Commentary Magazine


Middle East Policy

To the Editor:

Anthony Hartley [“The U.S., the Arabs & Israel,” March] has omitted the two political arguments which weigh most heavily in American considerations in the Middle East. First, everybody wants to be pro-Arab: Russia, France, Britain, Greece, and, more important, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Ceylon, Malaya, Indonesia. . . . Why should the United States antagonize all the pro-Arab “neutralists” by backing Israel? The U.S. is unpopular enough without maintaining another unpopular pose in the Middle East. Secondly, there is the argument that within the Middle East itself America can count on the permanent enmity of fourteen Arab states if she sides with Israel, but if Israel were to be destroyed, then she could probably have the backing of about half of these states. . . .

Mr. Hartley has also wrongly assessed the supposed pro-Israel stance of the Johnson government. The public utterances of Johnson and Rusk were far more hostile to Israel than those of Nixon and Rogers, while the warnings, threats, and censures of Israel by the State Department and in the Security Council were much more frequent during the Johnson administration

It is idle to imagine that the United States would have come to the assistance of Israel during the Six-Day War if conditions warranted it. The blocking of the Straits of Tiran warranted it, but all the Johnson government could do was suggest conferences. . . .

The fact is that ever since Truman, American administrations have been basically pro-Arab but have been prevented from expressing this policy by the prior and unprincipled presence of Russia, especially in Egypt. . . . A confused America doesn’t know what to do. . . .

This American hesitancy (her so-called “balanced” policy) was the chief cause of the 1967 war and remains the chief cause of continuing Arab belligerence and intransigence and, in fact, of the continuing conflict in the area. A firm and determined diplomatic support for Israel would compel Russia and her Arab allies to make peace, but America cannot make such a determined stand; she declines to choose; she would prefer to have her decisions made for her after the event, after the next explosion. . . .

S. Levin
Johannesburg, South Africa.

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