Time for NATO to Close Its Door
The Alliance Is Too Big—and Too Provocative—for Its Own Good
One of Israel’s leading poets wrote recently that the State of Israel is the realization of the greatest collective effort of the Jewish people since Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt. In the forty years since the leadership of a small community of 600,000 souls proclaimed the establishment of the state, this effort has shown dramatic results indeed.
On the very first day of Israel’s existence, we were invaded by the armies of seven countries, whose combined populations outnumbered ours by more than a hundred to one. A full one percent of Israel’s population was killed in our war of independence—in American terms today that would mean the loss of two-and-a-half million people.
In relation to its size, the country’s borders were longer than any other country’s, and virtually indefensible. Its infrastructure was embryonic, and its economy based mostly on agriculture and light industry. Yet in its first years Israel successfully repelled the military onslaught, defended itself against a continuous terrorist campaign, and absorbed and integrated 1.2 million Jews, twice the number of its original Jewish population.
Contrary to common perceptions, most of these immigrants were not the surviving remnants of the holocaust, but Jews from Arab countries, indigenous to the region, whose lives had become intolerable after World War II, and who were often in danger of annihilation. Almost 800,000 of them came to Israel, and now more than half of Israel’s population is of Middle Eastern and North African origin.
Other immigrants, white, brown and black, arrived from over a hundred countries, speaking almost as many languages and dialects. They came from areas of unimaginable poverty and from the most prosperous lands on earth, from totalitarian dictatorships, medieval tyrannies and the most enlightened democracies. Afflicted by differences, irritations and incompatibilities, they have nevertheless become one nation, all pulling—albeit often contentiously—in the same direction. And despite the natural volatility of such a mix, they have created a sound and secure society. Violent crime in Israel, for instance, including terrorist acts, is among the lowest in the industrial democracies—and one-tenth of that in the United States.
That people from such varied backgrounds became one nation in such a short time demonstrates the unique historical, religious and cultural bonds that tie the Jewish people together and to the Land of Israel. This unity and the traditional Jewish commitment to freedom and democracy buttressed the capacity of the fledgling state to withstand the initial assault by its neighbors and has enabled it to survive continuous hostility and a condition of quasi-war ever since, with its commitment to Western values intact.
Israel’s citizens—Jews, Muslims, Druze and Christian—are equal before the law. Its judiciary is totally independent and beyond reproach; its elections, in which 70 to 80 percent of the electorate vote, are exemplary; its parties, from the extreme left to the extreme right, are all represented in parliament; and its numerous newspapers, in Hebrew, Arabic, English and other languages, reflect an incredible diversity of opinions. The Arab citizens of Israel are the only Arabs in the Middle East who can vote freely for a representative democratic government and who enjoy freedom of speech, assembly and movement.
Israel’s declaration of independence, which proclaimed the rebirth of the Jewish state in its historical home, set down three main objectives. The first was to provide a haven for every Jew who needed and wanted it. The second was to make Israel a spiritual fountainhead and emotional magnet for the Jews of the world, so that those among them who wished to fulfill their lives as Jews would settle in it.
The third objective deemed important enough to be included in the declaration was peace with our neighbors. We wanted the state to be the fulfillment not only of our prayer "Next Year in Jerusalem," but of the prayer "He who makes peace in His high places, may He make peace for us."
There was no Palestinian problem as such at that time. The only people who called themselves Palestinians then were the Jews of Palestine. Our English-language newspaper was the Palestine Post, our orchestra, the Palestine Symphony, and our fundraising organization, the United Palestine Appeal. The Arabs living in Palestine insisted that they were part of the Arab nation and shunned the appellation "Palestinians." It is a common misconception today that Israel replaced some kind of Palestinian entity. In fact, in the 3,000-year history of the country, which we know as the Land of Israel and the world calls Palestine, the only independent national sovereignty ever to exist there has been Jewish.
