I have no doubt that most Israelis wholeheartedly support their government’s policy regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, and see the continuation of the status quo in the territories, as established in the Six Day War, as a very impressive achievement.
This is the fifth year since Israel’s victory and the territorial situation established by the war remains unaltered. We are still at all the cease-fire lines, the war on the borders has subsided, and there is peace within Israel’s enlarged boundaries. The economic growth which started after the war is still in full swing; there is full employment, and the technological development of the country in continuing. The growth rate has been quickened in population as well as in the economy and in the country’s political as well as its military power. The attraction Israel holds for the Jews of the diaspora has steadily increased.
All seems well. We are witnessing a growing integration of the Arab population of the territories into Israel’s economy, and the impression, not unfounded, is that the tension between the Palestinian and the Jewish population is weakening, at least in everyday life. During this period it was also proven that the fears of renewed war, or of renewed shooting at the borders, were unfounded, at least for the immediate future. All signs, including the recent withdrawal of Russian military advisers from Egypt, indicate that the Arab camp is crumbling and that its ability to resist by force Israel’s presence in the occupied territories is steadily weakening. Moreover all attempts to impose on Israel solutions or policies against her will, whether by the superpowers or by international bodies, have failed.
In 1971 we saw an outstanding example of Israel’s strength and capacity to follow a course according to her will and to formulate her policies according to her basic positions. Sadat, like his predecessor, Nasser, by threat of war tried to compel Israel to change her policies concerning the territories but failed. His long-prepared plan to create, with the opening of last year’s UN session, maximum pressure on Israel by threats of war did not achieve any results, and the threat itself has proven unfounded, although Sadat staked his political prestige on the success of this move.
Moreover, United States policy in the Middle East and toward Israel strengthens the impression that Israel’s position in the world is solid. The US has apparently accepted Israel’s view and has retreated from its former position, as formulated by Mr. Rogers, regarding the arms supply, and has abandoned its own proposal for a solution of the Arab-Israel dispute.
The order of things seems to be reversed. The client has succeeded in taking the superpower in tow and has proved her independence of the boss. All this strengthens the impression that Israel’s policy toward the occupied territories has been brave, prudent, realistic, and highly successful. In this respect the Jewish immigration from the Soviet Union takes on special significance. The miracle of the ever-increasing Jewish immigration from the Soviet Union occurs at a time when Israel is involved in an open conflict with Russia, and despite the fact that the Jewish exodus is considered by the Arabs as a hostile act, contrary to the interests of the Arab-Russian alliance.
This migration, after fifty years in which Russian Jewry was almost totally isolated from the Jewish people, further strengthens the general sentiment that Israel has chosen the correct policy and that her commanding position enables her to continue on the course she adopted and to maintain indefinitely the territorial status quo.
It is little wonder that many look at the times as foreshadowing the coming of the promised redemption and that an atmosphere of messianic expectation has been created surrounding the events that have occurred in the last twenty-five years. Even the harshest critics of the government’s policy must admit that Israel’s prolonged stand on the cease-fire lines and her unyielding position for the last five years have brought far-reaching changes in the attitude of the Arab countries toward Israel, and in their appraisal of their ability to subdue her.
It is reasonable to assume that there has been a profound change in attitude within the Arab countries toward accepting Israel as a permanent factor in the Middle East. This change is obviously more pronounced among the inhabitants of the occupied territories, especially in the West Bank. Perhaps at this time there is a mounting feeling among the Palestinians that an understanding and a settlement must be reached with the state of Israel that will permit both sides to live together in peace and develop, for their mutual benefit, the potentials of Eretz Israel—the land between the sea and the Jordan.
Indeed, not only Israel’s military and political strength has enabled her to hold on to her territorial conquests. It can be argued that Israel was able to maintain the territorial status quo because she knew how to compromise in critical times and adopt more flexible attitudes toward the conflict. This is what happened in August, 1970. The government then accepted Mr. Rogers’s proposal to open peace negotiations with Egypt under the auspices of Ambassador Jarring, and Israel also agreed to accept the Security Council’s Resolution 242 as the basis for negotiation and affirmed her readiness to retreat from occupied territories with the conclusion of a peace settlement. Israel has not repudiated the position she announced at that time. Again last summer, when the African presidents visited Israel, the government formulated anew Israel’s political aims, in the form of a far-reaching compromise, including the assurance that she did not intend to annex the territories per se—at least not in the Sinai peninsula—but only sought secure and defensible borders.
