940s against members of the Irgun and Stern Gang.) And again, who panicked the British to terminate their mandate, thus paving the way for the creation of Israel? Each side claims its tactics were responsible. And each side, seemingly oblivious of the official Israeli version of the Palestinian exodus in 1948 as having been triggered by orders from the Arab leaders, to this day claims its tactics performed the other "miracle" of emptying 400 villages and a score of towns of their Palestinian inhabitants in 1948.

The conflict runs very deep because so much is at stake: the present and future leadership of Israel, and therefore of the WZO, and therefore of the organized Jewish communities throughout the world. In addition to all this there is for Shamir the question of self-image which haunts every politician. What is his ranking going to be in the Zionist pantheon?

Herzl founded Zionism; Weizmann got the Balfour Declaration; Ben Gurion established and consolidated Israel; Begin knocked Egypt out of the Arab military coalition. What is left for Shamir to do? Surely not give up the West Bank and Gaza Strip?

"Points" and "Assumptions"

The politics of "points"

Seldom since medieval times, when scholars (Talmudic, Quranic, or Scriptural) burnt the midnight oil piling commentary upon text, has a diplomatic document generated as many exegetical glosses as has Shamir's twenty-point plan: Mubarak's ten points on Shamir's twenty, Arens's comments on Mubarak's points, Baker's five-point framework on the Mubarak and Arens points, the "assumptions" of Israel, Egypt, and the PLO about Baker's five points, etc.

Actually the idea of holding elections in the occupied territories as the launching pad for "a peace process" was, according to Rabin, originally his. [9] It seems also coincidentally to have occurred in a report by a pro-Israeli think tank in Washington authored, among others, by subsequent members of Baker's inner circle of Middle East advisers. [10] The disengagement of Husayn from the occupied territories in July 1988 and Arafat's successive peace moves culminating in the opening of the U.S.-PLO dialogue brought the idea to maturity in Rabin's mind. The intifada proffered the opportunity and the decisive incentive. Rabin read in the intifada a profound if nonapparent disillusionment with the PLO. He divined that it augured a shift in the balance between the Palestinians under occupation and those in the diaspora in favor of the former. Like the wrestler who uses his foe's weight against him, he planned to exploit the potential of divergence in interest and strategy that he expected to occur between the new leaders of the intifada and the diaspora leadership. This divergence he hoped to harness and channel via his elections idea in the direction of favorable outcomes.

Shamir was alarmed by Secretary Baker's remarks mid-March that Israel may have to talk to the PLO, but he was also encouraged by Baker's skepticism about an international conference and his preference for "a more measured approach." Sensing an opening and wishing to preempt the PLO, he brought with him to Washington in late March a skeletal proposal to launch a "political negotiating process" via elections. The U.S. was charmed and promised help. Shamir returned home and by 14 May his proposal had blossomed into his twenty-point plan.

Within a week of the announcement of Shamir's plan, Baker ad- dressed AIPAC on the Arab-Israeli conflict. He considered the Shamir Plan "an important and positive start," which deserved "a constructive Palestinian and broader Arab response." While in no way minimizing the difficulties ahead, he thought it possible to reach agreement "on the standards of a workable election process." And it was, therefore, high time "for serious political dialogue between Israeli officials and Palestinians in the territories [sic]." In other words, Baker agreed to sponsor a peace process launched via the vestibule of local elections and within the general context of Shamir's plan with all its constraints.

To be sure there were important areas of divergence between Baker's thinking and Shamir's. It was in his speech before AIPAC that Baker called upon Israel "to lay aside once and for all the unrealistic vision of a greater Israel-forswear annexation. Stop settlement activity-reach out to the Palestinians as neighbors who deserve political rights." He indicated that the "successful outcome of the process" would "in all probability involve [Israeli] territorial withdrawal and the emergence of a new political reality."

