The Middle East: Israel's Role in a Changing Middle East

Traditionally, the twin goals of Israel's foreign policy have always been peace and security-two concepts that are closely interrelated: Where there is strength, there is peace-at least, shall we say, peace has a chance. Peace will be unattainable if Israel is weak or perceived to be so. This, indeed, is one of the most crucial lessons to be learned from the history of the Middle East since the end of the Second World War-in terms not only of the Arab-Israel conflict, but of the area as a whole.

The Middle East is a mosaic of peoples, religions, languages and cultures. Although the Muslim-Arab culture is predominant, it has not produced any homogeneity. A vast number of currents-religious and political-are vying with each other, cutting across political borders. The region is permanently in ferment, and frequently unrest flares up in violence, terror, insurrection, civil strife and open and sometimes prolonged warfare. The surprise invasion of a weakened Iran, still in the throes of the Khomeini upheaval, by neighboring Iraq, whose armed forces have been substantially beefed up by the Soviet Union, is perhaps the most dramatic and the most obvious example, but there are of course many others.

The most remarkable feature, in our context, of these chronic manifestations of unrest and belligerence is the fact that the great majority of them have nothing to do with Israel or with the Arab-Israel conflict. There were some outsiders, 20 and 30 years ago, who sincerely, but out of ignorance, believed that a solution of the Arab-Israel conflict would lead to regional stability and open a new era of progress. Nothing could be further from the truth. There have, it is true, been four major wars between Israel and its Arab neighbors. However, a full count of the instances of trouble and strife, both domestic and international, in North Africa and Western Asia, would show that the overwhelming majority have no connection whatsoever with the Arab relationship to Israel.

II

A more recent version of the old theory that the Arab-Israel conflict is the root of all the trouble in this region is the contention that the solution of the "Palestinian problem" is an absolute condition to any progress towards peace and stability.

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