From Faneuil Hall in Boston, THE ADVOCATES. Tonight's question: "SHOULD THE
UNITED STATES SUPPORT 'SELF-DETERMINATION' FOR PALESTINIANS IN A MIDDLE EAST PEACE SETTLEMENT?"
Arguing in favor is Fouad Ajami, Assistant Professor of Politics at Princeton University.
Appearing as witnesses for Mr. Ajami are Naseer Aruri, Professor of Political Science at
Southeastern Massachusetts University, and George Ball, former Under Secretary of State. Arguing
against the proposal is New York attorney Morris Abram, former U.S. Representative to the United
Nations Commission on Human Rights, and former President of Brandeis University. Appearing as
witnesses for Mr. Abram are Ben Nitay, Economic Consultant from Boston Consulting Group, and
Robert Tucker, Professor of International Politics at Johns Hopkins University.
Good evening, and welcome to THE ADVOCATES. I'm Marilyn Berger. Tonight we look
at an issue that in the past few years has become central to the conflict in the Middle East:
Self-determination for the Palestinians. Self-determination would allow the Palestinians to
choose any form of government they wish including an independent state. Self-determination has
become a catch phrase, a code word if you will, in Middle East diplomacy, a rallying call for
Palestine Liberation Organization publicly endorsed by Arab leaders who remain privately
somewhat doubtful about the concept. It's been rejected outright by Prima Minister Begin.
Tonight, we ask what American policy should be. Should the United States support
self-determination for the Palestinians? Would that help bring lasting peace to the Middle East?
Advocate Fouad Ajami says, yes.
Self-determination is a primary human right. The right of the people to
constitute themselves in a national society. A clear American commitment to Palestinian
self-determination is in the interest of the Arab states, world peace and as we will show
tonight, in the interest of Israel herself. Moreover, such a commitment to demonstrate that the
Carter administration really means what it says about human rights. With me tonight are
Professor Naseer Aruri and former Under Secretary of State, George Ball.
Advocate Morris Abram says, no.
Palestinian self-determination is a slogan which has the superficial moralistic
appeal, but what it really means is a Soviet armed, PLO radical state in the heart of the Middle
East. I oppose it for two basic reasons: first, it would be unjust in the light of Middle East
history, and second, it would be dangerous to Israel, our own country, the United States, and to
peace of the world for which we all pray. With me tonight to support this proposition are Mr.
Benjamin Nitay, and Professor Robert W. Tucker.
Thank you, gentlemen. We will be back to you in a moment, but first a word of
background. Last November, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat pushed aside thirty years of hostility
and mistrust by visiting Jerusalem and opening a direct dialogue with the Jewish state. In the
new spirit of Jerusalem, hopes for peace were universal. Egypt and Israel were talking, the
United States was pushed into the background. Sadat went to Israel alone, but he could not make
peace alone. He was torn by Egypt's aspirations for peace and Egypt's role as a leader in the
Arab world. To prove he would not go it alone, Sadat sought assurances for the future of the
almost 3.5 million Palestinians who were demanding recognition of their national
rights, demanding self-determination. Prime Minister Begin has offered local autonomy but not
statehood to over a million residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But when the
Arab-Israeli talks broke down recently, the United States was brought again into the
negotiations to try to get a set of principles to govern a settlement. President Carter has
moved closer to recognizing Palestinian rights than any of his predecessors, but he has
carefully avoided the word self-determination. He has said the Palestinians should participate
in the determination of their own future. The perennial problem has been that both the
Palestinians and the Israelis look upon the same land as home. Clearly, the United States has an
overriding interest in peace and stability in the Middle East. The challenge is how best to
achieve that goal. And so tonight's question: "SHOULD THE UNITED STATES SUPPORT
'SELF-DETERMINATION' FOR THE PALESTINIANS IN A MIDDLE EAST PEACE SETTLEMENT?" Will
self-determination for Palestinians bring peace? Or will it create a threat to peace that
neither the United States nor Israel can risk? Should the United States take the lead in trying
to reconcile the national aspirations of the Palestinians while assuring the security of Israel?
Mr. Ajami, the floor is yours.
At the root of the bitter Middle Eastern conflict lies the clash of two national
movements, Israeli nationalism and Palestinian nationalism. For some, truth and justice mean
affirming one claim while totally denying the other. Yet justice cannot be sought through
one-sided claims. The Palestinians are a living people, their nationalism a real force in the
Middle East. Some arguments have it, I'm sure you will hear them tonight, that Palestinian
self-determination would threaten the security of Israel as well as the security of the Arab
states. We argue the opposite. Palestinian self-determination would enable Arab, Israeli and
Palestinians to seek a more humane order and would spare the world the awesome consequences of
super-power confrontations and oil embargoes. And so, it is in America's interest and it is her
obligation as a world power to make a clear commitment to Palestinian self-determination. The
current U.S. policy, which falls short of that, is bound to falter and waste a great opportunity
to sponsor a just and lasting peace. I call as my first witness, Professor Naseer Aruri.
Welcome to THE ADVOCATES, Mr. Aruri.
Born in Jerusalem, Professor Aruri now teaches Middle Eastern Studies and
Political Science at Southeastern Massachusetts University. And now, I would like to begin with
a very basic question. Now, a few years ago Prime Minister Golda Meir said there are no such
thing as the Palestinians. How would you as a Palestinian and as a scholar establish the basis
of Palestinian nationalism?
