Middle East Peace

Middle East Peace
Author(s): Hubert H. Humphrey and George Ball
Source: Foreign Affairs, Vol. 56, No. 1 (Oct., 1977), pp. 221-225 Published by: Council on Foreign Relations
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To the Editor:
During the years of my involvement in foreign policy matters, I have often

had the opportunity of checking my conclusions against those of my good friend George Ball. We have generally been on the same side, both as to analysis of a

particular problem and as to the conclusions one should reach with regard to American policy. It is for that reason that I have for some time been wondering why he and Idon’t seem to see things the same way with regard to the problems

of the Middle East. The initial intense reactions here to the recent elections in Israel, followed by what appears to have been a “successful” visit to this country

by Prime Minister Begin, lead me to air that concern.
Mr. Ball’s article in the April 1977 issue o? Foreign Affairs, entitled “How to

Save Israel in Spite of Herself,” illustrates our points of difference. It appears to be a disagreement in our analyses of the underlying problem.

The critical issue of difference often wonder why so many people point where it belongs: right up

is a simple one. It is, in fact, so simple that I

there is going to be a peace conference,

who front.

write on the Middle East fail to place this

must come prepared to make peace.
When I use the word “peace,” I don’t mean a state of armed truce. Imean the

word that describes the state of affairs that people normally have inmind when

they use the word “peace,” whatever the language may be that they speak. The Arab language has two different words that can be translated into the word

“peace.” The concept that I have inmind iswhat the Arabs call “sulch.” In the context of the Middle East, President Carter has spelled out the first prerequisite
of sulch :

the recognition of Israel by her neighbors, Israel’s right to exist, Israel’s right to exist permanently, Israel’s right to exist in peace. That means that over a period of months
or years that the borders between Israel and Syria, Israel and Lebanon, Israel and Jordan, Israel and Egypt must be opened to travel, to tourism, to cultural exchange, to

trade, so that no matter who the leaders might be in those countries, the people

themselves will have formed a mutual and and a sense understanding comprehension

of a common purpose to avoid the repetitious wars and death that have afflicted that






If there are to be peace negotiations, the parties that come to that conference


As amatter of fact, George Ball does offer a very similar definition of peace in his article. His “comprehensive plan of settlement” would:

establish as a firm precondition that Israel’s neighbors explicitly recognize her as a Jewish sovereign state, and that they commit themselves unequivocally to respect

freedom of navigation in the waterways of the area for Israeli ships as well as cargoes, permit free movement of peoples and trade, and take other specified measures to assure full political, economic and cultural intercourse.

The remarks of the President at Clinton, Mass., on March 16, 1977. Text reproduced inWeekly

Compilation of Presidential Documents, Vol. 13, No. 12, p. 361, March 21, 1977.

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He goes on to suggest that the Arabs:


same way.
Some of the writers critical of Israel have argued that demanding full recogni

must accept arrangements through leasehold or otherwise to provide Israel control over access to the Gulf of Aqaba by the maintenance of an adequate garrison at Sharm El Sheikh, accept the demilitarization of the Golan Heights, and agree to the injection of neutral forces into that area and into other buffer zones on a basis such

that they cannot be withdrawn without the agreement of both sides.

He also appears to favor linking aWest Bank Palestinian Arab state formally

to Jordan.
Where the problem arises is in the article’s suggestion that the principal

obstacle standing in the way of achieving such a settlement is Israeli intransig

ence. Israel, it says, prevents “possible progress toward peace” because “she refuses to give up the territorial gains from her 1967 conquest.” The reason why

the parties are not negotiating, the author believes, is that the Israelis “are insisting that the retention of substantial areas of their post-1967 territories is

essential to their security” and that the Arabs are “not offering unequivocal assurances of full recognition of Israel.” Neither side, he says, is thus prepared

to make the first move.
I have followed Middle Eastern developments closely ever since I first came to

the Senate in 1949.1 have been in touch with the situation ever since, have visited all the lands in question, and have talked to a great many interested persons, both Arabs and Israelis. I simply don’t see the cause-and-effect relationships in

tion constitutes insistence on an unnecessary legalism. I have also heard it said

that Israel is insisting on “political concessions” as a precondition to negotiations. These criticisms obscure the central key word: peace. The necessary first

moves to solve the Middle Eastern problem must be, as I see it, a commitment by both sides to an effort to reach an agreement that will result in peace? sulch. Israel has, I believe, made such a commitment. The Arabs have apparently not

done so.
This stark and simple fact becomes clear when we examine even the most

recent statement of so moderate and intelligent an Arab leader as Egyptian President Sadat. As late as April 6, 1977, in the same month George Ball’s article appeared, he insisted he was not offering Israel anything other than that “the

state of belligerency will end.” President Assad of Syria has recently reasserted his declarations of enmity against Israel in an interview with Danish journalists.