Even before Baker's speech and as early as the first week in March 1989, Washington had publicly made clear that there would be no substantive discussion in the U.S.-PLO dialogue pending U.S. exploration with Israel of the prospects of activating the peace process. It was about this time, and before Shamir took his plunge, that Baker was paradoxically signalling to Israel that it might have to talk to the PLO.

Although Washington did try to sell the election idea directly to the PLO, its preference once it had in principle endorsed the Shamir Plan was clearly to bypass the PLO in favor of Egypt, which had been assigned a role in Shamir's plan specifically for this purpose. From Washington's viewpoint, bypassing the PLO had the merit of gratifying both Egypt and Israel while allowing itself to continue to avoid substantive discussions (e.g., on the permanent settlement) with the PLO. Egypt, a trusted ally at peace with Israel, could be counted on to cooperate in keeping the focus of the discussions on the elections themselves. Suddenly the entire process hinged on Egypt's ability to persuade the PLO to give the green light to the Palestinians in the occupied territories to enter into dialogue with Israel on the elections proposal, a signal without which the Shamir Plan (itself designed to knock the PLO out) would be stillborn.

In his balancing act against Hafez Asad and given his personal predilection for Egypt (he speaks Arabic with an Egyptian accent),  Arafat had greatly contributed to the rehabilitation of Egypt in Arab and Palestinian public opinion and had championed Egypt's return to the Arab League. His hope was to use Egypt as a lever against both Israel and the U.S., but he may not have quite foreseen the extent to which Egypt (which had its own agenda) could also become a conduit for pressures from these two. In any event, the outcome of all this was Mubarak's ten points, first formulated in July and made public in early September. [11] 

These were crafted ostensibly as questions addressed by Egypt to Israel to flesh out the details of the Shamir Plan, but they simultaneously outlined Mubarak's own terms for its acceptance.

The input of the U.S. in the formulation of these points, as much by osmosis as more directly, is unquestionable. Also unquestionable is Arafat's input, although the finished product reflects more the converging pincer pressures from Washington and Cairo than his own preferences.

Mubarak's ten points

Structurally and substantively, the ten points reflect the thrust of American diplomacy-the holding of the elections as the immediate towering priority. Thus seven of the ten points are connected with the elections: participation of East Jerusalemites (point 1), freedom to campaign (point 2), international supervision (point 3), Israeli commitment to accept the results (point 4), Israeli army withdrawal from polling stations (point 6), no entry to non-resident Israelis on polling day (point 7), a two- month preparatory period (point 8). Of these, point 1 has important political implications since it raises the issue of the status of East Jerusalem.

Otherwise the political hub of the ten points is point 5. This requests Israel's commitment that the elections lead "not only to an interim phase but also to a final settlement and that all efforts from beginning to end will be based on the principles of solution according to the U.S. conception, namely Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, territory for peace, insuring security of all states in the region, including Israel, and Palestinian political rights." Saliently absent is all mention of the PLO, the Palestinian state, the international conference and the right of re- turn-massive concessions which delineate the outermost circumference of Arafat's elasticity at this stage. Two more points remain. In point 9 Mubarak seeks prior U.S. and Israeli guarantees "of all the above [sic] points," i.e., points 1 to 8. Point 10, which as may be expected is printed below point 9, deals with the vital issue of "the halt of settlements." [12] Question: Is it covered by the U.S. guarantee?

If, when squabbling together as children and having sent one another to Coventry, we needed to communicate before reconciliation, we would ask the wall of the room (a neutral intermediary) to convey our message and vice versa. Since the unveiling of the Shamir Plan, a diplomatic adult (?) version of this ploy has been in operation because of Washington's preference to discuss the Shamir Plan with the PLO via Egypt. Thus the line of communication has run from Washington to Cairo to Tunis to Cairo to Washington to Tel Aviv and then all the way back to Washing- ton. As texts displaced and obfuscated one another in bewildering sequence and the need for secrecy often ordained that the latest authorized version be conveyed only by word of mouth, a Byzantine climate of mutual suspicion was created feeding the inherent paranoia of all concerned. It was against this background that Baker produced his five points, them- selves kept secret for a full two months until being released on 6 December.