There was little we were not ready to do to achieve peace. Attesting to that was the very fact that we accepted the U.N. General Assembly resolution on the establishment of a Jewish state in ten percent of the area originally allotted to a national Jewish homeland by the mandate of the League of Nations. But the Arabs around us found unacceptable the existence of an independent non-Arab state in any area, however small, of what had once been part of the Arab empire, and they continued to war against us. In 1967, as a consequence of one of these wars, we brought Judea, Samaria and Gaza, as much parts of the Land of Israel as any other, under Israel’s control. Today, a little less than one-quarter of the area of the original Palestine mandate is in our hands. The other three-quarters, now called the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is in Arab hands. Jordan, whose population consists of people from both sides of the Jordan River is, therefore, a Palestinian Arab state in every respect except in name.
When King Hussein’s grandfather proclaimed his independence from Britain, he wanted to call his country Palestine. The British Foreign Office dissuaded him. King Hussein himself, and all other Palestinian leaders, have stated that the Arabs on both sides of the river are one nation. And indeed, two-thirds of Jordan’s population is from western Palestine, as are most of the members of its parliament and the best-known prime ministers and members of the government. Stating these facts does not, of course, imply opposition on our part to King Hussein’s rule in Jordan. But, clearly, another Palestinian state between Jordan and Israel, in the 2,000 square miles of Judea and Samaria—an area the size of a large county in the western United States—makes no sense politically, cannot be viable economically and can only serve as a terrorist, irredentist base from which both Israel and Jordan will be threatened.
What does make sense is continuing the peace process via the one and only route with a proven track record: direct negotiations between the parties to the conflict. I believe peace with Jordan is a realistic, eminently attainable goal. A de facto peace between our countries has existed for quite some time. Movement of Arabs from both sides of the Jordan River is free. Trade between Jordan and Judea and Samaria flourishes, and Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria carry Jordanian passports and can vote in elections for Jordan’s parliament. From the present conditions to a close cooperation with Jordan in a large variety of spheres is but a relatively small step, one which could lay the foundation for a formal peace treaty.
I have declared time and again that I am ready to meet King Hussein anywhere, anytime, without preconditions, to discuss peace. Direct negotiations with Jordan can start tomorrow, in Amman, in Jerusalem or on "neutral" ground such as Camp David, with the full blessing and unreserved backing of every member of the Israeli government.
A formula for negotiations was worked out at Camp David between Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat and Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The centerpiece of the Camp David accords is the autonomy plan for the Palestinian Arabs, which includes a five-year transition period—a vital test of coexistence between Jews and Arabs. It leaves open for later deliberation the sensitive issue of sovereignty. And although it falls far short of our demands, it embodies a realistic attempt to move forward a political solution.
But the Jordanian monarch has maintained that he will only talk with us if we accept the Soviet proposal for an international conference to be held under the auspices of the United Nations. There is support for this idea in Israel, too, and clearly, as long as it exists, neither Hussein nor anyone else is going to come to direct talks.
We are told that King Hussein needs an international umbrella to protect himself from the radical forces in the Arab world. But a country that cannot defy the radicals on matters of procedure cannot be expected to defy them on matters of substance. Indeed, there cannot be any doubt that an international conference would be reduced to the lowest radical denominator, and present a united front against Israel. Its express purpose would be to effect total Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines. Nor can there be any doubt that the notion of a purely ceremonial international conference, which would merely provide a cover for bilateral talks, is a chimera. The Soviets, who begat the idea of the conference, have made clear their intention to participate actively in its decision-making process. And European leaders, as well as the American secretary of state, have also declared that they would promote their own plans at such a conference.
The complex and sensitive nature of the issues between Israel and Jordan are such that only direct, independent, open-ended, face-to-face negotiations can provide the unpressured atmosphere that is absolutely vital for reaching an agreement. In these negotiations, representatives of the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria—not members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and not terrorists—should of course participate. It is, after all, their autonomy that will be discussed. And while the exact nature of the autonomy should be left to the negotiating table, Israel’s record of response to genuine peaceful intent speaks for itself.
Unfortunately, Palestinian Arabs in the past have too often entrusted their fate to other Arab governments and extreme elements such as the PLO. Terrorist organizations have used threats and assassination against those Arabs who showed an inclination to negotiate with us. That is why victory over terrorism is an essential prerequisite for the achievement of peace, and not, as some would have it, the other way around.
