Foreign Affairs: 100 Years
The Future of History
Can Liberal Democracy Survive the Decline of the Middle Class?
This article represents the views of the author alone and does not necessarily reflect the position of the World Jewish Congress.
Rather than discuss the day-to-day tactics of all the governments involved in or formulating concrete proposals for the solution of the various detailed issues, I should like, in this article, to look at the problem of the Middle East from a larger historical point of view. Too many proposals have been made already and are being made daily. Nearly every Israeli minister and general has ideas of his own-which they tend to publicize-and I am sure that in the foreign ministries of the various powers involved, especially in Washington, committees of experts, planning groups and the like are working on all kinds of schemes covering possible eventualities. What seems to me most important, however, is to examine the deeper motivations which brought about the present very difficult situation.
Looking back to the years before the creation of the State of Israel, when the Zionist movement fought for the establishment of a Jewish homeland, and at the 27 years since the creation of Israel and the way the conflict with the Arabs was dealt with, it seems evident that the situation has worsened from year to year and is now in a terrible mess. Even if Mr. Kissinger-whose tenacity, ingenuity and resourcefulness everybody must admire-should succeed in achieving another disengagement (which, at this writing, seems rather hopeful but still uncertain) this will not, in my opinion, ensure a real settlement or a definitive solution. It may therefore be useful for all those who, often very passionately, take an interest in the problem to analyze it against the background of its historical significance.
One cannot understand the situation created by the establishment of the Jewish State if one does not realize the unique character of the Zionist idea. It is one of the most revolutionary ideas of modern history. That a people claimed to return to their original homeland, finally after 2,000 years, demanding a sovereign state of their own, represented a unique and unprecedented act, even in Jewish history. From the Arab viewpoint, it was not another attempt of a colonialist power to dominate part of the Arab territory, but the intent to establish, within the Arab world, a non-Arab state, which nobody had tried to do since the time of the Crusaders. And from a general point of view, the Zionist demand for a Jewish state was in full contradiction with all principles of modern history and international law. If this demand were to serve as a precedent, the Indians of North America could claim for themselves the United States, and the descendants of other American natives in Mexico, Peru, and so on. All this gives a singular quality to the Zionist idea and makes it one of the great utopian programs of modern times.
I stress this aspect of Zionism because to understand and to support this idea requires much more than normal diplomatic methods; it demands real statesmanship, vision and great courage. In all the years when the Zionist movement propagated its claim for a Jewish homeland, nearly all foreign ministries were unfriendly or hostile to it. It was the great statesmen of that period-Balfour, Lloyd George, Wilson, General Smuts-men of vision and wide political understanding, who supported the Zionist idea. Since the establishment of the State, however, the Arab-Israeli conflict has not been handled with statesmanship and vision, but by day-to-day, short-sighted methods. There are very few statesmen left in the world and they have not really dealt with this issue, which has been left to diplomats and "experts."
"Diplomacy," in my view, may best be defined as the art of delaying inevitable decisions as long as possible. And as for the "experts," the French have put it brilliantly, describing the expert as "a man who knows everything and nothing else." Not only in the sphere of philosophy but also in politics and diplomacy, difficult problems can only be solved by taking account of the root of the problem.
Unfortunately this has not been done with regard to Israel. In fact, the implementation of the Zionist idea started on the wrong foot. Before the vote on the partition of Palestine was taken at the United Nations in 1947, there had been no real attempt to convince the Arabs that a Jewish state in their midst, created with their acquiescence, could bring a highly constructive period to the Middle East and to themselves. It was one of the errors of Zionist policies-for which I regard myself no less responsible than others who were active in it-to have underestimated the Arab factor. We thought that, by winning over the Jewish people and the big Western powers, the implementation of Zionism would be ensured. It was the naive assumption of all Zionist thinkers and politicians that the Arabs would welcome the Jewish newcomers into Palestine, and would appreciate the great benefits of European know-how and of Jewish ingenuity and dynamism in bringing about a renaissance in the Middle East.
