World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings recently interviewed President Clinton about the resumption of negotiations between Israel and Syria. Jennings asked a good question—how much would a peace deal cost—but he accepted Clinton?s bland answer that it would cost some money but he didn?t know how much. Then, Jennings let Clinton off the hook when he said he didn?t know if he would offer a commitment of U.S. troops to police a deal on the Golan Heights, a piece of territory between the two countries that might be turned over to Syria.
Basically, Clinton said nothing new, and Jennings was too obsequious to press him for a direct answer. The Washington Times has reported that the price of a comprehensive peace deal could approach $100 billion. Clinton speaks of “investing” in peace, but there is no question that some of the money the taxpayers have already invested in the Palestinian cause as part of their deal with Israel has been wasted. In fact, some Palestinians have been shot as a result of issuing public protests about Yassir Arafat and his cronies making themselves rich with foreign aid money.
The chances are that Clinton or his associates have already offered Syria billions of dollars, but that the public and the Congress are being deliberately kept in the dark about it. Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Frank Gaffney says the issue of money is critical: “It certainly is not ?premature? for Congress to know what inducements have already been offered to get Syria back to the negotiating table…Congress and its constituents are entitled to know now the nature, extent and duration of Mr. Clinton?s latest round of ?peace process? promises.”
This extends to the issue of U.S. troops being deployed to the Golan Heights, where they could be sitting ducks for terrorists. Eleven high-ranking, former U.S. national security officials—including three members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—are already on record against such a deployment. But Peter Jennings couldn?t get Clinton to confirm whether or not he will deploy US troops to the Golan Heights, or even whether Congress will even be consulted about such a commitment.
It is generally assumed that Clinton is trying to work out this deal for the purpose of establishing his legacy as president. A deal could be worked out and last through the end of Clinton?s term of office. But Gaffney points out that it could be destabilizing in the long run. Syria could use money from a settlement to rearm and, with the strategic Golan Heights now in its possession, could be in a position to stage an attack on the Jewish state. American troops on the Golan Heights would be right in the middle of it.
Peter Jennings got his “exclusive” interview with President Clinton, and perhaps that?s all he was interested in. But when an anchorman of a major network news program has an opportunity to question the president about matters of war and peace, he should take advantage of it. If not, he should spend his time with Cokie Roberts doing softball interviews of Barbara and Laura Bush about George W.