In the spring of this year, this measure of flexibility was accompanied by an expression of uneasiness about the political deadlock and an emphasis on the urgent need to start negotiations. This expression of uneasiness was perhaps connected with the imminent negotiations with the United States and was more a tactical move than a change in direction. Israel was perhaps impressed by the criticism in the United States over her position on the reopening of the Suez Canal. Israel has, apparently, withdrawn from the four points, heretofore considered non-negotiable, as conditions for the reopening of the canal. They were:
1) that negotiations concerning the opening of the Suez Canal should be considered as separate and independent of the question of a final settlement;
2) that a partial retreat of Israeli forces from the east bank of the canal was conditional on Egypt’s agreement to declare a permanent cease-fire;
3) that with the opening of the Suez Canal Israel’s right of passage in the canal should be conceded, even prior to a final settlement;
4) that the east bank of the canal should be permanently demilitarized and no Egyptian military force be permitted to cross to the east bank.
Israel now seems content with the last condition only. At any rate, we can still remember what Dayan said before his visit to the United States in January this year: that this was the time to start negotiations and that if this opportunity is missed Egypt would be forced, even against her will, to start a war. Dayan reiterated this view in an interview with the Observer in which he expressed the hope that the two “clients” of the superpowers—Israel, the American client, and Egypt, the Russian client—would eventually reach an agreement based on an understanding between the superpowers. He assumed that such an understanding was necessary in order to force the clients to sit down in one room to discuss a settlement in the Middle East and clarify their differences.
Although we have gotten accustomed to Dayan’s speeches with their surprises and radical changes of opinion, these expressions startled many. Was the characterization of Israel and Egypt as “clients” part of a realistic evaluation of the situation, or did Dayan think that such a formulation was necessary to reach a peace settlement? Did Dayan think that the only possible way for a solution to the problems of the region was open or disguised coercion by the superpowers, and did he not consider whether this approach might spell disaster to us and to the whole area? Did it not occur to him that there existed a real alternative to turning the states of the Middle East into “clients,” that is, Israel’s initiative and willingness to relinquish her aims for the annexation of a substantial part of the territories in exchange for a stable peace settlement?
I am forced to doubt whether the intentions of all these flexible steps, adopted or pronounced by the government, were meant to further peace negotiations, which, necessarily, would involve far-reaching concessions regarding the territories. The talk of a flexible policy recalls the words of the queen of hearts in Alice in Wonderland that “one need run very fast in order to remain in the same place.” If this was not the intention of that policy, then, from a practical point of view, it was the result—the ability to continue to maintain the status quo established after the Six Days War, even if this meant renouncing all prospects of achieving a settlement with the Arab states.
Israel Surrenders Birthright
Though this policy has the support of the majority of the population, it is a policy that courts disaster; that, for a mess of pottage, forfeits the birthright of Israel and the Jewish people. For the sake of argument, I start with the assumption that Israel could maintain the territorial status quo against a hostile Arab world for twenty, thirty, or even one hundred years without serious danger to her physical existence. It is precisely this prospect that seems to me disastrous for Israel and for her future.
Israel’s policy in the Israeli-Arab dispute is guided principally by a fear of the risks and hazards involved in any change in the status quo. This leads the government to prefer to maintain the status quo for as long as possible in order to avoid a clash of opinion within the government itself and with the public. But the government has never considered the real price that the Israeli society is paying by freezing the status quo. Furthermore, the government’s conception of what concerns Israel’s security is a series of simplistic stereotypes, lacking real political thought and based on assumptions that fail to weigh the mutual interdependence of security and all other matters affecting the society and the state. In these circumstances it becomes our duty to point out the real price involved in keeping the status quo.
