After October: Military and Political Change in the Middle East

VOL. 3


No. 4
P. 114
After October: Military and Political Change in the Middle East


Any attempt at synthesis of the effects of the October War would seem premature because of the proximity of the events, the complexity of the situation and the subtlety of the regional and world relations involved. But although, for scientific reasons, complete synthesis must be ruled out, for political reasons some basic interpretation is desirable.


Set in motion by the intolerable situation of "no war and no peace," the October War ended entrenched in the situation of "no victory and no defeat." This invites the fundamental question: Does this new situation offer greater chances of peace than the previous one? Or, more precisely: Can there be peace without victory?


In the Israeli outlook the answer is negative: there can be no peace without victory. True peace can only be a Pax Israelica imposed upon the Arabs by superior force. As against this the Arab argument emphasizes that peace must be a just one for the Arabs and Palestinians or there will be no peace; it must be a peace based on right, a Palestinian Peace.


Although the October War eliminated the prospect of an Israeli peace, it did not endorse the Palestinian line; it was a war of paradoxes which have altered the balance of forces in the Middle East.




The fourth Israeli-Arab confrontation is a perfect field for the application of the new science that Raymond Aron has christened "Praxeology" - the interpenetration of politics, strategy and economics.


Politically the October War was characterized by the moderation of its participants: it was a war of doves. Strategically, it was a war without victory. Economically, it brought forth the realization of the importance of oil.


The first paradox lies in the fact that while bellicose Arab radicalism led to total defeat in 1967, Arab moderation won a half-victory in 1973.


1. Nasser, the militant, was defeated in war and could not get peace even when he offered it to the Israelis, as the failure of the Rogers Plan in 1970 demonstrated. Sadat, the moderate, made war and still holds many trumps in the peace game that we witness in Kissinger's peace operations.


2. The Syria of Hafiz al-Assad, of the moderate wing of the Ba'th, was more effective than the Syria of Salah Jadid, leader of the radical wing that lost the Golan in 1967.


3. In 1967 it was the axis of the progressive and anti-Saudi regimes that waged the war. In 1973 it was the triple alliance of Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia that conducted the operations.


4. The militant states, like Libya, did not participate in the hostilities, while the moderate states, like Morocco, played at least a token part.


5. The participants in the last conflict deliberately excluded both the leftist radicals (Iraq) and the rightist radicals (Libya). Radicalism had had its day and revolutionary war had been found wanting. It was the age of reason that triumphed. Could it be that doves are more effective in war than hawks?


The second paradox: A total war with limited objectives.


As opposed to this, in blockading Tiran in 1967, Nasser had in mind a limited operation with a total objective. By closing a port the Egyptian president hoped to throw open the whole file of the Palestine problem.


In fact, although the whole strategic potential of the country was mobilized, the Israelis realized that the Arabs' objective in 1973 was limited. On the second day of the hostilities, an article' by a Haaretz commentator close to the Israeli military establishment observed that the Arabs were acting in the light of three objectives:


 1. A maximum objective: to liberate both banks of the Canal and to occupy certain strategic points in Sinai, such as Sharm al-Shaikh.


2. An intermediate objective: to gain control of part of the east bank of the Canal and part of Golan.


3. A minimum objective: to unfreeze the status quo and inflict on the Israelis losses of life and equipment without achieving territorial gains. [1] 


It is interesting to note that to realize limited political objectives there must be recourse to unlimited military strategy. War, even between small powers and for limited objectives, must always be total.


The third paradox: The political results do not reflect the military results.


Normally the goal of war is a peace and peace is the expression of a victory. But in the Middle East Israel's successive victories have not led to a peace, and there was no victory in October. What is more, every time there have been victories, the chances of peace have been reduced to a minimum. Conversely, the political prospects of peace have grown every time the military victories have not been conclusive. This refutes the Israeli theory practiced in and since 1967 to the effect that peace will come about through the destruction of one of the two parties. Peace through victory has proved impossible. The course followed by Israel's military men leads to political impasse. In fact, the more Israel strengthens herself, the more the Arabs realize the danger and strengthen themselves in their turn.


