Tuesday, January 20, 2015

AbbaEban. Trauma and recuperation. Congress Bi-Weekly. vol. 41. no. 6. 19 Apr 1974.

It is very difficult to convey a full impression of the national mood: a victory without celebration, rescue with no exaltation, and with it all, a somber sense of fragmentation and of incompleteness. The fact is that the israeli people have not yet emerged from an Experience of profoundly traumatic scope.
What happened in the first week of October was not merely the collapse of certain assumptions and predictions concerning the true Reality of the balance of Power. What is more wounding is the necessity, without any transition, to bring about a substantial modification of all our conceptual principles and to try to look at ourselves and the world around us in a new perspective.
The origin of what is called the crisis of morale in Israel flows not from the War of 1973, but from the War of 1967. Let there be no misapprehension. The 1967 War was the most chivalrous and heroic of all Israel’s military exploits. None of us can forget the special exuberance which attended us in its immediate aftermath and for many years beyond. Yet, as we look back on those six and onehalf years, we cannot avoid the impression that we were living within an insubstantial and distorted vision. There had been a total israeli victory, total arab defeat, we constructed, and the rest of the world with us, an image of ourselves and of our neighbours.
Israeli omnipotence, arab ineptitude – these were the visions that most of the world carried in its consciousness from the summer of 1967. I remember how this [unclear]come to expression in concr[unclear] [unclear]lomatic occasions, especially [unclear] studies of the power balance[unclear] discussions with our friend [unclear] about whether three arab [unclear] to every israeli aircraft con[unclear] israeli superiority, three arab [unclear] to one israeli tank meant [unclear] predominance.
There was lost, because [unclear] dazzling evidence of the [unclear] War, that salutary measure [unclear]criticism and of prudent self[unclear] which had come after the [unclear] Independence, which was [unclear]tory won with great sacrifice [unclear] after many setbacks and [unclear]. The 1973 War is a more [unclear] historic phenomenon. It takes [unclear] the story of the War of Independence, but in the intervening [unclear] our sense of proportion had [unclear] distorted by an event that [unclear] [unclear]ceptional in its Absolutism [unclear] which was allowed to bec[unclear] criterion for generalised jud[unclear]. Therefore, we find – as jew[unclear] [unclear]tempted to do through the [unclear] intensity of their temperamen[unclear] find ourselves in this [unclear] swing from what might have [unclear] an excessive selfconfidence [unclear] excessive melancholy, and our [unclear]ness is to find a point of [unclear]. The israeli crisis does not flo[unclear] day from obssession with the [unclear] but from uncertainty about the future.
Onehundredandfifty days [unclear] elapsed since the Yom Kippur War and the characteristic jewish [unclear] for recuperation has not yet asserted itself. The work will [unclear] to be done by the israeli people [unclear] their elected leaders, with the [unclear]taining help of the jews across the world.
The business of leadership [unclear] out of the past into the [unclear]. Its aim is not merely the [unclear]vation or order, or the admiration of existing machinery. [unclear] the anticipation of social wants, [unclear] invention of new forms, the [unclear]ration of new groths. The [unclear]erate making of issues is very [unclear] the core of the stateman’s [unclear]. The greatest wisdom is re[unclear] to select policies that will [unclear] the public mind, and the [unclear]cy for recuperation by a clear [unclear] lofty articulation of national [unclear].
[unclear] therefore, frankly told you [unclear] the need for psychological [unclear]peration. I do not believe that [unclear] be achieved by Rhetoric alone, [unclear]though it would do no harm to [unclear] israeli people to be told some[unclear] about its affirmative promise, [unclear] of which have been swept [unclear] in the debris of the Yom Kippur War. There is a furious as[unclear] upon leadership. Anybody [unclear]ing from Mars would believe [unclear] we have come into the governmental offices in Jerusalem with [unclear] and asserted ourselves by [unclear]. Nobody would possibly be[unclear] that the problem of our leadership was decided in the public bal[unclear] less than two or three months [unclear].
There are, therefore, things that [unclear] to be said to the israeli peo[unclear]. It has to be said that although [unclear] were setbacks and disappoint[unclear] there was no defeat, that no national interests have been irre[unclear]bly lost, that we are neither [unclear]shed nor defeated nor over[unclear]own. We are discussing how to [unclear]gage israeli forces from their [unclear]timity to Cairo and Damascus. [unclear] are not discussing how to dis[unclear]age arab forces from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. This nation’s land [unclear] under its feet and its resources [unclear] in its hands, and its destiny lies [unclear] it.
What are the goals toward which Israel has the capacity to move to the degree that it has a lucid sense of its own priorities?
The priorities are, first, the new opportunities for Peace. It is simply not true that Israel emerges from the Yom Kippur War without politicalgain. If we analyse the sources of the deadlock in the six and onehalf years that went before, we come again and again upon two central themes. We never succeeded before 1973 in persuading the egyptian Government to negotiate with Israel facetoface without accepting on our part beforehand the full egyptian territorial claims. And we did not succeed before 1973 in persuading them to accept interim agreements on the road to Peace unless, in the course of that agreement, we prejudiced in their favour the outcome of the final Peace.
We were not even able to make crucial, experimental, exemplary steps towards a Peaceeffort without deciding the final boundary in their favour. Now, there has been a complete unfreezing in both of these directions. Egypt has sat with us at a Peaceconference on the Middle East without our giving an engagement for total withdrawal. In fact, I remember that the egyptians and the rest of the listening world heard the israeli Foreign Minister say on that occasion that we do not intend to return to the previous armistice lines, and having heard this, the egyptian Government continued to sit with us at a Peaceconference and to enter into a negotiation with us, not that they accepted or that we asked that they accept that declaration. But this was the antithesis of what they always wanted. They had previously said that a condition of negotiation was that we should decide the future boundary in their favour in advance.
