Commentary Magazine


Israel and the United States: A Complex History

As an accompaniment to the celebrations of Israel’s 50th birthday, there has been much talk about the lifelong friendship it has enjoyed with the United States. No one refers any longer, as many once did, to Israel as the “51st state of the Union,” but there is a general impression in the air that throughout the first half-century of the Jewish state’s existence, the U.S. has always been its best, and sometimes its only, friend among the nations. Unquestionably this impression contains a good deal of truth, but the whole picture is rather more complicated and more ambiguous. Examined in the round, this picture is also much more instructive as to why and how a crucial mistake that was made in the past, and that is still being made in the present, might be corrected in the future.

In looking for a prime example of the complexity and ambiguity to which I refer, the military sphere is a good place to begin. For a long time now, the U.S. has been the main supplier of the advanced military technology that has enabled Israel to maintain an edge over any foreseeable combination of the hostile and much more populous states surrounding it in the Arab world. Yet astonishing as it seems in retrospect, in Israel’s War of Independence of 1948 it was not American military aid but arms from the Soviet bloc, coming mainly via Czechoslovakia, that enabled the newly declared Jewish state to fight off the invasion by five Arab armies hoping to nip this infant abomination in the bud. Weapons did reach Israel from the U.S. during the War of Independence, but they had to be smuggled in by private parties in defiance of an American embargo.

It was not because Stalin relished the idea of a Jewish state that he was so quick to help it survive a difficult birth, but because he saw in it a means of expelling British influence from the area: another retrospective astonishment is how worried Stalin was about British imperialism. Similarly with Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died by then but some of whose statements in his last years clearly pointed to the strange conviction that the moribund empire of the British posed a greater threat to the postwar order he envisaged than did the expanding empire of the Soviets. Harry Truman reportedly shared this view when he first became President after Roosevelt’s death in 1945. If so, he had learned better by 1947.

At this point in the story, three more great retrospective surprises show up. The first involves France. Within recent memory, France has been very sour in its attitude toward Israel. (President Charles de Gaulle, in a case if ever there was one of the pot calling the kettle black, once declared that the Jews were “an elitist people, self-assured and domineering.”) For the past three decades now, the French have also been friendly toward some of Israel’s worst enemies. Yet from 1956 until 1967, it was France, of all countries, that served as the main supplier of arms to Israel. The second retrospective surprise of this period and in this context is that the necessary deals were negotiated by a very hawkish young Israeli named Shimon Peres—he who would later develop visions of a “new Middle East” as a materialist Utopia in which everyone would strive to make money instead of war.

The third of the three retrospective surprises here concerns the U.S. As this was a time (the early 50′s through the mid-60′s) when the Soviet Union had long since abandoned its early support of Israel and had become the chief arms supplier of the Arab world—and in particular of the most fiercely anti-Israel states and radical factions within that world—one might have expected Washington to plunge enthusiastically into the gap. But no doubt because it did not want to write off these states altogether by seeming too closely associated with Israel, the U.S. was content to stand aside in favor of the French. Though it awarded Israel a certain amount of aid in the first decade of its existence, a full 95 percent of the money was earmarked for economic development and food. It was only in 1959 that formal military loans were first authorized, and those were very small.

The situation improved from the Israeli point of view after John F. Kennedy was elected President a year later, but not until the late 60′s did the U.S. assume the role it would thereafter play as Israel’s chief arms supplier. This lucky turn of events for Israel came in the nick of time, since in January 1969, France—resorting to one of those renversements des alliances at which it is so practiced—changed its policy and declared a complete embargo on the sale of military equipment to Israel.

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A similarly mixed account can be given of American activity in the diplomatic sphere—which has its own relatively independent dynamic but cannot, as we shall see, always be cleanly separated from the military.

For as long as many people can remember in these days of short memories, the U.S. has been Israel’s only defender in the endless debates at the United Nations and in other international bodies over resolutions condemning the Jewish state for every crime under the sun. From the number of hours spent on these debates over the years, one might easily have concluded that Israel, in addition to being solely responsible for the absence of peace and justice in the Middle East, was also the single most important obstacle to solving virtually every other problem on the face of the earth. Even meetings convened to discuss the rights of women, or the environment, or some other question totally unrelated to or remote from the Arab-Israeli conflict, became occasions for resolutions condemning Israel. The roving, versatile, and all-purpose assumption was that, whatever the offense being discussed or investigated, the Jewish state must be the guilty party.

In such debates, the U.S was usually the main dissenter, joined now and then by one or two tiny countries like Costa Rica and Barbados. Nations with greater heft, including America’s European allies, would as a rule either side with the majority against Israel or abstain, leaving the U.S. to use its veto (if the Security Council were the venue) or to voice an ineffectual and diplomatically weak protest while voting with the invariably tiny minority.

The most notorious of all these debates was undoubtedly the resolution condemning Zionism as a form of racism, passed in November 1975 by the General Assembly (where, of course, the United States has no veto). Given that racism had already been defined by the UN as a crime, and given, too, that Zionism was Israel’s very raison d’être, this resolution in effect convicted Israel of being an outlaw state. It thereby made a mighty contribution to the campaign on the diplomatic front of the Arab world’s war against Israel.

The main objective of this campaign (spearheaded and masterminded in those days by the Soviet Union) was not to force Israel into changing this or that policy or withdrawing from this or that piece of land. It was, rather, to stigmatize the Jewish state as illegitimate in its very essence. Being illegitimate, it had no right to defend itself against attack, and if it did so, it was guilty of the added crime of aggression. As the then-President of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser, had put it shortly before the outbreak of the Six-Day War of 1967: “Israel’s existence is in itself an aggression.” Conversely, anyone who might launch an actual aggression of any kind against Israel, whether in the form of terrorist bombings or assault by regular military forces, was, in the topsyturvy conceptions of the UN, acting in self-defense and in accordance with international law.

As it happened, Daniel Patrick Moynihan was the American ambassador to the UN when the Zionism-racism resolution came up. Already notorious in Turtle Bay for his undiplomatic candor in defending his own country against defamatory attacks, Moynihan now denounced the “obscene” idea embodied in the Zionism-racism resolution in comparably forceful terms. In return, he was risibly accused of violating the proper norms of “courtesy and restraint” that, according to certain unnamed diplomats, otherwise always governed the proceedings in what had in fact become a veritable cesspool of anti-Israel rhetoric that could and frequently did spill easily over into plain old-fashioned anti-Semitism.

