As a territorial entity, the West Bank can almost no longer be separated from Israel. Menachem Begin and his government have seemingly already achieved their central ideological objective of creating the undivided, because it is already indivisible, land of Israel. Weeping over U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and all that supposedly flows from them, such as the Camp David Accords, appears to be precisely that: an act of piety toward intentions that have been defeated on the ground.

It is necessary, first of all, to understand what Israeli policy on the West Bank really represents. Israel's government is in no hurry to annex the West Bank in law. On the day of such an annexation, the Arab population in the "undivided" land of Israel would approach two-fifths. The well-known demographic argument that, within measurable time, a high Arab birthrate would produce a majority, is probably not true, because the rate of emigration from the West Bank has been, both under the Jordanians and now under the Israelis, fairly large. Trained younger people are going south toward the oil kingdoms, or west to America, in search of roles and fortunes that they could not achieve in the stagnant economy of the West Bank. Thus the Arab population has not been growing at a rate equal to the high birth rate in the region.

Two countertendencies are likely to continue in some fashion and to cancel each other out. The drift of the Arab intelligentsia and professionals to leave Israel will continue, probably at a faster rate. Increased Jewish building in the West Bank is, however, providing a living for thousands of Arab workers, and they will remain. The percentage of Arab population in the undivided Israel may thus grow beyond its present near-40 percent, but the nature of that population will have changed. From Israel's point of view, a more proletarian community will be politically more manageable. Some Likud ideologues are willing to face the prospect of annexation and of an Arab near majority with considerable equanimity: they do not feel that Jewish control of the state of Israel would be endangered. Less sanguine observers fear that this might be true for a decade or two, but they argue that in the long run the children of these workers will learn from the Israeli example how to fight for their own nationalist cause. The majority view in Israel, therefore, is that formal annexation is both dangerous and unnecessary.

Annexation is especially to be avoided because of the United States, Israel's major ally, which has essentially been passive while the settlements policy has proceeded. The Americans.are not likely to do anything drastic, even as such endeavors have been increasing. Acceptance has already been voiced by high American officials of the notion that, if there ever were a separate status for the West Bank, on the basis of U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338, the settlements would remain intact. An act of formal annexation by Israel would thus be an unnecessary red flag in front of the American bull. The most amiable of bulls, who is a friend of the matador, can ignore minor pin pricks, but the whole world would know that he is not a bull at all if he did not charge a red flag.

The Begin government will thus continue to practice its by now well-established two-pronged policy. It will advance its own formula of "personal autonomy" for the "Arabs of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District." Under this formula, Israel asserts territorial control of the West Bank, including, most importantly, the right to change its contours. New settlements and a network of new roads criss-crossing the land are acting, together, to divide the Arab population into a series of separate enclaves. "Personal autonomy" also means that, when it is in place, the Arabs of the West Bank would vote for their autonomous Council, which would have substantial local functions, but no territorial control. Most important, this population would not have the right to vote in Israeli elections. Meanwhile, the Jewish population in the West Bank would continue to grow, in part for ideological reasons, but even more because the building policy of the present government is such that cheaper and far better new housing is being built beyond the "green line," the pre-1967 border of Israel, than is to be found inside the pre-1967 boundaries.

This description of the situation leads to one inescapable conclusion: the Begin government already has what it wants, that is, freedom of action in the West Bank to achieve its ideological ends. It does not want to be pushed to freeze the settlements, nor does it want to be stampeded by its own hard-liners toward annexation. Several years of increased settlement activity are all that is really necessary, from the Likud's point of view, to put an end to the problem of the West Bank.

The question that therefore needs to be asked is not whether this annexation can be carried out-for, on Begin's real terms, it has very nearly occurred. What needs to be asked is: how does this achievement change the lives of the major protagonists in the drama of the Middle East?