When it became apparent that the Arabs would react to the establishment of the Jewish state by marching into it, there was a timid attempt, by myself and others, to try to reach an agreement with them by postponing for a short time the proclamation of Israel. This was rejected, however, by the leadership of Israel, guided primarily by Ben-Gurion-who felt that a delay would have been impossible in view of the enthusiasm of the Jews in Palestine and throughout the world at being accorded a state after 2,000 years of homelessness.
Thus, Israel came into existence engaged in a defensive war against the Arabs. This state of war, which has continued until today, inevitably forced Israel to concentrate its great moral and intellectual resources on defending its existence and securing its survival, and led it to abandon, or rather neglect, the great historical, moral and spiritual aspects of the restoration of a Jewish state. Its leaders no longer were thinkers, idealists and revolutionaries, but technicians, managers, generals and party politicians.
As for the Arabs, they did not even want to try to understand the great historical significance of a Jewish state living in peace and close cooperation with them. In this period, when, after centuries of decay, the Middle East might have been starting a process of renascence, they concentrated a negative and hostile campaign against Israel, endeavoring again and again to destroy it.
As for the great powers, especially the two superpowers, whose attitudes are decisive for nearly all complex political problems of our time and certainly for the Middle East, they have not approached the issue with the statesmanship of a Balfour or a Wilson, but with the routine methods of political diplomacy, fighting for prestige, trying to eliminate one another, not concerned primarily with what is good for the Arabs and Israelis, or for the world, but rather for themselves.
The result was a freezing of the situation for many years. Partly for emotional reasons, partly for internal political ones, and in part because it was busy with more urgent problems like Vietnam, the United States encouraged this stalemate. Whenever an attempt was made to break it-through the Jarring mission, through the proposal to entrust it to the four big powers, through the Rogers Plan-the United States either impeded or dropped these timid attempts to move toward a solution, both for reasons of its own and in order not to antagonize Israel. Israel, in turn, aware of the support of the United States, has understandably tried to maintain the status quo, hoping that the Arabs and the world at large would accept it and lose interest in the problem.
This policy forced the Arabs, for whom the status quo was naturally unacceptable, to try to break it. And they did so in the Yom Kippur War. In this conflict, though they lost territory, they won the political battle, breaking the stalemate and forcing the big powers and Israel to begin to look for a solution.
The past 27 years have proven that the approach used heretofore has failed and will fail. Now, unfortunately, time is getting short. Even if the disengagement policy has brought about, for a little while, a relaxation of tension, the situation in the Middle East remains explosive and may lead to a crisis in the near future, which would not only be a disaster for the peoples of the area but might result in a world conflagration. Both President Nixon and President Ford have repeatedly called the Middle East the most explosive area in the world. In addition, the Israelis should realize that time is working against them, in view of the tremendous new economic and consequent political power of the Arab world. In view of the critical character of the situation, it is necessary to try to understand the underlying reasons for the present stalemate and for the failure of the governments and peoples involved to achieve a settlement.
In all this, the major aspect of the problem is neither territorial nor political, but psychological. At bottom, what motivates peoples, movements and individuals is not so much ideology or political calculation as psychology. If this is valid generally, it is doubly so for the two peoples mainly involved in the Middle East crisis, the Jews and the Arabs. If the emotional aspects were removed, the objective issues involved in the conflict would really not be so difficult to solve; much more complicated territorial problems have been settled in the last decades.