Moynihan also assembled a larger vote against the resolution than would probably have been the case if a less vehement or less savvy opponent of this Orwellian inversion of reality had been occupying the same office. Yet having been present during the vote, I well remember how grudging were those nations who followed the lead of the U.S. in voting no or at least abstaining.

One after another, their representatives marched to the platform to make speeches in “explanation of vote” that amounted to craven apologies for doing something that, they strongly hinted, went against the grain. One after another they marched to the platform to declare that they yielded to no one in their detestation of Israel’s crimes, justifying their negative votes in purely practical terms by arguing that the resolution would prove unhelpful in the quest for a “just” solution. And one after another they marched to the platform and left it without a word of moral criticism, let alone censure, of the monstrous lie that was being propagated before their very eyes. Apart from Israel itself, only the U.S., speaking through Moynihan, made the case that needed to be made against the resolution, and in language adequate to the occasion in its eloquence and its moral reasoning.

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Moynihan’s speech was the high point of American friendship toward Israel in the realm of public diplomacy up to that moment. But precisely because it constituted a high point, it became misleading when it was taken as a typical example of how the U.S. had conducted itself toward Israel in the past or how it would conduct itself in the future. To see how untypical it was, one had only to look at “the new ‘tone’ ” (as the New York Times, quoting anonymous “Arab diplomats,” approvingly described it) that would be set when, after only eight months, Moynihan resigned and was succeeded by William Scranton.

Losing no time in setting this new tone, Scranton used his very first speech in the Security Council to praise Ambassador Jamil L. Baroody of Saudi Arabia for “his inimitable wit and remarkable eloquence and, most important of all and truly and seriously, his very extraordinary knowledge of history.” Yet only a day or so before, Baroody had given the UN an example of these sterling qualities by declaring that The Diary of Anne Frank was a forgery and that the Holocaust would in time be exposed as a myth “just as it came out that the Germans did not eat babies when they invaded Belgium in World War I”—a war, incidentally, which Baroody, vividly demonstrating his “very extraordinary knowledge of history,” said the Zionists had forced Woodrow Wilson into entering.

Scranton’s language, going as it did beyond the routine hypocrisies of diplomatic courtesy into outright sycophancy, was clearly intended to announce that Moynihan’s conduct had been an unfortunate aberration and that things were now happily back to normal.

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Appalling though his obsequious words were, Scranton was right to imply that Moynihan’s wholehearted support of Israel had been something of an aberration. After all, the United States had not even been wholehearted about the establishment of Israel in the first place—and this is putting the case much too mildly. For if it had been up to George Marshall, then Secretary of State, Israel would never have been born; and when in 1948, in spite of his wishes and those of his colleagues and subordinates (and their counterparts in the Pentagon), the new Jewish state officially came into existence, Washington would not even have extended diplomatic recognition to it if Marshall had had his way. Evidently his generosity in sponsoring a plan to help the peoples of Europe recover from the ravages of World War II did not extend to the one people who had been the most ravaged of all.

It was only because Marshall’s objections, and those of the “Arabists” who dominated his department, were overridden by his boss, President Harry Truman, that the United States recognized the new Jewish state, and then only after Stalin (in the diplomatic part of his policy to get the British out) had already beaten him to the punch.

Moving on to the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower, we find a much greater coolness in the White House toward Israel than was the case when Truman occupied the Oval Office. But we also find at least as much unfriendliness in the State Department under its new head, John Foster Dulles, as had been evident under Marshall.

The key event here occurred when (to continue with the retrospective surprises of which there seem to be no end in this story) the Israeli army took part along with England and France in the Suez campaign of 1956. Eisenhower, who was no less firmly convinced of the evils and dangers of European colonialism than Roosevelt had been, responded angrily. In addition to being, or perhaps only pretending to be, morally outraged, he was also anxious, with the cold war in full swing, to win what came to be called the “hearts and minds” of the newly independent states of the third world so as to keep them out of the Soviet orbit. He therefore pressured the British and the French into abandoning their effort to topple Nasser for having taken over the Suez Canal.

The role assigned to the Israelis in the Suez campaign had been to invade and occupy the Sinai desert, which they proceeded to do. It went without saying that Eisenhower would be even more furious with these annoyingly brazen Jewish upstarts than with old and respected allies like the British and the French whom he reproached in tones of sad regret. It was with no regret, and on pain of various punishments, that he ordered the Israelis to withdraw—and withdraw they did. Meanwhile, Dulles, notoriously exposing his knowledge of Middle Eastern realities, wondered in public why the Israelis and the Arabs could not sit down and settle the dispute between them like “Christian gentlemen.”

Apart from questions of personal feeling, the Eisenhower administration’s animus against Israel stemmed from two main considerations. The first, obviously, was oil. Support of Israel, however limited in extent, served as an irritant in American relations with those countries in the Arab world (most notably Saudi Arabia) that were friendlier to Washington than to Moscow, and could potentially jeopardize the flow of cheap oil from the Middle East. The second was Soviet influence in the region. As I have already noted, the Soviets had by now switched from helping Israel as a way of expelling the British from the region to opposing Israel as a way of winning out over the U.S. in competing for the favor of the Arab states. With these two circumstances in mind, many people in the U.S., and especially in official Washington, and most especially within the State Department, thought it a species of political and strategic insanity to care as much about the approximately two million Jews living in one tiny country as about the 80 or so million Arabs living in more than twenty countries, some of which, moreover, were sitting atop the world’s greatest and most reliable reserves of oil.

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Under the Democratic administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, Washington became considerably warmer toward Israel than the Republicans under Eisenhower had been. Again leaving aside the role of personal feelings, it is undeniable that one reason for this change was the fact that the vast majority of American Jews were Democrats who lived in populous states like New York with large numbers of votes in the electoral college. Thus, even though they constituted a small minority in the population as a whole, Jews were a crucial constituency for the Democrats in any presidential election (and all the more so because they tended to turn up at the polls in exceptionally large numbers while also tending to be unusually generous with campaign contributions). Keeping them happy was naturally much more important to the Democrats than to the Republicans, and one way of keeping them happy was to be more favorably disposed toward Israel.1

But it would be foolish to conclude that domestic political considerations were the only or even the most important factor behind the Kennedy administration’s idea that a “strategic relationship” was called for with Israel. Such a conclusion would also be wrong, since the idea had originated not with Kennedy but—adding one more item to our ever-growing pile of retrospective surprises—with Eisenhower. Having first tilted against Israel for fear of abandoning the Arab world to the Soviets, Eisenhower now drew a more sophisticated analysis from his experience as President, and especially from his frustrating dealings with Nasser. As one writer has put it:

The idea of a strategic relationship between the United States and Israel emerged after the Suez crisis, when the Eisenhower administration realized that both countries had an interest in containing Nasser’s influence. Because the Eisenhower administration feared that the Soviets were gaining clout in some Arab countries, such a relationship was seen as useful in containing the Soviet Union as well.