Meanwhile the focus of deliberation began to shift from Shamir's plan and Mubarak's ten points to a specific suggestion by Mubarak to host in Cairo the opening dialogue between the Palestinians and Israelis pro- posed in the Shamir Plan. This, of course, immediately raised two issues: 1) Which Palestinians? and 2) What agenda? From the Israeli viewpoint, the answer was plain enough: no PLO involvement whatsoever, direct or indirect, in naming the Palestinian delegation or its membership, and the restriction of the agenda exclusively to the question of the elections on the basis of the plan.

Baker's five points

Supporting the idea of a dialogue in Cairo, what Baker tried to do in his five points was to provide "wriggle room" (a favorite phrase at Foggy Bottom with Baker's Middle East advisers) ostensibly evenhandedly to all the protagonists. [13] Thus, on the issue of naming the delegation (point 2), the U.S. "understands" that "Egypt cannot substitute itself for the Palestinians and will consult with Palestinians on all aspects of that dialogue." The Palestinians referred to remain unspecified, but it hardly requires clairvoyance to identify them. Likewise, the U.S. "understands" in point 3 that Israel will attend "only after a satisfactory list of Palestinians" has been drawn up, leaving it room to boycott the dialogue with impunity without quite according it veto rights.

On the agenda issue (point 4), the U.S. "understands" that Israel will come to the dialogue "on the basis of the Israeli government, 14 May, initiative" [i.e., the Shamir Plan] and that the Palestinians will be "prepared to discuss elections and the negotiating process in accordance with Israel's initiative" (emphasis added). The U.S. "understands therefore that the Palestinians would be free to raise issues that relate to their opinions on how to make elections and the negotiating process succeed" (emphasis added).

Point 5 comprised an invitation to Egypt and Israel to send their foreign ministers to Washington "to facilitate this process," i.e., to name the Palestinian delegation on behalf of the Palestinians and agree on an agenda for the Cairo dialogue. The Washington meeting is to launch the Cairo meeting which is to launch the ship of peace.

Baker's five points almost brought down the Israeli government, with Likud critics insisting that the U.S. meet certain conditions to prevent this sellout to the PLO, and Labor dismissing Likud fears and threatening to walk out of the government if "conditions" were demanded of Washington. By the first week of November, and after casting a shadow on Shamir's planned visit to Washington, the delayed Israeli response came in the form of an acceptance based on six "assumptions": negotiations only with residents from the territories approved by Israel, no negotiating with the PLO, focus of talks to be only the elections proposal, the U.S. and Egypt to declare their support of Camp David [compare Shamir's view of Camp David above], the U.S. publicly to support Israel's position in the event another party deviated, and one meeting to take place in Cairo whose results would determine whether the talks would continue.

The PLO followed suit with "assumptions" of its own. As will have been inferred, the PLO had serious misgivings about the direction the peace process was taking. But it was not opposed to elections in the occupied territories, nor was it opposed to a dialogue with the Israeli government. Indeed, far from opposing such a dialogue, it was anxious that the Israeli delegation to it be a political and not technical one, and that a PLO delegation attend. But it could not agree either to a dialogue restricted to discussing the elections alone or to one on the basis of the Shamir Plan.

It requested that there be no prior conditions, and that the agenda be open. This would enable each side to raise the issues it wanted, including elections, Mubarak's ten points, and Baker's five points. It could not con- cede to Israel, or anybody else, the right to name the Palestinian delegation. This was its own prerogative, although it did offer to discuss "specifications" (not names) of the Palestinian delegates that would be acceptable to all, and it agreed to the U.S. proposal that the "outside" delegates be recent deportees unassociated with "terrorist" activities. It argued that the U.S. had already accepted the concept of an open agenda in a major policy statement by former Secretary of State Shultz on 16 September 1988 [14] and at a tripartite Swedish-American-Egyptian meeting on 16 September 1989 held at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry. At this latter meeting, it was also the PLO's understanding that there was agreement on the PLO's right to name the Palestinian delegation and that the dialogue would be under international sponsorship. The PLO was anxious for this sponsorship because it envisaged the Palestinian-Israeli dialogue as a preparatory step towards convening an international peace conference under UN auspices. This conference was in conformity with Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, which the U.S. had been urging the PLO to adopt. It would be attended by the five permanent members of the Security Council, whose guarantees for a final peace settlement the PLO was eager to obtain.