It is also necessary for Egypt and Jordan to join in the process and give the necessary backing to those Palestinian Arabs who will opt for negotiations and coexistence with Israel.
I am often asked why we do not simply ignore PLO terrorism and negotiate with this organization, recognized by the Arab League as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. It is an astonishing question. No country has ever been asked to negotiate with an organization that denies its right to exist. The PLO is not a Palestinian creation, nor has its existence anything to do with the so-called occupation of Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank"). It was organized by Egypt and Syria three years before the 1967 war to conduct terrorist warfare against Israel, and it is dedicated not to liberating this or that territory, but to the annihilation of Israel. That a terrorist organization, established less than 20 years after the holocaust and committed by its constitution to the destruction of Israel, enjoys observer status at the United Nations and diplomatic standing in many capitals is a sad commentary on the state of international morality.
In the ten years since President Sadat, responding to Menachem Begin’s overtures, came to Jerusalem, the international community seems to have forgotten the unprecedented lengths to which Israel went to secure a peace treaty with Egypt. By relinquishing the Sinai Peninsula, Israel forfeited not only strategic depth in that sector, but 91 percent of all the land it had gained in the defensive war of 1967. Israel gave up 16 thriving towns and villages, rich oil wells it had developed, vast treasures of mineral wealth, and sophisticated air and naval bases. The total cost of the withdrawal has been estimated at a staggering $20 billion—practically the equivalent of Israel’s foreign debt. I abstained in the vote in the Knesset on the Camp David accords for two reasons. First, I was opposed in principle to the evacuation of Israeli towns and villages as stipulated in the agreement. Second, I objected to the precedent set by our withdrawal to the June 1967 armistice lines.
But democratic governments are bound by treaties concluded by their predecessors, and the Camp David accords do represent the highest degree of agreement on a comprehensive peace plan that has ever been reached between Israel and an Arab country. We must work with it and ensure its fulfillment.
Since the signing of the Camp David accords and the peace treaty with Egypt, we have witnessed Egypt’s growing tendency to distance itself from these agreements. We have been particularly disappointed by Egypt’s reluctance to normalize relations with us. I have written to President Hosni Mubarak several times and tried to impress on him the crucial importance of demonstrating that Egypt’s peace with Israel is workable, beneficial and can serve as a solid base for the expansion of the peace process. I continue to hope that Egypt’s courage in piercing the barrier of hatred around Israel will be matched by a readiness to engage in an effort to revive the peace process. This could be achieved by renewing the talks on the ways and means of implementing the autonomy agreement, and taking up our proposal that President Mubarak invite King Hussein and us to peace talks under his sponsorship.
The Camp David accords recognized the intrinsic difference between our treaty with Egypt and any agreement we could conclude with our eastern neighbors. While we were willing to dismantle the towns and villages we built in the Sinai desert and to relinquish every inch of the Sinai, it is quite unthinkable that we should allow Judea and Samaria, the cradle of our nation and culture, to revert to being Judenrein, forbidden to Jews, which was the case during the Jordanian occupation of 1948-67. Our legal right to the land was internationally recognized by the League of Nations when it awarded Great Britain the mandate of Palestine for the express purpose of establishing a Jewish homeland in it. But regardless of how the question of sovereignty over Judea and Samaria is resolved, we cannot be barred from Shiloh, Bethel and Hebron any more than we can be excluded from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa.
The security problem, too, is quite different on our eastern border. In the case of Egypt, the 300 miles of desert separating the population centers of the two countries make agreements on demilitarization, separation of forces, multinational peacekeeping forces, listening posts and warning systems viable substitutes for strategic depth. But the borders of Judea and Samaria are within rifle range of pedestrians in the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The Judea-Samaria mountain range dominates Israel’s population centers, main industrial zones, its rail and road arteries and international airport. Relinquishing Israeli control over these ridges can only turn the clock back to the pre-June 1967 days when the Arab regimes felt that destroying Israel was a feasible option. For, lest we forget, peace with Egypt and the growing trend among some Arab regimes toward accepting Israel is a direct result of Israel’s 1967 victory. A dwarfed, vulnerable Israel can only present a temptation that will inexorably reverse this trend and trigger another war.