Since Kennedy fully agreed with this view of the American national interest, domestic political considerations conveniently undergirded what the strategic necessities of the cold war dictated. Following through, the U.S. now for the first time supplied Israel with sophisticated weapons and committed itself to maintaining Israeli military superiority in the region. The hope behind this policy was that compensating for Israel’s inferiority in numbers would maintain peace and stability by deterring any large new Arab assaults.

Still, if the White House became warmer, there was little change in the atmosphere at the State Department, where the Arabists among the career foreign-service officers remained the dominant presence at the Middle East “desk.” Dean Rusk, whom Kennedy appointed Secretary of State and who was then kept on by Johnson after Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, also took the department’s traditional view of Israel as a nuisance whose very existence created (as it were) a cross that American interests in the Middle East had no choice but to bear. But with the deepening involvement of the U.S. in Vietnam—a policy Rusk enthusiastically supported—his attentions were not for the most part drawn to the Middle East.

Not, that is, until 1967, when Nasser closed off the Straits of Tiran, thereby instituting a blockade of the port of Eilat, Israel’s only outlet to the Red Sea. Such a blockade had been instituted by Egypt before, and breaking it had formed one of Israel’s motives for joining with England and France in the Suez campaign. Hence Eisenhower and Dulles, in demanding that Israel pull out of the Sinai, had been willing to promise that action would be taken against any future efforts to close the Straits. Yet for two weeks after Nasser did just that, Johnson did nothing.

There was a kind of sick-joke aspect to Johnson’s uncharacteristic passivity. According to Lucius D. Battle, who had been the Assistant Secretary in charge of the Middle East under Dulles, the U.S. in 1967 was “unable to find the record of the meetings and the discussions of the 1956 period,” which, he said, “were, for economic reasons, stored in the Middle West—Cleveland, I believe—and were therefore not available when we needed them.” Thus “the obligations that Mr. Dulles undertook at the earlier time were unclear and unknown.” Battle recalled Dulles’s assurances as “vague,” but he acknowledged that the Israelis, whose “records of the conversations” were, unlike the U.S.’s, “readily available,” also “proved accurate.” Nevertheless, he added, “These assurances were weak reeds and meaningless in the face of crisis.”

Indeed they were. While the Israelis waited for the U.S. to honor what they had taken in good faith as a solemn commitment, Johnson instead declared an embargo on arms to the area (though it would later be claimed that at the same time he secretly sent military supplies of various kinds and even American pilots to Israel).

As the U.S. dithered, the armies of the Arab countries bordering Israel maintained themselves in a state of full mobilization, and Nasser and others issued a steady stream of bloodcurdling threats to destroy Israel and drive its Jewish inhabitants “into the sea.” Finally, persuaded that it was too risky to wait any longer for the blow to fall, Israel launched a preemptive strike, and in six short days went on to win one of the most brilliant victories in military history.

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Memories, as I have already had occasion to remark, are so short, and propaganda is so long, that it seems necessary at this juncture to stress what should be a self-evident point: namely, that only now, and for the first time, did the issue of “occupied territories” arise. Before the Six-Day War—and except for the very brief period after the Suez campaign when Israel sat astride the Sinai—the only territory “occupied” by Israel consisted of the state itself, within the constricted and crazy-quilt boundaries set by the armistice agreements that ended the War of Independence of 1948.

Not that this prevented the Arabs and their friends and apologists from harping as much on the injustices that Israel’s existence allegedly entailed as they would after 1967. The principal one before 1967 concerned the Palestinian Arabs who (in the Israeli version) had been encouraged in 1948 by their own invading “brothers” to flee from their homes, or (in the Arab account) had been driven out by the Israelis. In either case, several hundred thousand of them (the exact numbers have always been in dispute) now lived in squalid refugee camps in Jordan, the Gaza Strip (then under Egyptian control), and Lebanon. Always overlooked by everyone but the Israelis and their friends was that these refugees were living in such conditions only because the surrounding Arab states wanted to exploit their plight for political purposes instead of relieving it by resettling and absorbing them, as the Israelis had done with the roughly equivalent number of Jewish refugees (again the exact numbers remain in dispute) who had fled from those very states.

In the pre-1967 period, the Arab world made no bones about its intention of rectifying this injustice to the Palestinians by eliminating the cause—that is, by defeating Israel in war, expelling its Jewish inhabitants, and bringing the “rightful” owners of the country back to their land and to their original homes. Clearly this openly genocidal ambition could not be, and never was, endorsed by the U.S. (or, for that matter, by any other non-Muslim nation outside the Arab bloc, not even the Soviet Union in its most frenzied anti-Israel phases). But American policy, backed by establishment opinion in this country, which was in turn backed by important elements of the American Jewish community itself, met the Arabs at least part of the way by dwelling continuously on the refugee problem. The assumption was that the Arabs, in accordance with their own peculiar cultural norms, were exaggerating when they asserted that they wanted to get rid of the Jewish state altogether and had no intention of coexisting with it in any form. Surely they were more rational than that: surely they would be willing to accept the presence of a Jewish state in their midst if only some sort of reasonable compromise could be reached on the refugee problem and a few other sticky details.

After the Six-Day War, with Israel having conquered the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria, the focus shifted from refugees to land. In line with this shift, American diplomacy began concentrating on schemes for achieving a peace involving the return by Israel of the conquered territories (except for minor modifications to ensure greater security from attack) in exchange for recognition of the Jewish state by the Arabs. In the immediate aftermath of the Six-Day War, the Israelis were not yet seen as the obstacle to some such arrangement since they were only too eager to negotiate one. But instead of the phone call from Cairo that Defense Minister Moshe Dayan famously said he expected (“We are waiting for them to ring us up”), the Egyptians together with all the other Arab states issued their even more famous “Three No’s” at a conference in Khartoum in August 1967: “No peace, no recognition, no negotiations.”

