Eye on the Middle East Sep/Oct 2005
In the quest for peace and survival in the Middle East, a little history and a few questions may be to our benefit. Following Britain’s defeat of the Muslim Ottoman Turks in 1917, the Mandatory powers created by the League of Nations rested with two countries: Britain and France.
Lebanon and Syria fell to the French. Britain received a huge region that included Palestine and Mesopotamia (Iraq). Palestine, designated initially as a Jewish state-to-be, was mutilated when three-quarters of it was lopped off to create Transjordan (currently Jordan). So the Arabs received three-fourths of British Mandate Palestine. These vast territories of Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon all were given to the Arabs and are Arab states today.
Wrote historian Shmuel Katz, “Thus the great Arab nation came into sovereign possession of the whole of the huge territory between the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean, except for the sliver of land that remained for the Jewish State of Israel.”1
But were the Arabs satisfied when even more territory was ceded to them in the UN plan of 1947? No. They rejected the UN partition and seized the opportunity to attack the Jewish Palestinians in the land and the emaciated and exhausted Jewish Holocaust survivors who had arrived, with the exuberant hope of wiping them out.
In a recent Jerusalem Post article, Katz, cofounder of the Herut political party with the late Menachem Begin, asked a question international leaders should be mulling over:
Why? Why? What quarrel with Israel did Egypt have, or Iraq, or Syria, or Saudi Arabia, or indeed Transjordan itself? They had no quarrel with Israel—except its very existence. Whence comes the Arabs’ unchanging, inflexible attitude to the Jewish people?2
Answer: All of the territory between the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean is, they claim, Arab property.3
Katz stated that, after the humiliating Arab defeat of 1967, the Arabs changed their strategy.
They recalled the advice of the Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba who warned them in the 1950s that they would never destroy Israel in one blow and must aim at accomplishing it in phases. Thus Arab diplomacy switched from dissolution of the Jewish state to the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank, but with Jerusalem as its capital.4
It is patently clear that since the Arabs began following Habib Bourguiba’s slice-at-a-time counsel, their strategy has not changed. Therefore, are Israelis and their Western advisors making a huge mistake in granting unilateral concessions?
A look at the truncated 1922 version of the British Mandate shows the entire area west of the Jordan as the Jewish homeland, plus Gaza and Judea/Samaria (the West Bank). And if one contends that the 1947 repartition negates the 1922 version, one must also remember that the Arabs universally rejected the 1947 version and that their position is virtually unchanged today. Fur ther -more, the West Bank, which the Palestinians now claim rightfully belongs to them, was seized militarily by the Jordanians in 1948 and held until 1967 without regard for international rights.
That’s all history. Now for some questions:
- Are Israel and its Western allies contributing to the phased Arab program to eliminate Israel?
- Will Arab leaders view disengagement as a further triumph in their plans to have it all?
- Will forcing Jewish people off lands they have every right to live on cool tensions?
- Will the Arab and Muslim worlds be satisfied?
- Will a state with a “No Jews Allowed” policy based on hatred and discrimination settle for less than everything?
You do the math. It isn’t tough.
- Shmuel Katz, “disengagement is no solution,” The Jerusalem Post, June 14, 2005 <www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1118715535620&p=1006953079865>.