With uncommon solicitude, we are told by some of our friends and all of our foes that we must forfeit control of Judea and Samaria because otherwise the high Arab birthrate will cause us to become a minority in our own country within a generation; that with the growing numbers of Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, the country can be either democratic or Jewish but not both, i.e., it can only retain Jewish control by depriving Arabs of the vote. Even if this threat were real, it would be unthinkable for Israel, as it would be for any nation, to relinquish its own territory, or its claims of sovereignty and the right to security because of demographic prognostications—particularly since history shows that these are highly speculative and inaccurate.
In 1967 we were warned that within 20 years the Arabs in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean would outnumber us. In fact the ratio of Jews to Arabs west of the Jordan has remained virtually the same, two-thirds Jewish and one-third Arab.
Population growth depends not only on birthrates but on many factors: economic cycles, immigration and emigration and unexpected influences on the birthrate curve. Our presence in Judea and Samaria has made the place more attractive; we established five universities where none existed before, employment is abundant, and the Arabs of the area enjoy, for the first time in their history, freedom of movement, speech and peaceful assembly and the right of habeas corpus. As a result, fewer Arabs leave it now than under the Jordanian occupation. In addition, 100,000 Arabs have entered the area under the family reunification plan.
People vote with their feet, and the Arab inhabitants have been voting for, rather than against, living under our "occupation." These facts should be borne in mind by those who are quick to condemn our presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and particularly our antiterrorist measures there. They should also remember that the Arabs who refer to us as occupiers of Judea, Samaria and Gaza also consider us occupiers of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa.
But Judea and Samaria are, to a large extent, barren lands, and many of their residents seek their fortunes elsewhere, while the birthrate of those who remain is dropping as progress and modernity influence their life-styles.
Moreover, Jewish immigration, which has always been a factor in the demographic equation of Israel, will continue to be so. No one would have believed two decades ago that almost 200,000 Soviet Jews would come to Israel, nor that 12,000 Ethiopian Jews would. If only a quarter of the Jews who want to leave the Soviet Union choose Israel, 100,000 would come, and there are many in Iran, Syria and Ethiopia who must also be rescued. Regardless of demographic considerations, Israel must continue to give top priority to attracting Jews from all over the world. That is the essence of the Zionist dream.
Ultimately, the ability of Arabs and Jews to live together, and not population ratios or even peace treaties, will determine the prospects for peace. Learning to do so is a long process, with no easy solutions, for which patience and perseverance are essential. We must resist the temptation of a quick fix and beware the proclivity of democratic societies to negotiate with themselves. Under the constant pressure of domestic and international public opinion and growing impatience among the population in the face of harassment and uncertainty, such societies tend to make preemptive concessions. In Israel’s case this could prove fatal.
Dictatorships suffer no such pressures. With no parliaments or free press to account to, they can persist with impunity in positions of intransigence. I believe the Arab people want to mingle with us as neighbors, tourists, tradesmen and sportsmen, not to confront us on the battlefield or at a road ambush. The evidence for this is plentiful. Some 100,000 Arabs from Judea, Samaria and Gaza work every day in Israel with virtually no incident. Arabs from countries whose governments call for our destruction come to our cities as tourists and to our hospitals as patients; they transact business with us—albeit furtively; they write fan letters to our radio disc jockeys, and they listen to and watch our news broadcasts. When their governments begin to respond to their wishes, peace—permanent, stable and durable peace—will come to our region. There is a direct relationship between Egypt’s progress toward democracy and its willingness to make peace with us. The obverse is also true: the more tyrannical the regime, the less likely it is to negotiate and compromise. Those who derive hope for the Arab-Israeli conflict from the German-French rapprochement must remember that France and Germany were able to bury their age-old enmity only when they were both ruled by democratic governments.
