Since the end of the Yom Kippur War, the main attempt at resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict has been the step-by-step approach initiated by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Enormous energy has been spent in Washington and in Israel on negotiating disengagement agreements with Egypt and with Syria, and on preparing for a new limited agreement with Egypt. But whether or not the current effort succeeds, we are reaching the end of this particular road. The time has come to look at the long term, to learn lessons from the obstacles the current method has met, and to resort to a new diplomatic strategy.

My own conviction is that it is time for a sweeping Israeli initiative aimed at a peace settlement. The United States will remain an indispensable participant in the effort. But instead of what is essentially an American policy groping to bring gradual peace to the parties, we now need a decisive effort by the party whose future existence and security are at stake, whose role in the Middle East has been the heart of the matter since 1948, and which finds itself on the defensive. For it is its destiny that is being shaped, and it has a vital interest both in remaining its own master and in reaching with its adversaries a settlement that cannot be seen as the result of an outside power's skill at exploiting temporary circumstances.


After 15 months of American efforts and after the successes of the Palestine Liberation Organization at Rabat and at the United Nations, the leaders of Israel have had to face two serious problems.

The first is the choice of a method toward a settlement. Here, there is a serious division on how to proceed. But there are also some important common features in their views. The first is a sense of dependence on Henry Kissinger, who is in a way the most important political personality of Israel. This dependence is accepted with hope and gratitude by some; it breeds misgivings in others. But everybody, for the time being at least, believes that-for better or worse-he has the key to the locked door that separates Israel from the Arab world. A second common feature is a profound distrust of the Soviet Union, seen both as an intriguing great power pursuing great-power interests and as a potential force for social revolution and disruption in the Arab world. Not all Israeli Sovietologists agree with this view, but it is that of the policy-makers. A third common feature is a set of contradictions, resulting from the sense of dependence on the United States and distrust of the Soviet Union. Concerning the United States, even the officials who are most obviously converted to America's approach are keen on avoiding telling Mr. Kissinger what Israel's views of an ultimate settlement should be. They are willing to entrust him with the next step, because they feel that they have no choice, but they do not want to reveal too much of their final hand, not only because they do not agree among themselves but also because they do not want to have their whole fate negotiated by the United States.

Finally, they note that there is a potential conflict of priorities. American priorities in the Middle East are what could be called great-power relations: how to keep the Soviet Union contained, or out; how to deal with the oil producers so that they do not strangulate the industrial powers, provoke crises in the American alliance, etc. And Israel fits in with that strategy. Israel's priorities are quite different: essentially, its first concern is relations with the Arab world. From that conflict of priorities even the most pro-American Israelis realize that there could come a clash in strategies later on. Also, even those who are most pro-American would not like to have superpower forces stationed in the Middle East as the end result. But even those who are most anti-Soviet realize that there will not be a settlement without including the Soviet Union somehow, and even those who ask that Egypt drop its Soviet connection as a way of showing its goodwill toward peace would also, like Egypt, prefer to be able to play with both superpowers, and to have diplomatic relations with Moscow, however much they distrust the Soviet Union.

The division on how to proceed opposes the partisans of the step-by-step approach, who include the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, and those who would prefer the "Geneva method." The step-by-step approach represented a blend of America's two earlier courses between which Washington had oscillated since 1948: a "great-power" approach which aimed at keeping the Arab-Israeli conflict local, and at trying to find a solution either through the action of the permanent members of the Security Council or through Soviet-American cooperation; and a "strategy of commitment," which developed after the Soviets' own shift of policy against Israel, and consisted of firm American military and diplomatic support to Israel. Like the "strategy of commitment," the step-by-step approach stressed American support to Israel and tried to contain the Soviets by shutting them out diplomatically. Like the "great-power" approach, it aimed at a settlement through outside efforts, and at restoring America's position in the Arab world. (Paradoxically, the blend also meant that the United States is now to some degree arming both sides.)

Moreover, this policy represented a blend of necessity and interest. As for necessity, Kissinger, in November 1973, had discovered in President Sadat a man eager for American friendship and willing to move cautiously toward peace with Israel. But Sadat could not "betray the Arab cause" by making a separate deal with Israel. Step-by-step agreements could set in motion a process in which Egypt would gradually get its lost territory back. Israel, in turn, would obtain assurances of nonbelligerence, in such a way that Sadat could not be accused of repudiating Nasser's ideal of Arab solidarity and would not have to grant Israel full recognition while other Arab states still refused to recognize the existence of the Jewish state. Similarly, the deadlocks of Israeli politics made it impossible for any Israeli government to shift abruptly from immobilism to a settlement involving a retreat from most of the occupied territories, at a moment when its Arab enemies were still unwilling to grant Israel formal recognition.

The approach was also likely to be beneficial both to the United States and to Israel. For Israel what was involved was a gamble on the good effects of time. At home, it was in the interest of the Israeli government to dispose of a long period of peace during which public opinion would recover from the trauma of October 1973, regain confidence in Israel's strength, accept the idea of gradual retreats, and find in strength a reason for magnanimity. Externally, it was in Israel's interest not to engage in a global negotiation with the Arabs while they were elated by the success of their oil strategy. Israel would benefit from dragging out matters until the time when Kissinger's common front of the consumer countries, set up to deal both with the problem of energy independence and with the problem of recycling the petrodollars, had restored the broken world balance.

A step-by-step approach was also in Washington's interest. At home, Kissinger had to deal with the powerful forces that had traditionally supported Israel-in the press and in Congress especially. A return to the prewar White House policy of pro-Israeli passivity was impossible. Merely to provide Israel with weapons without pressing toward a settlement would have meant the certainty of more wars, new confrontations with Moscow, a splendid opportunity for the Soviets to expand their influence in the Middle East, a widening breach with Western Europe and Japan (i.e., no possibility of a common oil strategy under U.S. leadership), and the sacrifice of U.S. positions in friendly Arab countries. But a shift to maximum pressure on Israel toward a full settlement involving a retreat from the occupied territories, concessions on Jerusalem, and an immediate tackling of that most difficult of all issues, that of the Palestinians-all of this in apparent collusion with Moscow-would have seriously weakened the domestic base of Kissinger's foreign policy. He strenuously tried to convince Jewish leaders in the United States both that some movement was unavoidable and that it would serve to protect rather than undermine Israel. Externally, this approach allowed Kissinger to exploit Egypt's distaste for the Soviets, and to keep the Soviets-as well as the Europeans-out of the bargaining; it was complicated enough without additional outside interference. Moreover, only the United States could "deliver the goods" to Egypt and Syria.

In Israel today, what still appears decisive to many is Egypt's situation. Will Egypt define its national interest narrowly (as it did through the late 1930s) or will it continue to define it in a pan-Arab way? The step-by-step approach is seen as the only one that might allow one to find out. For most Israelis understand that Sadat cannot cut his ties to the other Arab countries openly or rapidly, that there is a need for a period of defusing and transition. Therefore the Israeli government is willing to sign an intermediate agreement which serves both sides. This of course also suits Israel's own psychological reluctance to think too much about the end of the road.