Price of the Status Quo
The continuation of the present situation means, first of all, the continuation of an arms race with the Arab countries and the Soviet bloc. This situation has not been basically changed by the dramatic events occurring now in Egypt. Even after the withdrawal of Soviet military advisers there is little likelihood that Sadat or any other Egyptian leader can accept the territorial status quo as permanent, or agree to major territorial changes in order to make peace with Israel. The situation will remain unstable and explosive and all the parties concerned in the conflict will feel forced to maintain maximum strength in military preparedness.
Secondly, maintaining the status quo requires mobilization of all the country’s resources in order to maintain military preparedness against the Arab countries. The combined result is the continuous growth of the defense budget and of the total government budget. This growth forces the government and the country to mortgage the potential of Israeli society for the present and for the future, in order to cover the expenses and debts that increase from year to year as a result of this budget. This increases Israel’s dependency on economic and financial help: on the United States, on the World Bank, and on private capital. Thus Israel is mortgaged to outside interests which, in due time, will demand their price and payment.
From this state of affairs some major conclusions must be drawn regarding Israeli society. Because of the present situation, the government of Israel is unable to devote its full energies and resources to the problems whose solutions are the precondition for making Israel a modern and progressive society. It cannot adequately deal with the problems of poverty or reduce the growing gap in the standard of living and income in Israel which affects the opportunities for leading a decent life. The government is unable to make a strong effort in education, which could prevent the increase of violence, crime, and the spread of marginal ways of life now extending rapidly among youth and even adults. It is unable to concentrate on the absorption of mass immigration or engage in short- and long-range social, economic, and scientific planning upon which a modern society depends, or to cope with the problems of a technological, urban, and mass civilization.
A One-Flag Country
The government’s preoccupation with security and its inability to deal adequately with these problems is already obvious today, and the results of such neglect are already making themselves felt. Israeli society is gradually becoming anarchic and wild, showing all the symptoms of the dangers that threaten the very existence of urban and technological society in other countries.
Dayan characteristically pointed to Israel’s main problems but, nonetheless, managed to disregard the full implications of his statement when he remarked that it is impossible to hold aloft at the same time the flag of security and the flag of social reform. Yet the relations between security (as government members understand it) and social reforms hold the key to Israel’s future.
The relationship is different from Dayan’s explanation. The continuation of a full mobilization of the country’s resources for “improving Israel’s security, situation” will undermine, even in the short run, the basis of her security—the stability of her society. There can be no security for Israel without social stability and a healthy community.
Most Israelis are probably unaware of the interdependence between security and social well-being. All they recognize is that full employment and economic prosperity have accompanied the mobilization of the economy for the security sector, though at the cost of a growing inflation. However, even this prosperity distorts the economic and social structure of Israel. It changes the direction of economic development and concentrates it around the security sector alone. It causes economic and technological growth increasingly to depend on the continuation of the existing political and military situation, and draws the whole economy into an inflationary spiral.
No less grave is the problem of vested interests which are for economic reasons created among sectors of the population to keep the existing status quo and hold on the territories. These groups are to be found throughout Israeli society: construction and building contractors, owners of heavy mechanical equipment, tourist guides, land speculators, land investors, big companies and enterprises such as Netivei-Neft, and, of course, the contractors for the defense sectors and innumerable others connected with the defense system. All these tend to encourage the government to keep the territorial status quo and prevent any step that might bring about withdrawal from the territories, even if such steps would bring real peace.
Zionist Values Jettisoned
The worst consequence of holding on to the territories is perhaps the distortion that has occurred in employment as well as in the morale of the Jewish working population and in its spiritual and ethical life. A new status has been created—that of the foremen, contractors, and “patrons” who invade the territories to enlist the Palestinian inhabitants to work in Israel under their supervision. Manual work is passing over, more and more, to a class that is not Israeli—to the Arabs from the territories who do the manual and unskilled work in Israel. In a paradoxical way, there is a growing interdependency—the Israelis depending on the inhabitants of the territories; the Palestinians depending on Israel.