Differences in political philosophy have also plagued Israel’s relationship with the Soviet Union. The U.S.S.R. initially supported the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and extended diplomatic recognition to it immediately. But when the Soviets realized that Israel was not going to be part of the socialist camp, they moved toward a pro-Arab policy, which over the years developed into alliances with the most virulent radical regimes, governments that are acknowledged sponsors of international terrorism and openly committed to the destruction of Israel.
Before 1967 the Soviet Union armed Egypt and Syria to the teeth, enabling them to provoke the Six-Day War. After Israel’s victory the Soviets and their satellites severed diplomatic relations with Israel and massively rearmed Egypt, Syria and Iraq. When, following the October 1973 war, Egypt turned to the West, the U.S.S.R. continued to arm the rejectionist regimes of Syria, Libya, Iraq and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, this time concluding friendship treaties with them and accompanying the weapons systems with thousands of "advisers."
Syria, a confrontation state which makes no secret of its hope to destroy Israel, now has 8,000 Soviet advisers in its army and an antiaircraft missile system manned by Soviet officers and connected with Moscow command and control. It has acquired the Soviet Union’s most sophisticated weapons, including MiG-29s, the most advanced Soviet tanks, long-range surface missiles that can hit Israel’s interior, and a chemical warfare capability.
The Soviet Union helped initiate and pass the 1975 U.N. resolution equating Zionism with racism and has voted consistently—most recently last September—to expel Israel from the United Nations. Its policy on the emigration of Jews, more dependent on its relations with the United States than its involvement with the Arab-Israeli dispute, has gone from allowing almost 300,000 Jews to leave in the 1970s to permitting only a thousand a year in the 1980s. In 1987 the number rose to 8,000, and some of the more celebrated prisoners and refuseniks have been released. But there has been no change in the Soviet refusal to abide by international human rights agreements, which postulate the right of people everywhere to leave their country. Nor has there been any indication of willingness to allow the repatriation of the Jewish people who, unlike other ethnic groups in the Soviet Union, have no home there, to their homeland in Israel.
There have been some limited changes on the diplomatic level. Poland has reinstated diplomatic relations, albeit at a low level, and the Soviet Union has sent a temporary consular mission to Tel Aviv, as yet unreciprocated by the presence of an equivalent Israeli mission in Moscow. But Soviet support for the PLO and Syria, and its general anti-Camp David, rejectionist stance show no sign of diminishing. Last spring the Soviets sponsored a reconciliation of PLO factions on a platform calling for continued terrorism—euphemistically known as "armed struggle" and the dismantling of Israel. Let us hope that glasnost, internal reform and the signing of nuclear arms agreements with the United States will affect Soviet policy on Jewish emigration and change Soviet conduct in regional conflicts.
While Soviet policies toward Israel are governed by ideological and geopolitical considerations and reflect the general friction between totalitarian regimes and the free world, European attitudes have been dictated by economic considerations and energy policies. The European dependence on Arab oil, particularly during the 1970s, led to a pro-Arab stance. It took the form of huge arms sales to Arab countries and an embargo on sales to Israel, of diplomatic accommodation with the PLO and turning a blind eye to terrorist activities. With the collapse of oil prices and the growing realization that the use of the oil weapon against the West had more to do with economic factors than with the Arab-Israeli conflict, European relations with Israel improved. But the damage to Israel from the meteoric rise in oil prices was not confined to temporary diplomatic and political setbacks.
The transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars to the coffers of the Arab oil-producing states enabled them to become the largest purchasers of arms in the world—not only for themselves, but for countries such as Syria and Jordan which depend on their largesse. Since 1973 approximately $100 billion in sophisticated weapons have poured into Arab arsenals. Over $30 billion worth has been purchased by the Saudis alone. Such staggering military buildups can only exacerbate the volatility of an already highly inflamed area, particularly since the Arab regimes receiving these weapons repeatedly assure their allies that, regardless of what the U.S. Congress is told about the purpose of the purchases, the arms will ultimately be used against Israel.