Let me say, Mr. Ajami, that a...former Prime Minister Golda Meir who said that
there are no such thing as the Palestinians is the same one who also stated a few years later
that she couldn't sleep at night thinking about how many Palestinian babies were being born. The
Palestinian people are the direct descendants of those who lived for fourteen centuries in the
land of Palestine, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. They have lived on
that land as the majority owning most of the land. They have been united in a common struggle
against colonialism, against the British mandate, and also against Zionist settlers during the
inter-war period. It is a cohesive community, it is a highly literate community and it has
remained cohesive despite the legal fragmentation and the physical fragmentation which fell on
it in 1948. In 1948, this community has experienced what we call "an-Nakba," which means a
catastrophe. The society was destroyed and that — this society has got to have a chance to
reconstruct itself for the sake of peace in the region.
Professor Aruri, what does self-determination mean for the Palestinians?
Self-determination means, means having their own state. For the Palestinians,
like everybody else, like one-hundred and fifty nations in the world, to have their own state.
This is what the Palestinians defined themselves as a nation and also, they have waged a
struggle during the inter-war period for a state and they have also, since 1967 after the Arabs
were defeated in the June war, they launched a war of resistance and they have bean seeking a
state of their own.
All right, recently Prime Minister Begin offered a plan for home-rule for the
Palestinians. What do you think about, what do you think of this particular plan? Does this meet
I don't think that Mr. Begin's plan can be taken seriously by any
self-respecting Palestinian. Because Mr. Begin's plan is another method to perpetuate the
occupation. It is an attempt to give legitimacy to an occupation which has lost it for the past
ten years. It gives the Palestinians a very small voice in their affairs. It is actually a relic
of the past — it belongs to a bygone era and it brings to mind the kind of agreements that were
initiated by Britain with Egypt and Jordan in the 1920s. Moreover, the Begin plan leaves defense
and public order with the Israelis and relegates the other things to the Palestinians. The
Palestinians are able to govern themselves and to rule themselves as an independent
President Carter now says he wants the Palestinians to participate in
determining their own destiny. What does this mean?
We'll have to ask for a very brief answer.
President Carter stated not far from here, in Clinton, Massachusetts, sometime
ago — he said that about a year ago or so he said that the Palestinians are entitled to a
homeland. I think there has been an ambiguity in the statements that have emanated from the
White House and I think the President ought to clarify this ambiguity and come forward with
the...with the recognition of the right to self-determination.
After all, there is a global concern, consensus on that...
Thank you, Mr. Ajami. We will now go to Mr. Abram for some questions for Mr.
Mr. Aruri, do you speak for the PLO?
Would you agree that what the PLO says is more authoritative for the PLO than
your views, which you may very well say and have a right to say to persuade Americans?
The PLO has been recognized by the Palestinian people as well as by a hundred
and five nations of the world as a spokesman of the Palestinians.
All right, and the PLO charter still pledges the destruction of Israel, doesn't
The PLO charter...
Does it, or doesn't it?
Well, the PLO — I think that you have to, you have to really.
Does the charter, sir, does the charter pledge the destruction of Israel?
The charter does not say that we are out to destroy anybody.
Does the charter not say that it aims at the elimination of Zionism in
The charter says that it aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine.
That's correct, but there is a distinction between the state of Israel and
Zionism. And moreover, Mr. Abrams, I think that if you know that in 1974 the Palestine National
Council adopted a 10-point program in which it said that it established a Palestinian National
Authority. Moreover, last year, it clearly said a state.
Do you know Mr. Farouk Qaddoumi is the second man in the PLO?
All right. He recently said "This Zionist ghetto of Israel must be destroyed".
Are you aware of that?
All right. Someone I consider authoritative says: "There are no differences
between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. They are one people. Only for political
reasons do they carefully underline their Palestinian identity. For it is of national interest
for the Arabs to encourage the existence of the Palestinians against Zionism. Yet the existence
of a separate Palestinian identity is there only for tactical reasons. The establishment of a
Palestinian state is a new expedient to continue the fight against Zionism and for Arab unity".
Do you agree with that?
Would you change your mind if you knew the statement was made by the head of
the PLO's operations department, a member of the PLO executive committee, whose name is Zuheir
Mr. Abrams, I don't think you can decide for a movement as to what it's
position is by having quotations taken from here and there.
The PLO, if you permit me to answer your questions, and there have been quite a
few of them, the PLO has been on record for the past two years at least, revising its program.
After all, the PLO has started saying that we are for a common humanity...
...and for a pluralism in Palestine.
Didn't President Carter recently ask the PLO to acknowledge the State of Israel
and to acknowledge the validity of the Resolution 242 of the UN?
But, I ask you, Mr. Abrams, whether the State of Israel recognizes the State of
Israel which exists today? The State of Israel was established and it has never defined its
frontiers. We continually hear a distinction made about security borders and about manifest
All right, Mr. Aruri, aren't there political considerations in considering
whether there should be self-determination as well as moral?
Do you favor self-determination for the Kurds who have been liquidated by the
I am not really here to, to define.
Well, do you or don't you?
...for anybody. I think that every group has the right to define themselves..
...as people. To do that — and it is not up to me to do that.