How can we expect Israel to announce prior to any negotiations that she is

willing to give up large areas of territory, tomove to amilitarily more vulnerable


if the other side, instead of committing itself to peace, merely suggests that itmight consider moving to what is, in effect, a state of nonbelligerence? I

am not sure to what extent such a state of nonbelligerence differs from what we have now. Israel has every right to believe, until effectively shown otherwise,

that what the Arabs are offering is a nonbelligerence signifying merely that they will not be fighting them today, but are leaving their options open for tomorrow.

What George Ball’s article stresses is that if Israel fails to withdraw from the areas occupied in 1967, another bloody war will ensue inwhich Israel’s losses will be great. I believe that Israel’s leaders in all of itsmajor political groupings are aware of the fact that this is so and are deeply concerned. But they firmly believe

that if Israel withdraws from the occupied territories and makes herself more


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vulnerable militarily without an Arab commitment to peace, another war will be

just as inevitable and Israel’s losses will be even greater. Such a concern is by no means an unreasonable one.

The experience of 1957, when President Eisenhower and Israeli Prime Minis ter Ben-Gurion confronted each other, an experience which George Ball cites with strong approval, is a case in point. We forced Israel to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula without obtaining a commitment to peace from Egypt. All we

offered Israel was our private commitment to preserve Israeli access to her port of Eilat. Ten years later, years of continuing strife, Nasser established his block ade of Eilat and we did nothing tangible about it.The result was the Six Day War.

It is the memory of the consequences of the 1957 withdrawal from the Sinai that causes somuch of the Israeli leadership and general public to refuse to endorse

the surrender of territories in the absence of an Arab commitment to peace. The United States helped draft and negotiate U.N. Security Council Resolu

tion 242 at the end of the Six Day War because we knew that the only assurance

of peace in the area was direct negotiation, leading to a formal peace treaty between the parties. Israel accepted the Resolution on that assumption. The

Resolution, reaffirmed by U.N. Security Council Resolution 338 after the 1973 war, did not and does not require Israel to withdraw from all the territory acquired through the 1967 war. Secure and recognized borders are to be arrived

at through direct negotiations. And we must remember that the pre-1967 borders brought all of inhabited Israel within range of Arab artillery.

The recent Israeli election outcome and the statements of Menahem
the leader of the Likud party, have caused concern among many who fear an

adverse effect on peace possibilities for the Middle East. But there is absolutely no basis for believing that if the Arabs sincerely seek peace, Israel will not be

sufficiently forthcoming for peace to be concluded. Mr. Begin has reaffirmed Israel’s commitment toU.N. Resolutions 242 and 338 and has publicly asserted a

desire to enter face-to-face negotiations with Israel’s neighboring Arab states on

all open questions in dispute.
We in the United States have had enough experience with elections, and I

personally believe I understand Israeli politics well enough, not to read any profound implications into the May 17 results. With all the domestic troubles that Israel has had in the last few years, inflation, strikes, charges of corruption

in government, it is not surprising that there was a shift in public opinion from

the “ins” to the “outs.” There was also an unease about

foreign policy, particu

larly in the light of what then appeared to be confusing signals from Washing ton.

The new government is led by the Likud party, which is itself a coalition of

political groups. All the partners in that coalition appear to agree to Israel’s

willingness to negotiate with her Arab neighbors pursuant to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. This is also the position of the Labor Party and

the Democratic Movement for Change, the remaining major political groupings in Israel.

What I find truly inspiring about the spirit of the people of Israel is that 29 years after the creation of their state, 29 years in which the other side has been

unwilling to make peace, in which Israel has been both under military
under terrorist attack against her civilian population, the vast majority continues

to offer the hand of peace and friendship. It is time that that hand be clasped.

