To the Editors:
For the fourth time since its creation, Israel is engaged in battle with the neighboring Arab world. It is a battle which is uneven in two respects. In the first place, if Israel wins, the Arab world will endure; if the Arabs win, Israel will cease to exist. Secondly, there is no equivalence in the forces engaged. Syria and Egypt have drawn on enormous forces, both of manpower and matériel. Sixteen other Arab countries have expressed their solidarity with them, and a number have already sent units of their armed forces to join in the battle. Israel faces this situation as a small people fighting on its own. Nearly all of our students, and most of our colleagues, are today in uniform.
We, the undersigned, have always used our right as free men to express our views on our country’s policies, both external and internal; and some of us have disagreed with some of these policies in the past. Today it is clear to all of us beyond any shadow of doubt, that Egypt and Syria prepared this attack over a long period, and deliberately chose to launch it on the Day of Atonement, the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar.
It is equally clear to us that, though aware of the Egyptian and Syrian plans, the Government of Israel chose to abstain from a preemptive strike, and rather to do all it could to avert the danger by a diplomatic effort.
The real issue today, as it was in 1967, is the determination by Egypt and Syria to destroy Israel.
We are doubly convinced that the road to meaningful negotiations for a peaceful outcome has always been open to the Arab states. Had that road been taken by the Arab states, the response of our people and our government would have been such as to ensure that every conceivable step to bringing these negotiations to a mutually acceptable and positive conclusion would have been made by us.
The Egyptian and Syrian attack against us on the Day of Atonement has led us to the painful conclusion that the policy of the present governments of the Arab states is to go to any length to destroy the existence of Israel.
There can be no peace in the Middle East, unless the right of our people to independence and continued existence in Israel is fully recognized by our neighbors.
There can be no peace until the Arab states change their policy, and understand that the future of the Middle East must take the form of peaceful co-existence between them and Israel.
The cause of organizing a peaceful world is based on the right of all peoples to free existence and harmonious national self-expression and self-government. These rights cannot be denied to Israel and its people.
For this reason, we feel that it is the duty of free men throughout the world who cherish the cause of peace and see it as a pre-condition for humanity’s survival and development to insist on the overriding duty of the Arab states to recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace, and to demonstrate this by agreeing immediately to meet the representatives of Israel for discussion and negotiation.
The Arab doctrine of prior agreement by Israel to withdraw from territory is illogical and unacceptable. Everyone of us is wholly convinced that our very existence today—that we have been able, at considerable cost in lives, to withstand Egyptian and Syrian assault and turn it back—is due to the fact that this doctrine was rejected by us. The way in which the Egyptian and Syrian attack was prepared and launched must convince the world that this rejection was thoroughly justified.
The argument has been heard that having suffered military defeat in the past, the Arabs cannot be expected to negotiate with Israel without a “gesture” from Israel. The “gesture” demanded has been that Israel should place the Arabs unconditionally, and before any agreement or commitment on their part, in a condition where, as experience shows, it would be made easier for them to attack Israel. We cannot agree that this is morally acceptable or practically feasible. Nor should the world agree. For this fourth time since 1948, we have seen our country besieged and attacked, our friends and relatives killed; we have been the target of terror on a world-wide scale; yet today, when everyone of us has members of his family, students, and colleagues at the front, we say that we remain ready for a peace process with our Arab neighbors. A peace process must mean mutual recognition, with peaceful co-existence as its goal, achieved by free negotiations. In the circumstances which have arisen, the secure nature of the agreed boundaries is, more than ever, seen to be imperative. The nature of the territorial settlement will only emerge as a function of mutual trust.
We address ourselves to our colleagues, to students, and to men of good will all over the world in the hope that they will use their influence to the utmost to bring home to the Arab countries the demand of the world that the language of hate and vilification, and the dialogue of war, must be replaced by the dialogue of peaceful co-existence.
Shlomo Avineri, Joseph Ben-David, Ernst Bergmann, Aryeh Dvoretzky, Samuel Eisenstadt, Saul Friedlander, Natan Goldblum, Jack Gross, Yeho-shafat Harkabi, Avraham Harman, Alex Keynan, Don Patinkin, Joshua Prawer, Michael Rabin, Nathan Rotenstreich, Gershom Scholem, Moshe Shilo, Garbriel Stein, Jacob Talmon, Ephraim Urbach, and David Weiss.
The above signatories are on the staff of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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The Mideast War: A Reply November 29, 1973