Do the Christians in Lebanon have the right to self-determination against the PLO
and the Arab Lebanese of Moslem faith who have slaughtered them? They have that right,
I don't agree with the premise of your question, Mr. Abram, about
I am afraid we will have to make that the last question. We'll go back to Mr.
Ajami for one more question. Mr. Ajami, one more question to Mr. Aruri.
Professor Aruri, if you were, just very briefly, just state what do the
Palestinians want at this time? What would you say, just for the sake of the audience?
The Palestinians have stated in 1967 that they want a common humanity and a
pluralistic state. However, the Palestinians have realized that in an imperfect world, perfect
solutions are not attainable and therefore the PLO as a spokesman of the Palestinian people have
come out very explicitly in 1974 and moreover in 1977, saying that we want a state in Palestine
to co-exist with the Israeli state. That is their position as I understand it.
May I just, for the sake of clarity, Mr. Aruri, when you say a pluralistic
state, are you referring to a state in which Palestinians and Jews would live together?
Yes, I am referring to the PLO stand in 1968 which stated that it would be a
Palestine reconstituted for all its citizens, for the Christians, and the Moslems and the Jews
who live in it.
Thank you. Mr. Abram?
Well, Mr. Aruri, that would mean the elimination of Israel as the Jewish state.
But, Mr. Abram I have repeated...
Would it not, sir? Would you please answer that question?
I have twice said that the PLO revised its position and said that we
want a state and then we will enter into a dialogue with the Israeli state and we will try to
convince them if we can that a common humanity is better than an exclusive entity.
Speaking about a common humanity...
Gentlemen, the questioning has ended. Thank you, Mr. Aruri. Thank you for
joining us on THE ADVOCATES. Mr. Ajani?
Professor Aruri has established the political and moral basis of Palestinian
nationalism. To show why the United States should stop equivocating and adopt a clearer policy,
I now call as my second witness, Mr. George Ball.
Mr. Ball, welcome to THE ADVOCATES.
Mr. Ball is a distinguished analyst of international affairs, a former Under
Secretary of State and a former ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Ball, what are the
consequences of more of the same from the U.S. government, lack of clarity? What would
be consequences of a policy that continues along the same line?
The policy that did not advance the cause of peace but left the situation in
its current stalemate I think would be disastrous for the simple reason that a continuous
stalemate means several things. It means, first of all, that no Arab leader again is going to
risk his political future in an attempt to bring about peace as Mr. Sadat has; it means also a
progressive radicalization of the Arab world if the Arabs conclude that there is no possibility
of achieving their objectives through political means and therefore must resort to a military
We are told that the Palestinian state would serve as a base for Soviet
influence and Soviet operations in the Arab world. What is your estimation?
No, I see no reason for it at all. The Soviets have been singularly
unsuccessful in the Arab world. The reason that the Soviets have a foothold at all in the Arab
world is because of the continuance of the Arab-Israeli dispute. And if that dispute is settled
then there is no reason that the Soviets should be brought in to play one side against the
Is there anything in the ideology of the PLO, is there anything in the makeup
of the PLO, or any of the Palestinian leadership, which would prevent Soviet influence?
I see, see, I think you're making a great mistake when you talk as we have been
talking so far this evening — solely about the PLO. I'm talking about something else. I'm
talking about the American position on the question of self-determination. Now, what position
should be, in my view, is this. We should support the principle of self-determination, as we
support other principles which are established political principles in international law, which
we subscribe to for years and years. We support it, but at the same time I don't think it can
come immediately. The point is that there must be a commitment to the Palestinian people that at
some time after a preparatory period they will have an opportunity to resort to the process of
self-determination. No government should come into power, however, unless it is prepared to take
commitments to protect the integrity of its neighbors. And, I would suggest also, a substantial
period of demilitarization which should be accepted also.
What about the argument that the Palestinian state would give nationalism and a
state to terrorists?
Well, terrorism, as Mr. Begin should know very well, is a product of military
occupation. Terrorism always is a response to military occupation. Again, and again, in France,
in the, in Israel and Palestine when it was under the mandate, the British mandate, Mr. Begin
knows very well what that means. I don't accept the fact that terrorism is something of
continuing characteristic of these people. It's a response they have to a state of military
Mr. Ball, do you consider your advocacy of the Palestinian self-determination
compatible with the security needs of the State of Israel?
I'm very sympathetic with the security needs of the State of Israel. But I
think that Israel leadership makes a fundamental mistake in confusing territory and security. I
would suggest, on the other hand, that there can never be security so long as they hold onto
this territory, that the only possibility of real security for Israel is the creation of a
situation in which some of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian peoples and of the
other Arab states are realized in which commitments are made to protect and support and respect
the integrity of the State of Israel. With peace you can have security. You can't have security
as long as you have a military occupation which is already gone on a decade, which I think is
offensive to International Law and to the morality which we ourselves subscribe to. And what
disturbs me is that the United States is in the position and has been for ten years of
subsidizing a military occupation which, frankly, I find against our principles.
Thank you. We will go to Mr. Abram now for some questions to Mr. Ball.
Mr. Ball, I find it interesting and I agree with you that it is, in your view,
it is impossible to have a PLO state there without certain safeguards at the present time.
Demilitarized zone, perhaps limited immigration. All kinds of restrictions.