Ultimately, in a peace settlement, Israel will be expected to give up significant portions of the areas she occupied in 1967. Secure border adjustments are


attack and

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necessary and Jerusalem requires special attention. That, however, must under

standably come from negotiations and for peace.
Majority consensus in support of such a withdrawal can be reached in that

democratic little country. The government in Israel, whether Likud, Labor, or third party, can only make those decisions that the people are ready to accept.

That consensus would, I believe, be forthcoming if there is concrete assurance that peace will at last be established.

What we need in order to obtain aMiddle East settlement is a commitment
both sides that when such a settlement is negotiated and agreed upon, both sides will indeed be committed to peace.

What we also need on the part of the United States is a continued commit ment to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. An imposed solution,

supported by the threat of sanctions, as is suggested by the article, is not consistent with that commitment to international law or to our moral and historic commitment to Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.

Hubert H. Humphrey Senator from Minnesota

Mr. Ball replies:
As Senator Humphrey makes clear, he and I are in accord that no settlement

of the Arab-Israeli conflict is unless the Arabs possible

what he refers to as “sulch.” It would be irresponsible to settle for anything else.

But I seriously doubt that this requirement is the most formidable obstacle to a settlement. Though the Arab leaders have so far refrained from any explicit acceptance of a full peace, they show some signs of moving in that direction and

would, as I see it, be likely to agree as part of a total bargain. Of course, if they

did not agree, no bargain would be possible. But they are certainly not going to give an explicit commitment until assured that that will result in the return of the

include the West Bank and

Prime Minister Begin have

such a concession, which

Bank and Gaza Strip that has already lasted for a decade? How long can we do so

without making nonsense of our insistence on morality in foreign policy, which, if itmeans anything, must include the central principle of self-determination for the million Arabs now living in those territories?

To answer this question one must first understand the full nature of the Israeli dilemma. Israel now treats the million Arabs presently living in the West

Bank and Gaza Strip as foreigners over whom she exercises military domination. Even if she were permitted to annex the territories?as Prime Minister Begin

would apparently like to do ? she would have to continue treating the inhabitants

as colonial dependents or expel most of them. She could not risk giving the

present inhabitants full Israeli citizenship since (taking account of the 450,000

now living in Israel) the Arabs would then constitute one-third of the Israeli

population. Not only would that high proportion undercut the fundamental

concept of an independent Jewish state, but the Jewish majority would progres sively shrink as the Arabs outbreed the Israelis.

Yet in spite of the fact that colonialism is an obsolete institution, Prime Minister Begin apparently still believes that Israel can continue to hang on to

these territories while relegating the Arab inhabitants to second-class status.

territories that the Gaza Strip.

put the Israeli

us to

Israel seized in 1967 ?territories that

the recent

government reexamine

categorical statements of

on our own




rejecting predicament.

can taxpayers be expected to subsidize an Israeli military occupation of theWest

to a real ? peace

How can Ameri long


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Moreover, he seems to take it for granted that the United States will indefinitely continue the massive subsidy of Israel’s economy and armed forces that enabled her to retain her 1967 conquests.

To be sure, he asserts defiantly that, even if American aid were to dry up, Israel would stillmaintain her present unyielding position, But Ido not find that realistic. Israel’s economy is in appalling shape, with her gross national product

only slightly exceeding her national budget. Without the two billion dollars the

United States is annually providing out of public funds and the nearly one billion

dollars the American Jewish community generously furnishes, Israel could continue as a garrison state only at drastic cost to her standard of living. Since

the hardships resulting from her present overstretched economy have already resulted in emigrants outnumbering immigrants, I cannot regard that as a


How then to break the impasse? Certainly not by trying to drag the parties

kicking and screaming to a Geneva conference that would merely freeze posi tions and lead to a shouting match. President Carter, Secretary Vance and even

President Sadat are quite right in seeking some reasonable measure of agree ment before risking a formal confrontation.

To narrow the gap will not be easy. Clearly, we must continue to insist that a settlement is possible only if the Arabs agree to a real peace ?on that point there isno room for ambiguity. But at the same time we must make clear to the Israeli

government that, if we are to be faithful to our own principles and obligations, we cannot continue to provide her with a blank check. America also has interests

in the area and a responsibility for world peace that far transcends the parochial


of the Middle East.

Though identifying with commendable clarity the elements required for a settlement, the Carter Administration has so far failed to make that point

effectively; indeed it has sometimes given the wrong signals. But it is not too late for plain speaking.

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