The part of Palestine which was assigned to the Jewish state in the U.N. resolution-even adding to it the territories conquered by Israel before the Six-Day War-represents less than one percent of the vast Arab territories, of which a very large part is uninhabited. It is true that the position of Israel within the Arab world complicates the territorial issues. This was once lucidly explained by President Nasser to the then Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold, who was very keen to find a solution to the problem and who had undertaken to discuss with Nasser a proposal which I had submitted to him. (There is no need to spell out here the nature of the proposal; Hammarskjold reported to me that Nasser had observed that it might serve as a basis but, as I was not responsible for Israeli policies, I could not, as he rightly put it, "deliver the goods".) In their conversation Nasser stated that the Arabs might one day be ready to accept the loss of the territory on which the State of Israel was established. The partition of Palestine was not the main issue, he argued. The real problem was the fact that Israel in effect geographically divides the Arab world, making it very difficult to implement the ideal of one great Arab political and economic bloc, from Morocco to Iraq; Israel's location in the very center, indifferent to Arab ambitions, could therefore sabotage the effort to achieve full Arab unity. Despite this complicated territorial problem-for which a solution could be found, such as the neutralization of Israel-it is the psychological aspect that is crucial.1
While both Arabs and Jews belong to the semitic race and share certain qualities-a long memory, an inclination to superlatives, a certain predominance of feelings-the Jewish people are a unique group. They are unique both in their structure-religion and nation being identical-and in their historical destiny-having lived both in their own center and state, and for a much longer time dispersed throughout the world. This structure and history have naturally created a characteristic psychology in the Jewish community, both that of the Diaspora and in Israel. The 2,000 years of unprecedented persecution were climaxed by the Holocaust, for which there is no parallel in history, not only because of the millions annihilated but because of the systematic way in which they were exterminated. This has of necessity created in the Jewish psyche a persecution mania and, coupled with it, a deep distrust of non-Jewish peoples, particularly Christians. Such distrust was deepened by the Nazi experience and the passive attitude of the Western democracies which witnessed the crime without making any serious attempt to save the Jewish victims.
A further psychological consequence of their unique history is the stubbornness of the Jewish people. The Bible speaks of it. Moses characterized the Jews as "stiff-necked" and told them that he liberated them from Egypt with the strong hand of God, to which the Talmud remarks that, had it depended on the wishes of the Jews in Egypt, they would still be there in slavery.
Another consequence was the inexperience of the Jews, in the 2,000 years of their dispersion, in planning truly long-term policies. They lived from hand to mouth, because they were never sure of their situation, always afraid of being expelled, persecuted or annihilated. Jewish policy in the centuries of the Diaspora consisted only in the desperate attempt to survive, to maintain their identity, not to allow themselves to be exterminated, waiting for the Messiah who would come and solve all their problems. This naturally made it impossible even to plan, let alone to implement a long-term policy. The difference between a statesman and a politician is that the one deals with problems on a long-term basis and the other only from a short-term point of view; in all those years of the Diaspora, the only statesman, so to speak, was the Messiah, whom the Jewish people expected to plan and implement their salvation.
The decisive influence of these characteristics will easily be recognized in Israel's policies since the establishment of the State. The lack of confidence in guarantees, for example, is the result of distrust in non-Jewish promises; the refusal or the incapacity to look for long-term solutions to their conflict with the Arab world reflects their inexperience in true statesmanship. In the centuries of the Diaspora, Jews developed extraordinary talents, but how to conduct the policy of their own sovereign state like statesmen was one of the things which they could not have learned. I have often said to Arabs with whom I discussed the problem: have patience and give Israel a generation or two. Those who will grow up in the country may no longer be obsessed by this trauma of persecution and the fundamental distrust of every non-Jew. They may begin to act from feelings of security and strength and will be much more amenable to long-term and radical solutions than the present generation, most of whose leaders come from the Diaspora, still dominated by all the characteristics of Diaspora Jewry and having experienced the climax of Jewish tragedy, the Nazi Holocaust.
Another characteristic of the Jews within this context is a certain lack of tolerance. The conviction that whatever they believed represented the absolute truth was essential for their survival. It is, however, a great handicap for a people who want to conduct the policies of their own state: this requires flexibility and the ability to understand the opponents' points of view.
The real difference between a politician and a statesman is that the former cares only for the wishes of his followers, while the latter considers no less the desires and demands of his adversaries, with whom he has to reach an agreement. The only exception to Israel's general inflexibility, and therefore the only Israeli leader of real stature, despite his stubbornness and his general unwillingness to make concessions, was David Ben-Gurion. He was a great realist and had the courage to change policies when necessary: after the 1956 Sinai war, when Eisenhower and Khrushchev reached an agreement, he understood that to resist was hopeless and altered his policy within 24 hours. There is, alas, today no one who has the authority, courage and charisma to do such a thing.
