Will Carter’s Team Honour His Election Pledges

Newspaper: Jewish Herald
posted on:
14 In dec 1976
Individuals - Abraham (Yair) Stern, Jimmy Carter. Jewish Heritage - Anti-Semitism. Democracy , Foreign Policy - Diplomacy, Fundamentals of Foreign Policy, Israel-U.S. Relationship. Elections , Peace , Peace Agreements , Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Rogers Plan. States - USA
Begin recalls conversations with Professor Brzezinsky in which they discuss Carter's victory, Israel's security, and Israel's relationship with the US and its Arab neighbors. They debate whether it is realistic and appropriate to demand the Arab nations recognize Israel's right to exist. Begin recalls how helpful Israel was to America during the Vietnam War, and believes that is part of why America continues to protect and care about Israel's security and survival
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"Will Carter's Team Honour His Election Pledges?"

I FIRST met Professor Brzezinsky in Israel, before the American presidential elections. He visited me at home and our conversation turned to Judea and Samaria, the Arabs of Eretz Israel, Russian expectations that the State called "Palestine" would be a central Soviet base in the Middle East, and all the other subjects which come up nowadays in conversation between Israelis, Americans and Europeans.

I expressed my opinion that Mr. Carter had the better prospect of being elected President – and my guest supported that opinion enthusiastically and told me that two years ago he had already come to the decision to support Mr. Carter for that high office.

He also recalled some personal reminiscences. His father had been the Polish Consul in Leipzig when the Nazis ruled Germany. The elder Brzezinsky, as his son recalled fondly, had been an anti-antisemite. One day he came upon a group of students bearing anti-Jewish placards – and beat them with his cane.


I assumed that that heartening tale had been recounted to prove that there was no basis to the rumour that Professor Brzezinsky himself had not shown any exceptional love for Jews. On the contrary, the good deeds of one's parents were a light to guide the children.

At the end of our chat we agreed to meet again in New York after the presidential and congressional elections.

And so it was that we met again. Naturally, I congratulated him on the fulfilment of our prognosis.

Then we passed on to matters of the moment. I said that Israelis hoped that the new President would not succumb to pressure to exert pressure on Israel.

He replied that he did not believe pressure would be exerted on Israel as it had been in the past – as, for instance, by the postponement of arms deliveries.

He replied in the same spirit to my affirmation that if the new Administration really wished to see direct Israel-Arab negotiations for peace, as the Democratic Party platform and Mr. Carter's pre-election speeches had insisted, Washington must desist from proposing programmes such as the one bearing the name of former Secretary of State Rogers.

If that programme were to be proposed again, I said, what could there be to negotiate about?

Professor Brzezinsky replied that he believed no plan similar to the Rogers Plan (calling for Israeli withdrawal) would be put forward in the new year.

There would, he added, no doubt be differences of opinion between Washington and Jerusalem about the essentials of a peace agreement, and it would be necessary to discuss those differences openly.

During the course of our conversation I raised the issue of the use even by our friends of phraseology which I considered harmful and erroneous.

I asked him to draw Mr. Carter's attention to them.

Friends, I told him, declared: "We demand that the Arabs recognise Israel's right to exist."

They should not, I urged, make any such demand.

Professor Brzezinsky was astounded. What was wrong with that, he wanted to know.

It was, I explained, most damaging. Why should Israel be an exception among nations? The world recognised national independence and sovereignty and the rights deriving from them, normal mutual relations.

That was self-evident. And that was what we demanded for Israel, too. Our existence is our right. We have certainly paid a price for that existence during the ages – a price unknown in the history of any other nation. But that fact certainly did not weaken our right to exist. On the contrary, we were not asking anyone to recognise our right to exist. We received that right from the God of our ancestors long before many other nations had even begun their separate existence.

Professor Brzezinsky acknowledged that he understood what I was getting at.

The second phrase I spoke about was "Survival". This was an old story. As long ago as the end of 1967 or the beginning of 1968, we received a Note in Jerusalem from Washington affirming that the United States regarded itself obligated to the security and survival of Israel.

At a meeting of the Israel Cabinet, I suggested that the latter part of expression indicated patronage, and we should ask our friends not to use it. We, the representatives of our people, were responsible for its continued survival.

Security – well, that was another matter. There was no one-sidedness in that concept. It provided place for considerations of mutual interests, of actions stemming from it. There were explicit proofs of that (the Suez Canal had been closed, the Vietnam War was at its height, and Soviet supply ships were forced to sail the long way round, via the Cape). Israel was important to America militarily. American security assistance to Israel was in America's prime interests.

But responsibility for the continuance of our national and State existence was ours; no one else's.

My Cabinet colleagues agreed on the correctness of that affirmation. The then Foreign Minister, Mr. Abba Eban, was instructed to inform the US Secretary of State of our position on this matter.

Mr. Eban no doubt took the correct diplomatic steps in a matter on which he had also agreed – but that word, "survival", continued to appear in speeches, including those of Mr. Ford and Mr. Carter during their electioneering campaign, and even in official documents. Such is the force of habit.

Professor Brzezinsky said he understood exactly what I meant. He himself had used the words "Israel's legitimate continuity in the Middle East" which the Arabs should recognise.

Continuity, yes; but why legitimate? Is there any doubt about it that it should be demanded?

We have returned to our own land. That is our legitimacy about which there is no doubt.

During the course of our further conversation we tried to find the exact phrase. I have no doubt that Professor Brzezinsky, an expert in international law, will find it.

Finally, it was my turn to be surprised. Professor Brzezinsky remarked: "Do you know that all these phrases are used by spokesmen of the Jewish community? They emphasize that Arab recognition of Israel's right to exist must be assured, and they repeat that there is a need for an American obligation to ensure the survival of the State of Israel."

I couldn't deny that. In almost every Jewish gathering in Israel and abroad I hear our very good brethren repeating those phrases. There will certainly be a need to work among Jews and others for an end to the use of words which indicate thoughts of patronage on both sides.

(Translated from the Hebrew by Joe Kuttner)