Conflict over Israel 1

May 3, 2002

According to Avi Shlaim (Features, THES , April 26), Israel mounted Operation Defensive Shield "to destroy the Palestinian Authority; and to extinguish once and for all Palestinian aspirations to independence and statehood". He also wants America to bring its influence to bear to secure Israel's withdrawal from the occupied territories and Israel's recognition of a Palestinian state there.

Neither Shlaim's diagnosis nor his proposed remedy survives close scrutiny. Israel first occupied the territories in question during the 1967 war, which it had been obliged to wage first with Egypt and then with Jordan and Syria, who had joined the war on Egypt's side. Some Israelis may once have favoured Israeli annexation of the West Bank. Hardly any do today.

Shlaim suggests that Israel's security would become enhanced by trusting America to defend it. But in 1973, during the Yom Kippur war, America deliberately delayed supplying vitally needed arms to Israel to increase pressure on Israel to make concessions to the Egyptians that America promised to secure.

For the present conflict to end with Israel enjoying as much security as it does, the Arabs must accept Israel's right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state.

David Conway
Professor of philosophy
Middlesex University

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