Israel: The Case for Defensible Borders

Courtesy Reuters

It is impossible to plumb the depths of the Arab-Israeli conflict, not to speak of formulating proposals for its solution, if no true understanding exists of the full significance of its cardinal characteristic-the extreme asymmetry of its two sides. This asymmetry is manifest not merely in one or two, but in all, of its aspects. It is obvious in such objective data as the comparison between Arab and Israeli territories (of the Arab League states 8,500,000 square miles; of Israel, including presently administered areas, about 28,500); or of the relative population statistics (of the Arab League states 134,000,000; of Israel 3,500,000 citizens); not to mention their contrasting actual and potential wealth.

But of primary importance are the subjective asymmetric factors affecting relations between the two sides. In this respect, there is absolute polarization. Whereas the Arab states seek to isolate, strangle and erase Israel from the world's map, Israel's aim is simply to live in peace and good relations with all its neighbors.

These diverse objectives have determined the war aims of both sides. It is within this context that we should mention the chain of terrorist acts that was designed not merely to sow death and destruction in Israel but also to extend the conflict, and thus embroil the Arab states in full-scale wars. It is almost superfluous, and certainly tiresome, to quote the legion of statements of Arab leaders that represent this aim, ranging from the "Palestine Covenant" to current governmental declarations.

As opposed to this total Arab goal, Israel's war aims have been confined to repelling the offensives of the Arab armies as determined by strategic and political circumstances, whether by reactive counter-offensives such as those of 1948 and 1973 or by preemptive counter-offensives as those of 1956 and 1967. Military defeats, indeed, cost the Arab states losses in lives, destruction of equipment, political setbacks, and damage to national prestige-and perhaps even danger to their regimes. However, such defeats have never been, nor ever will be, a threat to their very existence as sovereign states or

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