PO0L I C Y B AC K GR 0 U ND
THE "IMMINENT WAR" THESIS
THiE MIDEAST REALITY
Embassy of Israel1
June 160 19694
THE "IMMINENT WAR" THESIS AND THE MIDEAST REALITY
1. The Six Day War brought about two developments that fundamen-
tally changed the strategic and political map.
One: It created for the first time an avenue of potential
negotiation for peace, the occupied areas being a
subject of critical concern and interest to the
neighboring Arab States.
Two: For the first time Israel gained secure defensive
lines along natural strategic barriers (the Suez Canal,
the Jordan River, the Golan Heights), removing the
threat to all of Israel's population centers, with
the exception of a number of villages. The situation
before June 1967 was the very opposite.
These developments are without precedent, as are the prospects
for peace which they have generated.
2. Conditions for Peace Process
The justification for this view is the interrelationship
between the aforementioned situations. The cease-fire status-quo
gives Israel an immeasurably strengthened security that it can
indefinitely maintain. The Arab States, on the other hand, give
top priority to the restoration of their territories. Given a
situation in which these States would conclude that neither an
all-out war nor an imposed political settlement would succeed in
changing the existing status-quo in their favor, there are grounds
to assume they would ponder the alternative of a negotiated peace.
The emergence of such a situation depends upon two major factors.
One: The maintenance of Israel's deterrent strength
as the means to eliminate the Arab option of
renewed full-scale war.
Two: The insistence on the part of powers anxious
for a genuine peace upon the principle of
reconciliation between the parties through a
direct negotiation of their differences.
Any development that weakens Israel militarily, or
that feeds the Arab hope of an imposed political settlement
short of peace undermines this organic peace process.
3. The "Imminent War" Thesis
In recent months, certain political commentators have
argued that with the passage of time, the conditions that have
developed as a consequence of the cease-fire status-quo have
brought the region to the brink of an imminent explosion; They
have pointed, as evidence, to three tension points.
One: The heightened daily barrages along the Suez Canal.
Two: The growth of the Arab terrorist organizations and
their intensified activity.
Three: The threatened collapse from within of "moderate"
Arab regimes undermined by the actions of the
terrorist organizations inside their territories.
These commentators have maintained that the anticipated
imminent war could bring the United Stateb and the Soviet Union
into a direct confrontation with dreaded implications for the peace
of the world. Hence the urgent need for measures to defuse the
situation through Great Power initiative.
4. Israel Assessment
Israel has vigorously questioned this line of thinking,
asserting that it is no less dangerous to overestimate the tensions
as it is to underestimate them. Arab policy in these months has
precisely been to generate in world opinion the fear of an imminent
explosion in the hope of panicking the West into hasty action in
favor of a political solution. They hoped, and continue to hope,
that Soviet advocacy of their design would ultimately produce re-
sults, i.e. an israeli withdrawal without the Arabs being required
to make peace with Israel,
5. If Israeli spokesmen have, again and again, challenged the
thesis of immediate war, this has not been a propaganda exercise
to neutralize the Arab-Soviet initiative It is a sober assessment
of the realities, and events have substantially upheld this
Israel has never minimized the seriousness of the cease-fire
violations, but it has warned against exaggerating their implica-
tions. They can and are being contained, and do not pose a threat
to world peace. Their motivation, as indicated above, has a polit-
ical more than a military purpose.
Full-scale war is not imminent because Nasser is not ready
for it. He acknowledges that were he to attack in strength nou,
he would face the prospect of another defeat. This is not to say
he is not arming and planning for war. But to the extent that
Israel is able to maintain an arms balance, an Egyptian assault
Israel has argued that the Soviet Union, though certainly
anxious to see a continuation of Mideast tensions, it being the
fuel of its penetration designs, does not want war in the Middle
3UNE 16, 1969
East now. The Soviets fear war because they fear its likely end -
defeat, the fall of Nasser and, with him, the loss to the Soviets
of their major foothold in the area. Russia fears the danger of
super-power confrontation, and in recent days, has gone to extraor-
dinary lengths to make its feelings clear The surprise departure
for Cairo of Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko (in the very middle of
the world Communist parley in Moscow) was heralded by a significant
Pravda article published June 6, 1969, Attacking Israel and prais-
ing Nasser, the article warns against military adventurism and
emphasizes thu need for a political solution, albeit on Arab terms.
