Arab Strategies And Israel's Response

New York: The Free Press, 1977. Third printing [stated]. Trade paperback. xiii, [1], 194 pages. Cover and edges have some wear and soiling. The former chief of Israeli intelligence, examining then current Arab attitudes toward Israel, indicates some hope for a Middle East peace, despite continuing Arab hostility and depending upon Israel's responses to Arab demands and proposals. More than half a century later, the conflicts remain unresolved. Yehoshafat Harkabi (born 1921, Haifa; died 26 August 1994, Jerusalem) was chief of Israeli military intelligence from 1955 until 1959 and afterwards a professor of International Relations and Middle East Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Harkabi had a good command of Arabic, a deep knowledge of Arab civilization and history, and a solid understanding of Islam. He developed from an uncompromising hardliner to supporter of a Palestinian state who recognized the PLO as a negotiations partner. In his most well-known work Israel's Fateful Hour, Harkabi described himself as a "Machiavellian dove" intent on searching "for a policy by which Israel can get the best possible settlement of the conflict in the Middle East" (1988, p. xx) - a policy that would include a Zionism "of quality and not of acreage" (p. 225). Harkabi was forced to resign as chief of Military Intelligence as a consequence of the 1959 Night of the Ducks. Following his military career, Harkabi served as a visiting professor at Princeton University and guest scholar at the Brookings Institution. He was Maurice Hexter professor and director of the Leonard Davis Institute of International Relations and Middle East Studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Derived from a review in Commentary: Two complaints have become traditional when considering the writings of Yehoshafat Harkabi, probably Israel’s most famous, possibly its most influential, commentator on the everlasting conflict with the Arabs. First, it is said, he finds what he is looking for. Second, he doesn’t keep up with the times. These would be very serious criticisms if they could be substantiated, for Harkabi is not only a professor with a duty to describe reality truthfully. He is also a former chief of military intelligence whose advice was sought and sometimes followed by the Rabin government. Harkabi’s latest book, in which he tries to distinguish what has changed in the ideological terms of the conflict recently from what has stayed the same, provides a chance to reexamine the old complaints against him and to decide to what extent one hopes that his ideas are also getting a hearing. Harkabi finds that in the speeches, books, articles, and debates of Arab intellectuals and politicians since the Six-Day War, conceptions about Israel have been “refined,” and the vituperative language which he catalogued in his big work, Arab Attitudes to Israel (1968), has been moderated. This more subtle conceptualization and moderate language may or may not accompany a change in strategic goals. But Harkabi is intrigued most by an Arab school of thought that has its focus is on reducing Israel to its “natural dimensions.” “This school,” he writes, “shows a willingness to coexist with Israel in the 1949-1967 boundaries.” Many of its exponents are Egyptians. They seem more “pragmatic,” alive to the fact that the endless warfare keeps at least some of the Arabs in bondage. Yet it isn’t clear how important or reliable Harkabi believes this trend of thought to be; he is worried that the studied vagueness of its advocates about the peace or non-war that will follow the end of the shooting may actually mean that they have the same goal in mind as the first school—to wear Israel down, not to live with it. The best policy, Harkabi thinks, would be the one that combines a perception of the Arab strategy as in all likelihood fundamentally unchanged and hawkish, with a response to it that has dovish aspects but doesn’t give anything away free. This “hawkish-dovish” response “tries to be stringently reality-oriented . . . recognizing both the harshness of the Arab position and the exigencies of international reality.” It is sufficiently paradoxical to harmonize with the Jewish state’s “existential predicament.” The consequence is not that the Israelis must accede to the PLO’s wish to replace the Jewish state with an Arab state. The consequence, for Harkabi, is that Israel, including its policy-makers, should accept without anxiety the idea that someday the Palestinians will form a state east of Israel, on territory including most of the West Bank, which is, after all, 99 percent Arab by population. This will be the Palestinian state, even if, as Harkabi would prefer, the PLO as it is now known will have little part in running it, and it will continue for a time to be called the kingdom of Jordan. In principle, Harkabi’s “hawkish-dovish” policy has great attractions. It looks flexible, and a wise policy is almost always flexible. One wonders, however, whether his book wasn’t originally addressed to the Labor government, and therefore whether it hasn’t been outdated. The book was finished before the Likud unseated the Labor party, before Jimmy Carter staked his reputation on an early Middle East settlement, before President Sadat and King Hussein said they were ready to sign peace treaties with Israel, and before the American administration, desirous of seeing the PLO at the negotiating table, climbed down from its earlier condition that the covenant would have to be abrogated—now it seems that the PLO’s accepting UN Resolution 242 will be enough for Washington. Does this mean Harkabi’s analysis and recommendations have been superseded by events? Possibly but not necessarily. Condition: Good.

Keywords: Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Arab-Israeli Conflict, Zionism, Gaza, West Bank, Guerrilla Warfare, Six-Day War, Yom Kippur War, Nationalism, Concessions, Palestinian State, Two-State Solution

ISBN: 0029137802

[Book #87502]

Price: $65.00