Israeli analysts trace the reconciliation of Yasser Arafat and President Hafez Assad of Syria to Assad's desire for more influence in Israeli-occupied lands and the PLO chief's need for Syrian help in Lebanon.
If the Arab rivals settle their differences the results would be more violence against Israel, isolation of Jordan and the end of the U.S. peace plan for the Middle East, already criticized by both Israelis and Arabs, the analysts predicted.One said he did not expect the reconciliation to last because distrust between Arafat and Assad "is so profound."
The two met on Monday in Damascus, capital of Syria. Syrian and Palestinian sources said they discussed the U.S. peace plan and the Arab rebellion that began nearly five months ago in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
It was Arafat's first visit to Damascus since Syria expelled him June 24, 1983, during a mutiny against his leadership by PLO factions backed by Assad.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said Israel's response to the meeting would be to heighten its alert along its borders and in the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel has occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Since the rebellion in the territories began Dec. 8, Palestinians have tried 11 times to enter Israel from Lebanon. In the latest attempt Tuesday, two Israeli soldiers and three guerrillas were killed.
"Whenever you have an Arab consensus, it will always be directed against the security of Israel," Shamir said on Israel radio. "Therefore, we have to be vigilant."
According to the analysts, the reconciliation effort was prompted by Assad's desire for more influence in the occupied territories, where most Palestinians support the Palestine Liberation Organization, and by Arafat's need for free movement for his fighters in Lebanon.
Syria has 25,000 soldiers in Lebanon and is the main power broker in a nation factionalized by 13 years of civil war.
A significant element in Arafat's decision was the weakening of his mainstream Fatah movement by the assassination April 16 of his deputy Khalil Wazir, better known at Abu Jihad, military analyst Zeev Schiff said in an interview.
Wazir, who was buried in Damascus last week was popular with both Arafat loyalists and pro-Syrian PLO dissidents.
Israeli sources have said Israeli commandos killed Wazir, but the government has not acknowledged it.
"The Abu Jihad killing hurt Arafat's suppporters and may have been an impetus for this meeting," said Schiff, a correspondent for the daily Haaretz. "Arafat wants to appear more radical. This meeting shows the PLO leader is like a pendulum, moving from one position to another."
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said either Syria or the PLO must compromise if an alliance was to be achieved and Assad would not moderate his position.