However, there are increasing doubts about the validity of this bet. First of all, even if there is a new agreement with Egypt, what would be the next? Nobody seems to see much room for a second disengagement agreement with Syria; here, the obstacle is geography. Sinai is a huge desert; the Golan Heights are narrow and almost impossible to slice up. Whoever controls its summits dominates either the Syrian or the Israeli valleys. So there is not very much leeway in between last year's disengagement and literally either war or peace with Syria.

Is there a Jordanian step? There was a hope that perhaps, after Egypt, Israel might conclude an agreement with Jordan which would deal not with the West Bank but with the other issues that concern both Israel and Jordan. With that view, there are two problems. One is that these issues are entirely minor with the exception of Jerusalem, which is crucial and cannot be handled only by Jordan and by Israel in a partial agreement. Also, the requirement for good Israeli relations with the King of Jordan is that they not be formalized, because he cannot formalize them without exposing himself to charges and threats.

Second, concerning a new agreement with Egypt itself, one needs to find a devilishly clever formula. The agreement must be ambiguous enough to protect Egypt from other Arab charges of treason (which would undoubtedly come if Egypt granted formal nonbelligerence or a promise of several years of nonaggression to Israel), yet clear enough to protect Israel from new pressures from Cairo just a few months later on behalf of Egypt and of the other Arab states and forces. Diplomacy is the art of reconciling irreconcilables, and history is full of agreements which are ambiguous enough to one side and clear enough to the other, but normally there comes a moment or an event or a person that is a terrible clarifier or simplifier, and at that point agreement collapses. Moreover, finding the right formula is difficult in itself, for it means writing an agreement by which the Israelis give up very tangible territory and the Egyptians give up something which is not so important politically as to weaken Egypt's position in the Arab world, yet consists of more than mere words that almost everybody in Israel would denounce as meaningless.

In the negotiation of this difficult formula, there are beginning to be serious doubts about who is the cat and who is the mouse, or who is the salami. Mr. Kissinger may be applying salami tactics, but it is not entirely clear to whom. Is Egypt, is the Arab world the salami? Is this a process by which gradually the links among Egypt, Syria, the PLO, Saudi Arabia, are being loosened, so that Israel gains some breathing space, or is it a process by which Israel is gradually pushed back piece by piece without anything really tangible being given up in exchange by the other side?

President Sadat, who has a way of hiding behind the smoke screen of countless interviews, in each one of which he says something different so as to maximize his freedom of maneuver, is clever enough not only to tie the size of his concessions to the willingness of Israel to move on other fronts-Syria and the PLO-as well, but also to suggest that his concessions will take the form of assurances, not to Israel, but to Kissinger. In effect, this puts the United States in the unhappy position both of having to pressure Israel for the kind of moves that will release those assurances and of answering for Israel's future good behavior so that no reason or pretext for an Egyptian cancellation of those assurances arises. Thus Sadat tries to exploit simultaneously America's mediating effort-in order to get back territories-and America's special link with Israel-in order to keep Israel both retreating and restrained. Any significant disengagement agreement with Cairo could therefore have the effect of forcing Israel to renounce any possibility of preemptive action even against a fully armed and mobilizing Syria-so as not to force Sadat to revoke his concessions-and, in the event that Syria should attack Israel first, to rely on the dubious hope that Egypt, faithful to its word, would remain passive.

Hence another debate which goes on in Israel: on whose side is time? Many Israelis have come to fear that time may be on the Arabs' side. If one looks at the past, one finds that the curve of inter-Arab relations rises toward cooperation, if not unity; certainly Rabat suggests that time does not guarantee a weakening of the links in the Arab chain. Moreover, on whom (as between Egypt and Israel) will there be greater American pressure for concessions? The Israelis remember with some trepidation that in the second half of October 1973 it was on Israel that the hardest pressure was put (in their own best interest of course, as seen by Mr. Kissinger). This may happen again, precisely because Mr. Kissinger argues that if Israel should demand the impossible from Mr. Sadat, Mr. Sadat will not be able to demonstrate his goodwill. This, in turn, poses again the question of who is manipulating whom.

There is still another reason why the step-by-step approach may actually put time on the Arabs' side. For Israel, because of Egypt's tactics, each new step entails, directly or obliquely, marginally or importantly, dealing with the essential: security, i.e., giving away part of the only Israeli trump: occupied territory. But the Arabs, in return, are not giving away any part of their trump: nonrecognition. That will have to wait for the final step, by which time Israel's bargaining power will have shrunk. Is trading territory for formulas the best use of time? Does not the length of the process provide Israel's adversaries with opportunities for tightening the noose, rather than with occasions for falling apart?

A final argument against the step-by-step approach refers to domestic affairs within Israel. Again time is not necessarily an ally of the policy. Small concessions for limited periods of time, leading only to renewed demands for more concessions without peace, mean that shortly before the period ends there is maximum pressure on Israel to make a new concession in order to have a new agreement; there is an artificial crisis aimed at creating the "right" international climate. This, internally, increases psychological resistance and plays, in effect, into the hands of the right-wing opposition, both outside and within the government. Whereas the external effects of time can be the subject of debate, there is now little doubt that within Israel any policy that postpones a settlement has a very dangerous effect in two important respects.

First, there is a pressure for the establishment of new Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. On the whole, the government has resisted and rebuffed these on the West Bank. It has not resisted them, and in fact it has promoted and financed them in Jerusalem and on the Golan Heights, perhaps because of the theory of bargaining chips. But we know from the field of arms control that bargaining chips may complicate rather than facilitate agreements. Another internal danger has to do with the new generation of Israelis, those who have come from Arab countries or from the Soviet Union, and are being integrated into Israeli society. If it has been difficult for Israel to make peace with the Arabs and to find accommodation with the Soviet Union under the present establishment and leadership, it will be far more difficult when this establishment is largely or partly composed of people who, because of what they have suffered in Arab countries or in the Soviet Union, hate the Soviet Union and the Arab countries with a perfectly understandable but flaming passion.

The debate over the step-by-step approach is accompanied by a debate about the alternative-a resumption of the Geneva conference. The opponents of Geneva rely on four arguments. First, when all the Arab opponents of Israel are under the same roof, there is a premium on intransigence. Today, Egypt can express its preference for peace and its willingness to achieve it gradually despite Syria's hard line and the PLO's recriminations. At Geneva, the toughest would set the norm-as they did at Rabat. Second, the step-by-step approach postpones the most difficult problem-the PLO-which would be the first to surface in Geneva, thus wrecking the conference or at least putting Israel on the spot immediately, over an issue that is domestically explosive. Third, Geneva reintroduces the Soviet Union. One of the great merits of the step-by-step approach, in Israeli eyes, is that it keeps the Soviet devil out. Fourth, in Geneva, the difference in priorities between the United States and Israel (which is implicit already in the step-by-step process) would become explicit. The United States, on good terms not only with Israel but with several Arab states, might put even stronger pressure on Israel in order to reach a settlement.

