HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

June 18, 2007
Four Letters on the 40th Anniversary
of the Six Day War and Occupation
and on What Israel Could Help Do for Peace

James Adler


I

Professor Maxine Rodinson of the University of Paris, in her anti-Zionist work "Israel and the Arabs" (1968), lived and wrote at a time of the 1967 war and so knew what it was about.  She notes the basic fact that the Arabs had promised Israel "a thousand deaths, with the most exquisite refinements in the description of his impending annihilation, of the revenge which must surely come, of the cruelties he would be made to suffer.  The caricaturists set to with relish; one would have to go back to the war of 1914-1918 to find anything to compare with these vengeful drawings, in which the enemy is depicted in the most odious guise, and his forthcoming demise horribly prefigured ...  The threats issued by the Arab radio and press reached paroxysms of violence." (197-9).

No wonder that Abraham Joshua Heschel could write in the summer of 1967, after the victory (--in "Israel: An Echo of Eternity"--): "July, 1967 ... I have discovered a new land.  Israel is not the same as before.  There is great astonishment in the souls.  It is as if the prophets had risen from their graves.  Their words ring in a new way.  Jerusalem is everywhere, she hovers over the whole country.  There is a new radiance, a new awe." (5)

Why can't people both oppose the occupation (as I do) and still accept the importance of the 40th anniversary of war and deliverance? Also, as far as anniversaries go, 2007 is:

  • the 40th anniversary of Israel's summer of 1967 offer to relinquish the occupation for peace.
  • the 40th anniversary of the Khartoum Conference's refusal of the offer with the "3 Nos" -- no  to recognition, no to peace, no to negotiations.
  • the 15th anniversary  of the 1992 beginning of the Oslo talks, one of Israel's many later attempts to relinquish the occupation.
  • the 7th Anniversary of Yasir Arafat's refusal of Ehud Barak's generous peace offer, including the relinquishment of East Jerusalem.

Israel still needs more than ever to withdraw, but people abroad also need to realize that she has already tried a number of times.  And that 2007 is also the time celebrate the 40th anniversary of the victory over annihilation.

(An abridged version appears in the June 5 issue of The Jerusalem Post)


II

Re: Hillel Halkin, The Waiting Game, Commentary, March 2007, p. 17-23

Hillel Halkin eruditely suggests Israel is in a waiting game, but may I suggest there are some things Israel could do in the meantime that would not compromise its security, but win the hearts of Europe and the West,  and regain the confidence and committedness of moderates in the Arab Middle East.

1.  It could un-declare the annexation (not the occupation, just the annexation) of East Jerusalem.

2.  It could un-declare the Occupied Territories to be "disputed," and instead acknowledge they are Palestinian.  To declare them disputed says to the world (and, if one may be permitted to put in this way, to Justice), that Israel, though having 80% of historical Palestine, and the Palestinian refugees 20%, is not satisfied, and would like as much of the remaining 20% as possible.  How can this help looking to the responsible part of the world? And to Justice?

3.  It could un-declare the annexation (not the occupation, just the annexation) of the Golan Heights. (Halkin intensifies Israel's mistakes by suggesting Israel may even as much right to the Golan Heights as Syria, when the responsible world cannot help noting that Syria and Arabs have populated the Heights continuously for thousands of years.)

4.  It could begin the process of removing all settlements from the Palestinian territories except for the large adjacent blocs that it may want eventually to try to exchange for equivalent amounts of Israeli territory.  When the waiting game is over and the time comes, this would get Israel ready to make a deal.  It would not compromise Israel's security since, first, the outlying settlements weaken rather than consolidate Israel's security, and, second and more important, it would not involve ending the military occupation and withdrawal of the IDF, just the settlements. This act would not only be the strategically valuable and peace-eventuating and reputation-building, but also the just and right thing to do.  As with the occupation, there has to remain the question of how, having 80% of historical Palestine, that Israel then putting 500,000 settlers in the remaining 20% cannot but help look to the responsible world and to Justice.

5.   It could re-submit the Barak and Taba proposals, which after Arafat's rejection of them, it removed from the table.

6. It could negotiate on the basis of the Arab League peace plan, which after Israel's rejection of them, in a significant *contrast* with Israel's behavior after Taba, the Arab League *did* leave standing on the table. (And Halkin does not even mention in his lengthy analysis the Saudi-Arab League peace plan.)

These six acts would restore Israel's international standing, especially in the Western and Arab worlds where it counts, they would look better to the face of Justice, and they would better prepare Israel for negotiations and for peace when the time comes.

(An abridged version appears in the current June issue of Commentary.)


III

Friends against almost all offered peace plans, including the current Saudi one:

We all want the best for Israel -- and the Palestinians -- but, as far as Israel goes, I see only three alternatives:

1. Israel's absorption of the West Bank and Gaza and either one people ruling over the other or a multinational state.

2. The continuing situation, leading to increasing frustration and radicalization of Israel's neighbors and another war, worse than last summer's, because it would also include radicalized governments of Jordan and Egypt, emboldened Syria, domestic intifadas, and Iranian or future Arab nuclear weapons.

3. The Saudi peace plan, modified so the refugees would return to the Palestinian state and Israel would keep the large adjacent settlements, with security guarantees to Israel from the UN, EU, Quartet, and - independently, for trustworthy ironclad security - the USA.

If conservative anti-peace-plan pessimists and cynics are right that peace plans will "never work," because they maintain that they see only two alternatives,

--  1.  a "Palestinian Terror State" 

   2.   Israel's absorption of the Territories  --,  

then, according to their conservative scenario of only a two-road alternative, how is Israel not doomed? 

Peace would then seem to be not some vapid idealism, but the most tough-minded necessity. And peace can never mean some nonexistent "peace in the abstract," but only the working out of a concrete peace plan (like the Saudi one).  

And before it is too late.

How without one -- and without one reasonably soon -- is not Israel eventually doomed? 

Conservative and cynical and pessimistic friends against almost all broached peace plans  -- a few of you (certainly not all of you) who also seem to delight in your cycnicism and pessimism about them -- what is the alternative ?

(Adapted from a talkback in the June 13 online Ha'aretz.)


IV

On this 40th anniversary of both the 1967 war and the occupation, Israel needs more than ever to withdraw.

It should be noted, however, that despite the Israeli right wing's unrealistic land claims and settlement expansion, Israel has already tried to withdraw a number of times.

Roger Cohen ("An anniversary and a stalemate," Globalist, June 7) is right to wish that we could celebrate an anniversary of the withdrawal this year. He doubtless realizes that most Israelis and Jews around the world agree.

And he is right that the United States and Europe need to assume a more focused role. Just as important, of course, the Palestinians and the Arab world have to take on a more cooperative and helpful role if we are to have peace anytime soon.

Let us hope the Saudi peace offer can offer a new hope for Israeli withdrawal and security, viable Israeli and Palestinian states, and peace - at last.

(In the June 7 issue of The International Herald Tribune).


............................................................................................................................................................................


Comment On This Article
(Please include your name so that we may publish your remarks.)


Return to the Table of Contents



Home           Contact Us           Mailing List           Archives           Books on Sale            Links



Articles may be quoted or republished in full with attribution
to the author and harvardsquarecommentary.org.



This site is designed and managed by Neil Turner at Neil Turner Concepts