Thus, it should be made clear that it is not simply greediness or egocentrism which lies behind the stubbornness of Israel. Nothing takes more time and is more difficult for a people, especially one with such a long history, than to change their basic attitudes. The trouble is, unfortunately, that the Arabs are not ready to wait.
Turning to the Arabs, one important characteristic which they share with the Jews stands out. For both, religion and nation are intertwined. This has grave perils for the conduct of national policies, for the character of religion is the opposite of politics. Politics has nothing to do with eternal verities; it is based on temporary accommodations; it is conditioned by historical facts which are in permanent flux. Therefore, one of the main conditions for a statesman is flexibility. It is characteristic of religion, on the other hand, to be absolute. A believer cannot be skeptical or have reservations about his belief; the claim of religion is to possess the eternal truth, and every religion has the same claim. Therefore, it is much more difficult to make concessions where religious factors are involved. No wars are so cruel as religious wars, no politics so difficult as ones motivated by religious elements. As this characterizes both Arabs and Jews, it is an additional element complicating their relationship and making a solution more difficult.
Another characteristic which the Arabs have in common with the Jews is their feeling of inferiority and insecurity. It is true that they never suffered as did the Jews, and they never knew a dispersion, but for centuries they were dominated by other peoples-Crusaders, colonialists, and so on-and only recently have they become independent and masters of their destiny. They too have experienced a persecution complex and distrust the peoples who oppressed them for centuries.
Two principal examples illustrate the complexities of these psychological factors. One concerns the case of Jerusalem which, if divested of its religious aspect, could be settled by granting the city a special status, a condominium, or the like. It is the fact that this is the holy city of the Jewish people and the second sacred one for the Arabs-not to speak of the Christians-that makes this issue so complex and difficult. Another example is the question of the West Bank: most Orthodox Jews in Israel are opposed to returning Hebron or Bethlehem to the Arabs, not for economic or security reasons, but because these towns have a special historical and religious significance in Jewish tradition, while Hebron is also a shrine for the Muslims.
In view of these aspects of the psychology of Arabs and Jews, the policy conducted at present by the United States through Secretary Kissinger cannot be effective in the long run. His method of temporizing, postponing delicate and difficult problems and creating by small steps and concessions a climate of confidence and mutual readiness to tackle the difficult issues, may appear very attractive from the immediate point of view. It may, in the beginning, even have impressive results, but they are neither lasting nor conclusive to a permanent solution. As neither party in the Israeli-Arab conflict is very flexible, as both approach their problems not with cold rationality but with passionate emotions, they react to every little step with nearly the same violence as they would to a total solution. Therefore the step-by-step policy causes a state of permanent agony. A German proverb says: "Better a frightful end than a fright without end." The violent reaction in Israel and among the Arabs to every small concession does not create the climate conducive to mutual confidence but, on the contrary, evokes negative passions, emotions and protests.
A famous Jewish story lightly illustrates the problem of this policy. It concerns a man who kneels under a streetlight at night, looking for something. Another Jew passes by, wants to help him, bends down and starts looking round. "What have you lost?" asks the newcomer. "My briefcase," the first man answers. As they do not find anything, the second Jew asks again, "Are you sure you lost it here?" "No," is the answer, "on the other side of the street, in the dark corner." "So why do you look for it here?" "Because there is more light." This is how the step-by-step policy works, but we cannot avoid looking in the dark corner if we want to find what we are searching for.
In the light of this analysis, I do not intend to deal with the various details: territories, Jerusalem, the Palestinians, the nature of an agreement, and so on. I do not believe in giving advice-mostly unheeded anyhow-to the Israelis and the Arabs on all these very difficult detailed questions. Since the main issue is psychology rather than "objective facts," the decisive condition for reaching a settlement is to overcome the psychological impediments and to encourage a willingness in both parties not to delay in looking for a radical and definite solution. Concentration on tactics represents mostly a vain and wasteful effort. To give only one example: on the question of the evacuation of the two passes in the Sinai by Israel, some of the best military experts and generals in Israel consider them fundamental for Israel's defense; others, equally reputable, consider them as unimportant. One can choose the opinion of one or the other but it proves once again that experts' views are not conclusive.