To start with Israel and the Jews, this is a change of a magnitude very nearly equal to the historic turning which the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 represented. The Begin policy on the West Bank is popular in circles which do not share the ideological annexationism of his party. It does speak for one of the deepest emotions of world Jewry, both inside Israel and in the Diaspora, in the twentieth century: anger at the results of Jewish powerlessness in the age of Hitler.

On the deepest level, the whole of the Jewish world has not yet come to terms, if it ever can, with the reactions of the Western powers to Hitler's war on the Jews. In the 1930s, the Jews could only beg some bits of help from the conscience of the West. As Menachem Begin forces the hand of Washington, and as he disregards London and Paris almost entirely, the toughness of his approach, the very fact that it is couched in language which eschews diplomatic niceties, is some balm poured on a painful and lasting wound. In the very act of speaking brusquely to Western powers, Begin is transforming the Jewish people from victims or a polite client of uncertain benefactors, to a power in its own right. One of the dreams of Zionism is thus realized.

Internally within the Jewish world, and especially in Israel, Begin's nationalism is righting the emotional wounds of the Sephardim. Ashkenazim, the Jews of European origin, dominate the economy of Israel, its professions and its intelligentsia. The Sephardim, which means, in actual practice, the Jews of North Africa who came to Israel in large numbers after the state was declared, have for more than a generation been overwhelmingly in the laboring class, though there are some beginnings of socioeconomic rise in the last decade or so. Begin has cast himself as the leader of this hitherto largely inert political mass, the Sephardi proletariat and lower bourgeoisie. By politicizing this near majority of Israel, Begin is handing over the government bureaucracy, and every other agency of Israel which is subject to governmental influence, to new people. Not all, or even the majority, of these new men are actually Sephardim, because the pool of trained talent which is of that origin is not as yet sufficiently large, but the change in control of power offers hope to the dispossessed, or at least the satisfaction of seeing the old Labor elite in trouble.

In one particular way, the control of the West Bank is necessary to this process. It is symbolically important as a break with the policies of the past under Labor, as an act of interring previous history in all its aspects. The cheap housing which is now being built on the West Bank, even though not very much has yet been used to relieve the burdens of the slum dwellers, is nonetheless regarded as the symbol of future hope for those now living eight in a room in the poor, largely Sephardi neighborhoods of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Arab labor that is bused in from the West Bank is not resented by the Sephardi poor. This was perhaps best explained by a young woman of Sephardi extraction who works as a bank teller in one of Jerusalem's innumerable branch banks. She said recently to a visitor: "My mother cleaned this bank after hours, while Ashkenazi girls were the bank tellers. Now this bank is being cleaned after hours by laborers who come by bus from a village east of Jerusalem. Now I am a bank teller. I do not want to return to the older situation." In Israel, Arab labor on the West Bank has become the equivalent of Turkish guest workers in Germany. Such labor is the guarantee that someone will collect the garbage while the children of the local poor can move up the social scale to white-collar occupations.

Nonetheless, despite all these positives, the Jewish people as a whole, both inside and outside Israel, contemplates the ongoing annexation of the West Bank with a divided heart and even with foreboding. The dominant concerns are in the realms of morality. A people which chooses to occupy an unwilling territory, no matter how high and worthy may be the motives of the occupier, must inevitably "get tough" on occasion. It has no choice, if it wants to remain in occupation, but to expect troublemakers (that is, the nationalists on each side) to fight each other. The government must be prepared to put down an occasional riot with tear gas or worse, and to try to find complacent figures among the occupied who are willing, for some kind of price, to do the bidding of those in control.

Modern Hebrew writing, since the war of liberation in 1948 which created the state of Israel, has dealt-with recurring pain-with the theme of Jews as overlords of Arabs. The present insistence on controlling the West Bank has raised this moral discomfort to a level of magnitude that it never had before. Young conscripts from Tel Aviv are unhappy in their role of riot police throwing tear gas at even younger Palestinian teenagers who are making demonstrations. Many officers do not like being proconsuls in the West Bank. Obviously, there are those in the Israeli Army who do not mind occupation duty, but many do. Sitting on well over a million unwilling Arabs is thus creating ambivalences within individual soldiers, and in Israeli society as a whole. If the situation in the West Bank ever turns uglier, the strains over the nature of the response to riots will divide Israel even more.

