Courtesy Reuters

The Arab-Israeli War

THE CONSEQUENCES OF DEFEAT

SINCE the end of the third Arab-Israeli war the vocabulary of Middle Eastern politics has been enriched with a new formula-"the removal of the consequences of aggression." The phrase presents some obvious difficulties of definition concerning the origin of the aggression, the nature of its consequences and the manner of their removal. All these are subject to a wide diversity of interpretations. However, the meaning of the Arab states in putting forward this formula as a demand is quite clear; it is that Israel is the aggressor, that the occupation of Arab lands and the departure of their Arab inhabitants are the consequences of aggression, and that these consequences should be reversed.

It is possible that in certain circumstances the conquerors might be willing to give up their conquests; it is even conceivable that the refugees might return-though this would make them unique among the countless millions in Europe, Asia and Africa who have fled or been driven from their homes in our brutal century. But far more has happened than the occupation of lands and the movement of peoples, important as these may be. In the world of reality, events cannot be unmade, and their effects persist, even when their results vanish. Sometimes these events are of such dimensions as to involve radical reassessments: governments reassess policies at the periphery of their interests and people at the center of crisis reassess their governments. It seems likely that the war and crisis in the Middle East in the summer of 1967 formed such a turning point. The four chief parties concerned-the Arabs, Israel, the Soviet Union and the West-must have been pondering the significance of these events and the lessons to be learnt from them.

The Russians were involved in the crisis from the start-indeed, without descending to the conspiratorial conception of history or returning to the polemics of the cold war, we can say with reasonable assurance that they had no small part in creating it.

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