These views were transmitted to Washington via Ambassador Pelletreau in Tunis and Cairo. But since, as we have seen, Washington's pretense is that the official dialogue on the peace process is not with the PLO but with Cairo, and since Cairo would attempt to mediate the PLO position to make it acceptable to Washington, it is to be assumed that Cairo conveyed its own version of the PLO position. If this is the case, we do not know how many of the PLO's views Cairo officially adopted. Thus, the U.S. response to Cairo's message was most probably a response to an Egyptian text rather than to that of the PLO. We do know, however, that on 6 December the State Department announced receipt of "positive" responses from both Israel and Egypt which also included "certain views and positions" (polite for "assumptions," itself polite for "conditions") conveyed by the two countries. This sets the stage for the Washington trilateral meeting.

The U.S. and the Shamir Plan

Overlooking the mind-set

If Shamir's mind-set, faithfully reflected in his plan, leaves little room for optimism, one's sense that the glass is half-empty is reinforced by the sanction the plan has won from Washington. The Shamir Plan has in effect become Baker's, despite the divergence of opinion between the two over many of its aspects.

Baker seems to have calculated that a plan proposed by Shamir and endorsed by the Labor Alignment enjoyed unique advantages over any originating from Washington itself or the Labor Alignment alone. Thus, Shamir could always be reminded of his parentage, the pro-Israeli U.S. Congress would be less prone to subvert a plan based on "free elections," and Washington would have ample opportunity to exert its influence at more than one halting station along the way. Also, the "measured pace" of the plan meshed in with the tautological philosophy that informs the thinking of Baker's small inner circle of Middle East advisers, namely that diplomacy succeeds only when the time is ripe for it to succeed.

What seems to have been overlooked is the texture of Shamir's mind- set and his ability to frustrate, both on the spot and via Washington's permeability, the potential of progress perceived by Baker's advisers in the very dynamics of an ongoing peace process. Against all evidence Baker seems to think that Shamir's attitude is not a matter of principle but of incertitude regarding Palestinian intentions. In the opening remarks of his AIPAC speech, he not only accepts at face value Shamir's self-designation ("I am a man of principle but I am also a pragmatist"), but seems to assume the two of them were birds of the same feather. According to Baker: "We understood each other to be pragmatists, guided by principle"-hence the title of Baker's speech, "Principles and Pragmatism," was directly taken from Shamir's mouth. That these were not merely the blandishments of a wily diplomat is suggested by Baker's subsequent re- marks, namely that he "understood Israel's caution, especially when assessing Arab attitudes." True, Arab attitudes were changing, as witnessed by Egypt's commitment to peace and "evolving Palestinian attitudes," but "much more needs . . . to be demonstrated that such a change is real." Nevertheless, the change could not be ignored "even now," and this is where Shamir was invited to demonstrate his expertise in "the right mix of principles and pragmatism." It is difficult to imagine what institutional file Baker drew upon in this assessment of the veteran Stern Gang and Mossad leader. The fact that Shamir is, as it were, to the left of Sharon does not make him a centrist. When Shamir says, "Not one inch of territory," he is as sincere as a devout Muslim attesting that Muhammad is the Prophet of God. Shamir's "not one inch .. ." is an article of faith rooted in the bedrock of Revisionist Zionism. When Begin bargained with Sadat on Sinai he was in effect saying: "I keep the other occupied territories and you take Sinai." Shamir is not bargaining for the same reason that Begin did bargain-because he too wants to keep these other occupied territories. That is what his plan is all about.