Raja Shehadeh, the well-known lawyer from Ramallah, has just published a short book entitled The Third Way: A Journal of Life in the West Bank, in which he tells in poignant detail of the "meanness and arbitrariness" of the occupiers of the West Bank.1 What Shehadeh had to tell has been reported over and over again in the opposition Israeli press, led by Ha'aretz. This knowledge-that occupation is inevitably ugly and that some settlers in an unfriendly territory tend to become vigilantes-has been part of the fuel which has fired Peace Now and the rest of the opposition to Begin. The Jerusalem Post itself, in an editorial in the very issue which contained the review of Shehadeh's book, complained of "the blight of vigilantism." The editors argued that "the settlers expect the authorities to weed out terrorism by means that are barely appropriate in even occupied territories." The editorial concluded by defending the new Defense Minister, Moshe Arens, who has "come out forcefully against vigilantism. But the blight has not been eradicated, even if it makes the occupier's lot harder still."

The situation reflected in these descriptions and comments is not one of future peaceful growth of Israeli population in the West Bank, while the local population remains inert. Indeed, precisely because the occupation of the West Bank makes settlement of the Palestinian question quite impossible, it leaves the most activist and intransigent elements among Palestinian nationalists with only one option: to find ways of adding to the discomforts of the Israelis. The sight of prolonged disturbances will increasingly make Jewish eyes in the Diaspora smart, as many Israeli eyes are already tearing.

The least realized cost of the West Bank occupation is beginning to be borne by Menachem Begin in his core constituency, the two-thirds majority of the Sephardim who support him. To be sure, as was noted above, they have experienced a sense of social advance, emotionally, at the expense both of the Ashkenazi establishment and of the Arabs from the West Bank. Nonetheless, in real terms, the economic situation of the largely Sephardi poor has not improved at all dramatically. Despite all of Likud's promises to do more for the poorer neighborhoods, very little money has been spent directly on slum improvement. By one estimate, it has amounted to less than one million dollars, in the six years that the Begin government has been in power, while uncounted hundreds of millions have been spent on the West Bank. The effort beyond the green line has resulted in some twenty-five thousand Jewish settlers, but in its overwhelming majority the population has not come from the poorer slums. Some were there before 1977, when Begin came to office: they were in the border settlements created by Labor for "defensive purposes." The newer settlers are often young professionals who commute by car to their jobs in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, and these are not usually Sephardim from a poor neighborhood.

It is conceivable, in a volte-face in Israeli politics, that a strong opposition campaign could be mounted in the very heart of Begin's camp on the question: "What has all this glory done for you?" Such a question is the explanation for the muted but known views of the principal Sephardi figure in the Begin government, the Deputy Prime Minister, David Levi. He is widely suspected of being more moderate in foreign affairs (he was almost the lone figure in the Israeli Cabinet to question the act of permitting the Phalange into Sabra and Shatila), and he continues to live in near poverty himself in a development town in Northern Israel. In the post-Begin era, David Levi's constituency will not necessarily want to spend so much of Israel's budget on the ideological venture on the West Bank in place of socioeconomic development nearer home.

Annexationist policies on the West Bank are all the more likely to be muted, or even reversed, if the Labor opposition returns to power. It is true that Labor has found it difficult to mount a consistent opposition to Begin, because the moderates are themselves divided into several factions which disagree as to what to do about the West Bank. Nonetheless, even the most hawkish of Labor's leaders, the former Premier, Yitzhak Rabin, would like to redivide the West Bank with Jordan. The major figures in the Labor Party, Shimon Peres and now Yitzhak Navon, the immediate past president of Israel, agree with this concept; in varying degrees, each would be even more forthcoming than Rabin as to the amount of territory to be returned. The announced position of the Labor Party, that it is for "territorial compromise" in the West Bank, does not, as it stands, meet the desires of even the most moderate Arabs, but it is fundamentally different from that of the Likud. Labor's policy is wrapped in no Biblical mystique about the ancestral land, and it argues Israel's position only in terms of its security needs.