Sure, I would subscribe to the necessity for restrictions and to a preparatory
period — perhaps five years. But the significant thing is that there must be a commitment now
that they will have the opportunity to enjoy the right of self-determination at some given time
in the future.
Well, in other words, you are not arguing for self-determination now?
No, but I am arguing for the commitment.
Ah, but the waiting period of demilitarization and so forth, you feel is
necessary I gather because of the necessity for the security of the State of Israel.
Yes, and I think so and also to give the Palestinian peoples a right to prepare
the kind of political institutions which are necessary for them effectively to utilize the right
Now, during that period.
During that period there should be some kind of a neutral UN
UN force or some kind of neutral administration.
Well, if you were an Israeli, how would you feel about security from a UN
force? Didn't six Arab armies invade Israel in 1948?
Again, they didn't invade Israel. Israel has never been invaded.
But did they not? Did the UN try to prevent the closing of the Straits of Tiran
No, but, again — again, I'm talking about a non-revocable.
These were non-revocable, too.
No, not in terms of — no, they were interpreted by the secretary general
as...you recall that the Egyptians could opt for the withdrawal and they could do nothing. It
was a bad drafting of the resolution...
Mr. Ball, I remember the armistice terms which guaranteed to me as an American
citizen, and all of the Jews in Israel the right to go to their holy places, and to go to their Hebrew
University on Mt. Scopus. They couldn't do that even, could they?
Isn't that true, Mr. Ball?
Let me suggest this to you, that you're talking about something which is not
what I'm talking about. I'm talking about a neutral administration with all of the safeguards
put around it which would make an effective administration. This means demilitarized zones, this
means that the United States takes an active role in this.
Would you like to see the United States actively involved in the Middle East
like it was in Vietnam, which you argued so....
No, it is not like it was in Vietnam. No, now look, I mean — this is a very
different thing. We were engaged there not in a peace-keeping operation at all. What we're
talking about is that we need a neutral administration, a neutral administration which can
assure that the boundaries are respected during this period.
Like they assured that Israel should have the right as guaranteed to go
through the Suez Canal, which it never got. Is that right?
Again, I'm talking about the United States taking an active role in this and I
can assure you...
Should we put our troops there if necessary?
If necessary. We've already got some kind of observers in the Sinai.
And we should put our troops there?
We should be willing to put troops there if necessary?
I think that we should, find the formula that permits an effective neutral
administration during this time.
And if it applies.
I think—let me say that I think that the Israeli fears are greatly
exaggerated. And I think also that we're talking about demilitarization in any event during this
period and for an indefinite period after that.
Mr. Ball, if it required American troops, which Israel has never asked for, to
enforce Israel's security during this five year period or what-not, you would put them there I
I would do whatever is necessary to bring about an effective neutral
Well, that would call for...
And I don't think we should shy away from one, and the reason Israel has never
asked for that kind of protection is because they don't want an American interference in their
foreign policy, which I can understand. But this is something else again...
You're very frank and it's just a... it's a point of view... Now, you said terrorism is a manifestation or a by-product of military occupation.
I want to ask you this. I've been to Israel many times, and I was there during the
period from '48 to '67 when there were acts of terrorism committed all over the land by the PLO-directed or -inspired "fedayeen"...
Mr. Abram, we have to make this very short.
And they weren't, and at that time Israel was not holding any land which you
say now ought to be subject to self-determination.
I think the whole situation...
Let me say, I remind you there was also the Irgun at that time.
Not at that time...
I will have to interrupt, Mr. Ajami, one more question of Mr. Ball.
Mr. Ball, do you think it's morally and politically right for the United
States to subsidize Israeli occupation to the tune of over two billion dollars a year?
I think it raises very real questions for the American people, and I think you
actually have phrased the problem properly, when you say "what American foreign policy should
there be?" I'm not talking about imposing a settlement. I'm talking about what should we do? And
I don't think we're in a position where we can give a blank check to anyone. If we're going to
provide a subsidy, then we should be quite clear that it's going to result in peace and not in a
protracted stalemate which can only be disastrous in the long run.
Thank you, Mr. Ajami. One more question from Mr. Abram.
Mr. Ball, if Palestinian self-determination is as you sincerely believe the
crux of peace in the Middle East, could you tell this audience why, when the Arabs controlled
the West Bank from '48 to '67, they didn't establish a Palestinian self-determined state?
You know, I'm not defending the Arabs. I'm not here for that purpose. I'm here
to talk about American foreign policy. I'm saying that in this situation I see no reason for
denying self-determination to one people and granting it another.
Mr. Abram, only one question--I'm sorry. Thank you, Mr. Ball, thank you for
joining us on THE ADVOCATES. Mr. Ajami?
Self-determination will give the Palestinians an essential human right enjoyed
by 150 nations the world over. My witnesses have argued that it is both just and politically
responsible for the United States to support Palestinian self-determination and the decisive
American support for Palestinian self-determination is essential for a stable peace in the
Middle East. As you listen to our opponents case, you should ask yourself whether or not Prime
Minister Begin's plan for home-rule and current United States policy really address the need for
Palestinian self-determination, or if they merely perpetuate injustice and offer a make-do truce
that cannot possibly last.
