Courtesy Reuters

Begin's Strategy and Dayan's Tactics: The Conduct of Israeli Foreign Policy

Two new major actors are on the scene in Middle Eastern negotiations, dormant since the Sinai II troop disengagement agreement of September 1975. Jimmy Carter, a political newcomer inexperienced in international politics, is President of the United States, and the ancient militant, Menachem Begin, who never expected to become Israel's Prime Minister, is exactly that. While the President's mind is not set as yet on an American strategy for the Middle East, the Prime Minister's preconceptions were formed four decades ago. For nearly 40 years, Menachem Begin has not changed his essential position, modified his beliefs, or wavered in his commitment and dedication to the cause of Eretz Yisrael (land of Israel). The two leaders could not be more different in personality and style nor come from more widely differing political orientations. They do have in common a moral, principled, even puritanical stance and commitment, but there the similarity ends.

Since Jimmy Carter assumed office, he has committed his Administration to a Middle Eastern conflict resolution. Carter began his on-the-job training by inviting the leaders of Israel and the confrontation states to Washington. This process began as early as January 1977 and ended with Begin's visit at the end of July. My aim here is not to examine Carter's Middle East policy, orientation and tribulations but to analyze the Begin-Dayan style and its implications for the Carter strategy. This is important because the key to a peaceful solution lies in Israel's hands. Israel occupies Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian territory. Israel, and only Israel, can relinquish its rule over the West Bank and Gaza and begin the process of Palestinian self-determination. This does not mean that Israel dictates the political procedure for a Middle East peace. In fact the contrary is true. The initiative and the will to grant Israel its cherished peace lie solely with the Arabs. Nor is Israel in a position to dictate the nature and structure of the peace; this again is in the hands of the Arabs. But neither Israel

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