Throughout the 1970s the United States resisted the economic and political pressures of the oil crises and retained the confidence of both sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The U.S. role was indispensable in concluding the interim agreements between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and Syria, as well as the Camp David accords. Now, too, America’s relationship with both sides makes it a natural "honest broker" for future negotiations. Clearly, its closeness to Israel has only contributed to its credibility and ability to maneuver.
The change in America’s relationship with Israel from sympathy and support to a strategic alliance was a gradual process in response to Middle Eastern realities and to Israel’s emergence as a major geopolitical actor in the region. In 1970, when Syria, using the PLO cadres in Jordan as a fifth column, threatened to invade Jordan, it was Israel’s warning, coordinated with the United States, that aborted the move. A Syrian victory, assured by its overwhelming superiority, would have meant the stationing of Syrian forces complete with Soviet "advisers" on the shore of the Red Sea, on the border of Saudi Arabia. In time it became clear that Israel was not only a power to be reckoned with but a strategic ally fully identified with the free world. Moving from that to the strategic agreement and the formalization of the relationship by granting Israel the status of a major ally was a natural development.
The relationship has proven strong enough to survive some painful incidents. The tensions during the Lebanon war were caused, I believe, by the chasm between the Israeli and American perceptions of the PLO. Despite its record of heinous crimes almost exclusively against civilians, the PLO was seen by some Americans at the time as a product of injustice and refugee camps, a guerrilla army fighting against the "occupation of the West Bank and Gaza."
Israel knew it to be a terrorist arm of Arab governments, an instrument of state-sponsored terrorism, which used victims of frustration and misery in the Arab world—by no means only in refugee camps—as its recruits for murder. Formed in 1964 it operated mostly from Jordan until chased out by King Hussein in the "Black September" clampdown of 1970, in which thousands of PLO members were killed. The PLO then settled in Lebanon, again on the initiative of the Arab governments, and developed an infrastructure of a despotic ministate and a center of world terrorism.
There was almost no terrorist group in the world that did not receive training, logistical assistance, financial support and weapons from the PLO. It succeeded in assembling over 20,000 trained men who, unlike regular armies of sovereign states, could hide behind the shield of civilians no one wanted to hurt. It threatened to become a serious destabilizing force not only against Israel and Jewish targets in Europe but against the whole free world.
Beyond that, Israel saw in the PLO the embodiment of Arab rejection of Israel’s right to exist. The greatest obstacle to peace in the Middle East still is the insistence of Arab governments that the organization whose charter stipulates the destruction of Israel is the sole representative of the Palestinian people.
Washington did not always see it our way. While conceding our right to security on our northern border, it opposed the destruction of the PLO and intervened to rescue Yasir Arafat and his organization twice during the Lebanon war: once from the Israeli siege of Beirut, and then from the Syrian-sponsored attack by his rival, Abu Musa, in Tripoli.
The second goal of the war was a peace treaty with Lebanon. An agreement was signed under American sponsorship in May 1983, with the understanding that Syria would withdraw its forces from Lebanon. But the Syrian government reneged, and the Lebanese, who could not act independently as long as Syria occupied their land, scrapped the treaty. Syria now occupies 70 percent of Lebanon.
Israeli forces withdrew from Lebanon in 1985. Only a six-mile-wide security belt on our northern border is under Israeli control. Without it, the Galilee would be exposed to the same intolerable harassment—shelling and terrorist infiltration—to which it was subjected in the eight years preceding the Peace for the Galilee operation of 1982. But the partial reorganization of PLO elements in Lebanon and the introduction of hundreds of Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah terrorists into the area threaten to turn it again into a dangerous terrorist base. Until an independent, sovereign government is established in Lebanon and the Syrian occupation is removed, Israel will have to maintain a security belt and take the necessary measures to defend its northern region against terrorist incursions and shellings.
America’s increasing understanding of Israel’s problems with Lebanon-based terrorism contributed to cementing American-Israeli relations and to the calm atmosphere between the governments which followed the Lebanon war. By November 1983 Israel’s relations with the United States had reached a stage of unprecedented cooperation and mutual understanding. It was given concrete expression in a statement by President Reagan announcing the establishment of a joint political-military coordinating committee and the decision to establish duty-free trade between the two countries. President Reagan also noted that friendship and cooperation between the two countries would continue, in spite of occasional differences of view. "Disagreements between good friends do not alter the unique and sturdy foundation of our relationship," he said.