However, at present, there is a bizarre coalition of Israelis who are favorable to a return to Geneva. Some would like to go to Geneva because they think that there is at least a chance for a general settlement there, which the step-by-step method squanders by running into too many obstacles. These people think that leaping over those obstacles and facing the whole problem at once makes more sense than trying to detach elements of a chain that seems to be increasingly solid. But a return to Geneva is also favored by people, either outside the government on its Right or in the government, who believe that Geneva would show once and for all that one cannot really reach peace with the Arabs. The United States or the Soviet Union would no longer be able to say to Israel: "If you are not cooperative, we may have to go to Geneva." Recent statements of Abba Eban and of the Minister of Defense, Shimon Peres, create the impression that Geneva has become the refuge of both the prudent optimists and of the deep pessimists who want to demonstrate that there is no Geneva solution.

Then there is the specific problem of the Palestinians. Here again Israeli opinion shows some common features. There has been a considerable evolution since 1973. There is no longer any attempt to deny that there is a Palestinian problem, or to deny that there is a Palestinian people, although there are many different views about what the Palestinian people is. However, there still is a common refusal to deal with Palestinian organizations that do not recognize Israel's own existence and the legitimacy of the state of Israel. There is also a fear that any Palestinian organization that would negotiate with Israel would be immediately outflanked by an extremist faction, which would then become the rallying point, so that negotiations would in fact not lead anywhere. The official policy comes close to that old French adage "it is urgent to do nothing," it is urgent to wait.

And what appears impossible-dealing with the PLO-is also rationalized as undesirable. A negotiation with the PLO would undermine King Hussein, with whom there are many common interests, including the interest in not having in between Israel and Jordan a revolutionary state out to destroy both. Less convincing is the second argument: the hope that if one does not deal with the PLO long enough, it will fade away-that it will lose its influence if it does not achieve anything. In other words, the PLO may not really be representative, and if one just waits long enough and avoids building it up, it will lose its aura of success, which any revolutionary movement needs. Hussein will then come back into the picture, and there is still a preference for a solution negotiated with him rather than with the PLO, for a number of reasons. One of these is that there are about as many Palestinians on the East Bank as on the West Bank, so that any separate Palestinian West Bank state would be a recipe for instability anyhow. Another reason is that one can perhaps demilitarize part of a Jordanian state including the West Bank, but it is difficult to demilitarize a whole state.

How realistic is the hope that the PLO will fade away? Washington as well as Israel had hoped that Rabat would not consecrate the PLO. The very fact that at Rabat it was Saudi Arabia which more or less imposed the final formula recognizing the PLO as representative of all Palestinians makes one a bit suspicious about the Israelis' reasoning. It may very well be that since Saudi Arabia has a particular interest in Jerusalem it has chosen to support the one organization whose state, if it ever gets one, would have to have Jerusalem as its capital because it could not be anywhere else, whereas a Jordan with the West Bank would still have its capital in Amman and could make compromises about Jerusalem more easily.

One must remember that a "Jordanian solution" was possible for many years, before the rise of the PLO, and that it failed to materialize. To be sure, Israel's terms for returning part or all of the West Bank might now become more generous; but Hussein is less than ever able to make a final deal before the other Arab states, and they are now pressing either entirely for a PLO monopoly or at least for a PLO role.

One can also ask oneself whether the Israeli policy of not doing anything now is based on any real knowledge of what is actually happening among the Palestinians. In Israel, one hears very conflicting estimates. Some believe that what is happening on the West Bank is the gradual Jordanization of the Palestinians. Others think that what one can expect on the East Bank in the long run is the gradual Palestinization of the Jordanians. It is clear that the inhabitants of the West Bank, the notables and the people who follow them, are not going to reveal their hands while they are still both a stake of international politics and under military occupation. But there is no doubt that there is sympathy for the PLO, and one must remember, when one talks of the effect of failure, that the PLO's international emergence followed its crushing defeat by Jordan in 1970.

What are the alternatives suggested for the Palestinian problem? The most "dovish" is the one recommended by Nahum Goldmann, the President of the World Jewish Congress.1 It proposes the evacuation of the West Bank by Israel, a temporary U.N. administration and plebiscite on independence vs. confederation with Jordan, and meanwhile either the creation of a Palestinian government in exile including but not limited to the PLO, or an invitation to Arafat to come to Geneva on the basis of Resolution 242. This essentially assumes the willingness of the Palestinians to moderate their position and to accept merely a West Bank state. It is a proposal that practically nobody in Israel endorses. Some Israelis put forward a much more limited and tactical notion: the idea that Israel should at least publicly recognize the right of the Palestinians to self-determination, as long as the Palestinians recognize the Israeli right to self-determination. This is not the policy adopted by the government, precisely because it leaves the ultimate fate of the West Bank to decisions among the Arabs; if the outcome should favor the PLO, the present government would not accept it. It is also suggested that any prime minister who would offer this formula (comparable to what de Gaulle had offered for Algeria in 1959) would find himself without a government.

As for the hawks' alternatives, the most extreme is the annexation of the West Bank, for reasons in which strategy and Biblical references are mixed, while the most surprising is the notion of a Jordanian-Israeli common market and common army on the West Bank. This latter solution appears remarkably utopian, not only because it would require between the Jordanians and the Israelis a degree of cooperation which even the Europeans have not achieved, but also because it is very hard to imagine any Jordanian government accepting it and surviving.


Whether or not Secretary Kissinger succeeds in his current efforts, it is essential for Israel to think about its ultimate goals. Success would mean one or more disengagement agreements, a more or less limited period of assured non-war. But it would also mean a continuing arms buildup, new Arab pressures for further Israeli withdrawals, and the absence of recognition and peace. Failure would mean an immediate or rapid danger of war. The difference between success and failure is important-but not decisive, precisely insofar as the situation of neither-peace-nor-war, however stabilized new gradual agreements might make it appear, would be no more than an armistice, with worried and partly demoralized Israelis, unsatisfied yet encouraged Arabs. There would remain a choice between a resumption of war, and a new march to peace. Success of the gradual approach gives a chance to the latter but is no substitute for it. It is merely a prelude.

The heart of the present Israeli strategy is the Israeli-American connection. When we turn to the long run, it is with that link that we must begin. The present relationship, the present uneasy symbiosis between Premier Rabin and Secretary Kissinger, is fraught with potential unhappiness. One does not have to be a Gaullist to believe that there is a risk in entrusting somebody else with one's fate, even when one feels one has no choice. Furthermore, the conflict of priorities, already noted, breeds a constant and double risk of mutual recrimination: the Israelis feeling that the United States because of its priorities, of its need to have an Arab policy, may sacrifice (unknowingly, of course) some essential Israeli interests, and the United States becoming exasperated with the obstinacy of Israelis.