While I therefore refrain from making concrete proposals, a few possible solutions (which could be exchanged for others, no less practical, on condition that goodwill exists on both sides) illustrate what in my view constitutes a flexible approach. Sharm-el-Sheikh, for instance, could be returned to Egypt after a peace agreement, but could be leased by Egypt to Israel or, as one Arab diplomat once suggested to me, they could establish joint enterprises there, so that the Israelis would always be aware of any Egyptian attempt to prevent the passage of any ships. As for the Golan, if it is returned to Syria, that part of it which overlooks the Israeli settlements in the Jordan valley and from which Syrian soldiers used to shoot down, could be demilitarized and occupied indefinitely by U.N. troops. Concerning the very delicate question of Jerusalem, the solution which I would be inclined to favor-without pretending that it is the best or only one-would be to keep the old and new cities as one administrative unit but to grant the old city a special legal status, as a free city or one similar to the position of the Vatican in Rome. This would remove the Arabs' argument that they are reluctant to make their pilgrimage to the Jerusalem mosques because they would have to get an Israeli visa to do so.
My last example concerns the most difficult and delicate question-that of the Palestinians. Once the territorial question of Cisjordan is settled and definite boundaries are established, and on condition that the Palestinians are ready to recognize Israel formally as a sovereign state and drop their demand for a unitarian state in the whole of Palestine, one could imagine a plebiscite arranged by the United Nations in Cisjordan. This would allow the inhabitants to decide whether they want a state of their own or a confederation with Jordan, with boundaries guaranteed by the United Nations. One could even envisage an economic confederation between Israel and the new Palestinian state, either including Jordan or not. This, a statesman close to the Palestinians confided to me, might be an acceptable possibility, because it would realize part of the PLO program for one state-which they cannot hope to get-through the creation at least of an economic unity over the whole of Palestine. (This, by the way, was foreseen in the original resolution on partition by the United Nations.) Many Israeli leaders, among them Defense Minister Shimon Peres, who cannot be regarded as a dove, have lately recommended this solution.
These and many similar proposals could be thinkable and practical, once there is readiness on the part of the Arabs and the Israelis to put an end to the 27-year-old crisis. This willingness is even more important for Israel than for the Arabs. In all conflicts, both political and military, the question of whether time works in favor of or against a group is always fundamental. For many years, my basic difference with Ben-Gurion on Israeli politics was that I felt-even before the present oil situation developed-that time works for the Arabs, chiefly because of their enormous numerical superiority. Ben-Gurion, on the other hand, at least as long as he was Prime Minister, had a theory that time works in favor of Israel and that Israel's superiority would grow; this was, I believe, the rationalization of his unwillingness to make the necessary concessions for a settlement. If this was wrong, in my opinion, even in the past, today Arab wealth and economic superiority, and the political power resulting from it, are manifest and are developing extraordinarily quickly (unexpectedly for most people and the Israelis). It now requires great naïvete or ignorance or, for some, blind religious faith in a coming miracle, to assume that time works for Israel.
If one believes that time works in the Arabs' favor, one could theoretically doubt whether they are interested in a settlement with Israel. Nevertheless, I am inclined to accept what both American and other statesmen friendly to Israel maintain, that the present leadership of the major Arab powers-Egypt, Saudi Arabia and, though to a lesser degree, also Syria-are ready for an agreement which naturally presupposes full recognition of Israel and the signing of a formal peace. They may be inclined to do so, I believe, because they know that a continued state of war would make them again dependent on the Soviets, whereas they are moderate pro-Western politicians. Moreover, they feel that the United States and other Western powers will not allow the destruction of Israel, and even the Soviets have often declared that they support Israel's existence.