As a result, those values on which the Israeli society was built disappear or are steadily eroded. What is happening runs counter to the conviction and philosophy of the Zionist and pioneering generations that a country and a nation cannot be built by those who are not citizens and who do not see themselves as belonging to the nation’s society. All this is rapidly disappearing in the name of the struggle for Israel’s security.
The integration of Palestinian Arabs from the occupied territories into the very rapidly expanding Israeli economy is of course the consequence of a shortage of labor in Israel. It also fits into the pragmatic outlook of Moshe Dayan, whose policy of open bridges to Jordan, minimum interference in the national affairs of the Palestinian community, economic integration, and considerable aid for technological development and general services in the occupied territories has been highly successful.
If this program were defined as a policy of transition that looks forward to an eventual settlement with the Palestinians of the occupied territories, granting them some form of national independence and recognizing their claim for national self-determination, such a policy would be wise and beneficial for all sides. In the absence of such aims, the present pattern may be defined as a highly original method of an enlightened and intelligent colonialism that seeks to bind the Palestinians by economic interest without granting them political equality and the rights of citizens. This method may work as long as there is full employment and a shortage of labor in Israel. If this should change, the Palestinians would be the first to lose their jobs and would then be thrown back on their own economy, whose structure has been in the meantime fundamentally changed. One needs little foresight to envision the consequences.
There is a strange and demoralizing aspect of this situation. A large number of the poor and underprivileged Israelis refuse to take certain jobs because they are in the hands of the Arabs from the territories. To conserve their pride they prefer to exist in difficult circumstances on the marginal support they receive from society.
In the Name of Security
Not only the social-economic structure suffers from the policy of retaining the status quo. The erosion and distortion also influence the Israeli democratic structure, social thought, and public and civic activities in Israel. There is no doubt that at this moment all the efforts of the government and civic leaders are centered on security. In its name all differences that existed in Israeli society are disappearing. The essential differences between parties are blurring and vanishing, and a general tendency for mutual assimilation and accommodation can be observed: security, national fanaticism, and national unity, at all costs, become the common denominator. A large camp of “ayes” is created on the question of national security and, because of it, in all other matters. The problem of religion and state, the employer-employee relationship, the relationship between public and private capital—all these are now decided solely in the light of this common denominator.
In a country in which a million inhabitants and large territories are under the sole jurisdiction of the military government and in which military and undercover activities and decisions occupy an ever larger field of public authority, the range and jurisdiction of democratic decision become by necessity restricted and severely unbalanced. Yet the Israeli public accepts this situation as the price it has to pay for maintaining the status quo. Such is the situation in the Knesset and in the political parties. Such is the situation among the youth and the public at large. In the name of security most surrender, willingly and gladly, their independence of thought on matters essential to the existence of society: the quality of life, the quality of social and economic development, the quality of education—the quality of the society itself.
This weakening of social thought among public and political groups also corrupts the workers’ parties and the socialist groups in the country. It is difficult today to find a group that gives any serious and original consideration to the present and future of society and the quality of life within that society. The whole country tends to become party to the government in support of the perpetuation of the status quo. No wonder that the only opposition left is expressed in the bitterness of those who consider themselves an underprivileged and discriminated class. I refer here to the poorest sector, composed mainly of oriental Jews, immigrants from Arab countries. This opposition has no political representation and finds little outlet other than that of violence and crime and political protest based on violence. This is a new phenomenon in the country, an alarm signal pointing to a grave change in the development of Israel.
The changes in attitude I have described are only part of the greater change that is affecting the mind and spirit of Israelis. This change, typical of a society whose people have been turned into rulers who base their rule on force and who at the same time live in a state of fear and moral uneasiness, works simultaneously in many directions. It is expressed, on the one hand, in a cynical and materialistic pragmatism quickly drained of all moral values and, on the other hand, in a nationalistic righteousness which justifies the control over the inhabitants of the territories, the partial confiscation of their land, and the status of rulers and ruled.