Force inevitably produces an anti-force, rarely peace. In this connection we may quote what has been said by an Israeli and a Jew. "The state of Israel," writes Amnon Rubinstein, "has emerged victorious from all wars... but it has got into a vicious circle of wars, each harder and harsher than the last.... We have become another Rhodesia, the only difference being that Rhodesia is not in real danger." [2] 


"Israel has won three wars and almost won the fourth," writes Nahum Goldmann, "but no real progress towards peace has been made. This should convince even the most skeptical that merely winning wars will not force the Arabs to accept Israel. The only conclusion is that psychological and political initiatives must be undertaken with a view to reaching an agreement with the Arabs." [3] 


With regard to the relationship between war and politics it is to be observed that the Zionists did not achieve a proper victory over the Arab armies in 1947-48, but they founded a state. Nasser suffered a military defeat in 1956, but he won a political victory at the Arab and international levels by obliging France, Great Britain and Israel to withdraw from Sinai. Moreover, the Egyptian president suffered a crushing military defeat in 1967, but he did not surrender. The political is not necessarily the result of the military.


The fourth paradox: The war gave birth to an operational Arab union which ideologists have been dreaming offer nearly a century but which, from the 1958 United Arab Republic to the short-lived Tunisian-Libyan Republic of 1974, pan-Arabist ideology never succeeded in establishing.


With every attempt to achieve unity the Arab world has found itself more divided. The ideologists, in their own divisions, seemed to confirm the myth which maintained that Arab unity is impossible. By an initiative not aimed at unity, the pragmatists have concretely substituted the possibility of union in action for ideological divisions.


This de facto union had no juridical, institutional or political character, and was more of a political common market than an ideological unity. It came about during a war which marked the end of Arab ideologies and romanticism. It remains to be seen whether peace, like war, will act as a cement and a catalyst for this new trend.


Three well-known examples may be cited to illustrate this union:


1. The fact that Algeria took part in the fighting on the Egyptian front and that four forces as disparate as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Jordan, were integrated, without prior planning, on the Syrian front.


2. The immediate provision to Egypt and Syria of $4.6 billion dollars in aid in the month of October alone.


3. The unanimous decision to reduce oil production (October 17, 1973) and to impose an embargo on the United States and Holland (October 20). If the unity of ideologists has foundered, the union of the pragmatists has succeeded.


The fifth paradox: Instead of weakening the Palestinian resistance, the war strengthened it.


The contrary was to be expected, because the Palestinian resistance was born of the failure of the Arab regimes and systems. Normally, the more effective the states, the more marginal the resistance should have become. And vice versa. But the October War has shown that reasons of state are not irreconcilable with reasons of revolution. The war of the regular armies did not stifle the guerrilla warfare of the militants. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) came stronger out of a war in which it played no substantial part, by its acquisition of a triple legitimacy:


1. Juridical legitimacy, through the recognition of the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, with a status similar to that of a provisional government, because it is a member of the Arab League. As between King Hussein and the resistance leader Arafat, the Arab states have chosen the latter.


2. Political legitimacy, because the Arab states have undertaken not to make peace with Israel without the PLO's consent.


3. Diplomatic legality, because the Arab leaders "insist that the Palestinian people shall take part in all negotiations and solutions," as Sadat put it at Brioni on March 30.


It is also to be observed that the Palestinian resistance is already behaving like a government and the revolutionaries like statesmen - the resistance supports the moderate political alliance of Faisal and Sadat as against the radical axis of Qadhafi and Bakr. It is the birth of a new idea: diplomacy in revolution.


The sixth paradox: For the first time a war of small powers has blockaded the economy of the great powers.


Usually wars between small powers benefit the great powers. This time the use of the oil weapon has shaken industrial society:


1. The industrialized and "developed" countries have realized that they are potentially vulnerable. The so-called "underdeveloped" countries have realized that they are at least potentially rich. The October War was the first great victory of the Third World over the developed world.


