POLICY B A C K G R 0 U N D
ATTAINMENT OF PEACE WITHIN SECURE BOUNDARIES
IS ISRAEL'S FIRM RESOLVE
Full Text of the Interview with ForeiQn Minister Abba Eban
by Alfred Friendly
The Washington Post
March 6, 1969
THE EMBASSY OF ISRAEL
March 7, 1969
P 0 LIC Y
BAC KGR 0 UND
Q. The Arab states insist that Israel has never stated that it accepts
the Security Council resolution of Nov. 22, 1967, or would implement it.
Is this true?
A. We've made so many statements on the acceptance of the resolutions
as the framework of a negotiated settlement that we can't even attach
seriousness to any Arab assertions to the contrary. On Oct. 8, I, myself,
said in the U.N. General Assembly: "Israel accepts the Security Council
resolution...and declares its readiness to negotiate agreements on all
matters mentioned therein."
That is the cabinet position. Now the Arab states have reservations
about our use of the word "agreement." The word "agreement" is in the
resolution. It is the very essence of our position.
That peace must grow from agreements in the Middle East, not from
settlements dictated outside it. There are no Security Council resolu-
tions calling for any action except on the basis of agreement.
Q. Have you ever declared that your implementation of the resolution
would entail the withdrawal of Israeli troops to new borders? The Arabs
claim you refuse to say so.
A. I was asked that by Ambassador Jarring in ammemorandum presented
by the United Arab Republic (Egypt). I gave him a clear answer, namely
that in a peace agreement we would replace the cease-fire lines by secure
and agreed boundaries and that the disposition of troops would then be
made in accordance with the new boundaries.
It is ludicrous to say that Israel and an Arab state would agree to
negotiated and recognized boundaries and then would restation their
troops in place where they were not entitled to be under the agreement.
The trouble is that the Arab states ask for withdrawal without peace
or the establishment of new boundaries.
Q. Why has Israel not made public in more specific terms the new ter-
ritorial arrangements it envisions?
A. Here we're in a quandary. When we make our ideas public it in-
creases the complexities. Ue make certain proposals and the Arab states
look at them, recoil and say they cannot negotiate on them.
I think it is much better to say officially that at the negotiating
table the whole problem of boundaries and territories is open for agree-
ment. The territorial question is open for free discussion, anyone can
make any proposals he likes for negotiation.
When I go to my colleagues to discuss possible terms, they say,"Have
you got an Arab government that is willing in principle to talk peace?
If not, why should we fight among ourselves about something hypothetical'
If I came one day and said, "Gentlemen, Arab government XYZ says it
wants peace and would like to explore its conditions, then we would have
to cross the Rubicon. We would have to give our negotiators concrete
positions, determining what things are indispensable for us and on which
matters they can be flexible.
The Arab states have never put us in the position of having to work
out a detailed range of contingent positions.
They will not negotiate directly; they will not negotiate indirectly
-- as Nasser told The New York Times the other day -- they will not
negotiate orally; they will not negotiate with Jarring or without him.
They will not even negotiate by correspondence course.
That's where the frustration lies. Unless they negotiate with us,
they will never know and we oursleves will never know the true limits
of our flexibility and of theirs.
Q. You have said that details of a peace agreement are secondary to
the principal objective, the sine qua non: an end to the long Arab cam-
paign for the extinction of the state of Israel. Do you believe that
the Arab states are, as they claim, sincerely renouncing that goal by
accepting the Security Council resolution?
A. The policy of the UAR must be interpreted in accordance with the
statements of its leaders and from communications to us by Ambassador
Jarring. These are quite consistent: There isn't any distinction be-
tween them. They present the following picture:
They want us to withdraw in the first stage to the June 4, 1967,
boundaries -- what we call our nightmare map. They want us to recon-
struct our own peril and put us back into the straitjacket. But this
is only stage one.
Stage two is that the Arab armies would follow our retreat. Notice
that in the Soviet Union!s dialogue with the United States, the prin-
ciple of demilitarization in Sinai is dropped: Arab troops move in to
wherever Israeli troops move out. The June 4 powder keg is reconstructed.
Then the blockade is re-established. Freedom of 'assage in the Suez
is made contingent on settlement of the refugee problem, which is at the
very best a matter of years -- I hope not decades.
The same is true about passage through the Straits of Tiran, the
issue that exploded into the June war.
The UAR tells us that they would oppose any permanent arrangement not
contingent on their consent. The Sword of Damocles would be put back
into place. The May 23, 1967, crisis could be recreated whenever the
UAR decided to do so.
Thereafter, the Palestine problem, as they call it, would have to be
settled by allowing all the refugees back into what remained of Israel
after its withdrawal. Enough Arabs must be introduced to convert Israel
into something that is not Israel.
Then, Nasser says, he would make peace with the Israel that it then
would have become, namely another Arab state.
This is so clear, so repeatedly stated, that to assume that Nasser
wants peace with Israel as a sovereign Jewish state in its own national
personality is utterly frivolous.
In fact, in the last few days, the governments which are in closest
contact with us have told us very frankly that they do not now believe
that the UAR is ready for a peace with us on terms that Israel would
accept or that friendly governments would advise us to accept.
At the most, Nasser would accept a Jewish community in an Arab state,
or perhaps a sort of Lebanon. But the idea that Israel is an independent
nation with roots in the Middle East, no less deep and much older than
Arab roots is foreign to Nasser's thinking.