On balance, however, so long as Begin is at the helm, his policies will work and succeed. It is hardly conceivable that he will lead his party again to the polls in an election in 1986. Between now and then, however, he will have put so much money, effort and population into the West Bank that a Palestinian state, or even an autonomous region, will be impossible.

But he cannot leave it as a peaceful legacy to his successors, especially since the means that are required to increase the range of Jewish presence-settlements on lands expropriated from more or less doubtful public domain, sitting on the local population, and disregarding the uneasy consciences within Jewry-can only become more and more divisive. Begin's successors will be in a far weaker position than a heroic figure of his charisma to preside over the problems that he will have left behind. The signs are already apparent in contradictory polls in Israel, which show that the discomforts with the Likud government are beginning to grow.


Among all the major actors in this drama, the Arabs are the most comprehensible. It would be easiest for them, in all their factions, if the Americans imposed upon the Israelis a West Bank solution which they could grudgingly accept as a diktat from the dominant superpower, without having to admit to the compromises that went into the making of such a settlement. At that point, the "moderates" could say to the hard-liners that they gave away no points of theological or nationalist doctrine, and that they simply accepted what was offered to them, and not from the hands of the Israelis.

This could be presented, rhetorically, as the beginning of a semi-mythic process of the ultimate regaining of all of Palestine. Any arrangement which steps beyond this line is dangerous to the very life of Palestinian "moderates," as those who recently shot Issam Sartawi have demonstrated. The history of the Palestinian question since the early days of the British Mandate is replete with examples of such murders within the Arab camp, of antimoderate "truth" coming out of the gun-barrels of rejectionists. Therefore, despite the Reagan Plan of September 1, 1982, and the intense effort to get King Hussein-and Arafat, through him-to join the negotiations on the future of the West Bank, the purported spokesmen of Arab and Palestinian moderation have repeatedly drawn back from dropping the last veil in public. The result, inevitably, is that even the most reasonable of Israelis continues to ask the obvious question: "With whom are we to negotiate?"

Many years ago, Golda Meir once asked in my hearing, with considerable exasperation: "To whom shall I return the West Bank? Am I to wrap it in a pink ribbon and send it to some Arab post office marked 'To whom it may concern'?" In effect, therefore, the Palestinian leadership is, whether it likes it or not, the chief co-conspirator with the Likud. The only thing that Israeli annexationism cannot afford is Arab moderation, but Arab intransigence has made this so dangerous a pursuit that Arab moderates are ever less likely to appear.

The Palestine Liberation Organization may console itself at this moment that it is a "diplomatic entity," that it is not finished and that it will remain at the center of the diplomatic game, even after the defeat in Lebanon and no matter what happens on the West Bank. This is sheer delusion. Inexorably, as the possibility of some territorial base for Palestinian nationality evaporates, the Palestinians may split into warring factions; in any event they are more likely to become an ever greater nuisance in the Arab world as a whole. The Jordanian crown was once not afraid of securing itself against the Palestinians by the most drastic means, in Black September of 1970. This very government accepted a mere handful of the Palestinians who were evacuated from Beirut last September. That Jordan is likely to become suddenly an easier place for PLO nationalists is inconceivable, unless they succeed in taking the country over in civil war. Deprived of the option of even negotiating for the West Bank, the Palestinians will, everywhere in the Arab states in which they are spread, become permanent residents, and in most places they are not very welcome ones.