2. The bill for oil imports to Europe and Japan rose to $74 billion this year as against $29 billion in 1973. But far more than figures are involved: the energy crisis has turned into a crisis of civilization. There is already talk of the "end of opulence."


3. The United States will pay $25 billion for oil this year as against $9.3 in 1973, Canada $4 billion as against $1.3. The economic embargo has been lifted, but the psychological embargo continues.


4. Europe is in crisis, as is the Atlantic Alliance. Inside Europe each country is suspicious of the United States. The West is confronted with difficult choices.


The seventh paradox: The defeat of Soviet arms brings the Arabs closer to the USSR, while the victory of Soviet arms brings the Arabs closer to the USA.


The Arabs make war with Russian armaments and peace through American diplomacy.


This can be illustrated by a comparison between Egyptian and Syrian behaviour after 1967 and after 1973.


In 1967:


Between Egypt, Syria and the USA, there was severance of diplomatic relations, almost total stoppage of commercial exchanges and rejection of the Americans as mediators.


Between Egypt, Syria and the USSR, there was a major expansion of relations, rearmament, the strengthening of pro-Soviet elements in the regimes, treaties of friendship and co-operation, Soviet presence and penetration.


In 1973:


Between the Arab confrontation countries and the USA, there were the restoration of diplomatic relations, the establishment of American commercial enterprises (Rockefeller, Chase Manhattan Bank, etc.), reopening of the Canal and acceptance of mediation by Kissinger, who now vies in popularity in the Arab world with President Eisenhower of the 1956-57 period.


In relations with the USSR, there has been a weakening of the pro- Soviets in the regimes and undeclared tensions in relations.


In conclusion I should like to stress the following points:


1. The violence of the Arab doves is counter-violence: the result of Israeli violence in seizing Arab territories. But it aims at a situation of non- violence. The Arab doves have put their money on peace and will be swept away by the hawks if they do not achieve it.


2. A military solution is impossible. Israeli strength has generated an Arab anti-strength. Every victory heralds another war, and never peace. The situation created by the October War may perhaps be the last chance for peace.


3. The era of ideologies and mythology is past. The age of reason and oil is starting. From being a stake in a struggle, oil may become a motive power for development in the Arab world.


4. All the policies aimed at making the contradictions between the Arab states and the Palestinian resistance erupt have failed, because these contradictions are secondary compared with, the fundamental contradiction between Israel and Arab countries. The Palestinian resistance is more or less accepted in every Arab state, and every Arab state in the Palestinian resistance.


5. Just as the political is no longer the result of the military, so the political no longer coincides with the economic. The great powers are becoming the economic tributaries of the small powers which are still dependent on them at the politico-military level. Wars between small powers create tensions between great powers. An evolution is taking shape emphasizing the following factors: political role, capacity for development, military power.


6. Without Israel the Middle East would have been an American area or, at the very least, neutral. Israel, supported by the United States is, by antithesis the mainstay of Soviet penetration in the Arab world. American diplomacy is at last realizing that it has objectively served the Soviets.


7. The intensity of Arab-American relations is proportional to the pressures exerted on Israel. The USA can defend Israel without defending its conquests. The intensity of Arab-Soviet relations is inversely proportional to the chances of peace. The more war asserts itself, the stronger the USSR becomes in the Middle East. Will the USSR be able to succeed in peace as well as it did in war?




For the first time since 1949, the Israelis have not won a crushing victory, nor have the Arabs suffered a clear defeat. Although they have not won a military victory, the Arabs have a certain feeling of strength: henceforward they will be able to fight without losing. This marks the end of the Israeli legend. The Arab states have realized that the balance of forces is no longer completely against them and that the balance of riches is, if anything, in their favour.


Although unconquered, Israel no longer feels herself to be invincible. Her defense system can be surprised and counter-attacks can be contained. The strategic reserve constituted by the Jewish Diaspora is counterbalanced by a new Arab strategic reserve with three components: numbers, space and oil.