There are also risks of serious misunderstandings in the Israeli-American association. Today, it is not always easy to know who is the tail and who is the dog. Mr. Kissinger has a way of saying to his visitors: "I have to propose the following steps, because they are the only ones acceptable to Israel"; but one can hear from the Israeli officials that they are following the same course because they want to help Mr. Kissinger. Is the exclusion of the Soviet Union something Mr. Kissinger has accepted because it is in Israel's interest? Is it something Israel accepts because it's in Mr. Kissinger's strategy? Is the refusal to do anything that might undermine Hussein primarily an American or primarily an Israeli interest? It is not always clear. Tomorrow, another misunderstanding is possible: Mr. Kissinger, a solo performer, is a master at flexibility; the one thing he cannot tolerate is failure. If the step-by-step approach leads nowhere-either because there is no next step or because it is clear that the next step will not be followed by any more-he will go to Geneva. He has already suggested this. It is not at all clear whether those Israelis whom he has so thoroughly convinced of all of the disasters of Geneva are ready for it. The people who are ready for Geneva are the people who most disagree with him, and the people who most agree with him are those who, in a rigid parliamentary and governmental situation, have staked their careers on the avoidance of Geneva.

There is a long-range risk of misunderstanding also. The Israeli hard-liners-and this means not only members of the opposition coalition Likud but very important members of the cabinet-when asked what they would like America's role to be (instead of the step-by-step policy which they denounce) reply that they don't want too much from Washington: the United States should just give Israel weapons in numbers sufficient to compensate the Arab inflow of arms; America's diplomatic role is simply to neutralize the Soviet Union. Behind that double shield, Israel would take care of itself.

This "American alternative" strikes me as untenable, first of all because of an inherent contradiction. If the United States wants to "neutralize" the Soviet Union, it has to have an Arab policy. It has to be present in Egypt, in Saudi Arabia, in Jordan, and that means putting pressure on Israel, which is precisely what hard-liners do not want. Furthermore, there is a built-in hopelessness in this policy. Externally, it offers no prospect but continuing reliance on situations of strength and risks of war. Also, it means that hard-liners put all their American hopes first of all in Senator Jackson, and second, in the perpetuation of the cold war. They misread current American policy, by seeing in it an excessively "soft" and prudent course corresponding to a post-Vietnam weakening of resolve and battle-fatigue with world responsibility. Not only is this an inaccurate reading of Secretary Kissinger, who does not suffer from the Munich syndrome, and seems in fact haunted by the fear of a decline of the West. It is also a mistake for Israelis to want to base their association with the United States on purely strategic and anti-Soviet arguments, and, in terms of American politics, to want to associate only with the sector represented by Senator Jackson.

If this is an Israeli alternative to the present U.S.-Israeli relationship, what alternatives have been offered by Americans? Richard Ullman, in the last issue of Foreign Affairs,2 argued for an American military guarantee to and military presence in Israel. But he did not make it clear whether it would be a guarantee after a settlement, or a guarantee before, aimed at making Israelis more confident about withdrawals and concessions. If it is a guarantee after a settlement, we are left with the problem of how to get the settlement. If it is a guarantee aimed at facilitating a settlement, yet preceding it, it introduces even more blackmail into Israeli-American relations than the present relationship, while probably weakening United States leverage in the Arab world. Ullman's argument that Sadat, Hussein and Faisal would welcome such a commitment as long as it was accompanied by Israeli withdrawals may be correct, but only if the United States puts maximum pressure on Israel for withdrawals that may-like the present course-merely shrink Israeli-held territory without anything tangible in return.

In short, his plan is not in Israel's long-term interest (unless it comes after a settlement), for Israel's long-term interest is not merely deterrence of an Arab attack, it is peace, i.e., a settlement. It would not solve the problems extant between the Arab countries and Israel, and especially not the PLO problem; it would exacerbate Arab perceptions of Israel as a kind of Western spearhead; and, as some Israelis put it, it would even complicate matters for Israel by limiting present Israeli freedom of movement in areas such as southern Lebanon: if one is a military ally of the United States, every retaliation will have to be checked with Washington, which may have good reasons for not approving.

Nor would a guarantee before a settlement be desirable for the United States, where it would be seen as giving Israel a kind of lien on Washington's Middle Eastern policy and as facilitating the task of the Soviet Union in Arab countries. For Moscow could point out that it had always told them that the Israelis are merely a tool of the United States. The guarantee would become a substitute for a settlement, and, as in so many alliances between a distant Protector and an exposed small ally, there would remain a fundamental ambiguity about who maneuvers whom. Every incident that occurred in the absence or in the course of withdrawals would confront Washington with the unwelcome choice of either carrying out its commitment, however reluctantly, or reneging on it. It is most unlikely that Congress would undertake this kind of a formal commitment. Thus, Washington would be reluctant to underwrite Israel too much, and Israel would be reluctant to tie itself down too much.

Is there any other American alternative? Many Jewish Americans have argued that the basis of the American-Israeli relationship should be an unassailable moral link resting in turn on an unassailable moral position of Israel. Such a link is indeed the best explanation of American support to Israel in the past. To maintain this bond we must take a hard look both at the moral roots of Israel's position, and at the moral implications for its foreign policy.

Unquestionably, there is an Israeli right to existence and security and an Israeli claim on other nations, not for the maintenance of the occupied territories, but for the survival and safety of Israel as a state. As Raymond Aron wrote shortly before the Six-Day War, any Westerner, in fact anybody, who would let this country be destroyed could not face himself anymore. Even if one believes that the creation of the state of Israel repaired one historical injustice at the cost of a new one perpetrated on Palestine's Arabs, the reparation of that injustice cannot be allowed to threaten Israel's own right to live. Even those who believe that the ideal solution is a "binational state" in former Palestine should realize that this has no chance of leaping from the printed page to political reality as long as one side sees in this formula a pretext for its own annihilation as a self-governing entity, and the other sees in it a weapon against the other's existence.

On the other hand, the argument that Israel has a right to total and unconditional support for whatever its policy, because of the Nazi holocaust, I find impossible to accept, especially since a gruesome, almost unprecedented moral and political tragedy is thus turned into a source of political blackmail. Nor can we believe that there is an Israeli monopoly on morality. There is a claim of the other side also, which is precisely what makes the problem so difficult. There are conflicting claims of justice on the same land. This means at a minimum that while there is a compelling Israeli right to its security and survival in its pre-1967 borders, there is no such right for the occupied territories.

It follows that the policy of Israel will be both more unassailable morally and more persuasive if it includes a clear and categorical willingness to return the occupied territories. (I shall state later what Israel is entitled to demand and receive in exchange.) It follows also that Israeli policy should recognize the avoidance of another war as an absolutely crucial priority.

Practically nobody in Israel wants war-people and leaders alike have known war in all its horror five times (for one must include the "war of attrition" with Egypt in 1969-70). But there is a reluctance to envisage broad concessions to opponents suspected of wanting not finite gains but the end of Israel. There is a belief that there may finally be no choice other than that between war and surrender. And yet it is morally imperative that Israel not provide its opponents with any reason for starting a new war to reconquer the territories lost in 1967, or for obliging Israel to preempt.