Another problem in U.S.-Israeli relations arose during the Arab demonstrations and riots in December. Pictures of riot-quelling by security forces are never pretty, and when taken out of context on television they can be ugly indeed. Perhaps Israel should be flattered that it is held to a higher standard and subjected to far greater and more prolonged scrutiny than other democracies that have had to combat similar disturbances in recent years. But the calumny heaped on Israel was wholly undeserved. In fact, the restraint shown by Israeli security forces in the face of attacks by youths wielding lethal explosives (known as Molotov cocktails), iron pipes, axes, knives and rocks was exemplary. Neither water cannons nor rubber bullets, so blithely recommended from a safe distance, could have been effective in all cases. Live ammunition was used only in extreme cases where lives were in danger. But terrorist organizations and extreme elements were bent on causing human casualties, which they considered helpful in their struggle against Israel.
Arab violence in our country goes back more than a hundred years, preceding not only the establishment of Israel but the advent of political Zionism. It is one of our era’s great tragedies that the extremism and radicalism of the likes of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the Nazi ally of the 1930s and 1940s, and of today’s Yasir Arafat win the day in the Arab street rather than the moderation of King Hussein’s great uncle, King Faisal, who advocated Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel, and that of today’s proponents of Arab-Israeli coexistence.
That the Arab refugee problem, which affects a few hundred thousand, has been allowed to fester over forty years, while over 70 million refugees around the world, including a million Jewish refugees from Arab countries, have been resettled since World War II, is nothing short of an outrage. Unfortunately, the Arab governments have long resisted proposals for permanent resettlement of the refugees. I have, therefore, appealed to the international community, through the president of Italy among others, to address this issue by convening an international conference that will consider and recommend solutions to this problem.
Another factor contributing to the volatility in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is the uncertainty about the future. That is why Jordan’s stubborn rejection of an existing mechanism—the Camp David autonomy provisions—and its insistence on a nonstarter like the Soviet proposal for an international conference is so regrettable. It is an attitude that can only postpone the day of a political settlement.
These tremors seemed to affect neither the general sympathy for Israel among the general public in the United States nor the substance of U.S.-Israeli relations. In addition to a feeling of a moral commitment to the Jewish people and the influence of the Jewish community in America, a growing mutuality of interests has developed. The strategic, political and economic understanding has been institutionalized because both countries believed it served their interests. Secretary of State George Shultz recently said, "Our support for Israel has basically been very much in the interests of the United States."
In its relationship with the United States, Israel will strive for the greatest possible friendship and cooperation and the smallest possible economic dependence. The security requirements of the free world in general and Israel in particular make a reduction in the need for U.S. military assistance unlikely. The bulk of this assistance, however, is money spent in the United States for the production of weapon systems for use by the Israeli armed forces. Calculated within the equation of free world security it is a small amount, certainly a fraction of what the United States spends on NATO. It is reciprocated by military intelligence, battlefield experience and technical innovation for American arms. But Israel should wean itself from the nonmilitary economic aid, now amounting to $1.2 billion annually and used almost wholly for servicing Israel’s debt, incurred by past purchases of military matériel.
Israel’s defense budget takes a substantially larger bite out of its GNP than any other in the free world. The Israeli taxpayer pays for 70 percent of Israel’s defense outlays, $5 billion out of $7 billion, a portion considerably higher than the percentage that NATO citizens spend on their own defense.
Israel is poor in natural resources. A prevalent Israeli joke is that it took the Hebrews no less than 40 years of wandering in the desert to find the only place in the Middle East without oil. Israel must rely on what Fortune magazine described as "the ultimate weapon in Israel’s arsenal: the brainpower and entrepreneurial zeal of its work force." In many areas it has shown impressive results. Some of its production processes compete with those of the most sophisticated and powerful economies in the world, and many of its high-technology products are based on its own scientific creativity and technical innovation.