The October War shook Israel's structures. At home, it resulted in crisis and protest, abroad in isolation and dependence.


The Crisis of Existence


The October War revived in Israel the feeling of fear that characterized Zionist society before the 1967 war. There were several significant indications of this state of mind:


1. Israeli papers reported the anxiety of the government at the nervous state of civilians and soldiers alike. The Ministry of Defense signed a contract with the Histadrut according to which the Ministry could make use of all teams of psychologists and psychiatrists to cope with the consequences of the war (Davar, November 15, 1973).


2. Haaretz launched appeals to citizens to notify cases of neurosis and psychosis because, says the daily, hiding fear increases tension rather than reduces it. 


3. The critical book on the October War composed by a team of Israeli journalists and entitled "The Shortcoming" reported two facts indicative of the panic that swept across Israel:


General Moshe Dayan, according to the book, wanted to deliver the following message to the nation on October 6:


These are hard times. Our forces in Golan and Sinai are retreating. The Bar-Lev line no longer exists.... The air force has been neutralized by missiles.... Our losses are 36 Phantoms and 24 Skyhawks. The Egyptian command is unaware of the gravity of our situation, but the Jewish people must be informed....

In the evening of October 8 according to the same source, David Elazar, the Chief of Staff, recorded a televised message which, to avoid demoralization, was not broadcast.


Today the Reserve Army counterattacked, but I have to inform you that the counter-attack failed miserably. The enemy's forces, on land and in the air, are enormous. I am afraid... that they may destroy us. At the moment we hope that the Egyptians will be content with pushing us back in Sinai... I hope that we shall be able to establish a good defense line in the south. Have confidence and courage....

If redoubtable army chiefs behaved in this way, how could ordinary citizens be expected to behave? It was only natural that there should be widespread protest.




The second tangible result of the war was that the Israeli leadership, military as well as civilian, was once more called in question. The crisis of confidence spread in a variety of forms: there was a gulf between the leaders and the population, questions went unanswered, the struggle between the generals became more acute, the ruling Mapai Party became a "supermarket of distortion," the revolt of the intellectuals threatened to come into the open and new political organizations appeared spontaneously. Space does not permit reporting all the public discussions that enlivened Israeli life. A few examples, chosen at random, will illustrate our point:


- Haim Herzog: "There is a crisis of confidence and it will continue as long as we do not radically reform everything that is in need of reform... The object of the inquiry now in progress is not to make heads fall but to prevent shortcomings." [4] 


- Hanuch Bartov: "To those who tell us that we must not change horses in midstream, our answer is that we need horses to get us out of the mud." [5] 


 -Nahum Goldmann: "If the people of Israel really believe that the Arab world rejects the Jewish state once and for all... the only conclusion is that the state of Israel should not have been created and that the Zionist programme was basically wrong.... I believe that even the most extreme nationalists do not think that a few thousand Jews can destroy 100 million Arabs.... If the only solution, as some people claim, is the destruction of one of the parties, that means the end of the Jewish state, however long it takes." [6] 


- Yeshayahu Leibovitch: "The mistake does not date back to 1967, but to well before that, to the Rhodes Agreement signed twenty-five years ago. Our policy has consolidated the situation of 'no war, no peace' with the possibility of launching a surprise total war, the outcome of which would be known in advance.... We thus passed from one occupation to another. This policy of evil and crime has lasted for twenty-five years and led us to the present crisis...." [7] 


- Eric Cohen: "In the past everyone agreed that a military coup in Israel was out of the question. The army was the people's army, unpolitical and democratic. This view has collapsed; it is no longer possible to rule out the possibility of a military coup in Israel, even if it does not take place in the near future." [8] 


Another form of protest, even more serious, is developing in the occupied Arab territories, where there are:


1. Resumption of operations by the Palestinian resistance.


2. Hardening of Arab opinion and boycotting of Israeli industry by Arab workers.


Haaretz (November 15, 1973) analyzed the situation in the occupied territories and called attention to the existence of three currents:


1. The traditional pro-Hashemite leaders had lost their impetus.


2. Since the war the moderates who accepted attachment to Jordan in the United Arab Kingdom project no longer had any influence on the situation.