These tendencies create a moral and intellectual isolation which resents all outside criticism and spends its spiritual energies on a mystical patriotism and messianic nationalism. Such a nationalism finds its substance in religious symbols and joins the religious camp that professes an integral and aggressive nationalism. As a result, Israel is in grave danger of historical regression, combining patriotism and religious orthodoxy in an integral tribal consciousness. Through this fusion of nationalistic and religious elements all checks and balances of rational and moral criticism may be blocked and a mentality could be created which recedes farther and farther away from a rational and humanistic tradition.
This state of mind in itself forms a grave danger to the security of Israel, since it prevents her from facing external and internal realities, from examining her real problems, including her security. Democracy in Israel is strongly rooted in the intellectual outlook as well as in the behavior of the population. It is an open society that is for the most part modern in outlook, intellectually curious, with a strong drive for change and invention. Yet though there exist in Israel many countervailing intellectual, moral, and mental habits and attitudes, in the long run the dangerous tendency I have just described will become increasingly powerful.
Real Base of Security
The real problems of Israel’s security continue to exist and we must face them. We know that in the long run Israel’s military superiority over the Arabs is based on the educational, intellectual, and spiritual quality of her people and the degree of their identification with the country and its aspirations. It is based on the feeling of real community among the citizens, on the well-being of its populace, and on the conviction that the future will be meaningful to all. That was the secret of the past success of the Haganah and Israel’s army, and will remain so in the future. If the government will not apply its time and energies to the basic problems of Israeli society there will be a radical change in that society for the worse. The community will disintegrate into heterogeneous elements and will cease to identify itself with the country and its security. Its intellectual, moral, and educational standards will deteriorate and, with it, the spirit of citizenship and the willingness of the people to fight for the community.
Israeli society is today, in its ethnic-cultural composition, one of the most complicated communities in the world. The dangers inherent in such a community are the unavoidable results of the unprecedented effort to take in groups from the outside in a short time and in larger proportionate numbers than in the original absorbing society.
A society that takes upon itself the responsibilities of such historic daring must perforce invest all its creative, intellectual, moral, and economic resources in the absorption of this new community, and cannot leave the solutions and outcome to the unregulated and automatic process of economic, demographic, and technological developments. If it fails to do so, and allows events to take their course, without planning and regulation, it is creating with its own hands powers that will undermine it.
There is no dearth of signs that such a process is underway: growth of poverty areas, underprivileged regions, a growing class stratification, gaps in educational standards and levels of income—the creation, in short, of a class which controls the resources of society and of a class, largely composed of immigrants from the Arab countries, which feels deprived. When this division coincides with an ethnic and cultural pattern, it creates grave dangers to the integrity and the solidarity of Israeli society. Such a society will inevitably become weakened and divided, and the qualities that enabled it in the past to prevail against a hostile environment may fail it in the future.
One sometimes gets the impression that the government and civic leaders are oblivious to these processes and cannot evaluate their true extent or face the problems inherent in them. These leaders evaluate the situation according to their own origin and past, in moralistic and ideological stereotypes, which had definite meaning and usefulness in the pioneering society of the pre-state period, but which have lost their operative meaning, not only for the present society but also for the leadership itself.
This group, having been in a position of power and leadership for the last fifty years, having matured together and lived their lives in a closed circle, is unable to understand the new realities and problems of present-day Israeli society, or is afraid to face them. It is easier, therefore, to escape by doing the obvious and assuming those national duties and policies that correspond to their education and understanding: chiefly maintaining national security and unity, encouraging immigration and new settlements, and fostering national sentiments and rhetoric. Concerning all other questions they live from hand to mouth and solve the problems that arise only by improvisation and stopgaps. By their insistence on the status quo and their incapacity to face the consequences of their policies the leaders have burdened the new state with a million Palestinian Arabs in the occupied territories. Subjected against their will to Israeli rule, they will create problems that Israel cannot solve or survive unless it changes completely its structure, purpose, and mentality.
For these very reasons the government is unable to analyze or even formulate the basic problem of Israel’s security. This problem does not consist in the number of added kilometers needed by Israel in order to improve the old borders by annexation and new security settlements but rather in guarding and fostering the human, moral, and intellectual potentials of the Israeli society.