An inevitable corollary to Palestinian frustration will be the growing distrust, and worse, of other Arabs toward them. The stage will be set for internecine Arab armed squabbles, which will make those which are presently the staple commodity of Lebanon look like a mere preamble to more drastic, more unpleasant and more widespread events. Terror and counterterror will weaken several of the Arab states, but it will probably do worse to the Palestinians. The refusal to negotiate now is thus a momentary satisfaction, an expression of defiant pride, and an aid to maintaining the formal unity of the Palestinian national movement and the Arab camp. Within the next two or three years, it will simply be seen as the preamble to Palestinian disaster and Arab instability.

There is Israeli hard-line opinion which contemplates the possibility of such turmoil and unrest in the Arab world with equanimity and even positive expectation. General Sharon is not alone in believing that the best possible outcome for Israel is the overthrow of the Jordanian dynasty by Palestinians, who would thus give meaning to the oft-repeated slogan, "Jordan is Palestine." Such a revolutionary transformation is to be helped along, in this view, by gently or not so gently encouraging many of the Palestinians in Lebanon and on the West Bank to find their way to Jordan. If such a process incidentally increases the internal discomforts of Assad in Syria by adding the Palestinians to his population, and if it helps, in general, to destabilize Arab governments in the region, so much the better. Such an outcome would lessen the power of the hostile forces facing Israel on the other side of their borders.

The trouble with this grandiose political thinking is that it is dangerously naïve. Israel may be better off, for a very short period, with political disintegration in the neighboring Arab states, but mobocracies and Khomeini-type regimes, despite their military weakness, are likely to be even more unpleasant neighbors than the more rational ones that exist now. There will be more raids and more suicide attacks. As the tools of terrorism become ever more sophisticated, the cost in life to a small country such as Israel, which is weary of war, may become greater and more painful. More seriously still, instability in the Middle East is the happy hunting ground of the Soviets. Arab angers directed at Israel will find their patron, as they always have, in the Russians. The weakness and instability of the Arab neighbors will remain temporary, as men of the Kremlin move in, wherever they can, to increase their forward positions not merely against Israel, but primarily against the power and influence of the United States in the region.

Arab weakness is thus not a guarantee of Israel's strength; it is more likely to be an invitation for more Soviet missile batteries and more "advisors." Israel will soon face ever more uncomfortable decisions. Will it really dare to take on the Russians more directly? How far will American support guarantee that such local confrontations on the borders of Israel will not get out of hand?


The de facto annexation of the West Bank, and its probable effect of increasing internal tension and instability in the Arab world, thus raises the most critical question of all for Israel: what of the Americans?

That the strength and security of Israel is the cornerstone of American policy in the Middle East is self-evident. Israel is even less likely than the Saudis or the Jordanians to change sides in the superpower conflict; its internal institutions are the most stable in the region. The growth of Israeli power in the aftermath of the war in Lebanon is such that no Arab force stands the slightest chance in battle, not even Syria, despite resupply by the Soviet Union. The PLO has been smashed as a military force, and thus the Arab rejectionists and the Soviets have been handed another defeat. The Lebanese government is now in the American orbit. Logically, this ought to mean that the boundaries of America's power as Israel's major ally and friend have now been pushed forward, for Israel keeps the Syrians in check, spreads its umbrella over the Jordanians and would probably come to the immediate rescue, unasked, if there were serious outside subversion in Saudi Arabia. That, at least, is the scenario that has often been suggested by the hard-line Israeli strategic thinkers.

Therefore, so they argue, Israel's policies in the West Bank should be seen as nothing more than a minor concern which America can indulge, out of regard for so useful and productive an ally as Israel. Holding on to the West Bank gives Israel additional strategic space. Getting tough with the PLO, with its penchant for Moscow, demonstrates that there is no advantage to being in league with the great adversary of America. On both counts, the United States should be welcoming Israel's policy on the West Bank and on the Palestinian question in general.

