The Arab-Israeli ConflictThis protracted and bitter struggle lies at the heart of the Middle East crisis. Its harmful potential is, to be sure, enhanced by great power involvement. But the simple fact remains that the continuation of this conflict grievously damages the interests of all concerned:
It has drawn the Soviet Union and the United States into close military association with the combatants, with all the danger that poses to world peace.
It has caused the disruption of normal U.S. relations with a number of Arab countries. This in turn has increased the already excessive Arab dependence on Soviet support, and therefore their dangerous vulnerability to excessive Soviet influence.
It has provided an issue which has been exploited and manipulated by radical elements to undercut the internal stability of the Arab nations.
It has for two decades kept the 50 million people of Israel and the adjoining Arab nations in a permanent state of hostilities, and in constant fear of attack.
It has forced both the Arab states and Israel to divert a tragically disproportionate share of their resources to the instruments and activities of war.
It has condemned to squalor and to soul-searing hatred the lives of the Palestinian refugees, who include not only those who originally fled their homes upon the establishment of Israel, but a whole generation born and reared in the hopelessness and frustration of the refugee camps. They are the material from which history creates the tragedies of the future.
That is the outline of the situation which prevails. It is, and was when my administration began, of deep concern to the American people.
We faced a choice. We could have elected to stand aloof from the problem, on the theory that our diplomatic intervention would serve only to complicate further an already excessively complex problem.
We rejected that course. We did so for three reasons. First, the stakes involved are too high for us to accept a passive role. Second, we could see nothing resulting from our restraint but the steady deterioration of the situation into open war. Third, it would have been intolerable to subordinate our own hopes for global peace and a more stable relationship with the Soviet Union to the local-if severe- animosities of the Middle East.
Therefore-with no illusions about the difficulty or the risks-this administration embarked upon a major and prolonged effort to achieve a peaceful settlement of the Middle East crisis. In that effort we have encountered in full measure the difficulties we expected. We have had disappointments as well as a limited degree of success. Because this problem is so important, and because our role is central to the chances for settlement, I wish to discuss in detail our assessment of the problem, and our efforts to resolve it.
The interests of all concerned require a settlement. The purpose of the United States has been to help the parties work out among themselves a peace agreement that each would have a stake in maintaining. We have proceeded with a sense of compassion for their concerns.
The Israelis seek recognition as a nation by their neighbors in secure circumstances. In any settlement they will seek more than simple declarations of peace and of Israel's legitimacy. They also seek physical security. For Israel, peace must be something more than a paper peace.
The Arab governments seek the recovery of territories lost during the June war, justice for those who have lost lands and homes through more than twenty years of conflict, and a sense of dignity and security that will permit them to feel no longer vulnerable to attack. Peace for them must also be real.
If these concerns are to be reconciled, three conditions must be met:
- Judgment on each side that the other is willing to make and live up to commitments that could produce a just and lasting peace.
- Judgment on each side that the other will be able to keep its commitments.
- Judgment on each side that the world community can provide realistic supplementary guarantees of whatever agreements may be reached.