This problem can be solved only in times of peace and not of war. To this end the government should have mobilized all its efforts and wisdom and waged two campaigns: to attain a real and stable peace and to assure its existence. However, the government concentrates its activities on keeping the status quo. Its foreign policy is built on short-sighted opportunism and manipulation of international situations which are called by many “shrewd realism” or “realpolitik.” This is the kind of diplomacy that has brought the world, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to the threshold of self-destruction through unceasing wars and confrontations, with unceasing violence, on all sides.
Surrender to Big Powers
Until last month the present policy of maintaining the status quo made use of the ongoing conflict of the super-powers: their competition for influence and dominance in the area and the balance of force and threat which each side seeks in order to avoid confrontation while maintaining its hold on the region.
Thus each side supported its own party to the conflict—Russia the Arab countries, and the United States, not always wholeheartedly, Israel. There is little doubt that it was originally Russia that for its own purposes supported the Arab states in their relentless hostility toward Israel and fanned the conflict until war broke out in June, 1967. Israel’s victory threatening Russia’s hold on the region only confirmed the USSR’s resolve to continue support of Arab intransigence toward Israel and Arab unwillingness to come to terms with Israel on the basis of coexistence and peace. The military superiority of Israel and the support she received from the US against the threat of direct Russian intervention defeated all Arab-Russian attempts to compel Israel to retreat from the cease-fire lines without a peace settlement. It created a military and political impasse which first compelled, and then enabled, Israel to hold on to the occupied territories. Exploiting the superiority of the Israeli-American position as compared with the basic weakness of the other side, Israel has increasingly directed its policy toward maintaining the status quo indefinitely.
This policy, based on the continuation of the existing power struggle, lives on the passing crises, on the ups and downs of the games of diplomacy, with their ever-changing patterns of advance and retreat. Such policies have no long-range plans since the aims contradict the basic interests of the other countries in the region. An example of this crisis play is provided by the recent struggle between the superpowers in the India-Pakistan conflict. There is no doubt that the full support that the United States has recently given Israel has come as a result of the “lesson” she learned from the war on the Indian subcontinent. This policy made Israel, by her own choice, a client of the United States and strengthened the same tendency in Egypt. Thus it furthered the trend to turn the whole region into a center of intercontinental power competition and destroyed all chances that the countries concerned in the Israeli-Arab conflict would be able to determine their own policies. This policy increased the instability in the region and the regimes of the Arab countries and at the same time strengthened the frustration and hatred in the Arab camp.
Yet while the impasse created in the Middle East tended to strengthen the Israeli-American position, it created, as recent events in Egypt and other Arab countries are proving, a growing tension between Russia and the Arab countries and a fundamental reconsideration of the situation by both sides. The inability and unwillingness of the Soviet Union to support a war of revenge and to retrieve by force the lost territories compelled the leadership of Jordan and Egypt to search for political solutions which included even the possibility of a peace settlement with Israel. Such attempts were hardly ever made wholeheartedly and remained equivocal, ambivalent, and sporadic. Yet such tendencies could have been strengthened tremendously if Israel would have initiated from the beginning a courageous, generous peace policy, not conditioned on territorial changes but on practical provisions for real guarantees to maintain the peace in the area once a plan had been worked out and defined by treaty.
There is of course no guarantee that such a policy would have been accepted by the other side or carried out in good faith. Such questions can only be answered as we reach the stage of negotiation and during the negotiations themselves. It would be the true measure of Israel’s statesmanship to test the good will and reliability of the other side and to work out such proposals as would give both sides a secure sense that agreements once reached would be kept.
The government of Israel did nothing to encourage those Arab leaders and governments that at certain moments were courageous enough to offer political solutions based on recognition of Israel and a peace settlement with her. Such was the case in February, 1971, when Sadat announced his readiness to sign a peace treaty with Israel, while Israel refused to answer Dr. Jarring’s letter. Such was the case when Israel posed conditions for opening the Suez Canal which obviously could not be accepted by the other side.