For another war would surely be a disaster, even if it is "only" a war of attrition at the outset. Wars of attrition, even if they do not escalate, are wars and cause heavy casualties. These also have a way, sooner or later, of escalating into full wars. If in the absence of a second set of disengagement agreements-or indeed at any time-there should be a war between Egypt and Israel, or a war between Israel and Syria, which it would be very hard for Egypt not to join, then one would face dismal prospects. This war, fought with the new sophisticated weapons accumulated by both sides, could be infinitely more destructive than anything in the past. More than in 1973, Israel's fate would depend on the American tie, and strains on that tie would be among the immense hazards involved.

If the Arabs were to impose another oil embargo, the war could also escalate geographically, providing Washington with the opportunity that some American policy analysts or advisers seem to be praying for, of seizing oil fields in the Persian Gulf. While this is not the place to argue in detail against such a course, it may be necessary to summarize the main objections, precisely because some of Israel's supporters have come to believe that the only alternative to a show of force in the whole Middle East is a Munich-like appeasement at the expense of Israel and of the industrial powers. On this view, a war might seem to provide a way of cutting the entire Gordian knot in one bold stroke.

However "easy" the military aspects may be, there are five huge political drawbacks. The targets of our attack would be the more conservative pro-Western and anti-Soviet regimes in the Arab world: they would in all likelihood be replaced by more extreme ones. Also, inflicting new humiliations on the Arab world, whatever it might do for resolving the world problem of oil and petrodollars, would not exactly be devised to enhance the chances for peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Even if Western Europe and Japan might be the beneficiaries of an American "oil seizure," the operation itself would strain the alliances more than any other American policy since 1947. Even if the Soviets remain militarily passive or restrained, they would gain huge opportunities for influence in the Middle East (even conservative Middle Eastern regimes might not reject Soviet offers of cooperation any more than Churchill rejected an alliance with Moscow against the common enemy in World War II). Even though they are themselves victims of the rise in oil prices, nations of the "Fourth World" would react against an American use of force, and the whole future of "North-South relations," the biggest coming world issue, would be pushed in a disastrous direction. A policy that avoids force, on the other hand, has far better chances of orienting these relations in the direction of interdependence, of letting strains between the "new rich" and the poor develop, and of leading to a gradual and sensible redistribution of world resources.

Finally, even if the next Arab-Israeli wars were like the previous ones and did not escalate in any way, they would offer no prospect for a political settlement achieved by Israel at the Arabs' expense. Either, as after 1967, the defeated Arabs would merely rebuild their strength until the next round, or else the great powers would do what they have not done before: impose a settlement that would ipso facto wound the pride of the Israelis and leave deep resentments throughout the Middle East. If there are two things that Israel cannot afford, one is a defeat because it might indeed be destroyed (whereas the Arabs can suffer many defeats and anyhow hope to be rescued) and the other is another major victory, because it would not lead to settlement but to headaches, problems, commitments, entanglements which would tie the Israeli body politic in knots.

Thus, our discussion of an unassailable moral position for Israel brings us to this question: what political risks should Israel accept in order to maximize the chances of avoiding war? How could Israel act in such a way that, if war breaks out nevertheless, the onus for it would be unassailably on the other side? The answer lies in a new, long-run Israeli strategy aimed at achieving a general settlement. The strategy should be based on the following considerations:

First, the idea of a settlement must confront a central paradox. Ultimately, it is Israel, not the United States, which has to live with the Arabs in the Middle East. It is Israel's future which is being discussed. It is Israel's integration into the area which must be achieved. For there is something absurd as well as dangerous in the present situation, which is one of isolation-physical and mental-of Israel from its neighbors, and indeed from much of the outside world. The United States is almost the only pipeline to the world. What goes on among the Arab neighbors is a matter of guesswork. This is the result largely of a recurrent state of war, of a protracted state of siege. It is imperative that the siege be lifted, and that Israel be able to get out of the Hobbesian universe, with its two chief features: obsession and uncertainty. It is imperative for Israel's own future that the weight of the state-of-war on the budget and balance of payments be reduced. The only alternative is a drastic reduction in the standard of living that would both provoke serious inner tensions if it goes too far and increase the appeal of "hawkish" solutions.

Therefore the policy to be followed, whether or not it succeeds in leading to peace, ought to be primarily Israel's policy rather than America's. Rather than letting concessions be squeezed out of them by the gentle coaxing and the subtle threats of Mr. Kissinger, the Israelis should-even if this does not lead anywhere at once-seize the initiative toward neighbors who will remain their neighbors just as France remains the neighbor of Germany, and with whom permanent war is as hopeless as was the prospect of permanent war in Algeria.

On the other hand, and this is why we are in the presence of a paradox, the settlement itself cannot be left to the parties alone. The Israelis have come to recognize this: they had waited from 1967 to 1973 for the direct talks that never came. The settlement itself will not be negotiable by the parties only; other powers will have to play brokers and put pressure on the parties. If there should be a settlement, it will require external enforcement and protection also. However, it does make a difference whether the outside world is there to help the parties reach their own agreements and stick to their word, or whether it is there to impose its own views and exert its own tutelage. The latter is a formula for future trouble and instability.

Second, Israel cannot expect the United States to continue to be the only outside power directly involved in the quest for a settlement. After the next disengagement agreement with Egypt, if there is one, the United States will have done about as much as it can do in dragging concessions out of both sides. After that, despite Mr. Kissinger's apparent need to solve absolutely everything alone, it does not seem that he can do it any more, partly because his leverage will have been exhausted, and partly because there are other actors in the area over whom his influence is small-such as the PLO. Indeed, any Egyptian-Israeli agreement that is not linked to Israeli concessions to Syria and the Palestinians is likely to make Syria and the Palestinians more distrustful and uncooperative.

This brings us to the problem of the Soviet Union. There are as many views about Soviet interests in the Middle East as there are Sovietologists, and the Soviets themselves, unlike our own officials, do not publish a yearly State of the World message in which they describe their interests in sententious epigrams. We are obliged to guess and to gamble. The present situation is not exactly ideal for Moscow. One could have argued easily that between 1967 and 1973 the state of neither-peace-nor-war served Soviet interests. This may not be the case any more. There are two major risks for Moscow: a risk of loss of control and a risk of loss of influence. The two are not the same. Even those countries in which there is a Soviet influence, such as Syria, are perfectly capable of following their own course and of starting to move at moments when the Soviet Union would not want it. Thus there is the danger, with which we are very familiar, of the superpower being dragged into the unknown or the unwanted by its clients, something which the Soviet Union, even more than any other great power, has always resisted. This may explain why it is Moscow rather than Cairo which drags its feet in the Soviet-Egyptian controversy. Moscow holds back its more advanced weapons unless they are accompanied by Soviet advisers and other assurances of Soviet control. Moreover, the present situation, it is clear, does not enlarge the sphere of Soviet influence, which is strong in Iraq, relatively so in Syria and with the PLO-and that is all, in the main. Of course it might increase again if there is a war, but then we are back to the issue of control: a war entails a danger of confrontation with the United States.