For, excuse me, for those of you who may have joined us late, Mr. Ajami and
his two witnesses have presented the case in favor of tonight's question, "SHOULD THE UNITED
STATES SUPPORT SELF-DETERMINATION FOR THE PALESTINIANS IN A MIDDLE EAST PEACE SETTLEMENT?" And
now for the case against--Mr. Abram, the floor is yours.
I'm not here to oppose self-determination in the abstract. I do oppose
so-called Palestinian self-determination for two very basic reasons: morally it is a contrived
issue, cooked-up since 1967; politically, it is a threat to peace. The Arabs had absolute
control over the West Bank for the twenty years from 1920-1967. Now, did you ever hear a word
about self-determination during those twenty years? There was no cry whatsoever for a
Palestinian state until it emerged as a fresh issue which could be used for the destruction of
Israel. I also oppose it because it is extraordinarily dangerous. It would be a mortal threat to
Israel. Mr. Ball recognizes that you've got to have a great waiting period with UN guarantees
and so forth during a period of indeterminate length. But also it would put a PLO, unstable
Soviet armed state on the doorsteps of Jerusalem, and nine miles from Tel Aviv. The United
States does not need this added threat in the heart of the Middle East where our vital oil
supplies and the oil supplies of our allies are. A PLO state is a deadly danger to world peace
because it is the surest guarantee of increased terrorism and war, however noble the idea may
sound. I call now as my first witness, Mr. Benjamin Nitay.
Mr. Nitay, welcome to THE ADVOCATES.
Mr. Nitay is a graduate of MIT. He is an Israeli and he is a man who has
written widely on this question before the house tonight. Mr. Nitay, is the issue of
self-determination the core of the conflict in the Middle East?
No, I don't believe it is. The real core of the conflict is the unfortunate
Arab refusal to accept the state of Israel. And I think, it was mentioned earlier, for twenty
years the Arabs had both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and if self-determination was, as they
now say, the core of the conflict they could have easily established a Palestinian state then.
But they didn't.
When did the issue arise then?
Well, for twenty years we didn't hear a word about self-determination and in
fact what we did hear, those of us living in the Middle East, was about driving the Jews into
the sea. Now after 1967 under the leadership of the PLO, the hardline strategy shifted to
adopting a moderate dressed-up slogan which talked in terms of first a secular democratic state
and then replaced it with Palestinian self-determination. But what this really means, contrary
to what Mr. Aruri said, about 1977 being the changed year in the PLO's objectives, let me quote
you what the PLO's information office said in a Dutch paper in 1977 in May 5.
May 5, 1977, yes. The statement was very simple: "Our objective remains the
destruction of the Zionist state of Israel". So let's keep in mind that what we're talking about
here is not the attempt to build a state but to destroy one.
Do the Palestinians have a right to a separate state?
Mr. Ajami has been talking about human rights.
Well I think that it's...no, I don't think they do, but I think that it's
quite instructive that the Palestinians, who are invoking the right of self-determination, which
is an attribute for separate nations, themselves are the ones who define themselves as part of
the Arab nation. Now no one is denying that there are Palestinian Arabs. There is a very
distinguished Palestinian Arab sitting right next to me. But the Palestinians themselves, in the
Palestinian National Covenant, the very first article, say that the people of Palestine "are
part of the Arab nation". Well, let's look at the Arab nation. It has 21 states, an area roughly
the size of the United States and one sixth of the entire world's wealth. Now, add to that the
fact that there already exists a Palestinian state and that is Jordan, 60 percent of whose
population is Palestinian. I think it is quite interesting that Yasser Arafat and King Hussein,
who are bitter enemies, agree on one thing; that Jordan is a Palestinian state. So what we're
talking about is a demand for a 22nd Arab state and a second Palestinian state.
What should be done with the Palestinians in the West Bank? There is a
problem, so what can be done, in your opinion?
Well I think that the Palestinians in the West Bank are going to be offered
the full human rights, the full civil rights, as, there, no Arabs are offered in the Middle
East, no Arabs whatsoever have any full human rights or the right to vote for their own
government. Those Arabs who lived in Israel in the pre-'67 boundaries are the only Arabs in the
Middle East who are offered that right and I'm all in favor of having the same Arabs living in
the West Bank and the Gaza Strip being offered such a right in the final peace agreement.
Can we have peace in the Middle East?
Very briefly, please.
Yes, I sincerely hope so. Look, I'm 28 years old. I've had to defend my
country in two wars and in many battles. Nobody wants peace more than Israel. But the stumbling
block to the road to peace is this demand for a PLO state which will mean more war which will
mean more violence in the Middle East. And, I think, I sincerely believe if this demand is
abandoned we can have real and genuine peace.
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Abram. And now we will go to Mr. Ajami. Mr, Ajami,
some questions for Mr. Nitay?
Mr. Nitay, you told everyone that the Palestinians on the West Bank and the
Gaza Strip would enjoy full human rights. Could you tell me how that is compatible with the
presence of Israeli forces in their midst?
Well, ah, the Arabs living now under—the Arabs who lived in Israel, 400,000 of
then between 1948 and '67, as I said earlier, certainly enjoy full human rights, and as I
I am not talking about the Arabs in Israel, I'm talking about the Arabs on the
West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Sure, if you let me, I'll answer your question, Mr. Ajami. Please. The Arabs
living in Israel are the only ones entitled to vote for their government, the only ones who have
representatives in a parliament in the entire Middle East. Now it is true that the West Bank and
the Gaza Strip are now undergoing a period of transition. In fact, no Arab government has been
willing to negotiate so far about this period of transition. And, I think that when this
transition, when this negotiation period is ended, there is no reason why under either Jordanian
citizenship or Israeli citizenship, these Arabs will not have full human rights, the right to
vote for their representatives as the Arabs in Israel do, as, hopefully, all the Arabs in the
Middle East will do someday.