Many of the flaws of Shamir's plan will already have been inferred, but a closer look at some of these is in order in the light of Washington's endorsement (albeit conditional) of the plan.

The transitional period and Israeli settlement activity

There is no quarrel with the concept of a transitional period leading to a final settlement. One cannot leap from the present situation to a final settlement in one go. The concept of a transitional period was endorsed by the Arab heads of state as early as the 1982 Fez Summit.

The key issue in the concept of a transitional period is its function. What central purpose is the transitional period supposed to serve? According to Baker, the transitional period "will allow the parties to take the measure of each other's performance, to encourage attitudes to change and to demonstrate that peace and coexistence are desired."

If this indeed is the purpose of the transitional period, it is to be wondered how this could be achieved in the absence of a halt to Israeli settlement and the concomitant land seizure.

It is true that Baker did call in his 22 May AIPAC speech for a stop- page of "settlement activity," but Shamir knows, and Baker knows, that U.S. policy, which in consonance with the Geneva Conventions considered the settlements illegal from 1967 through the Carter administration, has, since the beginning of the Reagan administration, considered them "not illegal"-Reagan pronounced them as such on 2 February 1981 within ten days of his inauguration. Thus, the very least that Baker could do to give credibility to his call for the stoppage of settlement activity (not to mention his call on Israel to abandon notions of greater Israel and to forswear annexation) is to reaffirm the illegality of the settlements.

The Palestinians are the world's experts on Israeli settlement, having been at the receiving end of Zionist colonization since the early 1880s.

For the Palestinians, Israeli settlement is the relentless process that led to their dispossession and replacement in the period culminating in 1948. It is the same relentless process, that after a hiatus of twenty years and since 1967, has been dispossessing and replacing them in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Except that the pace since 1967 has been faster, and the methods more brutal (direct seizure instead of purchase) because Israel enjoys a monopoly of power in the occupied territories and flaunts it.

Thus, by 1988 at least 55 percent of the West Bank lands and 30 per- cent of the lands of the Gaza Strip had already been seized by Israel. This phenomenon of Israeli settlement and the concomitant land seizure in the occupied territories is a throwback to earlier colonial eras-Israel being the only country in the world today still expanding its frontiers and settling its citizens in the conquered lands. In the circumstances, to put the onus of reassuring the other side on the Palestinians, cliff-hanging from the residual rump of their patrimony and waiting for the final shove, is as unconscionable as it is grotesque.

But whence the wherewithal for all this settlement? Grants from the U.S. government to Israel for the period 1952-89 totalled $53 billion, a perennial Marshall Plan. [15] Concurrently, Israel has received an average of $500 million per annum in tax-deductible contributions from American Jews. It is these funds that have enabled Israel to spend in the period 1967-88 $2.4 billion on settlement activity in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. [16] It is these funds that have enabled it to allocate $2.6 billion [17] to the Master Plan for the Year 2010 (prepared in 1983 by the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and the Settlement Department of the World Zionist Organization) whose objective is to settle 800,000 Jews in the West Bank. [18] 

This is what Raanan Weitz, the retired chairman of the Jewish Agency Settlement Department, has to say about the link between U.S. funds and settlement activity in the occupied territories.


U.S. law prohibits the use of American Jewish money in the territories but American Jews tolerated the establishment of a separate WZO Settlement Department that could devote Israeli funds to the West Bank-funds that wouldn't be available were it not for American UJA [United Jewish Appeal] money making up the shortfall. A legal fiction, in other words. It encouraged Begin and Sharon to direct money we could not afford. And the American government was just as inconsistent. They oppose the occupation but instead of enforcing their view by applying pressure as they have a right to do, they keep granting massive aid. This relieves pressure so Israel can pour millions into the territories. [19]

