We Can Look Forward With Confidence
"We Can Look Forward with Confidence"
AFTER THE American electorate had voted Mr. Jimmy Carter to the White House, Mr. Rabin told an Israeli journalist: "We'll yet recall with nostalgia the Kissinger days, both in the American National Security Council and the State Department".
Here, indeed, was post-factum intervention in American politics, and an affirmation that Mr. Carter's election and the departure of Dr. Kissinger presaged ill for Israel.
Today, I can reveal that my good friends and colleagues, Simha Erlich and Yigal Horowitz, and I called on Mr. Rabin before the elections and drew his attention to the unfortunate meaning that could be placed on certain of his announcements which had been given wide publicity in America. We suggested a statement that could have rectified the impression created.
But, as Mr. Rabin's statement which I have quoted above indicated, he persisted in his attitude even after the presidential elections.
Well, Dr. Kissinger is on the way out. We are now taking our farewell of him – and there is no reason for any nostalgia. I got to know him to a certain extent and I may say that though he had some feeling for us, he exerted such powerful pressure on us as to cause incalculable harm.
Mr. Carter, in his second television debate with Mr. Ford, said that the Ford-Kissinger "reassessment" of policy in the Middle East which followed on the heels of Mr. Rabin's initial refusal in March 1975 to accept the Sinai withdrawal plan, "almost brought Israel to her knees".
Is it possible to forget those powerful pressures which compelled us to leave the Abu Rodeis oilfields and the strategic Sinai passes – without achieving peace in return, and with the state of belligerency unaffected, in total negation of all previous Israel Government utterances?
Or how Dr. Kissinger saved the Egyptian Third Army being taken prisoners of war – a factor that would have completely changed our situation from the point of view of the prospects of peace?
In one of his meetings with our representatives, Dr. Kissinger thundered: "Do you want the Third Army? We don't intend getting into a third world war because of you!"
And recently I learned from an unimpeachable source that, in conversation with an Arab leader, Dr. Kissinger said: "Ford will be reelected even without the Jewish vote – and then we'll square accounts with Israel!"
I reported this to Mr. Rabin during the meeting to which I have already referred. He brushed it aside, saying he had never heard about it.
After Dr. Kissinger – whom I had already met in the '60s – was appointed US Secretary of State, I urged him, from the rostrum of the Knesset, to remember that he was not the first Jew to reach high estate in his new homeland. I added that we all knew of such Jews who bent over backwards to prove that, although they were Jews, they dealt with their own people "objectively", with bitter results.
There were Jews who reacted angrily at my warning. But I have no reason to regret having uttered it. It was the truth.
Dr. Kissinger himself replied to it with the humour of which he was capable when he had a mind to use it:
"You gave me hell in the Knesset!"
I replied: "Hell? I want you to be in paradise. Help Israel!"
Nor is there reason for frightening ourselves, as Israel Government spokesmen have been trying to do since Mr. Carter was elected.
The year ahead, they say, will be a year of pressure and confrontation. Mr. Rabin has been at pains to tell us that not only the Arabs, but both American political parties, too, refuse to accept "the Israeli interpretation" of the phrase "defensible borders."
He was, of course, referring to his Government's interpretation of such borders.
Yet, how many times in the past have he and his colleagues proclaimed that their policy will bring about an agreement with the Arabs and understanding with the Americans?
Now, on the eve of the "year of confrontation", he confesses that that was not right.
Knowingly, he and his colleagues made promises that could not have been kept, promises that have now been shattered by the realities which the Opposition saw clearly.
But it is now precisely we who say that Israel must not go weak-kneed into the future. We can look forward to it confidently – if we act correctly. The year ahead need not be a year of defence against pressures. Israel can launch its own forceful political-elucidation attack in it. That campaign must not be postponed. We should begin it immediately and continue it after Mr. Carter enters the White House.
Mr. Carter was elected on the basis of a number of explicit pledges. Let me recall some of them:
"We will continue with our consistent support for Israel, which will include sufficient military and economic aid to maintain the deterrent Israeli force in the region and the maintenance of appropriate American forces in the Mediterranean to deter Russian military intervention.
"We reject utterly any step aimed at isolating Israel in the international arena or at ousting it from the United Nations or any of its agencies.
"We will prevent efforts to impose an external settlement on the region and will support initiatives for a settlement based on direct face-to-face negotiations between the parties, a normalisation of relations and full peace within assured and defensible borders.
"We are firmly in support of freedom of navigation in the Middle East, especially in the Suez Canal."
"We recognise and support the position of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel, with freedom of entry to all its holy places. As a symbol of this stand, the US Embassy must be transferred from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem."
During the course of his electioneering, Mr. Carter did explain that he could not accept that Jerusalem paragraph in the Democratic Platform as it had been phrased. He would consider the possibility of doing what it affirmed, but he could not undertake to carry it out.
There was both an undertaking and a denial in that statement – and we cannot therefore give up the demand that the American Embassy be transferred to our Capital. But, on the other hand, we cannot deny that he did not make an explicit undertaking.
Mr. Carter, however, has not tried to withdraw from any of the other obligations of the Democratic Platform. We must especially insist on the paragraph which rejects the imposition of any settlement concocted outside the Middle East – and on Mr. Carter's acceptance of the obligation of encouraging direct negotiations.
In that latter matter, it was the stand of the Opposition in Israel which emerged successfully.
When we were members of the Israel Government, it was we who proposed that formula to the Government – and the Government accepted that proposal unanimously.
But, as has been its custom, it deviated from that decision with the passage of time. It rubbed out the word "direct."
The American elections have proved that it was the stand of the Likud on this issue which appealed to both the Republication and Democratic Parties. In the platforms of both, the call was for direct negotiations between the parties in the Middle East.
There are those who ask: "So, what does it matter that the two party platforms said that? Who pays any regard to them after the elections?"
Such sophisticated cynicism is without foundation. Not every administration fulfills its election platform word for word. But every administration wants to be reelected – and there can be no doubt that through a positive stand towards Israel, an administration gains wide support from "the Jewish ethnic minority" (one of many ethnic minorities) in the United States. And that ethnic vote is important in States with major electoral college voting powers.
For his part, Mr. Carter continues to affirm that he intends to base his actions on morality in international affairs – and we must politely emphasise that keeping a promise is the basis of such morality.
- There is ground for believing that a campaign on such lines would gain widespread support.
If we refrain from stupid nostalgia and act with understanding, we will be successful.