In addition, their growing wealth should also work in favor of a settlement, since they know that their affluence will not last indefinitely and they have a unique chance in the near future to develop their countries tremendously. The concentration of most of their efforts, financial as well as emotional and political, on the fight against Israel diverts them from this unexpected opportunity to develop their peoples and their countries in an unforeseen way. This is why, in the opinion of many observers, they would like to settle the disturbing Israeli problem and concentrate on making use of the occasion which their oil resources give them.
It is not even unreasonable to assume that, once a final settlement is achieved, the Arabs' attitude toward Israel may change very rapidly. One of the characteristics of the Arabs is their tendency to move quickly and radically from one emotional position to another. This applies especially to the Egyptians, as I know from years of personal experience. Indeed, a good friend of mine, a leading French intellectual, who gave a series of lectures in Cairo shortly before Nasser's death, told me of a long talk he had had with him about relations with Israel. When Nasser mentioned that he would like to make an end to the state of war with Israel and bring about a settlement, my friend asked him if Egypt would be ready also for normal relations with Israel after a peace treaty had been signed. Nasser replied, half jokingly: "Once peace is achieved, my main worry will be how to refill the stocks in Port Said every Monday, as I am sure that over the weekend thousands of Israelis will come and buy all the stuff."
I do not think that one need take too seriously Sadat's statement that formal diplomatic relations may have to be left to another generation. Knowing the character of the Egyptians, an easy-going people, a little cynical, fundamentally good-hearted, one can reasonably hope that formal peace relations would be fairly soon followed by a change of attitude which, in the long run, would be more important than the formal treaty.
For Israel the necessity for a definite peace treaty is much greater. Many people, including leading statesmen close to the Arabs, believe that this may be the last chance for Israel to be accepted by the Arab world, which is the main condition for its survival. My reaction to this is always that the word "last" should not figure in the dictionary of statesmen. But there is no question that Arab acceptance of Israel may become more and more difficult and unlikely. If there is no peace in the next few years, nobody can foresee what Arab power will mean in another decade. Furthermore, if peace is not achieved, the moderate leadership of the Arab world may be replaced by a radical anti-Western and violently anti-Israeli leadership.
Despite the logic of the argument, however, it would take great optimism to expect that the Israelis and the Arabs would be able to reach a final settlement on their own. I am aware of the sensitivity of so-called sovereign states when told that they must rely on foreign factors to settle their problems. Sovereignty has become a very important but, in my opinion, an illusory and nonsensical notion nowadays. There is really not a fully sovereign state in the world. Our world is so intertwined and interconnected that no state can act on its own and, paradoxically, the stronger a state, the less it can do so. I once asked an American Secretary of State, on the request of Israel, why two months had passed without his answering a question which the Israelis had put to him. The Secretary replied: "It is not lack of goodwill or interest, but you should realize that, before I can react or answer, I must consult my partners in the NATO, my partners in the SEATO, some partners in the OAS. If you believe," he added, "that we are sovereign and can act on our own, you are greatly mistaken." And therefore, for Israel and the Arab states to insist too much on sovereignty, although understandable because young states are much more sensitive to it than old ones, is meaningless.
For years Israel has proclaimed the slogan that it will not accept an "imposed peace." This is an impressive formula from an emotional point of view, but realistically it is devoid of meaning. Another American statesman, to whom I mentioned that Israel was very much afraid of a peace imposed by the United States, told me: "We would never think of imposing peace. If one day we reach an agreement with the Soviets, all we will do is to give Israel good advice and see to it that they accept it." It all depends on what you understand by an "imposed" peace. If it means that America would send her Sixth Fleet and threaten to occupy Israel if it does not accept America's advice, then the fear is justified. But if you interpret it as the American diplomat did, then every solution in all parts of the world is somehow "imposed," because in this century nothing can really be solved anywhere without direct or indirect, conscious or unconscious, interference by the superpowers.