If one analyzes the behavior of the Arabs since October 1973, one gets the impression that here, too, arises the question of who is the tail and who is the dog: the Arabs are able to use the Soviet Union at least as much as the other way around. As for OPEC's oil strategy, it is being waged without Soviet involvement, and increases the Arabs' ability to develop their own policies-including buying or building weapons-without relying too much on Moscow. The only thing which could definitely sink or destroy Soviet influence in the Middle East would be the disappearance of the state of Israel. If there were no Israel, there would be many more Arabs turning to Washington for their development needs and very few Arabs going to Moscow. This in itself creates a Soviet incentive for keeping that "minor irritant," Israel, alive.

On balance, what is known as a Geneva-type settlement would have the advantage of recognizing formally something which the Soviets have all over the world tried to get consecrated as if this were the key objective of their policy: to put on sacred, hallowed paper, known as a treaty, the Soviet right to have a say in the area. It is not enough for them to have a say de facto, just as they have had their glacis in Europe de facto; they also want it de jure.

This might be worth granting, since I do not think that the Soviets could by themselves really endanger the stability of the area as much as seems feared all over Israel. The area does not need the Soviet Union to have its stability endangered! Natural forces can take care of that extremely well-especially in the absence of peace. There is very little to justify the fear that Geneva would somehow put the Arab world, which is getting richer, under Soviet control.

There is a counterargument that in the absence of a settlement Soviet influence would actually shrink: that the Arab states would get economically and financially involved with the West and Japan, whereas Geneva, by giving to the U.S.S.R. an important position as negotiator and guarantor, would reverse this trend. However, we are faced with a vicious circle. This very Arab involvement only puts more pressure on the United States to use its influence in Israel in order to push Israel back-without Israel obtaining a settlement in return. And should the United States refuse to carry such a burden, or fail to deliver the goods, there is nothing but the Sisyphean prospect of more wars-which inevitably re-injects Moscow into the picture, as protector of the Arabs against ignominious defeat, and as pressurer on Washington to stop Israeli advances.


These reflections suggest some major guidelines. The first one is that Israel should take the initiative of demanding an overall peace agreement, to be negotiated with its Arab opponents, and with the help of outside powers. In order to make such an agreement possible, Israel should at the same time declare what, in its eyes, constitutes the essential features of the agreement. There is, of course, a risk in international negotiations that whatever are presented as maximum concessions and minimum demands become treated as minimum concessions and maximum demands. But there are greater risks in the present stance: especially the risk that it leads nowhere or only to unmatched concessions by Israel. What is required is a willingness on the part of Israel, in exchange for its recognition and the signature of a peace treaty, to accept categorically and in specific terms its withdrawal from occupied territories. What Israel should emphasize is the creation of conditions under which this restitution would not threaten its security, instead of subordinating a recognition of the Arab right to these territories to the prior creation of these conditions. Thus, the emphasis would not be, let us say, on the strategic need for Israel to remain on the Golan Heights but on the danger that would exist if Syrian armies were again on the Golan Heights.

Israel should present its final view, concealed until now, if only in order to avoid giving the Arabs the impression that it is making its gradual concessions and is retreating due to weakness and outside pressure, with its back to the wall. Since most people within Israel and outside assume that, at the end, something very much like a return to the 1967 borders will be unavoidable, an Israeli initiative would have the advantage of shifting attention and the burden of proof. Instead of Israel having to prove its willingness to withdraw and the Arabs mobilizing opinion in the world against Israeli occupation, Israel could rally support behind its demand for recognition, and it would be up to the Arabs to meet Israeli security needs. To be sure, the bargaining would still be very tough, since the prize which the Arabs have withheld so far-recognition of Israel and a contractual peace-could be held up by them until Israel has considerably reduced its security demands or its demand for a change in the 1967 borders around Jerusalem. But here we come to a second imperative.

It would be intensely desirable that Israel implicate in the negotiation as many external powers as possible, not only the United States and the Soviet Union. Despite all of the disappointments which the Israelis have experienced with the West Europeans and the Japanese, once these countries no longer perceived Israeli immobility, or felt that Israel was still placing all its eggs in the American basket, they would again be able to play a useful role in trying to moderate the Arabs and regain an interest in Israel's own security. In the specific case of the West Europeans, it is their exclusion-by Israel and the United States jointly-their fear of seeing the Middle East become merely a theater of the cold war, and their preference for something like the course suggested here, much more than their dependence on Arab oil, which explain their recent attitudes. All of them are on record on the subject of Israel's right to existence and recognition.

To be sure, in an overall negotiation, the risk of Arab extremist positions exists. Yet once the principle of a return to 1967 is established, there is also a chance that the nuances among Arab parties could grow. A wider framework of bargaining would still leave room for separate negotiations with each party. The present approach, on the contrary, prevents those nuances from spreading and preserves a strong joint Arab interest in pressure and maneuver. Moreover, the presence of outside powers interested in a settlement would serve either to magnify these nuances or to create pressure toward a moderate rather than an extreme Arab position.

Third, any agreement could be carried out in stages. A proposal has been made by one Israeli scholar, Saul Friedländer, for a solution consisting of an Israeli statement of willingness to accept Resolution 242, and then to carry it out in stages.3 His formula is "a little bit of territory against a little bit of peace." This is a fundamentally valid approach, but only in the context of a general agreement. The kinds of steps which he demands of the Arabs in exchange for Israel's partial withdrawals are inconceivable for them unless they have already granted Israel recognition. To suggest, as he does, that recognition would be the last Arab act, in exchange for the last piece of territory, presupposes an agreement on a calendar in the absence of a contractual settlement-something of a contradiction in terms-and in effect makes the territories' return into a reward for good behavior: a psychological error, for, as Friedländer's Egyptian interlocutors put it, "Arab opinion cannot bear any longer the notion that what's possible or not should be determined by Israel alone."4

Moreover, even in the framework of a settlement, the best that can be hoped for is a calendar of measures of two types: general measures benefiting Israel but not involving overt cooperation (a reopening of the Suez Canal, the passage of Israeli ships through it), and the end of hostile measures (propaganda, boycotts) that are obviously incompatible with peace. To be sure, one could theoretically link each stage of withdrawal to a cooperative Arab measure if one dragged out the process long enough. But to obtain Arab cooperation in trade, tourism, or joint patrols, by subordinating to such concessions the return of territory, would be resented by Arab countries as a patronizing, even blackmailing policy, and go against the very reasons for suggesting a new Israeli initiative.

Fourth, we come to the key question of security guarantees. For a long period, the sides will have to be militarily separated. The aim ought to be the stationing, in the Sinai, at Sharm-el-Sheikh, in the Golan Heights, and in those portions of the West Bank that are geographically closest to the Mediterranean, of international peace forces not composed of soldiers of the superpowers. Should Washington and Moscow insist on having their own soldiers there-as a way of underlining their guarantee of the settlement-there should at least be soldiers of other powers. And there must be an agreement by all the parties, and all the contributors to the forces, against the arbitrary dismissal of the peace forces by one of the countries in which they are stationed, or the arbitrary removal of a national contingent by the country of origin. The tragic experience of UNEF in 1967 cannot be repeated. But a new status of U.N. peace forces can only be defined in the context of an overall agreement.

