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Wye, Washington and Mideast peace support Aid pledged: $3 billion for Palestinians is set, but Israel is still their key economic partner.


THE AID pledged Monday to the Palestinian Authority by the United States and other nations at a Washington conference -- more than $3 billion -- is needed to make the peace between the Palestinians and Israelis stick.

This is not a reward to the authority's president, Yasser Arafat, for being a good guy. It is a commitment to support the agreement that President Clinton brokered in October at Wye Plantation on the Eastern Shore.

That said, the most important economic partner for the Palestinian Authority is still Israel. Mr. Arafat makes that clear when he blames Israel's closure of borders for Palestinian poverty.

That is his backhanded way of urging Israeli-Palestinian cooperation to promote prosperity on both sides of the border. Such cooperation includes Palestinian labor in Israel and probable Israeli private investment for job creation in Palestine.

Border closings follow acts of terrorism by Palestinians in Israel. It is Mr. Arafat's obligation under the Wye agreement to do his best to suppress terrorism. He ought to go further and tell Palestinians that terrorists among them are denying economic opportunity to others.

Mr. Arafat did not help his cause by reiterating his hope of declaring a Palestinian state next year with Jerusalem as its capital. Statehood and the future of Jerusalem are assigned to the final status negotiations with Israel. By talking of a fait accompli, Mr. Arafat discourages needed Israeli cooperation.

The Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not help matters when it released Palestinian prisoners, but the wrong ones. Palestinian authorities demanded those jailed for political agitation. Israel released some, along with common criminals who would pose problems anywhere. This unfriendly gesture is reminiscent of Fidel Castro's shipping of Cuban criminals to Florida.

Mr. Netanyahu is struggling with a situation in which half his supporters disapprove of his commitment to peace while roughly three-fourths of Israelis approve it. That makes him stronger politically than he might seem.

Both these leaders will fail if peace fails. They can make it happen by helping each other. Having come this far, they cannot hurt each other without hurting themselves.

Pub Date: 12/02/98

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