In spite of this unequivocal declaration, the Arab states—here is still another retrospective surprise—were willing to accept Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967, which enshrined the very concept of land-for-peace that they had repudiated at Khartoum only three months earlier. The reason they could do this was that they interpreted 242 as requiring Israel to withdraw from all the territories before they themselves would consider agreeing not to a full peace but only—and at most—to a declaration of nonbelligerency. Interpreted in this way, the resolution was easy enough for the Arabs to swallow.

Although, incredibly (but in this instance not surprisingly, and certainly not so in retrospect), Israeli “intransigence” was almost always blamed, it was largely because of the position taken by the Arabs on 242 that nothing came of the many peace plans that were devised by American and Israeli “doves” both in and out of government. Some of these plans were simple and some were complicated; some were straightforward and some were ingenious to a fault. But none had any takers in the Arab world, which remained, if anything, even more fixated on the elimination of Israel within its post-1967 boundaries than it had been when the Jewish state was still confined to the narrower borders of 1948.

And why not? If it was “Israel’s existence in itself,” as Nasser had said then, that constituted the “aggression,” how much truer had this become now that the aggression had extended to even greater stretches of Arab land? Resolution 242 or no Resolution 242, there was not the slightest intention anywhere in the Arab world of accepting a sovereign Jewish state as legitimate and of making peace with it, no matter where its boundaries might be drawn and no matter what its policies might be.

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In 1968, Richard Nixon was elected President, succeeding Lyndon Johnson. Soon after taking office, he dispatched Baroody’s future admirer William Scranton to the Middle East and launched a new plan, named after his first Secretary of State, William Rogers, for making peace first between Israel and Egypt and then between Israel and the rest of the Arab world. By this point, the U.S., after eight years of Democratic rule, had been attacked over and over by the Arabs and their supporters as being biased in favor of Israel. Through both the Scranton mission and the Rogers Plan, Nixon was signaling a return to the “evenhandedness” of the Republican past.

Because this term was taken by Israel and its supporters as a euphemism for a tilt toward the Arabs, it caused much alarm. Yet in reality the Rogers Plan did not differ much to the naked eye from Resolution 242 in proposing Israeli withdrawal from Egyptian territory in exchange for a “binding commitment” by Egypt to “all the obligations of peace.” Be that as it may, this latest wrinkle on an old scheme proved no more successful than any of its predecessors, and neither did Nixon’s sporadic attempts to extend its principles to the other Arab participants in the war against Israel.

The stalemate continued throughout the remainder of Nixon’s first term and into the first year of his second, when Rogers was replaced by Henry Kissinger, previously National Security Adviser, as Secretary of State. Being Jewish, and hence subject to suspicions of pro-Israel bias, Kissinger had been kept away from the Middle East, but the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War of 1973 pushed him into it with both feet.

In contrast to what had happened in 1967, this time the Israelis were caught off guard by Egypt and Syria and came perilously close to suffering a calamitous rout. In the first two days of the war alone, 2,000 Israeli soldiers were killed and 340 captured, while 49 planes were shot down and 500 tanks destroyed. Frantic calls went forth from Jerusalem to Washington appealing for emergency military supplies to make up for these losses, and after some hesitation, the appeals were answered with a massive airlift that saved the day and helped Israel turn the tide.2

But no sooner had the tide turned than Israel was presented with a bill. Thanks in part to the airlift, and in part to the brilliant generalship of Ariel Sharon, who commanded that sector, the Israelis quickly had the Egyptian Third Army surrounded and could easily have crushed it. But they were prevented from doing so by Nixon and Kissinger, both of whom believed that only if Egypt emerged from the war with its honor intact could a reasonable postwar political settlement be negotiated. (Both were also eager to seize the opportunity of winning over Anwar Sadat, who had followed Nasser as President of Egypt and who had already run into conflict with his Soviet allies—an opportunity they would later exploit to great effect.) In other words, the Nixon-Kissinger policy was to prevent the Israelis both from losing and from winning big. Whatever the merits of this policy, the saving of the Egyptian Third Army was as necessary to its implementation as the airlift had been.

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Following the end of the Yom Kippur War, Kissinger embarked on two years of “shuttle diplomacy” that eventually resulted in the “separation” of Israeli forces from those of Egypt in the Sinai and of Syria on the Golan Heights. What Israel got in exchange for the concessions extracted from it in these negotiations were new supplies of advanced weapons. But it also got a commitment from the United States not to recognize or deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization until such time as it had changed its stripes by renouncing terrorism and recognizing Israel. In contrast to the commitment made by Dulles concerning the Straits of Tiran, this one was easily secured and willingly given. For the PLO was precisely the kind of radical Soviet-backed terrorist group that Kissinger saw as a threat to the stability he prized and that he was working to counter not only in the Middle East but in other parts of the world.

But Kissinger’s view of the PLO was by no means universally shared. On the contrary, as time went on, greater and greater currency was given to the notion that peace could be achieved if only Israel would drop its refusal to recognize the PLO as the “legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” If it were to do so, it could then safely remove its troops from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and just as safely permit a Palestinian state to be established there under the leadership of Yasir Arafat (whose gradual metamorphosis from terrorist to political moderate became a staple of pro-Arab and anti-Israel propaganda in the West).

This idea of a Palestinian state run by the PLO had by the mid-70′s become a new and very troublesome element in the situation. Originally, Israel was supposed to return the West Bank to Jordan and the Gaza Strip to Egypt, which had controlled them before 1967 and from whom they had been conquered.3 No mention was made of the Palestinians at all in Resolution 242, for example, and still less of their right to sovereignty over the territories.

In Israel, there was widespread support for one version or another (and there were many) of the “Jordanian option,” all of which entailed turning the West Bank over to King Hussein. But unfortunately for those who had invested their hopes in this idea, which they saw as a better solution to the Palestinian problem than either continued Israeli occupation or a PLO state, King Hussein in 1988 renounced any further claim to the West Bank (while Egypt, for its part, showed no interest in once again assuming responsibility for Gaza). And though he had never said a word about setting up a Palestinian state there while he had the power to do so, the King now declared himself in favor of such a state as the only way to satisfy the “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”

Nevertheless, those in the know kept assuring us that Hussein—fearing that a state run by the PLO would, even before making its move on Israel, try to take over his own country, which already contained a Palestinian majority—really did not mean what he said. But while they went on saying that he did not mean it, he went on saying that he did, and this counted for more than any secret assurances to the contrary he may have whispered into the eager ears of various journalists and politicians.