Mr. Nitay, does the state of Israel itself accept that the people in the West
Bank and the Gaza Strip have the right to vote on whatever future they choose?
Well, Mr. Ajami, we just, I just outlined that in the event that this
negotiation process will continue. I'm sure that what we're talking about is in fact eventual
citizenship of some kind, either Jordanian or Israeli, or in any other arrangement in which
these people will certainly vote.
You have given yourself the right to determine that you're an Israeli, but
you've also given yourself the right to negate the other entity, which I think is not somehow
consistent with global practice at this time, is it?
Mr. Ajami, I have never, never rejected another entity, nor have I ever
declared my intention to destroy least of all the Palestinian Arabs who I fervently want to live
in peace with. All I'm saying is that it is the Palestinian Arabs themselves, their leaders,
Arafat, Hussein, who Morris Abrams quoted earlier, Farouk Oadoumi, the number two man in the
PLO, these are the ones who say they are part of the Arab nation. These are the ones who already
say they have a Palestinian state. There is no right to establish a second one on my doorstep
which will threaten my existence. There is no right whatsoever.
Okay, Mr. Nitay. You seem like a very patriotic Israeli. Does not the fact of
Israeli dependence upon the United States in order to maintain its occupation on the West Bank
and the Gaza, does this not trouble you at all?
Mr. Ajami, I have—you have asked me as a patriotic Israeli, and I'll answer it
as someone who has fought in the Middle East. Ah, one of the things that I think is unique about
Israel, in terms of all America's allies, is that it is perhaps the only one who has taken care
of itself so far. And, I would think that in fact America--it is not a one way street--Israel
taking from the United States. Israel is giving the United States an extraordinary bargain in
the Middle East. It is the one stable democratic ally which the United States can count
Mr. Nitay, in as much as you are a Zionist and committed to a Jewish state,
given the fact that demographic predictions tell us that there will be an Arab majority within
the current borders of Israel, does this not challenge the very foundations of the very state
which you are committed to?
I know of the latest population figures that actually show a decrease in the
Arab birthrate, particularly in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as a result of the higher and
universal education for women that didn't exist prior to Israel's...prior to 1967. Now, if you
ask me if I would reject Palestinians or Arabs living in our midst, ridiculous. Of course not.
They're part of, they're citizens of Israel. If they...
I'm talking about the West Bank now, and Gaza. See, you're still going back
Yes, yes, whatever will be the final arrangement, these people should be free
to multiply as they wish and I think it is written in the Bible, "multiply and be fruitful." I
think these people should have that right. I'm not going to try to enforce the birth control
program under any circumstances.
Thank you. With that biblical injunction, I will turn to Mr. Abram. One more
question of Mr. Nitay.
Mr. Nitay, since the subject is what should the United States do, may I ask
you if you could summarize why, in your opinion, the United States should oppose the creation of a
I think the United States should oppose the creation of a Palestinian state
for several reasons, the first one being that it is unjust to demand the creation of a 22nd Arab
state and a second Palestinian state at the expense of the only Jewish state. I think it would
also defeat the hopes of those moderate Palestinians who genuinely want to reach, a peace
accommodation with Israel..
Thank you. Mr. Ajami, another question.
Mr. Nitay, as someone who would say that you believe in democracy, do you
believe that Israel can continue as a garrison state and still remain a democratic state?
Mr. Ajami, either you didn't hear what I said before, or for your benefit I'll
repeat it again. No, Israel does not intend to remain a garrison state. Israel wants to live in
peace and wants to be secure. If that involves maintaining military guarantees against the
destruction of people who surround us, yes, I believe we should fight for our survival. If I
have to I'll fight again, but I hope not to.
Thank you. Thank you Mr. Ajami. Mr. Nitay, thank you for joining us on THE
Next I will call my next witness, Professor Robert W. Tucker.
Mr. Tucker, welcome to THE ADVOCATES.
Professor Tucker is professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins
University, and he is also an extensive writer on the subject before the house this evening.
Professor Tucker, I would like to ask you whether or not self-determination for the Palestinians
is in the interest of the United States?
American interest in the Middle East, I think, can be
summed up very briefly. We want a degree of peace and stability that is compatible with the
continued flow of oil to the United States and to our major allies in the world. Secondly, we
have as an interest and we have had it for many years, a commitment to the preservation of the
state of Israel. Thirdly, of course, we do have as a interest, the avoidance of an open
confrontation that would hold out the danger of armed hostilities with the Soviet Union.
Well, now, how would Palestinian self-determination affect these vital
interests of the United States?
I think that Palestinian self-determination in these circumstances, at this
juncture, first of all would lead to a government, a state controlled by the PLO. I think that
that state would be a highly unstable one in these circumstances. I think it would be a prey to
inter-Arab differences, that it would be a lightning rod for inter-Arab rivalries, and that it
would be a state with aspirations that would inevitably create conflict in the area, that it
would jeopardize, unravel any peace that might be concluded between Egypt, Israel and
What should the United States be pushing for in the Middle East? Specifically,
would you comment on Mr. Ball's suggestion that we even put troops there if necessary?