In the case of the Israeli-Arab conflict, against the background of the psychological approach, this thesis is doubly valid. Therefore the overriding condition for finding a definite solution is an understanding between the two superpowers. Their competition in this part of the world is particularly immoral: because of the importance of the area; because of its spiritual, religious, nearly mystical significance for hundreds of millions of people; and above all, because as a result of their competition and rivalry they have until now accepted the status quo and prevented a solution there.
As a matter of fact, there does not seem to be any great difference between the Russian and the American concepts of a solution, except as regards prestige and tactics. Both the United States and the Soviet Union accept U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338 as a basis. The difference of opinion, about whether evacuation refers to all territories or nearly all, indicates a nuance that is not decisive, especially if one foresees that there may be real changes in the boundaries once Arabs and Israelis are ready to discuss the details of a peace treaty by direct negotiations. Because time is running out, therefore, the two superpowers must cease to act like rivals and competitors and must use their influence with both parties to move toward a real solution.
The United States, because it is more influential in the Middle East-as regards the Arabs as well as Israel-bears the greater responsibility. Thus it is good to know that both President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger are beginning to have doubts about the step-by-step policy and, even after having reached a new disengagement in the present negotiations, understand that they cannot rest with it but must continue to look for a final settlement by calling the Geneva conference. This is above all a framework and a symbol for the readiness to reach an agreement.
There are obviously great internal obstacles for both Israel and the Arab states to making the concessions necessary for a real peace. But whenever great external political matters, especially delicate and complex ones, are determined primarily by internal politics, finding a solution becomes well-nigh impossible. It is one of the grave dangers and weaknesses of modern democracy that, too often, great foreign political issues are determined by electoral considerations; the result often is failure and disaster for the people directly involved. This applies especially to the United States, the greatest democracy today, where major foreign policies are too often primarily determined by domestic considerations. But it is crucially important for Israel where the predominance of domestic issues in fixing the lines of its foreign policy is stronger than in other countries because of the proportional electoral system. The present government cannot rely on a real majority in the Knesset, in which a dozen parties are represented, and therefore must take all their proclivities into consideration when deciding on foreign policy matters. For a state in such a dangerous position as Israel, this is, in the long run, an intolerable situation.
Summing up, I reiterate the need for statesmanship. If for no other reason, certainly the awareness of the great danger in the situation should induce the leaders of all those involved to rise above their petty political calculations in an attempt to solve one of the great historical problems of our time. (It is, by the way, both morally and politically wrong for the European governments to have kept out of this question, and represents a dangerous precedent for their abdication in world politics.) Concretely this means to try courageously to bring about a radical solution by inducing the two parties to be ready to sign a formal peace treaty, opening the way for recognition and cooperation. The wisdom of Israel's making territorial concessions in exchange for small or practically nonexistent political concessions by Egypt is dubious. In my opinion, Israel should be ready for a real application of the U.N. resolutions, with certain exceptions, while Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan should be willing at least to recognize Israel formally and sign a valid peace treaty.
The creation of the State of Israel is one of the few great positive achievements of our generation. It could mean much more than giving persecuted Jews their own homeland, in this way compensating them for the terrible crimes committed against the Jewish people for thousands of years. Israel at peace with the Arab world, Israeli dynamism and ingenuity, coupled with Arab talents and Arab wealth, could make out of the Middle East in a few generations one of the great centers of world civilization, at it was in the past. Morally speaking, in a century unparalleled in history for its violence, not only toward Jews but toward many other peoples and countries, the creation of the State of Israel, enabled by the vote of the United Nations and supported by both the democracies and the communist states, established and developed with tremendous sacrifice by the Jews in Israel, is one of the lasting great historical events of this tragic period of human history.
Despite all the disappointments, one may therefore still hope that there are leaders, in Israel, in the Arab world and in the superpowers, with sufficient vision to see the problem in its historical framework and with the magnitude it deserves-who will have the courage to deal with it with methods adequate to its importance and will have the authority and the charisma to implement the statesmanlike approach which will alone assure a real solution and real peace.
1 See Nahum Goldmann, "The Future of Israel," Foreign Affairs, April 1970.