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In 1976, Jimmy Carter came to the presidency with an administration that was soon to disabuse anyone of the notion that “evenhandedness” was a Republican monopoly. The President himself, his Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, and his National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, were all firm believers (in Brzezinski’s case from way back, obsessively, and with a vengeance) in the need to get Israel out of the occupied territories and back to its pre-’67 borders, give or take a kilometer or two. Whereas Nixon and Kissinger tended to think in terms of the conflict as one between the Arab states and Israel, Carter and his people were convinced that the Palestinian problem was at its center and formed the “key” to its resolution. Accordingly, they made a much greater fuss over the building of Jewish settlements in the territories, which they regarded both as “illegal” and as the major obstacle to peace, not only with the Palestinians but with all the other states in the region.

All the more did the issue of settlements become a sore point in U.S. relations with the Israelis when, around the same time Carter was elected, Menachem Begin of Likud became the first non-Labor Prime Minister in the history of Israel. Though the Labor governments preceding Begin had inaugurated the policy of establishing a Jewish presence in the territories, their main rationale had been security. With Begin it was different. He was an old disciple of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of the Revisionist branch of the Zionist movement whose slogan in the pre-’48 debates over the boundaries of the future state had been “Both Banks of the Jordan.” As an unreconstructed Revisionist, Begin believed that the whole of the biblical Land of Israel (whose very heart was located on the West Bank, or what he insisted on calling by the biblical names of Judea and Samaria) rightfully belonged to the Israel of today. He was, therefore, not about to agree that there was anything wrong with encouraging Jews to live on land that formed part of their ancestral homeland.

So far as Begin was concerned, however, the Sinai was not part of Israel’s patrimony, which was why he was perfectly willing to give it up in exchange for a separate peace with Egypt. The groundwork for such a peace had been set by Nixon and Kissinger in wooing Sadat further away from the Soviet bloc and more and more deeply into the American camp; and in the eyes of most Israelis—though by no means all, either then or in the future—this retroactively justified the policy of saving the Egyptian Third Army that had in equal measure infuriated and mystified them at the time. (As an eyewitness, I can testify to how bizarre was the spectacle of supplies for the Third Army being allowed to pass through Israeli lines and under the guns and the gazes of Sharon’s bewildered troops.)

To come now to yet another retrospective surprise, Carter was at first furious over the prospect of bilateral negotiations between Egypt and Israel. His preferred objective was a more ambitious “comprehensive peace” involving all the Arab parties to the dispute, including even Syria, one of the most “rejectionist” of them all. Besides, he and his people feared that a separate peace would let Israel off the hook on the Palestinian problem which, to repeat (and the point was to prove so important that it cannot be repeated too often), they saw as the key to the larger goal on which they had set their sights.

In pursuit of that goal, Carter tried to bring the Soviet Union back into the picture by proposing a new Geneva conference that would be jointly chaired by the U.S. and the USSR. This incredibly stupid move was too much for Sadat, who had expelled his Soviet advisers from Egypt and whose every muscle since then had been bent on keeping them out of the picture. In order to head Carter off, Sadat took matters into his own hands by making a highly dramatic journey to Jerusalem. Pushed in this and other ways, including by his fellow Democrats in Congress, Carter finally gave up on the idea of a Soviet-American initiative and gave in to the idea of a separate negotiation between Egypt and Israel. In 1978, he invited the two nations to Camp David, where they eventually concluded the first peace treaty between any Arab state and the Jewish state to which all the others still denied recognition.

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One of the main reasons the negotiations at Camp David took as long as they did—even at one point breaking down altogether—was precisely that the Americans wanted to make sure that Israel would not be let off the hook on the Palestinian issue. Begin’s position was that the Palestinians could have autonomy but not sovereignty, while, in their heart of hearts, Carter and his people were already dreaming the dream of statehood. (Brzezinski, for one, had long been on record as approving a Palestinian state, and when years later I asked a former high official of the Carter administration if he too had secretly favored statehood back then, he answered with a big grin, “You bet I did!”)

But that the time was not yet ripe for translating the dream of Palestinian statehood into policy would become abundantly evident with the discovery in 1979—soon after the Camp David accords had already been concluded—that Carter’s ambassador to the UN, Andrew Young, had secretly met with a PLO official. This was an egregious violation of the commitment that had been made to Israel by Kissinger against any such dealings, and since this particular commitment had neither been forgotten by the American side nor hidden away in Cleveland, there was a huge outcry. However, even before the Young incident erupted, the political circumstances on which it cast so dramatic a light were clear enough, and they forced Carter and his people to settle for extracting promises from Begin concerning the widening of Palestinian self-rule in the territories and the narrowing of settlements there.

But the Carter administration—again in its heart of hearts and sometimes virtually in the words on its tongue—agreed with the Palestinians and their supporters that all Begin’s autonomy gave them was “the right to collect their own garbage,” and it soon began protesting that Begin was failing to keep the promises he had made at Camp David. Relations between the two governments now grew so ugly, and the tone taken by Carter toward Israel so acerbic, that when he ran for reelection against Ronald Reagan he became the first Democratic candidate in decades who failed to win a majority of the Jewish vote.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, now a Democratic member of the U.S. Senate (to which he had been elected from New York in 1976), ascribed Carter’s disastrous defeat in large measure to the fact that his administration had been guilty of “joining the jackals” at the UN.4 By this Moynihan meant that the Carter administration had acquiesced and even joined in votes designed to complete what the Zionism-racism resolution had begun—the stigmatizing of Israel as an illegitimate and outlaw state, the better to set it up for devouring by the predators already nipping at its heels.