3. The silent majority supported the creation of an independent Palestinian state run by the PLO.


4. Under the headline "Disappointment in the Jerusalem Elections," Haaretz (January 8, 1974) reported that 90 per cent of the Arab population of Jerusalem did not take part in the elections: of a total of 45,274 electors only 4,531 voted.


5. After a long silence, the Arab Students Committee of the Hebrew University published a manifesto in which it called on Israel to withdraw from all the occupied territories and to recognize the rights of the Arab people of Palestine. [9] 


6. PLO slogans have been disseminated in the mosques of Nablus and the neighbouring villages. [10] 


Finally, a process of diplomatic protest has developed at international level. Israel has lost the sympathy of most countries of the world and is now practically isolated.




The isolation of Israel was a phenomenon that was already in progress in Europe and Africa before the outbreak of hostilities. Forty African states have severed their diplomatic relations with Israel, which can now depend only on South Africa, Portugal and Rhodesia. There are many reasons for this isolation:


1. Israel's expansionist policy. Sinai is an African territory and Africa feels itself endangered.


2. The fact that Israel behaves like a colonial power. This Israeli attitude is reviving unpleasant memories of white colonialism in Africa.


3. Arab oil as a means of development. The Africans hope that solidarity with the Arabs will aid their progress. This prospect is more attractive to the Africans than the limited and often inadequate economic and technical aid that Israel used to provide them with.


4. The fact that both groups are members of the same organizations. The Arabs and the Africans often meet, for example, at the Organization of African Unity, the Third World Conference (Algeria), and the Lahore Islamic Conference (Pakistan).


5. The active roles played by Faisal and Qadhafi, assisted by the presence of the large numbers of Muslims in Africa. Muslim solidarity works against Israel.


6. The influence of France in French-speaking Africa and, more recently, the influence of Great Britain in English-speaking Africa.


7. The penetration in Africa of the USSR and, to a lesser extent, of China.


If the isolation of Israel in Africa has been characterized by the severance of relations, her isolation in Europe is no less real. In spite of some degree of pro-Israeli public opinion in Europe, the Nine have solemnly adopted the Arab states' position in the conflict: withdrawal by Israel from all the occupied territories and recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. There are several reasons for this unanimous change of position:


1. Through her expansionism Israel has come to be a source of disturbances in the Mediterranean. Europe regards herself as a Mediterranean power affected by this.


2. Europe is dependent on Arab oil, 75 to 80 per cent of which comes from the Middle East.


3. There are increasing Arab-European commercial exchanges and extensive prospects for the establishment of European firms in the Arab countries, and especially the Gulf.


4. The possibility exists of channelling Arab capital to Europe and eventually influencing the monetary system crisis. The Euro-dinar could constitute a counterbalance to the Euro-dollar.


5. Europe desires to play the role of mediator, to be the third force, between the USA and the USSR in the Middle East.


6. There is the wish to open the Suez Canal.


7. The attitude of France towards the Arabs since 1967 has influenced other European countries.


The isolation of Israel in Africa has led to the establishment of an Arab- African Development Bank. Her isolation in Europe is leading to an Arab- Europe meeting at ministerial level in the autumn. But the more completely Israel is isolated, the more total is her dependence on the United States.




Before 1973 Israel had extensive links with the United States. Since 1973 Israel has become completely subordinate; this linkage is dangerous for the USA, as subordination involves responsibilities.


This almost total dependence involves fundamental changes in Israeli- American relations, and also in Arab-American relations:


1. A vulnerable Israel can no longer claim to be protecting American interests; on the contrary, she becomes an American protégé. Muslim Iran or Saudi Arabia, and even Egypt, can provide better safeguards for United States interests.