Well, first of all, and I don't think I have a difference with Mr. Ball on
this point, we should be pushing for a peace that holds out the promise of stability, of
endurance. The only question is,is what kind of a peace that would be? It seems to me, I am not
predicting or attempting to outline the terms of such a peace, but it does seem to me that it
would involve certain things in the Sinai, namely the fact that the Israelis will have to
concede the issue in the Sinai. On the West Bank I do think that it would involve the following:
it would involve some sort of statement of principle that would at least hold out the
possibility in the indefinite future of a Palestinian state. I also think that you would have to
have a plan that would offer the Palestinians the. opportunity for a genuine political evolution
which at the same time, and again for a sustained period, and I mean by that longer than five
years, for a sustained period, would have to answer to Israeli security requirements...
Is the Begin plan a good beginning?
The Begin plan, contrary to what has been said, the Begin plan is a step in
the right direction but it is only the first step. The Begin plan would still have to be
modified and modified at many points in order to persuade the other parties and the world that
the Israelis intend a genuine political evolution.
What should be the method and time frame of these negotiations?
Well, I think the worst thing that can be done in this context is for the
United States to force the pace, to try to accomplish too much and too fast. After all, if you
look at the way so many peaces have been concluded in history, it is absurd to take a contract
that is this intractable and think you can have a peace overnight, overnight meaning in a few
months. What you're going to have to do is to reconcile yourself to the fact that this is going
to take time. It has taken us over a decade to conclude a treaty on the Panama Canal. The Panama
Canal is not quite as intractable as the Arab-Israeli conflict.
It is about 1,900 miles and not nine miles away, isn't it?
Would giving the PLO a separate state end terrorism in the Middle
Well, I don't think a Palestinian state would end terrorism.. Terrorism can
stem from the state itself. You can have state-directed terrorism.
Thank you, Mr. Abram. I'm afraid we're going to have to cut you off now. We'll
go to Mr. Ajami for some questions to Mr. Tucker.
Mr. Tucker, you are a tough witness to cross examine because I gather that the
differences may not be as substantial. But, let me just try to get to my case. As a liberal
democrat, democrat with a small "d", would you accept a referendum for the Palestinians on the
West Bank and the Gaza?
I would not do so now, Mr. Ajami. I would not do so now for a very simple
reason. I think that if we are going to have a prospect for peace, a peace that will encompass
Egypt, Israel, and Jordan, that we cannot overload it. I think that if you try to make an
arrangement that depends upon too much trust and confidence of the principle parties that, that
peace will break down. My feeling is that we're going to have to be much more modest in our
aspirations. We are going to have to try for a peace, and it will be a partial peace. That is
all we can expect and from there we will have to try to build on it. That is the philosophical
difference, but it is also a political difference that I have with George Ball.
Mr. Abrams worries a great deal about terror and in your response you said
that states can also be terroristic. Now as a scholar and someone who has done a great deal of
work on the nation-state system, wouldn't you expect the Palestinian state to show a great deal
of moderation, given the fact that it will be on the receiving end of Israeli power? Can we not
expect the Palestinian state to show a great deal of moderation?
You could argue that, after all, there will be sanctions that the Israelis can
employ against a Palestinian state. At the same time the Palestinians will have a power base
that they did not have before in such a state and consequently, the Israelis have a very serious
reason for being worried about it.
You said the Palestinian state will be a lightning rod for Arab rivalries and
Arab influence and whatever international, or other international influences. Cannot we depend
upon the stubborn resistance and stubborn nationalism of the Palestinians to make sure that they
are not a lightning rod for anyone?
Well, stubborn resistance is fine but it can only go so far. For instance, we
know of Syria's aspirations in that area. Their history—it is going to be very difficult to deny
them. We also know that in the rivalry between Iraq and Syria, the Palestinians are very likely
to be an object of that rivalry. Now, in this interplay that would involve Iraq, Syria, Saudi
Arabia, and Jordan, I don't know what the outcome would be. I don't think anyone knows what the
outcome would be.
But, I mean you would say, you basically, your bet is on a separate peace
between who? Who would...
My bet is on what I would call the functional equivalent of a separate peace.
The main parties would be Egypt and Israel, but the Jordanians would have to come in because
only with the Jordanians could you reach, some sort of settlement on the West Bank.
But the Palestinians have spoken in no uncertain terms that they do not want
to be Jordanian subjects. King Hussein is not the leader they identify with. Have they
That is not altogether clear, Mr. Ajami, but the point is that they need not
be Jordanian citizens in this settlement. There are all kinds of settlements that can be made
short, well short, at this juncture, of a Palestinian state. All kinds of settlements, and it
need not at all —
But, Professor Tucker, then you would say, then you're saying, you'd advocate a
solution that outright negates Palestinian self-determination...
At this juncture?
Do we not end up
Oh quite, quite. Yes.
Given the fact that the Palestinians have spoken for self-determination, and
given the fact that they possess the power to disrupt the Arab system states that you have
talked about, what then can be done? I mean why is it that your plan for a separate peace would
Mr. Ajami, there is no ideal solution to this problem, and we all know that.