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That Ronald Reagan had much warmer feelings toward Israel than Carter was obvious. He liked Israel for being democratic and he admired it for being spunky and tough. His first Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, was also far more sympathetic to Israel than Cyrus Vance had been. And Haig’s successor, George Shultz, who began his tenure with a suspicious attitude toward Israel, soon changed his mind and similarly became (in sharp contrast to his former business partner, Caspar Weinberger, now Secretary of Defense) a strong supporter. As for Reagan’s ambassador to the UN, Jeane Kirkpatrick—even granting that her Carterite predecessors (first Andrew Young and then Donald McHenry) were an easy act to follow, especially in this context—she would turn out to be the most forceful defender of Israel in that body since Moynihan.5

Yet exactly because of all this, the record of the Reagan administration is a perfect illustration of the complexity and ambiguity that have attended American relations with Israel even at their best. Consider what happened when Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear facility at Osirak in 1981. Later it would be recognized that Israel had done the world a great service by thus retarding Saddam Hussein’s development of nuclear weapons. But (the retrospective surprises continue to pile up even as we approach the present), it was under Ronald Reagan, and with a very unhappy and deeply embarrassed Jeane Kirkpatrick casting the vote, that the United States once again joined the jackals in a resolution condemning Israel’s action.6

There was a repeat a year later when Israel invaded Lebanon in the hope of driving the PLO out of the stronghold it had established there and from which it had been staging attacks on communities in the north of Israel. Reagan himself voiced sharp disapproval of this incursion once the casualties began to appear on television—and most particularly after massacres were perpetrated by Israel’s allies, the Lebanese Christian Phalange, against Palestinian Muslims in the refugee camps at Sabra and Shatilla.7 Furthermore, the Reagan administration decided to escort Arafat and what remained of his troops out of Lebanon and into a safe haven before the Israelis could catch up with them.

This was a kind of replay of what Nixon and Kissinger had done with the Egyptian Third Army in 1973, and there were those who came to believe that it ultimately had an analogously benign result. That is, it set the stage for the Oslo agreements between Israel and the PLO that would be negotiated in 1993 during the presidency of Bill Clinton. About that we shall see in due course. For the moment, however, what I wish to stress is that even under so great an admirer as Ronald Reagan, and even when it was acting in America’s interest as well as its own, Israel could not necessarily depend on wholehearted American support or approval.

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But worse—much worse—was yet to come when George Bush followed Reagan into the presidency in 1988. Adopting the nastiness of tone that had been latterly set by the Carter administration, the new President, his Secretary of State James Baker, and his National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft went Carter, Vance, and Brzezinski one better in what could only be described as their obsessive focus on the issue of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

For instance, when Yitzhak Shamir, who was now Prime Minister of Israel and who took the same view as his fellow Likudnik Menachem Begin on this issue, objected to the “freeze” demanded by Bush, the response from the White House was to announce that it would delay a previously promised loan guarantee needed by Israel to house Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union. As if this were not bad enough, the President of the most powerful nation on earth went on to portray himself as “one lonely little guy” up against “something like a thousand lobbyists on the Hill” who were working to prevent him from postponing the loan. For playing so blatantly into the canard that America’s alliance with Israel was based on the illegitimate manipulation of domestic politics by an all-powerful Jewish lobby, the “lonely little guy” won his delay. But he also called forth an avalanche of congratulatory mail so virulently anti-Semitic that it reportedly caused him to regret his use of so squalid a tactic.

This particular dispute arose after the end of the Gulf war, but there were no reports of presidential regret over another statement Bush had made in the same press conference that was even more unjust and offensive:

Just months ago, American men and women in uniform risked their lives to defend Israelis in the face of Iraqi Scud missiles, and indeed Desert Storm, while winning a war against aggression, also achieved the defeat of Israel’s most dangerous adversary.

Yet as Bush well knew, the only reason the Israelis had to be defended by Americans was that he himself had adamantly refused, against their persistent importunings, to allow them to defend themselves. “Over my dead body,” he had told a visitor who suggested that it might be a good idea to let the Israelis join the coalition he was then in the process of building to fight the Gulf war. If the Israelis were to enter the fighting, he said, the Arab members of the coalition would be driven out. Yet while the war was going on and Iraqi missiles were raining down on Tel Aviv, the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Kuwaitis, and even the Syrians let it be known more than once that they would stand by if Israel were to take defensive retaliatory action against Iraq.

Well aware of this (how could he not be when the information was published in the American press?), Bush twice seemed to relent. First, after much urging by Israel, he gave the green light to a commando raid—the kind at which the Israelis were so famously skilled—that would go after the Scuds hidden in the Iraqi desert even from the “smart” eyes of American planes. At the last minute, however, he changed his mind. Then he agreed to an Israeli air raid on Iraq that would make use of a special bomb cunningly designed to burrow its way by stages down to Scud bunkers buried deep in the earth.

The effectiveness of this weapon depended on flying dangerously lower than anyone in the coalition was trained to do. But a special group of Israeli pilots had been preparing for years to execute just such a maneuver and were raring to put it into practice. To do so, they needed the codes that would identify their planes to other allied planes in the sky and vice versa, and thus prevent them from shooting one another down. Once again changing his mind, Bush ordered that the codes be withheld just as the Israeli planes were waiting to take off. (The greatest irony of this episode is that, as we now know, the American-led coalition did not destroy a single Iraqi Scud during the war. The only targets found by its smart bombs were launchers and dummies.)

No, while Bush’s purpose before the war in keeping the Israelis out may honestly have been to hold the coalition together, this was not the case during the war itself. His motive then was to be able, at the proper time, to throw in the faces of the Israelis the very statement I have just quoted above. For this statement served as yet another way to bully them into accepting the settlement freeze and other conditions that were necessary to the peace conference in Madrid that Bush and Baker were for some mysterious reason more bent on convening than they were on making sure that Saddam Hussein would not soon recover from his defeat.

In this, if not with Saddam, they were successful. Even Yitzhak Shamir, perhaps the most stubborn leader Israel had ever had, agreed to go to Madrid once he had wrested a few face-saving concessions from Baker. No doubt Shamir yielded because he saw no way out and probably thought it best to buy time by pushing the old idea of Palestinian autonomy as an alternative to sovereignty.

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Nothing much happened either at Madrid or in the various conferences that were its progeny: between, on one track, Israelis and Palestinians (who the Israelis agreed to pretend were not representatives of the PLO) and, on another track, Israelis and Syrians. This was generally held by Bush and Baker, and everyone else, to be Shamir’s fault: he was, they all said, dragging his feet. For once, blaming Israel may have been justified. Shamir clearly had no faith in the “peace process” and was violently opposed on both ideological and strategic grounds to the Palestinian state toward which, in spite of continued denials by the American government, the process was implicitly—and deliberately—headed. Nor was he about to satisfy the other objective of the process—the return of the Golan Heights to Syria.