According to the Nixon Doctrine of international relations, the United States will provide a threatened country with appropriate military and economic aid, but will make sure that the threatened country assumes the responsibility for defending itself with its own means. In other words, American protection is all the more reserved for being total, that is to say, direct. Thus the field for Israeli manoeuvring has been narrowed down. The USA will avoid the direct engagement of its forces so as to avoid the risk of a nuclear confrontation.


2. The greater Israel's subordination, the more the Arabs can demand stronger American pressures. In the long run the United States cannot endure Arab hostility. The stabilization of the Middle East is an essential condition for the development of the industrial and post-industrial societies.




Before the October War it was thought that the technological gap between the Arabs and Israel might be permanent, with Israel eventually becoming a superpower in the Middle East and the Arabs satellite sub-powers. The results of the October War have proved the contrary:


1. The Arabs successfully used modern techniques and sophisticated equipment (e.g., anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles).


2. They worked out an integrated strategy (offensive and counteroffensive) and ensured co-ordination between the Egyptian and Syrian fronts.


3. They devised politico-military maneouvres so as to mount a surprise attack. While formerly the Arabs talked of war and sought peace, this time they made war without talking.


The Israelis themselves have borne witness to this:


 ... Every military man I know was inclined to underestimate the enemy and overestimate our forces... Our politicians made the same mistake as our military men... We have observed that progress has been made in the Arab military in several fields. The operational plans were studied and integrated, although rigid, the preparation was intensive... and the Arab soldier had a better grasp of the technology of arms... in addition to fighting spirit. We had always thought that armour crushes infantry... We were surprised at the start to see the Egyptian infantry getting the better of Israeli armour... The fellah of the Nile had become a hunter of tanks. He re-enacted the exploits of the men of the kibbutzim in the War of Independence. [11] 

The end of the myth of Arab inferiority will have several consequences in the Middle East:


1. The end of Israel's expansionist policy, based on faits accomplis. The era of colonization is now over.


2. The end of the strategy of the "decisive blow," according to which Israel, blow by blow, will eventually force the Arabs to surrender by a definitive and sudden blow.


3. The birth of a new type of Arab, actor, not spectator. The Arab is becoming active on the international stage, no longer content to remain the object of the game of the great powers.


4. The transformation of Arab society through industrialization and technology, with the passage from underdevelopment to the industrial society and, in certain cases, post-industrial society.


The New Balance of Riches


The Arabs could justify their previous defeats by the fact that Israel, supported by international Zionism, was richer, and so stronger. The October War has demolished this alibi.


Today the balance of forces no longer coincides with the balance of riches. There is no longer either a large technological gap or an economic and financial gap in the area.


First, the balance of forces is no longer entirely in Israel's favour.


On the eve of the October War the figures for the Israeli forces and the Egyptian-Syrian forces alone, apart from the other Arab forces, were approximately as follows:



Israel: 300,000

Egypt-Syria: 430,000



Israel: 488

Egypt-Syria: 986



Israel: 1,700

Egypt-Syria: 3,325



Israel: 59

Egypt-Syria 140.


According to United Nations estimates, the Arab world covers more than 11 million square kilometres - an area that is uncontrollable militarily. Its total population is more than 130 million, with a growth rate of more than 3 per cent, including 36 million in Egypt and 6.8 million in Syria. The population of Israel is only 3.18 million.


The 1973-1974 military budget, before the October War, totalled $1.737 billion or 21.7 per cent of national revenue in Egypt, and $1.474 billion or 23 per cent of national revenue in Israel.


According to General Hertzel Shavir, in the course of the October War Israel lost 2,412 dead and 508 missing. Davar (November 19, 1973) summed up the situation as follows: "The loss of 2,000 Jews is, merely from the quantitative point of view, proportional to the loss of 75,000 Arabs and 150,000 Americans. In twenty days we lost more than the Americans did in the whole of the Vietnam War."


These are the losses that the Agranat report describes as "heavy and irreplaceable."


Obviously, although the technological inferiority of the Arabs can be remedied, the numerical inferiority of the Israelis is irremediable. One is reminded of the famous mot to the effect that one Finnish soldier is worth eight Russians - but what happens if the ninth turns up? Space and numbers are the weapons that Israel will increasingly have to reckon with.