There are now questions that there are dangers in what I have argued. There are, no doubt, very
serious dangers in a Palestinian state, in these circumstances, at this juncture, someone who is
looking at this problem from the point of view of American interest, which I am, has to attempt
to weigh these respective dangers. My conclusion is that the dangers that would arise now from a
Palestinian state would outweigh any benefits which might accrue from it, and would contribute
to more instability and would unravel that peace that would involve Egypt.
But we already have a great deal of instability. And the Egyptian/Israeli
peace that you favor doesn't seem to be in the offing, because the Egyptians cannot pull it off.
And the Israelis have not made the concessions that you want them to make in order to bring a
separate peace or the functional equivalent of a separate peace that you want.
I am not at all sure in my own mind and in fact I remain quite hopeful that
there will be an agreement struck between the Egyptians and Israelis and that the Jordanians
Do you think President Sadat has unlimited time and he is allowed to come up
with any settlement and still survive politically?
I don't think Sadat has unlimited time, nor do I think he can come up with any
kind of settlement. I think he must come up with a settlement that vindicates his position in
the Sinai, and also a settlement that satisfies those minimum requirements I spelled out a
minute ago with respect to the West Bank.
Further down the road then, you said something about the Palestinian
I'm not a prophet. I can't look forward to the future. If you have this
partial peace, it holds, it's consolidated, there is the development of a moderate leadership in
the West Bank. Who knows what will happen in another decade?
All right. Thank you, Mr. Ajami. One more question from Mr. Abram.
Professor Tucker, Mr. Ball, whom I know you hold in great respect and properly
so, recently, in opposing the self-determination by the one-man-one-vote principle in South
Africa for the South Africans, said this and I wonder if this sums up your position.
"Diplomacy," Mr. Ball said, "like politics, is the art of the possible, and if we are to use our
leverage towards unachievable goals we will create a mess."
George Ball and I agree on very few things, but I think I would agree with
Mr. Ajami, another question?
Professor Tucker, I am an avid reader of everything you've written. Let me
quote you. You wrote somewhere "indefinite control of the West Bank will result in an Israel
that is neither democratic nor Jewish". Would you identify yourself with that statement?
Yes, Mr. Ajami, I do indeed believe that. If the Israelis are to attempt an
indefinite control of the West Bank, there will be the result of a state that is neither
democratic nor Jewish.
Thank you. Thank you Mr. Ajami. Mr. Tucker, thank you for joining us on THE
ADVOCATES. And now, let's go to the closing arguments. Mr. Ajami?
The Israeli presence on the West Bank and Gaza is an alien military occupation
and the Begin plan for home-rule is an attempt to give that military occupation a measure of
legitimacy. Besides violating the rights of the Palestinians, the status quo does the following
things to Israel herself: one, it undermines her claim to be a democratic state; second, it
promises an Arab majority within Israel's current borders over the next 15 years; and third, it
turns Israel into a ward of the U.S., for the U.S. must provide the money and the weapons that
enable Israel to violate Palestinian rights and defy world opinion. Over the last decade the
U.S. has been ambivalent and willing to bend with the wind, condemning Israeli occupation but
extending the material help which makes it possible. The time has come for the U.S. to recognize
that the Middle Eastern peace is elusive so long as the Palestinian quest is not fully
America and everybody in this room wants peace in the Middle East. But, I hope
that we will not want it so much as to take Mr. Ball's route which amounts to the stationing of
American troops there which has never been demanded. Israel wants peace and has wanted it since
its birth, when it was invaded by six Arab armies. The prescription for peace has been and
remains what it has been—that is, Arab acceptance of Israel. Now, everyone including myself is
very grateful for Mr. Sadat's initiative. But the twenty Arab states and the PLO still do not
accept Israel's right to exist. We should not be discouraged that peace has not come within 48
hours of bargaining between Israel and Egypt. No other Arab state has met with Israel, not for
one minute, not for 30 years. We could impose a settlement which would threaten Israel's
security, satisfy very few Arab countries and also jeopardize international security. Mr. Ball's
position is that Israel shouldn't worry about a PLO state for a number of years while it is
protected by the UN. The UN will protect them, he says. Well, Israel has accepted the UN
guarantees many times, to its peril, and the result of which was war. Peace will, peace must
come, but not by establishing a new PLO state whose goal is not to build a state but to destroy
Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you. And now we turn to you in our audience and
ask you what you think about the question that was raised in tonight's debate: "SHOULD THE
UNITED STATES SUPPORT 'SELF-DETERMINATION' FOR THE PALESTINIANS IN A MIDDLE EAST SETTLEMENT?"
Send us your vote, yes or no, on a postcard to THE ADVOCATES, Box 1978, Boston 02134. In
January, THE ADVOCATES debated the question: "SHOULD PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS BE PERMITTED TO GIVE
PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT TO MINORITIES IN HIRING AND ADMISSIONS?" THE ADVOCATES' audience
responded this way: 1,179 in support of preferential treatment, 3,424 against. If you would like
a transcript of tonight's debate, or transcripts of our previous debates, please send a check or
money order for two dollars to that same address: THE ADVOCATES, Box 1978, Boston 02134. Two
weeks from tonight THE ADVOCATES will return to debate whether Congress should pass President
Carter's proposed welfare/jobs bill. And now, with thanks to our advocates and their
distinguished witnesses, we conclude tonight's debate.