Yet once Shamir had set his feet on the path marked out by Madrid, dragging them became almost pointless. In a lecture during the period leading up to the Gulf war, I shocked my audience by saying that at this stage in their history, the Jewish people needed a “mean little prick who could say no,” and that God had answered this need by creating Yitzhak Shamir. But if I was in some sense right, it followed that when Shamir had said yes to staying out of the war and then yes again to Madrid, he tragically became a Jonah-like figure fleeing from his divinely appointed role.

Unlike Jonah in the belly of the whale, however, Shamir was not then “spewed out” into the same situation from which he had been trying to escape. Less than a year after Madrid, the Labor party behind Yitzhak Rabin ousted him, and he disappeared entirely from the political scene. With Baker and Bush thus relieved of the leader they most detested in all of Israel, the relations between the two countries turned from sour to sweet overnight.

And why not? The new Rabin government, with the hawk-turned-dove Shimon Peres as Foreign Minister, needed no prodding from the Bush administration to declare an immediate freeze on settlements. Nor was Rabin suspected of dragging his feet in the “peace process.” Unlike Shamir’s Likud, the Labor party of Rabin and Peres was apparently champing at the bit to “trade territory for peace,” both with the Palestinians in the West Bank and with the Syrians on the Golan Heights. In fact, so far as anyone could tell, there was nothing the Bush administration was ready to ask of Israel that the Rabin government was not prepared to give. If one might reasonably say that with Shamir in power Israel was being raped, one might also say that with Shamir out of the way the victim decided to lie back and enjoy it. And when, a little while later, Bush was ousted in his turn by Bill Clinton, what had become a consensual affair blossomed—if I may extend what will perhaps already have struck some as a tasteless metaphor—into a loving marriage.

And again why not? Without (so far as we know) a single direct push from the U.S., Rabin and Peres set off on the road from Madrid to Oslo and then from Oslo all the way to the White House lawn. There, under the beaming gaze of President Clinton, Rabin overcame his visible misgivings and disgust and shook the hand of Yasir Arafat, a hand still dripping with Jewish blood and soon to be dripping with even more. No American administration would have dared demand that Israel do this much this fast; indeed, for demanding a lot less, Bush and Baker had been widely accused of anti-Semitism.

Nor could Rabin have been elected if the voters of Israel had anticipated what would transpire on the White House lawn. Just the opposite: it was largely because he had a solid reputation as a hardliner that he had been chosen to lead Labor into battle with Likud, and it was largely because he had promised in no uncertain terms during his election campaign that he would never accept or deal with the PLO that he overcame the suspicions of excessive dovishness and insufficient concern for security that attached to his party. These suspicions were fueled by the not insignificant faction within Labor that had either openly or covertly associated itself with smaller parties like Meretz and organizations like Peace Now that were clamoring explicitly for just such a change in policy toward the PLO. The most prominent, not-so-secret member of that faction was Peres. But not Rabin: not in public and not in private.8 Hence there are those who say that it was only as a result of being outwitted by the more cunning Peres that Rabin was maneuvered into changing his mind and breaking his campaign promises.

_____________

 

But whether Rabin was maneuvered by Peres or by his own inner drives, it does seem to be true that Peres had been in on the secret negotiations at Oslo between Israel and the PLO before Rabin was ever apprised of them. It has also been reported, and may also well be true, that Rabin was at first angry over these negotiations and that (in one account) he demanded they be called off or (in another) acquiesced in their continuation but resisted endorsing them until the last possible minute.

If, as I am inclined to believe, the latter version is accurate, it is highly unlikely that he stopped resisting because he accepted Peres’s rationale. No one who knew Rabin could possibly imagine that he would fall for the vision Peres had developed of that Utopia to which the end of the cold war and the dissolution of the Soviet Union were supposedly giving birth. But then again, who would have predicted that Peres himself would ever undergo so radical a transformation from hawk to dove—a conversion that in American terms would be comparable to Scoop Jackson’s turning into George McGovern? Not I, certainly, and I had known him better and for an even longer period than I had known Rabin.

What then had happened to Peres, and why did Rabin go along with him? After all, the two of them, together with virtually all Israelis of whatever political persuasion, had always understood in the past that the threat to Israel derived not from anything they themselves did or failed to do, but from the refusal of the Arab world to reconcile itself to the presence in its midst of a sovereign Jewish state of any size or shape or political character. They had always understood that until the Arab world made its own peace with the existence of Israel, there was no way Israel could make peace with the Arab world. If Israel remained strong enough to discourage or, if necessary, defeat any coalition of Arab countries that decided to try the “military option,” they might eventually give up their hope of eliminating the Jewish state from the region. But short of that, there was little Israel could do to force the pace of a development that might some day come about but that showed no convincing sign as yet of really beginning to materialize.

The foreign ministries and the opinion leaders of practically every other nation on the face of the earth, including the U.S., saw it all differently. To them the war that had in one form or another been waged by the Arabs against the Jewish state from the moment of its birth had been transmuted through another bit of Orwellian alchemy into a war by the Jewish state against the Arabs. To them the determination expressed by the Arabs to wipe the Jewish state off the face of the map was just empty rhetoric (or “rodomontade,” to use the notorious term Hannah Arendt had applied to analogous declarations by Adolf Eichmann). To them the main, and even the sole, obstacle to peace was Israeli “intransigence.” To them, it was up to the Israelis to make peace with the Arabs, not the other way around.

My theory is that what happened to Rabin and Peres, and approximately half of the population of Israel along with them, was that, after a lifetime of knowing better, they finally bought into the world’s version of their conflict with the Arabs. They did so because after living all that time in a state of siege punctuated again and again by bloody and costly military eruptions, they had become war-weary; they did so because after being pounded without let-up by the moral pressures relentlessly exerted on them by just about everyone in the world, they had become doubtful of the justice of their own position; they did so because they had finally lost a war—the war known as the intifada—and were demoralized by the experience; they did so because they were then further demoralized, and humiliated, by the Gulf war, when for the first time in their history they were prevented from retaliating against attack and had to cower in their gas masks and sealed rooms behind the forces of others; they did so because a loud and articulate segment of their young people, unwilling to go on living under the conditions that their parents and grandparents had accepted as the price of statehood, seemed sure that there was no longer any good reason for those conditions to persist.9

_____________

 

I very much doubt that these were the things Rabin or Peres had consciously in mind in explaining to themselves their own conversions to a point of view they had always known to be false. Instead, each after his own character, they developed fancy rationalizations. Peres’s I have already described, but Rabin’s is harder to pin down because, unlike Peres, he never openly expressed it. Even so, on the basis of what I, as well as others more intimate with him, heard Rabin say in private, I would speculate that it had to do with his stress on the overriding importance of Israel’s strategic relationship with the U.S.