Israel always defended her positions in a way that would make it more difficult, not easier, for the other side to continue the effort to find a political solution. Taking full advantage of the fact that the Arab countries have been prisoners of their own rhetoric of hate against Israel and that their policies are far more irresponsible toward their own societies than toward Israel, Israel’s leaders found it easy to rely on the vicious circles which the Arab states created in relation to the Israeli-Arab conflict. From the beginning, this policy has been formulated so that it could be applied to alternative possibilities: either that the other side would accept Israel’s conditions—that is to say, start negotiations without prior commitments regarding the permanent borders of Israel; or that the deadlock would permit the continuation of the present territorial situation.
In this limited view, the policy has been totally successful. Yet the price of this success has been exorbitantly high—for the cost has been the renunciation of a long-range vision, both of our future in the Middle East and of the future development of our society.
Israel’s true interest should have been to bring about a maximum disengagement of the region from the influence of the big powers, which would help the Arabs to free themselves from the Russian penetration, and to achieve stability in their own countries and societies. Israel’s interest should be to eschew the attempt to drag the big powers into their struggle with the Arab world, or to be dragged by them into their struggle, and to use the help of the powers to reach a peace settlement.
Recent events may have created a new and decisive chance of reaching these aims and initiating a systematic diplomacy for peace. The apparent split in the Arab-Russian alliance and the enforced evacuation of Soviet advisers could represent a turning point for the Israeli-Arab conflict if Israel were willing to seize this opportunity for constructive statesmanship. It could then claim that it was because of its political strategy, followed since the Six Day War, that that Soviet-Arab alliance was broken up and that the Arab countries were compelled to face squarely the real issues between them and Israel. The realization of such possibilities depend, if not exclusively then at least greatly, on a determined effort by Israel to reach a peace without annexation and to renounce its policy of maintaining the status quo.
No Substitute for Peace
It is of essential importance for Israel, as for other nations, to increase stability in the world, to ease the tension among nations, and to encourage the forces that are capable of bringing peace and unity to the world. Israel’s most urgent need is to do so in the region in which she lives and in which her future must be built. We live today in a steadily shrinking world, where the interdependence of all is growing.
Every country that bases its policies on continued strife among nations contradicts the real interests of mankind and of itself by helping to divert the attention of people from the real problems which all nations face. To fight hunger, poverty, ignorance, and violence. To save the biosphere—the biological and atmospheric environment which maintains life on earth—from the pollution and the self-destruction of our civilization. To tackle the problems of overpopulation, which shortly will threaten the very existence of humanity, and to discover and produce, and preserve, new resources for its existence. To adjust the patterns of society and industrial life to the revolutionary powers of a technological age so that man will be able to rule these powers and not be destroyed by them. To foster a spirit of understanding, rationality, love of peace and life, in order to fight the tendency toward private, social, and international violence and strife.
These are not the fair words of a Sunday sermon or an exercise in utopian fantasy but rather an urgent program for the continued existence of mankind. Well-founded scientific estimates have given mankind a very short time in which to prevent physical self-destruction by an unrestrained technology, by exploitation and wasteful uses of its natural resources, by polluting the biosphere, and by natural increase.
These are immediate and urgent problems for Israel, as for all other nations. If Israel, with her high scientific and intellectual potential, were free to employ her energies to the solution of these problems, she would discover anew the soul and spirit which have motivated her in the past. For the true intent of the Zionist and pioneering movement was to create and build life in the spirit of a great human vision and not with the heat of a nationalistic fanaticism, which feeds on spiritual, moral, and emotional isolation.
The Status Quo: A Wrong Choice
The continuation of the status quo has not been forced upon us. Instead of insisting on negotiating for the quality of peace, for exact guarantees to preserve a peace agreement, for ways to demilitarize the evacuated territories, we have insisted on negotiating the quantity of border changes. For the sake of annexation of the territories we occupy we are sacrificing, unintentionally, our true security, the quality of our society, our free progressive spirit, our internal integrity and unity, and economic, social, and spiritual well-being.
An Exchange on Zionism November 30, 1972