Our case is that Israel is part of the Middle East past and the Middle
East present and the Middle East future. This is something that he has
I think that this is the real essence of the conflict -- that Arab
intellectual and political leaders have never really solved the mystery
of Israel's deep and authentic roots in the Middle East past and destiny.
Q. Is the same unwillingness that you assert on the part of Egypt to
make peace true with respect to Jordan?
A. The situation is different, in the psychological sense. There are
Palestinian and Jordanian leaders who say frankly that they would have
preferred Israel not to exist but that its existence is an inexorable
If Nasser can allow himself to dream, however vainly, of a military
victory as a final solution, the Jordanians cannot possibly have any
The question is whether there is in Jordan a sovereign capacity to
negotiate. The question marks are whether Jordan can negotiate without
4 green light, or even an amber light, from Cairo; whether the green or
amber light exists; whether it could explore a settlement with us under
the pressure of the terrorist organizations; whether the presence of
Iraqi troops in Jordan exercises an inhibiting effect.
But the issue is not dead. What I have in mind is an integral solu-
tion solving the problems of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Arabs
by establishing an open boundary on the community model familiar in
Weatern Europe, as for example Benelux.
We must look for a way of living together without a million Arabs
being forced into an unwanted allegiance.
Q, How can there be the "real peace," the sincere willingness of Arabs
to live in peace with Israel, unless the refugee problem is solved?
Have you a proposal for its solution?
A. I used to think that a solution of the refugee problem would bring
about peace, It is my conviction now that the exact opposite is true,
that only peace can bring about a solution of the refugee problem.
So long as the Arab states do not want peace, they will not want a
solution of the refugee problem.
The Security Council resolution is the first international regogmition
of the fact that the refugee solution can only come as a part of an in-
tegral peace solution. The problem was caused by war; it can only be
solved by peace.
Nevertheless we did make a proposal, to which the press has given in-
sufficient attention, that ahead of any question of peace or boundaries
or recognition, we should have an international conference to charter a
five-year plan for the solution of the participation of Middle Eastern
states, of governmentswhich help to support the refugees and the U.N.
specialized agencies. I should be anxious to know what is wrong with
that suggestion. In proposing in New York in October to try to reach
agreement on each of the eight or nine subjects in the Security Council
resolution, of which the refugees is one, I said it made no matter to me
which was discussed first.
I said let's begin with navigation, or the refugee problem, or bound-
aries, or take them up simultaneously with subcommittees to discuss each
UAR Foreign Minister Riad's answer was to book passage back to Cairo
because any response to this would have involved him in a dialogue with
us. The peace idea was becoming too concrete for his liking. The pro-
posal for a refugee conference was rejected rather nervously by him,
because it is not easy to explain to world opinion that it should be
rejected by anyone who cares anything for the refugees.
Q. But have you stated, even in principle, what Israel is prepared to
do to solve that enormous problem?
A. We are on our guard against any manner of thinking that makes the
refugee problem an exclusive Israeli responsibility. Israel simply can-
not solve the problem; it can make a contribution to its solution. I
don't believe the states of the Middle East can solve it alone. It has
to be solved regionally and internationally. That is why we must create
a regional and international framework for the refugee discussion. But
when I say that peace could solve it, I mean that the psychology of
peace would open up possibilities which we cannot envisage in a condition
That's what I think the Arab governments don't understand. The key
to the Israeli attitude lies in their hands. The moment they negotiate
with us, they unlock in the Israeli mind all kinds of impulses which
have been held back.
Q. In the absence of progress towards a settlement, will the
Palestine liberation movement grow and capture the imagination of the
Arab peoples, to the point that a political settlement becomes possible?
A. These groups are a burden on our security in some places, but in
my mind they are still marginal and not central.
Arab governments established these organizations. Without Arab
governments they would have neither weapons nor support. The mastery
still belongs to the Arab governments. If Nasser or King Hussein de-
cided to negotiate peace, I believe these movements would dwindle at the
negotiating stage and fade away at the settlement stage.
Q. They have not become Frankenstein's monster, more powerful than
A. I think the governments still retain executive control. The Fatah
is simply a convenience for Arab governments which do not want to fight
with their regular armies and yet do not want a period of tranquility
leading to peace.
Q. Israel is accused of asking for a degree of security that no other
country enjoys; that you refuse to gamble on the possible turning of your
adversaries' minds towards a peaceful outcome.
A. On the contrary, I would settle for the kiid of security which
every other country has. I would take any sovereign country in the
world and ask what are its relationships with its neighbors in a state
of peace. I would shut my eyes, pick one, and settle for that.
Q. How will the Israeli government changes effect the relationship
between hawks and doves? Where do you stand personally in that division.
A. The ornithological definition is not useful. The hawk-dove phrase
has done more to confuse public thinking on international problems than
any other semantic device.
We are all hawks only in our ambition to make Israel really secure,
and most of us are doves in our ardent desire for peace. My colleague
(Defense Minister Moshe) Dayan is called a hawk but it was he who told
your people on television that he "would give up a lot of territory for
peace" with Egypt or Jordan. That sounds dovish to me.
Mrs. Meir, who I hope will lead the next cabinet, has said that she
opposed the extreme slogan of "no surrender of territory" and that if
our boundaries are to be agreed boundaries they cannot be the present
ones, but that only a peace negotiation can make the discussion real.
So there is a national consensus which I have been expressing all