The difficulty with this construction is that it misreads the long-term interests and the continuing commitments of the United States in the region. From the American perspective, to embrace the hard-line Israeli view means, at very least, to agree to the weakening of some of America's Arab friends. General Sharon may prefer a Palestinian ruling in Amman, but every American secretary of state has preferred King Hussein. The Jordanian dynasty, even on the occasional days when the King flies briefly to Moscow to tweak America's nose, is not likely to leave the Western orbit. One can detect no great passion for the Saudi royal house in American public opinion, but these oil princes, at their most flamboyant, are far better than the fanatical mullahs or Qaddafi-style junior officers who may succeed them. America has enormous investments, and not only economic ones, in its relations with large parts of the Arab world.

In the Middle East, the United States is a conservative power, preferring stability to adventurism. This is all the more true because the Middle East is now the major fault-line of confrontation with the Soviet Union. To strengthen the American position, the rapid deployment force was organized in the aftermath of the debacle in Iran. For this military capability to be effective, secure bases are required not only in Israel, and perhaps in Lebanon, but also in a variety of locations throughout the Middle East. The radicalization of any additional Arab countries will surely produce more Qaddafis, who will tell the United States to go home. It can thus be argued, as Israeli moderates continue to insist, that, even in that country's own interests, to help radicalize the Arab world even in part, and to leave Israel as America's only reliable ally in the region would not be in Israel's interest. Israel will be worse off if tens of millions of Arabs in turmoil, and more tens of millions of Russians not far over the horizon, stare down at the state of Israel, on the edge of the Mediterranean, and at its off-shore American ally.

The moral and political issues are even more fundamental. The declared policy of the United States is that Israel's borders remain those which existed in 1967, with whatever modifications might be made in negotiations based on the U.N. resolutions which were passed after the 1967 war and on the Camp David Accords. An event that occurred in late 1981 is instructive. The present strongly anti-Soviet American government has no particular affection for the Syrians. Nonetheless, it suspended an anti-Soviet "Memorandum of Understanding" that was reached between Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Israeli Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon, because the Israeli government a few days later announced the formal annexation of the Golan Heights. The United States thus demonstrated that its regard for the legalities in the Middle East, as it understands them, outweighed even its distaste for the Soviet Union's principal client in the area. This action reinforced the commitment of the United States to endorse only those changes in relations between Israel and the Arabs such as the Camp David Accords with Egypt, and now, the peace with Lebanon, both of which were the result of bilateral negotiations with very close American involvement.

Moderate Israelis worry that the gap between Israel's actual position on the ground and the legal position to which the United States is pledged is widening. Israel, which has paid so dearly for the agreements on its northern and southern borders, cannot simply keep order, indefinitely, by force on its eastern approaches. There, even more than elsewhere, it can reach a settlement only with the help of America. Moderate Israeli opinion knows that when this most complicated discussion finally takes place, the Americans will have to help Israel fight for the acceptance by the Arabs of an undivided Jerusalem, defensible borders, and security arrangements on the West Bank-the minimum terms of even the most moderate Israelis-all of which will not be easy to achieve in the face of Saudi fundamentalism and Palestinian nationalism. To imagine that the Americans can finesse these problems in the foreseeable future by saying to the Arab world, sorrowfully, that the West Bank matter has simply been settled unilaterally by Israel, and that there is nothing more to be done, is a pipe dream.


No matter how successful de facto annexationism might be, the shadow of its unacceptability in law will thus cloud and trouble this Begin achievement. This short-run "victory" is the preamble to long-term and worsening problems, within Israel and world Jewry, with the Arabs and the Soviets, and with a more ambivalent America.

The ultimate issue about the West Bank is not, however, whether such annexationism is politically prudent. It is in the realm of morality and of history. The backbone of Israel's position in the world is that in 1947 it accepted the partition of Palestine as proposed by the United Nations and that Israel was willing to abide by this bargain. The Zionists assented to the proposition that the nearest approach to rough justice for both Jews and Palestinians was to be found in dividing the Holy Land into homelands for two peoples. The Arabs put themselves in the wrong in 1948, and thereafter. They rejected partition, and they waged war against it.