Rabin persuaded himself, I would guess, that unless he endorsed Oslo and went to the White House lawn, he would jeopardize that relationship, and that this would prove more dangerous to Israel than a Palestinian state ruled by Arafat or a Syrian army on the whole of the Golan Heights. The Palestinians—and this, at least, is something he openly said—were not an “existential” threat to Israel; not so openly, he apparently also talked himself into the notion that he could remove the Syrians from the strategic equation merely by returning the Golan Heights to them.

Having accomplished this, he would be in a position to deal with the real threat which, in his view, now came from the missiles of Iraq and Iran. Meeting that threat, however, depended on continued access to the advanced weaponry from the U.S. without which Israel would wind up naked unto its most dangerous enemies. To please Washington thus became more urgent than any other consideration.

This theory puts the best possible face on a superficially realistic policy, but in my judgment it was based on the same illusion as Peres’s fantasies of a new Middle East. Yes, Iraq and Iran—with their biological and chemical weapons and the missiles to deliver them—posed a new kind of threat to Israel, but that did not mean that the old threat was no longer there. Not even the threat from Egypt, the first—and at that point the only—Arab state to make peace with Israel, had entirely disappeared. Since the assassination of Sadat, the peace treaty he had signed with Israel at


Footnotes

1 It should be noted, however, that American Jews were then by no means as united in their support of Israel as they would become after 1967. Many approved of Eisenhower’s policy in the Suez crisis, and many others were in general either relatively indifferent to Israel or unfriendly to it. All this changed in 1967, when what I was to call the “Zionization of American Jews” would take place—a process that would then be further strengthened by the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

2 At the time there was a great dispute over whether it was Kissinger or James Schlesinger, the then-Secretary of Defense, who was responsible for the delay. Without going into all the details, I will simply say here for the record that I was on the side of those who blamed Kissinger but that I later changed my mind as a result of private conversations with Kissinger himself, Simcha Dinitz, who was then Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., and Yitzhak Rabin, who was then Israel’s Minister of Defense. In any case, the real hero of this episode from the Israeli point of view was Richard Nixon who, once apprised that obstacles were being put in the way, ordered in no uncertain terms that the Pentagon carry out the airlift immediately, no matter what.

3 The Golan Heights did not come in here, for the simple reason that no Palestinians lived there. Moreover, no one in Israel then contemplated surrendering them to Syria and thereby once again exposing the northern part of their country to the mercies of Syrian guns.

4 See Moynihan’s article, “Joining the Jackals: The U.S. at the UN 1977-1980,” COMMENTARY, February 1981.

5 This was not, I hasten to say, necessarily predictable from the fact that both got their jobs through articles in COMMENTARY. Moynihan’s “The United States in Opposition” (March 1975), on the basis of which Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford appointed him ambassador to the UN, contained only a passing reference to Israel. Kirkpatrick’s “Dictatorships and Double Standards” (November 1979), which led to her appointment by Reagan, did not mention Israel at all. It is true, however, that the strongly anti-Communist and the proudly nationalist world view shared by the two articles and their authors, as well as their joint refusal to sit still for anti-American and anti-Western nonsense, would naturally incline them to sympathize with the only democratic country in the Middle East and one of the few reliable friends of the United States in that volatile region.

6 Kirkpatrick richly made up for following the orders of her superiors on this matter by becoming, both during the remainder of her UN term and then as a speaker and a writer, one of the most passionate, enthusiastic, and consistent defenders of Israel in the world.

7 Here, too, the world, including the U.S., treated Israel as the guilty party. As Begin is said to have bitterly remarked, “Christians come to murder Muslims, and everyone blames the Jews.” (According to other reports, what Begin actually said was cruder: “Goyim kill goyim and they blame the Jews.”)

8 To add my own little tidbit to the historical record here, during the election campaign I had dinner in New York with Rabin, whom I had known since 1967. I took the occasion to vent my anxiety over the growing influence of the left-wing faction within his party that favored Palestinian sovereignty on the West Bank and Gaza and Syrian sovereignty on the Golan Heights. He responded by telling me not to worry, that he could handle those people, and that he “hated” them—that was his exact word—even more than I did. He never said anything quite that blunt to the Israeli voters, but they got the idea anyway. Many who voted for him therefore became very bitter when he began breaking his promises, and the most bitter of all were the residents of the Golan Heights. Unlike the settlers in Judea and Samaria, the people on the Golan were mostly veteran members of the Labor party and therefore felt that they were being betrayed by one of their own. When Rabin was later assassinated by a religious fanatic, the charge was made that the right wing had created the incentive for such an act, but the anti-Rabin posters I saw on the Golan Heights in 1993 and the words I heard spoken there were far uglier and more menacing than anything I encountered in Judea and Samaria.

9 Here another bit of personal testimony may be useful. A few months before the Oslo agreement was signed but when the substance of it was already becoming known through leaks, I gave a talk in Jerusalem explaining why I believed that the “peace process” was a formula for war rather than peace. (The case I made was much the same as the one I would make in a series of pieces in COMMENTARY over the next months and years.) The audience was largely composed of academics and intellectuals who—being academics and intellectuals—were, of course, overwhelmingly in favor of the process, but from the intentness with which they listened to what I had to say, it was clear they were not as confident of their dovish position as they sometimes sounded. This impression was confirmed when the objections they raised during the question period turned out to be surprisingly few and mild. But what most surprised me was the statement made by a distinguished professor at the Hebrew University who was also a leading dove. “I agree with every word you say,” he declared, “but unless we show that we are doing everything we can to make peace, our sons will jump out of their tanks when the next war comes.”

10 This experience did not shake Friedman’s prior conviction that the Arab world was ready to accept Israel; all it did was elicit an exhortation from him to the Moroccans who were making such statements to bring themselves up to date and get with the program.

11 MEMRI@erols.com.

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About the Author

Norman Podhoretz has been writing for COMMENTARY for 56 years.




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