Continued settlement activity is the single most lethal threat to the prospects of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. The halting of settlement activity is the single most reassuring test of Israeli peaceful intentions. The threat has been immeasurably compounded by the planned mass emigration of hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews to Israel in the wake of the restrictions imposed on their entry to the U.S. as a result of pressures from Israel. Israel has already made no secret of its intention to settle many of the Soviet emigres in the occupied territories and, as Weitz has pointed out, U.S. law as hitherto applied has failed to hold either the WZO or Israel accountable for "the legal fiction" enabling Israel to transfer U.S. funds to the occupied territories. Thus, the envisaged U.S. financial support for the mass emigration of Soviet Jews to Israel combined with the non-reaffirmation of the illegality of the settlements raise the question of the seriousness of American purpose in sponsoring the peace process and constitutes a potential death blow of American provenance to the process itself.


Even if Washington's bypassing of the PLO in the negotiations were for tactical reasons (which is debatable) and the whole world (except Israel) knows that any Palestinian delegation in Cairo or elsewhere will be but a front for the PLO, the accession on this matter by Washington to Israel's wishes augurs ill for the prospects of peace.

One would have thought that after the extraordinary, courageous moves by the PLO in unconditionally and unilaterally recognizing Israel, and the consequent start of the PLO-U.S. dialogue by the previous administration, the new administration would have seen fit to remind Israel of the duty of reciprocity. Instead we get this niggardly reference by Baker to "evolving Palestinian attitudes," [20] an insistence on more concessions from the Palestinian side, and the charade of ostracizing the PLO from the peace process. Such a punitive attitude to Palestinian moderation de-values moderation itself. It reinforces the impression that the peace process will be determined by Israeli rules alone. It undermines the Palestinian leadership most anxious to deal with Israel and the U.S. It erodes its ability to withstand the onslaughts of those who warn against placing trust in Washington. And it plays into the hands of those who maintain the inherent bankruptcy of peaceful negotiations.

However different American and Israeli attitudes to the PLO may be, to bypass it is to set a precedent that Israel will insist upon at all subsequent stages of the process. As the process advances and the need for PLO endorsement mounts, the absurdly circuitous route maintained via Cairo behind the threadbare fiction of PLO non-involvement will inevitably collapse to the discredit of both Cairo and Washington. For there is no alternative Palestinian leadership. It is a question of legitimacy: the "insiders" know that they are one component of a peoplehood, and it is only the PLO leadership that can negotiate in the name of the collective Palestinian rights and hopes, their memories, and their sufferings. By bypassing the PLO, the U.S. is only encouraging Israel's quest of a mirage.

The Palestinian State

Baker describes the "reasonable middle ground" between Israeli annexation and Palestinian statehood to be "self-government ... acceptable to Palestinians, Israel and Jordan." He believes this "formula provides ample scope for Palestinians to achieve their full political rights [sic]. It also provides ample protection for Israel's security." It is to this end, in his view, that a settlement should be directed. [21] 

There is a Victorian proconsular ring to this legislation of a ceiling to Palestinian rights. Surely "people seek historically that separate and equal status among the powers of the earth to which the laws of nature and nature's God entitle them," to quote the American Declaration of Independence. There is only a spurious symmetry in denying both Israeli and Palestinian sovereignty in the occupied territories. Denial of Palestinian sovereignty is denial of the minimal turf of survival. It is denial of the territorial imperative that operates even in the animal kingdom. Denial of Israeli sovereignty is denial of triumphalist maximalism. It is denial of the fruits of conquest.

The measure of the "reasonableness" of a solution to the Palestine problem is the extent to which it relates to the historical context of the genesis and evolution of the conflict no less than to contemporary power realities. Absolute justice is rarely obtained in human affairs, not this side of the grave, but pragmatic justice, by taking cognizance of the losses, the sufferings, and the gains of the two protagonists since the conflict began, as well as of contemporary power realities, can delineate the contours of a historical compromise rooted in the soil of the conflict. Such a compromise is more likely to endure because it is more likely to be perceived by the aggrieved-the Palestinians-to approximate justice. Baker's formula is no such compromise.