Part of this development is due to our demanding security situation. Having had all too often to rely on ourselves in facing the challenge of advanced Soviet weapons, we developed expertise in various defense technologies. Prominent among them are electronic countermeasures, electro-optics and avionic systems. But even more impressive is what Israel has to offer in the nonmilitary fields. It is a leader in microelectronics, computer hardware and software, biotechnology, chemicals, telecommunications, medical diagnostic and monitoring equipment, solar and other energy systems, and irrigation technologies. Israel leads the world in diamond-polishing, both in production and marketing; its banking operations are global; and its exports range from tomatoes to executive jets.
Not having the size and the scale to compete in conventional mass production, Israel must excel in new ideas, innovative breakthroughs in products and processes. Now that air travel and satellite communications have shrunk the world, Israel can provide world businesses with unsurpassed skills. Thus, for example, electronic companies assign research and development to Israel while locating production in other countries. Such ventures abound between innovative Israeli companies and established international producers in microelectronics, biotechnology, computers, special energy systems and office automation. These enterprises enjoy the extra benefit of Israel’s free trade agreements with both the United States and the European Common Market. No other country can offer this access to the two major Western markets.
The dislocations of wars, the relinquishing of the Sinai, the oil shocks of the 1970s and their ripple effects, the economic slump in the West, the double-digit inflation in the United States in the late 1970s, the Lebanon war and a cumbersome wage and price indexing system all affected our economy and helped cause runaway inflation. But due mostly to the willingness of Israelis in all walks of life to make personal sacrifices and lower their standard of living for the common good, we succeeded, in a much shorter time than we had a right to expect, in bringing inflation down from triple digits to below 17 percent a year. Our immediate goal is to reduce it to a single digit within the next two years. Having stabilized the economy, we intend now to stimulate growth by cutting taxes, liberalizing the capital market, selling off government-owned companies and reducing bureaucratic involvement in business.
But what we aspire to is not just economic independence and a better life. Perhaps the most unusual part of Israel’s outlook is its belief that no matter what difficulties it has to confront, it must extend a helping hand to others. Since 1957 Israel has provided expert aid to scores of countries in such critical areas as agricultural technology, irrigation, food production, housing, communications, electrification, construction, water systems, health and regional planning. These countries include 31 black African nations, as well as other lands of the Mediterranean littoral, Asia, Central America and South America. Israel’s expertise derives from direct experience in developing a land which a little over a century ago was nothing but desert, rock and swamp. Now this expertise is being used in Egypt—still on a small scale—to the benefit of both countries. There is nothing Israel would rather do than contribute this expertise in science, technology, medicine and agriculture to all the other countries of the Middle East.
Our goals, not in any particular order, are as follows:
—Solidifying Israel’s friendship and cooperation with the United States. This entails further deepening and institutionalizing of trade, strategic and political collaboration, and greater efforts in achieving economic independence and explaining our position to the American public.
—Strengthening the peace with Egypt. Our partner in peace should shoulder with us the responsibility for normalizing relations between our countries and for bringing our other neighbors to the negotiating table.
—Attaining peace and coexistence with all our neighbors. This entails projecting the message that violence will not bring a solution to the conflict; that terrorism must end; that the PLO cannot be a participant in any political process; that Arab refugees must be resettled; and that direct negotiations without preconditions is the only viable option for reaching peace.
—Fulfilling the ideal of making Israel the home of the Jewish people and an Israeli society that is founded on the moral principles of the biblical prophets.
The roots of Jewish and Arab heritage—in language, history, culture and religion—have much in common. Together the two peoples can usher in a renaissance chapter in the region. Our vision of peace is not limited to ending hostilities, or even to eliminating the threat of war. What we strive for is the fulfillment of the dream of the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, who envisioned ninety years ago that a Jewish state would be a partner in bringing about an economic renaissance and unprecedented growth in the region, the realization of its unlimited potential, the flourishing of its culture, and a life of coexistence, amity and goodwill for all its people.