Thus the Arabs are potentially strong thanks to numbers and space. But the October War disclosed something else. The Arabs have decided to be strong thanks to oil. A new balance of riches, the source of a new strength, has been born and has come to stay. This realization of the importance of oil has inverted the pre-October equations and turned up a new trump card for the Arabs.


The new balance of riches can be measured by the reactions it has already provoked:


1. Oil has created chain crises in the whole world: the oil crisis, energy crisis, raw materials crisis, foodstuffs crisis, crisis of growth, crisis of systems, and the crisis of civilization.


2. The October War highlighted the dependence in the immediate future of Europe and Japan, which import 75-80 per cent of their oil from the Arab world. At present American imports of Arab oil constitute only 8 per cent of total requirements, but studies show that in 1980 Arab oil imports will amount to 35-40 per cent.


3. In their annual report on the international economy, sent to Congress by President Nixon, White House experts calculate the cost of oil imports for the principal industrial countries at $115 billion - $70 billion more than last year. Mr. Peter Flanigan, Nixon's personal adviser for international economic affairs, has pointed out that the trade balance deficit will reach $3-5 billion this year, because of higher oil prices.


The New York Times (March 12, 1974) estimates that the Arabs now possess $50 billion in liquid funds. In 1974 the figure will be $100-1 10 billion and $750 billion in 1980. Kuwait alone has invested $4 billion in the USA. Arab investments can become as redoubtable a weapon as oil.


At present the Arabs possess nearly two-thirds of known world oil reserves. Before 1980 the Gulf countries alone will be producing more than a billion tons of oil. Just as they have created tension between Israel and the Europeans, on the one hand, and between the Europeans and the Americans on the other, there is nothing to stop them eventually creating tension between Israel and the Americans through the economic weapon alone.


"The strength of the Arabs is increasing year by year," writes Nahum Goldmann (Haaretz, January 14, 1974),


and while today the Arab world, or at least part of it, may be ready to accept a peace agreement and recognize Israel, some years from now they may feel so strong - economically, financially, politically and even militarily - that they could reject the very existence of the state of Israel in the Middle East... I am convinced that Israel's chances [of achieving peace] will be worse in the future, for a very simple reason: an Israeli defeat may mean the end of Israel, while an Israeli victory will not be followed by a better peace.



In the terminology of public international law, the Arab-Israeli conflict may be defined as "an opposition of claims sufficiently exteriorised to endanger peace." In this case no move towards peace makes sense except insofar as it is possible to determine the causes, the actors and the different kinds of solution.


There are three causes for the Arab-Israeli conflict: the long term, the short-term, and the immediate. The long-term causes lie in the Zionist dis- possession of the population of Palestine and the creation of Israel by the 1947 UN Partition resolution (whose boundaries were not respected by the Israelis then or since).


The short-term causes are to be found in the 1967 seizure of the occupied Arab territories which were the subject of Security Council resolution 242 of 1967 that has so far been obstructed by Israel's refusal to withdraw from them.


Finally, the immediate cause stems from the October War that was the subject of Security Council resolution 338 of November 1973, which was first implemented through the disengagement of forces on the Egyptian front and later through the attempts to achieve disengagement on the Syrian front.


In any comprehensive solution of the problem, therefore, three separate but closely linked kinds of action should be envisaged for a final solution, a provisional solution and a preventive solution.


It is to be noted that any solution not deriving from the fundamental problem, that is to say, the Palestinian question, will be fragile. The Arabs have, in fact, committed themselves to reject all separate solutions. Sadat once again stated in March:


1. Egypt undertakes not to sign a peace treaty with Israel without the Arab states.


2. Egypt undertakes not to sign a peace treaty without the consent of Palestinians.


It is evident that the process leading to a settlement consists of a group of successive and interdependent solutions. Just as the USA-USSR dialogue led to Egyptian reconciliation with the United States, and the Egyptian-Israeli disengagement and dialogue led to one between Israel and Syria, so too the recent Syrian moves will have a great influence on the Palestinians.