"Nationalistic and revanchist attitudes are being kindled
a-ong the (Egyptian) people and the army with a view to
pushing the UAR onto an adventurist course. According to
their calculations, the existing regime could no longer
remain intact as a result. In the UAR there Is increasing
undnrEtanding of the fact that the internal front's
strengthening on a progressive social base, the improve-
ment of the armed forces' combat and moral training, and
a sober and realistic approach to a settlement of the
conflict by political method- will ultimately open the
way toward the restoration of the country's territorial
integrity and will serve the progressive regime's
7. The Facts of Terrorism Military
With re- d to the terrorist question, the considerable atten-
tion focused on these organizations has imparted to them a mili-
tary and political significance which Israel does not share. They
do not have the strength to threaten the cease-fire regime, nor do
they have the capacity to bring about full-scale war. Militarily
they have proved a failure, most of their incursions being inter-
cepted and thc=i; losses high. WUh'.I succeeding, occasionally, in
endangering the lives of ir.dlvidwal Israelis, they do not pose a
threat to Israel itself. They have failed consistently to rally
and inc.te the population of the occupied areas into active defiance,
and are compelled to operate from bases beyond the cease-fire lines.
The total active strength h of the terrorist groups is counted in
8. The Facts of Terrorism -. Political
The political threat posed by these terrorist groups to the
area as a whole, and particularly to the "moderate" Arab regimes,
has been equally exaggerated by certain commentators. The internal
dissensions created by the terrorists within Jordan and Lebanon have
been substantially neutralized.
In the case of Jordan, King Hussein established some kind of a
modus-vivendi by his agreement with the terrorist groups in November
JUNE 16, 1969
1968, regulating their operations within his territory. Nasser,
himself, has demonstrated his interest in the continuation of the
Hussein regime and has supported the King in his policy of internal
In the case of Lebanon, the firm response by the Beirut author-
ities, with the evident support of the majority of the populace,
has gone a long way to removing the threat posed by the terrorists
from Syria to Lebanon's integrity.
Students of terrorist behavior and policy are by no means
convinced that the terrorists' aim is, indeed, the overthrow of
their host regimes, even if they had the power to do so. There is
credence to the view that the terrorists would eschew governmental
responsibility, with all the restrictive bureaucratic and political
burdens such a responsibility would entail. Their activities would
indicate that they seek a free hand to operate as they see fit
within the framework of the existing establishments, not necessarily
to replace them.
There are also clear indications that Nasser seeks to control
the terrorist organizations and make them a part of the overall
Arab military establishment. As stated by the semi-official
Cairo daily, Al-Ahram, June 1, 1969:
"Even though all resistance organizations act without
laison or planning, they operate within the framework
of principles and Arab interests. Just because they
are fedayeen organizations they are not exempt from
this logic nor above the issue. On this basis, it is
right to say point blank, since the circumstances do
not allow for courtesy, that the Tapline operation seems
to be outside the logical framework, unless there are
additional explanations that would bring to light
information so far unknown."
9 Nothing Happened to Change Direct Peace Principle.
Viewed in the perspective of the above observations it can be
asserted that the Middle East, for all its continued inner tensions
has, over the past two years, established an equilibrium of its
own. The prospect of imminent full-scale war appears remote; the
Soviet Union, for its own good reasons, is anxious to avert
outright war; the terrorist organizations have failed to establish
themselves as a military factor capable of serious independent ac-
tion; there is little likelihood that the political map of the
region will be radically changed by them; and the cease-fire regime
remains intact despite violations.
The passage of time, in other words, has not witnessed an acute
deterioration of the overall situation. Nothing has developed since
June 1967 that can legitimately be cited as reason to compromise on
the crucial objective of peace, directly negotiated between the par-
ties. For only such a peace can be a lasting one.
S. :';,. ":. :..... .. ..... '
: ",. J i ` :::. ..' . " ."':"' .. :. "
JUNE 16, 1969