THE MOST TRENCHANT observation of the Middle East peace signing at the White House yesterday was made by an implacable opponent. Mustapha al-Liddawi, representative of the terrorist Hamas organization in Lebanon, told a Reuters correspondent in Beirut that the peace process "represents the international will and it will not fall in the years to come." He conceded that his enemy, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, "has triumphed over the opposition."
The peace ceremony over which President Clinton officiated bore that out. He was the host but Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Hussein attended, two leaders who have made their own peace with Israel, and want the entire Arab world to follow suit.
The agreement puts Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority in charge of public services for most people in the West Bank right away. It carries the hopes and well-wishes of a majority of Palestinians and Israelis. It is opposed by a minority of Palestinians who believe all Israel must be Palestine, and a minority of Israelis who believe all Palestine must be Israel. The agreement is lTC disapproved, probably, by most people of both communities in the tragic town of Hebron, which is excepted from some provisions.
Mr. Arafat has posed often as a world leader, flitting about world capitals. For the first time, yesterday, he really was one. The impromptu summit that brought him together with the U.S. and Egyptian presidents, Jordanian king and Israeli prime minister was a level of acceptance he had never before obtained.
Tremendous good will was needed by delegations working months to forge this tediously detailed agreement. More will be needed to make it work, despite efforts that will be made by opponents in both communities to obstruct it. The symbiosis between Mr. Rabin and Mr. Arafat is greater than ever. Each needs the other's help in security and cooperation in water, economy, border and myriad other matters.
But as Mr. Clinton made clear, the circle of peace will not be complete until Israel's two other neighbors, Syria and Lebanon, have joined. They do not appear opposed. But Lebanon is not a free agent so much as a Syrian protectorate. And Syria's Hafez el Assad appears more interested in extracting a price for going last than in making or denying peace.
Mr. Clinton's role was essential. His promise of walking every step of the way with both leaders has the support of the American people and deserves support from Congress.