It is the solution of the latter problem that is the most important and grave. In fact, Israel has modified the constituent elements of Palestine: sovereignty, constitutional legitimacy, territory and population; consequently, the solution to the problem will have to settle ideological and institutional as territorial conflicts.




Any "complete" peace in the Middle East must be based on a lasting settlement. But no peace in the area can be lasting without the acceptance of all parties concerned, and this means that full account must be taken of the Palestinian resistance, which is the expression of the Palestinian personality and the symbol of the general national will of the Palestinian people to recover its rights.


The PLO thus emerges as the key to a Middle Eastern peace; if there is no Palestinian peace, there will surely be a new Palestinian guerrilla war whose result will be to destroy the fragile structure of any existing armistice.


A Palestinian peace - the sole possible kind of peace - will only materialize through the creation of a Palestinian state. But the question now arises: What kind of Palestinian state ? No final answer is yet possible, but five different alternatives for the future of Palestinian Arab territory can be considered.


1. A Palestinian state under Jordanian tutelage


This is the proposal of King Hussein for a United Arab Kingdom (which is close to the approach of the "Allon Plan" for peace once proposed by the current Israeli Foreign Minister). But the effect of this would merely be a renewed "Jordanization" of the Palestinian problem - a return to the pre- 1967 status quo just as if the two wars since then had not taken place. This is really a "non-solution," which comes up against an Arab rejection, and, above all, a refusal by the potentially very radical Palestinian guerrillas. The hypothesis is both improbable and undesirable.


2. A Palestinian state annexing Jordan


President Bourguiba, who suggested this, considers Jordan to be an artificial state. The East Bank of Jordan would be "de-Hashemized" and annexed to the Palestinian West Bank, thereby creating both a Palestinian and an Israeli state on the original area of mandated Palestine. But this proposal would certainly meet with rejection by Israel and Jordan, and would very probably be vetoed by the United States. It could only materialize through violence. It, too, is improbable and hardly desirable.


3. An independent Palestinian state without the Palestinian resistance


This suggestion resembles the first. Its basis is the creation of a Palestinian leadership independent of the Palestinian resistance. But this is impossible except through the establishment by Israel of its own puppet leaders, a solution that would come up against the same Arab and Palestinian rejection mentioned above. Once again, this is a scarcely likely proposition, and an undesirable one.


4. An independent Palestinian state governed by the Palestinian resistance


This seems the most plausible suggestion in current circumstances. It would create three states on the originally mandated area of Palestine: Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Palestine. This resembles the kind of solution adopted in Vietnam: a partition enjoying the support of the great powers and not meeting a systematic Arab and Palestinian rejection, at least if it appears as the first stage in a further-reaching final solution. It is a likely prospect and desirable in the short-term.


5. A democratic, non-sectarian state in all of Palestine


In place of the coexistence of states, what we are now considering is the coexistence of peoples in a Palestine containing men of different faiths and different nationalities. This presupposes the de-Zionization of Israel in favour of a state where there will be no discrimination and Jews, Christians and Muslims will all enjoy equal democratic rights. The proposal comes up against rejection by Israel as well as by the powers who have guaranteed the continued existence of a Zionist Israel. It is thus improbable in the short-term; but in the final analysis, who can doubt that it is the most desirable option?


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Ghassan Tueni is a leading political figure in Lebanon and publisher of the daily al-Nahzar

1 Zeev Shiff in Haaretz, October 8, 1973.

2 Haaretz, November 11, 1973.

3 Haaretz, January 14, 1974.

4 Haaretz, November 13, 1973.

5 Maariv, November 14, 1973. 

6 Haaretz, January 14, 1974.

7 Haaretz, November 6, 1973.

8 Haaretz, March 13, 1974. 

9 Haaretz, February 24, 1974.

10 Maariv, January 21, 1974. 

11 Haaretz, October 30, 1974