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Pan-Arabism on the March?: Israel Weighs the New Challenge

- Abstract

THE recent moves toward Arab unification, though generally thought to have placed Israel-Arab relations on a new footing, have in reality changed very little. To be sure, the proclamation of a full union between Egypt and Syria on the first day of February, followed by the formal establishment of the “United Arab Republic” by plebiscite three weeks later, had a mixed reception in Jerusalem. But then Israel’s attitude to the whole question of Arab unity has never been clearly and authoritatively formulated-largely because the Arab countries themselves have never taken the subject very seriously.

Inter-Arab discords, which the creation of the Arab League in 1945 did nothing to alleviate, are more deep-rooted and linked to interests more vital than is generally admitted. The rise of Egypt as a rival to Iraq in the struggle for ascendancy in the Arab world-a development dating back as recently as the mid-40′s-merely sharpened these differences. The Arab states’ concerted invasion of Palestine in 1948 not only failed to achieve any tangible results, but, quite typically, produced an even more pronounced split between Egypt and the countries of the Fertile Crescent, especially the two Hashemite kingdoms of Iraq and Jordan. Yet Israel has gained nothing from her neighbors’ rivalries, since whenever their rulers wanted to demonstrate their loyalty to Pan-Arabism, all they had to do was to step up their anti-Israel propaganda-or so they thought. These rivalries have thus resulted in the strengthening of anti-Israel sentiment in both Arab camps, who keep trying to outdo each other in bellicose statements directed against the Jewish state.

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