It is true that Menachem Begin and his party never accepted the principle of the partition of Palestine. For the Revisionists, Palestine had already been partitioned once in 1922, when Winston Churchill took that part of the land of the British Mandate east of the Jordan and created it as a separate realm. It was, and remains, the passionate conviction of the Revisionists, Menachem Begin's party, that between the Jordan and the sea there could be only one state, the Jewish one.

Menachem Begin has been consistent. On the day after the U.N. vote on November 29, 1947, by which Palestine was partitioned into Jewish and Arab states, the commander of the Irgun, Menachem Begin, issued the following order of the day: "The land has not been liberated but mutilated. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel-all of it-and forever."2 Begin resigned in 1970 from a national unity cabinet under Golda Meir, when she finally accepted U.N. Resolution 242, with its clear meaning that West Bank territories were to be returned to Arab control on the basis of international negotiation. Menachem Begin thus seems not to regard himself as personally bound by a deal which the Jewish people made in 1947, largely under the leadership of David Ben Gurion.

In 1948, Menachem Begin accepted the democratic processes of the state of Israel and he has lived by these principles. He disbanded the Irgun after the state was established and joined the parliamentary system. Recently he bowed, painfully, to the pressure of public opinion which forced the investigation of the outrages at Sabra and Shatila, and he has heeded the findings of the Kahan Commission, with a touch of legalism and political prudence which allowed him to keep Ariel Sharon as Minister without Portfolio.

Begin has never been a candidate for the man on horseback in Israel, but it is equally clear that he has never accepted the U.N. Resolution of Partition as anything more than a temporary device, to be swept aside at the right historic moment. Nonetheless, despite Begin and the ideologues whom he leads, the state of Israel was created on the basis of the Resolution for the Partition of Palestine. He may continue to insist that it was an agreement to which he and his movement were not party-but, before the world, it bound the Jews. There is some reason to hope that Arab moderates would come to the negotiating table if there were a cessation of the building of new settlements on the West Bank, especially because the Americans would then bring maximum pressure to bear on the Arabs. If such negotiations were to begin, it would immediately become clear that the differences between the two parties are unbridgeable. At their most giving, the Arabs have hinted, in the murky language of the Fahd Plan and the Rabat Declaration, that they might finally accept the principle of the Partition of Palestine, at least de facto. Begin, as he has said innumerable times, will continue to claim Israeli sovereignty over the whole of the land.

For many years, Israel said that the Palestinians could not have peace and a final settlement unless they recognized Israel, that is, unless they accepted the legality of the state created by the partition of Palestine. This is equally true for Israel itself. God may have once given the Jews a charter to all of the Holy Land, and, as a believing Jew, I have no doubt that He will give all the land to the Jews again, in the Messianic age. In the here and now, in this imperfect realm of, at best, human rough justice, Israel was given a charter to part of the land, and it rightly demands that it be allowed to live there in safety. Israel's moral strength, and the possibility of its finally achieving peace, rest inevitably on its recommitment to the basic bargain that was struck at its founding.

1 The words I am quoting are not Shehadeh's own (he is, of course, a partisan): they are from a lengthy review of the book by Dennis Silk in the Jerusalem Post (the weekly edition of May 15-21, 1983). What is remarkable about Dennis Silk's review is the space given to it in the Jerusalem Post, in the full knowledge that the weekend edition is the Israeli newspaper most read by Jews abroad.

2 I am indebted to Peter Grose, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, for reminding me of this quotation, which he cites in his forthcoming book, Israel in the Mind of America, to be published in the fall of 1983.



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  • Arthur Hertzberg is the Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Englewood, N.J., and Adjunct Professor of History at Columbia University. He has been Vice President of the World Jewish Congress since 1975, and was President of the American Jewish Congress from 1972 to 1978 and a member of the Executive of the World Zionist Organization from 1969 to 1978. He is the author of The Zionist Idea, The French Enlightenment and the Jews, and other works.
  • More By Arthur Hertzberg