In addition, there is the problem of outside guarantees. Clearly, every power in the area would prefer to be able to rely only on itself, and to have an agreement that is self-enforcing. However, mutual security fears are likely to persist, as well as misunderstandings about each other's intentions. The role of outside guarantees is to deter a new war.

Three sets of measures can be of help here. One is a guarantee of the borders by the powers involved in the negotiations. This would take the form of a collective guarantee given by them to all parties, but it could be supplemented by individual assurances given by one great power to its closer friend(s) in the area, as an assurance of privileged support should the collective guarantee for any reason be paralyzed. (Until now, Washington has been most reluctant to envisage such a guarantee-but this is precisely in order to retain leverage over Israel in the step-by-step approach; should Israel call for an overall settlement, it would be much more difficult for Washington to withhold a guarantee in this context.) Also, the outside powers should guarantee the provisions on demilitarization against unilateral repudiation by one of the parties, and commit their support to whatever state is the victim of such a repudiation. This would not be aimed at freezing the status quo, but at assuring that its revision would have to be agreed upon by all the interested parties in the area. Last but not least, an agreement by outside powers to curb their arms sales to the parties would be important. To be sure, Arabs and Israelis could still manufacture their own weapons, but there would be a significant qualitative and quantitative difference.

Fifth, there is the problem of Jerusalem. There is no doubt that negotiations will be difficult, if only because of the considerable expansion of the new Jewish Jerusalem into previously Arab territory. An exception to the principle of a complete return to the pre-1967 borders will be necessary here. But Israel should declare its willingness to return to the Arab part of Palestine the predominantly Arab sections of north and east Jerusalem, currently included in the municipal boundaries of the city, as well as the Arab sector of the Old City, and to place the holy places of the three religions under international jurisdiction. The entire area should be an open city, whatever the division of sovereignties. If, as Jean Giraudoux suggested in Tiger at the Gates, law is the most powerful training ground for imagination, it should not be impossible to reconcile the demands of both sides through a complex legal formula.

Sixth, we come to the most difficult issue: the specific problem of the West Bank. Here, Israel should declare its willingness to grant to the Palestinians of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip the right to self-determination. It will have to give up deciding who is the legitimate spokesman of the Palestinians, even if this means foreclosing an increasingly hypothetical "Jordanian solution." Such a declaration would throw the ball back into the Arabs' court. If--as is likely--the Arabs designate the PLO, it will be up to Arafat to face a difficult choice. Either he gives priority to setting up a state on the West Bank; but this will mean negotiating, directly or indirectly, with Israel, which is not likely to withdraw unless it obtains security guarantees. Such a negotiation would amount to de facto recognition. Or else Arafat will refuse to accept even this, declining to settle for less than his "dream." But in that case, it is likely that other Arab states, and his non-Arab supporters, will put strong, tangible pressure on him to get him to stop preventing a settlement that entails a return to the 1967 borders. The Israelis have been demanding de jure recognition of Israel by the PLO, as well as by other Arab states. But it would be enough at first to obtain de facto recognition from the PLO through the presence of a PLO delegation on the basis of Resolution 242 in Geneva, and its participation in a settlement.

It is foolish to expect, at this stage or in the near future, any West Bank state to give up on paper what Arafat calls his dream. It is always foolish to ask people to give up dreams. The essence of international relations simply consists in creating the conditions in which those dreams cannot be carried out, and the only way this can be done is a combination of Israeli strength, outside guarantees of Israel's borders, and some demilitarization of the West Bank state. There are a few precedents in international law for neutral states with only limited military forces; one of them is Austria (although any resemblance between the country of the waltz and Mr. Arafat's movement is a coincidence). To be sure, it would be courting failure to ask the new state to be entirely without forces: it will have security fears of its own. But it can be partly protected by international peace forces. And the most decisive limitation would result from an agreement by the great powers present at the settlement not to sell arms to the Palestinian state, and to consider any presence of foreign armies, or the entry of certain kinds of weapons, on the soil of the new state as a violation of the settlement.


These are the outlines of the settlement which, in my opinion, it is in Israel's best interest to initiate. Three questions remain. What are the assumptions behind this program? What are its chances of domestic success in Israel? What happens if it fails?

There are two major assumptions. The first one relates to the issue of time. One can argue that such a settlement is quite unlikely at a moment when the Arabs ride the crest of a wave of wealth and success; that it is imperative to postpone a global negotiation until the combination of strains within OPEC, successes in the American strategy on oil, and growing Arab concern for economic development results either in Arab disunity or in Arab moderation.

But while at present there exists a risk of Arab self-intoxication and intransigence, one has to weigh two factors on the other side. One is that intra-Arab strains are likely to be subdued as long as a state of political war and a climate of anticipation of war exist between the Arabs and Israel. While the concern for development is real, the new Arab resources also allow the Arabs to buy weapons they need to reconquer what they lost: Egypt may want peace for reconstruction and development, but not at the cost of sacrificing its claim on its own territory. Even though oil money will accelerate the development of the Arab countries, the notion that a richer Egyptian or a fatter Syrian is necessarily going to be less demanding of the Israelis strikes me as very debatable. The formidable social problems which development will create in Arab countries could all too easily be displaced on the foreign enemy, and the gap between Israeli society and culture, and Arab society and culture, which is partly social, partly economic, partly psychological, will remain for a long time to come.

The other factor is the decline of support for Israel in the world, and, if not the weakening of sympathy for and aid to Israel in the United States, at least the increasingly more conditional attitude of the American Congress, the realization of the need for a more balanced American policy in the Middle East. In the long run, time may well be on Israel's side in one respect: Arab acceptance of its existence and irreversibility. But in the middle run, time is on the side of Arab pressures and drives toward Israeli withdrawals. Immobility leads to war. Thus it is in Israel's interest to try to obtain sooner rather than later its recognition as well as guarantees in exchange for what it will have to give up anyhow.

Another assumption refers to the nature of the peace to be negotiated. Today, in Israel, there is a most striking confusion in the public mind. On the one hand, there is profound pessimism about its Arab neighbors ever accepting Israel, in the words of a distinguished retired general, as "a normal Jewish state." There is a fear that its neighbors will never consider that a Jewish state is normal, or that a normal state can be Jewish in that part of the world. On the other hand, there are nevertheless various forms of wishful thinking. Retrospectively, there is some regret that the United States prevented Israel from inflicting a "definitive" defeat on Egypt in October 1973. Now, peace is unlikely to result from a "sound" thrashing of the Arabs: 1967 did not bring them to Canossa. Prospectively, there is a belief that peace will come only when there has been a "change of heart" on the other side. Without such a change, it cannot be "real peace." Hence a notable contradiction. There is a strong emphasis on the strategic importance of every piece of conquered territory (especially the West Bank: if it were given up to hostile hands, no plane could take off or land in Israel because it could be shot down from the West Bank, a few miles away). And yet, there is also a perfectly genuine willingness to return almost everything in exchange for "real peace."