Palestinian nationalism is irreversible, like the tide of freedom sweeping Eastern Europe. Palestinian nationalism is irrepressible, like all fully mobilized nationalisms throughout history. Fully mobilized nationalisms end in their "Final Cause"-the receptacle of statehood. This is as it should be. Not only is Palestinian nationalism one of the most fully mobilized national movements of our time, but the Palestinian people have one of the highest literacy rates outside the advanced industrial countries-certainly the highest in the Arab world. Ironically, the ratio of university students among Palestinians is higher than among their occupiers, the Israelis, (18.8 per 1,000 as compared to 14 per 1,000). [22] The Palestinians cannot be denied a status accorded to some 160 other peoples in this world.

The PLO central leadership has already propounded the kind of state they envisage: a Palestinian state within the 1967 frontiers in peaceful coexistence alongside Israel and in confederation with Jordan.

Arguments from the small size of the state, its economic non-viability, or its inability to absorb all the Palestinian refugees do not stand up to scrutiny. There are at least twenty-five members of the UN that are smaller than the envisaged Palestinian state. Not many states are economically viable, and the Palestinian state would have the most precious asset of all-its high-level human material. Even if the state could not absorb all the Palestinian diaspora, its positive influence (as in the case of Israel and the Jewish diaspora) will be felt by those who cannot or do not want to live in it. Confederation will secure the interests of Jordan. But Palestinian sovereignty should precede confederation so that the latter comes about as an act of free choice.

Only such a state will have the psycho-political appeal and symbolism for the Palestinians in the occupied territories and the diaspora to act as balm to their wounds, to give redress for the monumental injustices suffered, and to compensate for the loss of hearth and home and ancestral grave and for the surrender of primeval historic rights.

Would not such a state constitute a threat to Israeli security? It would not, but the Israeli leadership would never admit this. And it would not be a threat, if only because such a state would be virtually demilitarized and dependent for its security on the peace settlement itself and on the guarantees of the major powers, including Israel. [23] If concern for Israel's security were indeed the reason for Washington's non-support of a Palestinian state along these lines, then let this topic be placed on the top of the agenda in the U.S.-PLO dialogue, unless the start of this dialogue was meant to be a mere empty gesture by Washington.

The time-span of the peace process

It has already been noted that the transitional period in the Shamir Plan, ostensibly five years long, is in effect open ended. The transitional period, it will be remembered, is preceded by (a) the dialogue to agree on the basic principles of the initiative; (b) the preparation and implementation of the election process; (c) the elections; and (d) negotiations for the transitional period. Nowhere are there any date-certain provisions indicating when precisely each of these stages would start, how long each would last, and when precisely it would end.

Reinforcing this laxity in scheduling is the total absence of any mechanism to resolve a failure to agree at any stage either before or after the beginning of the transitional period. All that one has here is agreement to try to agree on a series of issues at loosely designated future times. Should a party have an inherent interest in prolonging the process, it has an inbuilt alibi enabling it to disengage at no cost while continuing (in the case of Israel) to dominate and condition the situation on the ground.

Given Shamir's mind-set and objectives, his most probable strategy is to stretch the period preceding the start of the transitional period to the utmost; and since substantive talks on the final settlement can occur only at the end of the third year of the transitional period, to push these talks farthest down the line. Judging by the fact that seven months after the announcement of the Shamir Plan in May 1989, the initial dialogue to launch the process has yet to start, it is a safe bet that Shamir intends to stretch out the pre-transitional period alone for some two to three years. Such a time-span (the period both preceding and comprising the transitional period) would carry him well into the second term of this administration, or into the first term of the new administration. Meanwhile, he, or his Likudist successor, will try to mesh in Israeli moves with the intervening U.S. congressional and presidential elections, while bringing the full weight of the mass emigration of Soviet Jews subsidized by the U.S. (Israeli's secret weapon) to bear on the situation in the occupied territories. There is no dearth of loopholes for Shamir to wriggle out and stay on course.


