Professors Praise Mideast Accord

But Agreement Between Israel, P.L.O. Only First Step, Experts Warn

One week after the signing of the historic agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel, professors at Harvard say they are hopeful for the future of peace in the Middle East region, but they warn that many obstacles are far from resolved.

"I'm hopeful for the first time in 30 years," said William A. Graham, professor of the history of religion and Islamic studies and director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. "But now the hard work really begins."

Although many professors say the groundwork of last Monday's settlement is the most auspicious step they have seen in many years, they were quick to add that there are many technicalities which lie ahead for both the Israelis and Palestinians.

"It [the peace agreement] is obviously a turning point," said Martin H. Peretz, lecturer on social studies. "But it is not clear how sharp a turning point it is."

Most of the faculty interviewed last week say provisions to implement the long-awaited peace still have to be negotiated. The most important, they agree, are arrangements for security and economic aid in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.


"There are so many details and even general principles to be agreed on," Peretz said. "It's really quite dicey still."

Professor of the History of Science Everett I. Mendelsohn, who organized a series of off-the-record meetings between high-ranking Israeli and Palestinian security officials, said one of the most important issues for future negotiations is the establishment of a stable Palestinian police and internal security force.

"Security is important, particularly for the Israelis, but also for the Palestinians," said Mendelsohn, who added that cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians on security issues must come quickly.

Some professors say the outcome of the agreements will depend on how safe theIsraelis feel.

"The ultimate success of the agreement willdepend, most of all, on the ability of Arafat andthe PLO to control Hamas, the extremistPalestinian group in the territories," saidProfessor of Government Michael J. Sandel. "Unlessthey can do that, the extremists will carry outacts of terror and violence that could undermineIsraeli public support for the peace agreement."

Another important factor for the successfulexecution of the terms of the agreements are theeconomic conditions in the West Bank and GazaStrip. There is a direct relation between stablefinancial assistance and security for the area'sinhabitants, professors said.

"If economic conditions are allowed to festerand not improve, that would create a conditionencouraging strident different groups, like Hamas,to grow," said Dorot Professor of the Archaeologyof Israel Lawrence E. Stager '65. "And it isimportant for the whole world community to seethat it improves...the U.S. has a major role."

"A lot depends on the actual day to day changein the conditions of the existence of thePalestinian people," said Professor of Professorof Government Seyla Benhabib. "If the peaceaccords cannot change the standard of living ofthe Palestinians in the refugee camps...there isno reason to think it will not go to the Hamas."

Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy Leonard J.Hausman said he is extremely optimistic becausethe economic assistance is beginning--in the formof joint business ventures between Arab andIsraeli businesses for the benefit of the WestBank and the Gaza strip.

Since the PLO gave the green light last Monday,Hausman said, there has already been an economicboomlet involving Israelis and Palestinians fromthe Middle East and partners from around theworld.

"The future is extremely bright," Hausman said."In the next several weeks, Israeli, Jordanian andPalestinian economists will begin to transform anagreement on paper into policies for free tradeand joint economic development."

"There is in progress a fundamental break withthe past," Hausman added. "The Arab-Israeliboycott is a dead letter."

And, regardless of the technical problems oflast Monday's agreements which have yet to beresolved, professors are enthusiastic about thepending negotiations between Israel and Jordan.

"It is the least difficult to imagine," Sandelsaid. "If the arrangement with Palestine can work,and if the arrangement with Syria works, it willnot be difficult to make peace with Jordan.

But Professor of Yiddish Literature and ofComparative Literature Ruth R. Wisse remainedskeptical, saying that last week's handshake doesnot guarantee peace in the region.

"The peace in the Middle East is theprerogative of the Arabs, not of Israel," shesaid. "And when the Arab leaders decide to makepeace, there will be peace.

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