But "real peace" is conceived in terms that make it unrealistic. For what is called "real peace" is a set of attitudes and modes of behavior that would normally follow from peace rather than precede it: exchanges of tourists, of trade missions, of journalists, of sports teams, communications links. Now, if one has to wait for those modes of behavior and attitudes in order to know that one has real peace, one will have to wait for a very long time indeed. As we have learned from the history of the cold war, full reconciliation and exchanges are slow to come. Israelis must give up confusing peace and the ultimate benefits from peace, just as they can no longer confuse military triumph and peace.

But does not that Israeli state of mind suggest the unlikeliness of the kind of initiative I have been suggesting here? There are, indeed, many reasons for pessimism. One lies in the conviction about Arab hostility, which explains why there are very few "doves," in the sense in which the word was used here during the war in Vietnam. Arab threats and imprecations, and Arab refusals to make visible, formal concessions are taken very seriously. This also becomes an alibi against initiatives, because of the fear that Arab dictatorships could always outdo Israel in pure propaganda, and because of the fear that a domestic initiative could disrupt the Israeli body politic, thus weakening the nation. The millennial hope for a "change of heart" explains how an enormous concentration on the short run coexists with strategic immobility. Another reason for pessimism is the insulation of Israel from the outside world, already mentioned. A third is another contradiction between a proud emphasis on self-reliance, and a recognition of dependence on the United States or, as one important minister has suggested, of the fact that a nation of Israel's size has no foreign policy, only a policy of survival. Both facets of the contradiction lead to fears of negotiation, which means both involvement with others, and the risk of replacing the relative certainties of the battle for survival and the reliance on the United States in this battle, with the uncertainties of diplomatic maneuver and concessions.

Fourth, one may ask this question: to what extent has a 27-year-old state of war, unwanted by all, nevertheless become functionally necessary or useful, in order to assimilate the immigrants, to make out of the many one, to get outside support; to what extent does this state of war play the useful role of displacing ideological and tactical differences on the domestic scene, where they could be explosive, to the foreign policy scene, where they remain in the realm of ideas, since there is a general immobility? Lastly, there is the political system. Israel's parliamentary balance and governmental equilibrium remind one of the Fourth Republic in 1957. Their delicacy is worthy of a watchmaker. There are within the government not only different parties, but different factions of the main party, the Labor Party. There is a formidable opposition outside, and of course the fear of either a disintegration of the cabinet or of new elections that could mean a reinforcement of the Right is constant.

But there are also some reasons for hope. The public may dream about military victory, but most people realize that there is no "military solution." There is a growing conviction that it is impossible for Israel to achieve a political solution by military means, if only because the Soviet Union and probably the United States would save the Arab countries from total defeat. Nor is there any Masada complex. Even those who are most pessimistic about the possibility of peace are convinced that somehow, through U.S. support or whatever other means, they would "find a way." There is no grand romanticism about "us versus the rest of the outside world." There is a kind of tough realism-perhaps mistaken-about the consequences of what the outside world seems to want Israel to give up or to do.

The confusions and contradictions I have stressed point to bewilderment rather than extremism. The deepest obstacle to a change of policy does not lie in the public but in the political system. The public would probably, as it has done before (for instance after Suez), follow a strong leader willing to accept concessions in a way that suggests Israeli mastery. The problem is that current leaders are either reluctant to change course, because they fear the collapse of the government and the rupture of the parliamentary majority, or else-in open or partial opposition-eager to equate strong leadership with toughness, especially insofar as the West Bank is concerned.

But it is not absurd to believe that the present leaders would want to change course once they conclude that the present one leads Israel into a dead end, and could then demand and receive a public vote of confidence for a new course. Nor is it too much to believe that if they hesitate or if the policy with which they are associated fails, they might be replaced by strong leaders, currently in semi-opposition to or semi-concurrence with the Rabin-Kissinger approach, who would temper their toughness once in control. (I am obviously not thinking of the leaders of the Likud.)

And yet, even if this should happen, it is still possible that the Israeli initiative called for here would be rejected by the Arabs, or that a complex negotiation would fail because of such intractable problems as the PLO, or because of irreconcilable clashes over security and recognition. Such failure would indeed make war once again likely, and probably remove for a long time any prospects of a settlement. But the very fact that a general failure would not only be a setback but a disaster explains why all the participants in the complex process of negotiation I have suggested, and particularly the outside powers, would have an interest in dragging out the Geneva process, if only in order to postpone the day of reckoning.

Moreover, from Israel's viewpoint, there are three decisive reasons for trying, whatever the risks of failure. One is that a bold Israeli initiative would restore Israel's diplomatic position, and make it far more difficult for Israel's critics in the United States to argue that the responsibility for deadlock in the Middle East is evenly divided or even largely Israel's. Again, this perspective of a restoration of Israel's position, and of less hesitant support in the U.S. Congress, would make the Arab states think twice before scuttling the negotiation. The second reason has to do with Israel's own moral position. By offering a scheme that tries to reconcile the reasonable interests of all sides, replaces grudging small bargains with an overall conception, and above all provides a home for the Palestinians, Israel would reverse a dangerous trend that equates conscience with good conscience, and the latter with toughness alone. For without sacrificing its security, it would offer a vision of peace and make it possible for the Palestinians to stop being-as refugees or exiles from former Palestine, and as pariahs of the other Arabs-a modern version of those displaced persons the Jews themselves had suffered the fate of being until the state of Israel was founded. One sometimes suspects that the vehemence of Israeli fears about a Palestinian state is due not only to security concerns, but also to a half-repressed awareness of the depth of the resentments created among the Palestinians outside the West Bank by their tragic fate over the last 27 years. The equally vehement Israeli denials of guilt prove, if not its presence, at least a fear of its justification. The initiatives suggested here could serve to drive such doubts and demons away.

The third reason concerns Israel's destiny in the world. After this period of an intense and almost exclusive American connection, it is time for the Israelis to start thinking of a very distant, very ultimate vision. It may seem terribly utopian at this point-another dream, this time of a Middle East in which all would live in peace, and in which Israel would not be the exclusive ally of one power, but a Jewish state intent on good relations especially with the two countries which have, and are likely to keep having, the greatest number of Jews outside of Israel, the United States and the Soviet Union. Israel as a partner in the development of the Middle East, yet neither a stake for nor a party in the political and military competition of the great powers-this may appear as an irrelevant ideal today. But for the sake of Israel's own spirit and promise, only the presence of an ideal such as this can lift the hearts and inspire the minds of the Israelis beyond the bitter sacrifices, the fears and the dreary prospect of the continuing state of siege.


1 Interview in Le Monde (Paris), January 9, 1975, p. 5.

4 Ibid., p. 157.

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