There is no visceral philo-Zionism or Arabophobia at the White House today, as there was under the Reagan administration. Polls indicate that the American public is well ahead of its political elite in even- handedness with regard to the Middle East. [24] Freedom is rampant all over the world, and a remarkable constellation of international and regional developments beckons to a courageous leadership to act. The beginning of wisdom is the realization that the U.S. is as much part of the problem as part of the solution, and that it has moral obligations to the Palestinian no less than to the Israelis. But as Theodore Sorensen recently said describing the Washington scene,

Too often the sound we hear from Washington is the sound of fear.... Fear of the wrath of political donors or the risk of political defeat.... The art of political survival today is selecting the right target.... Fight drug addiction but not tobacco subsidies. Complain about the intransigence of Arafat but not Shamir. Blame North but not Reagan.... Pusillanimity is not confined to any one political party . . . or branch of government. [25]

Is it really a cause of wonder if the glass of Middle East peace does not impress one as being half full?


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Walid Khalidi is a founder and the general secretary of the Institute for Palestine Studies. He is a leading authority on the Palestine problem and the Arab-Israeli conflict, and is currently a research fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University. 

1. For the Shamir Plan, see JPS 73, pp. 145-48.

2. The use of "district" in place of the usual "Strip" may signify that Israel already considers the "Gaza Strip" no longer exists with its 1967 boundaries.

3. See JPS 73, pp. 148-56.

4. This is the figure given by the UN Relief and Works Agency for April 1989 (Financial Times, 18 July 1989). The UNRWA figure for the registered refugees in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are 381,000 and 453,000 respectively, for a total of 834,000.

5. Shabtai Teveth, Ben Gurion: The Burning Ground 1886-1948, (London: Robert Hale, 1987), p. 493.

6. See London Times, passim, 5 September 1937-3 July 1939 especially 25 July 1938, 26 August 1938, and 26 February 1939.

7. Lenni Brenner, The Iron Wall, (London: Zed Books, 1984), p. 193.

8. Brenner, p. 194.

9. Yitzhak Rabin, "Israel's Peace Initiative and Elections in the Territories," speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 24 March 1989.

10. Building for Peace: An American Strategy for the Middle East, (Washington: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1988). The Institute is closely associated with AIPAC. One of the main authors of this report is Dennis Ross, senior aide to Baker. 

11. See JPS 73, pp. 144-45.

12. See Appendix: Clarifications and issues

for the Israeli Government: the ten points

attached to Note Verbale dated 22 November

1989 from the Permanent Mission

of Egypt to UN Secretary General


13. For Baker's five points, see JPS 74, pp.


14. See JPS 70, p. 227.

15. Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, The Israeli Connection,

(New York: Pantheon Books,

1987), pp. 192-93.

16. Meron Benvenisti and Shlomo Khayat,

The West Bank and Gaza Atlas, (erusalem:

West Bank Data Base Project,

1988), p. 32.

17. Benvenisti and Khayat, p. 59.

18. Benvenisti and Khayat, p. 59.

19. Moment magazine (anuary-February 1987).

20. James Baker, "Principles and Pragmatism: American Policy Toward the Arab-Israeli Conflict," speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, 22 May 1989, reprinted in Journal of Palestine Studies 18, no. 4 (Summer 1989), pp. 172-76.

21. Baker, p. 172-76.

22. Nili Mandler, "Palestinian University Students Outnumber Israelis," Ha'Aretz, 25 October 1988.

23. Walid Khalidi "Thinking the Unthinkable: A Sovereign Palestinian State," Foreign Affairs (Summer, 1978), pp. 701-13; and At a Critical Juncture (Washington: Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University, 1989), pp. 15-19.

24. Fouad Moughrabi, "Public Opinion and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict," American-Arab Affairs, no. 30 (Fall 1989), pp. 40-51.

25. "An American Where Timidity is Cloaked as Caution," Boston Sunday Globe, p. A23.