Why is is that Egypt has accepted, since October 1973, proposals and ideas which it had firmly rejected before that date? The reason is that there was pressure upon it to accept it. The reason is that our proximity to their capital, the advance across the Canal on the western side, created a necessity and a compulsion for urgent compromises, just as the egyptian inroads into our positions east of the Canal created an absolute compulsion for a new balance of compromise. In other words, there have been farreaching politicalresults. What will be the future evolution of this process is hard to say. But even on its own, the egyptian-israeli disengagement agreement is an innovation of unusual scope. If it is carried out in fidelity, as it has been so far, if, in addition to accepting all the limitations of forces inherent in the agreement, the strengthening of the ceasefire, abstention from active belligerency and blockade, the egyptian Government transfers the focus of its effort to economic development, creates a new center of international navigation and of civilian life within the canal zone, that Reality will be a greater guarantee for the preservation of Peace than any signature on a document, for it will create a voluntary vulnerability which would indicate a genuine investment, if not in final Peace, at least in a new Philosophy of disengagement from the recurrent cycles of War and tension.
You cannot have concrete Peacesettlements unless you first achieve some progress in weakening mutual skepticisms, and I believe that the faithful fulfillment of the egyptian-israeli disengagement agreement – the more so if followed by other agreements – will do much to undermine the Absolutism of that skepticism, and thereby create a momentum favourable to Peace. One might say that this is only the first step, only the first movement, but surely it is the first movement that counts, first, because it creates momentum and secondly, because it sets a direction. Anybody who has ever had the Experience of trying to push a stationary car knows full well that it is the first push that exercises the greatest strain, both upon one’s physical strength and upon one’s peace of mind. Once in motion in the right direction, everything seems easier than before. Therefore, we have decided to go forward upon this path of approach to Peace in tangible, concrete, realistic steps.
It is also our goal, basing ourselves on the effort of conciliation, to bring about a general compromise within our arena. You must have been following some of our internal problems with perplexity. If you don’t understand them, then take comfort from the fact that many of us don’t understand ourselves either.
The basis for all this movement and turbulence is a genuine division of opinion between those whose skepticism about Peace leads them to an insistence on the status quo and those of us who believe that without mobility, compromise and a fair measure of control and calculated risk, we shall never bring the prospects for Peace even to a degree of examination. The virtue of a disengagement agreement is that it is a laboratory test. We can argue forever – and we do argue forever in our seminars of experts and orientalists and socialscientists about whether Egypt is prepared for Peace. Instead of arguing about the doctrine, we have subjected it to a laboratory test – that’s what a disengagement agreement is. Our task is both to bring about the maximal approach to Peace and also to ensure vital security interests.
We also wish to reconstruct our international relations. Here, I believe that forces are at work to which we should give more time and preoccupation. There are forces alive in the world which I believe are congenial to a restoration of Israel’s international position. The fact is that the forces which threaten israeli security also threaten the fundamental values of organised civilisation. The extreme form of arab Nationalism which attacks Israel’s integrity also attacks the Economies of the industrialised countries; also attacks the immunity of air travel, also attacks the legal systems of Europe and other countries submitted to terrorist violence; also attacks the universal monetary system.
Concerning the energy crisis, the question is not what America and Europe intend to do about Israel’s independence, but what they intend to do about their own independence. Does the american nation want to celebrate the 200th anniversary of its independence as a colony of Kuwait or Abu dhabi? Do the european nations, which have quite rightly ceased to colonise the arab world, propose to submit to the destiny of becoming colonies of the Arabian Peninsula? Can the control of daily life of welfare and of economic growth in the industrialised States be in the hands of a few people to whom geological accident has granted a monopolistic control of energy resources or, at least, a monopolistic control that has imprudently been allowed to develop through a lack of vision and a lack of foresight in organising alternatives and sources?
The fact that Terrorism, economic extortion, the artificial pressure on the moneymarket, the paralysis of industrial Economies, the destruction of solidarities on air and sea, the undermining of legalsystems in favour of blackmailing and hostagetaking – the fact that all of these attributes of extreme radical arab Nationalism afflict the basic interests and values of mankind creates a potential solidarity between the bulk of mankind and Israel which, in the long if not in the short run, is bound to have its effects.
These are two of our goals: pursuit of Peace and reconstruction of whatever has been weakened through our neighbours’ vast assault on our international structure. A third task is, of course, to learn the security lessons of the October War and to put right whatever has to be amended. A fourth task is to look very carefully at our Democracy in the light of its present dead[unclear]. Here, I believe there are three [unclear] to perform. The first is to review [unclear] electoral system; the second [unclear] arrive at a clear definition [unclear] dividing lines between military [unclear]gation and politicalresponsibilities and the third is to achieve a [unclear]ciliation between the claims of [unclear]thodox tradition and the incre[unclear] demand for Pluralism and div[unclear]. In each case, the key word is [unclear]ance. In no single one of [unclear] conflicts can you achieve any[unclear] by solutions which give a [unclear] victory to one side and inf[unclear] total defeat on the other. The [unclear] note for jewish statesmanship [unclear] the next decade at least, is [unclear]ciliation and not sharp adjudica[unclear]. Be prepared, therefore, for [unclear] what untidy compromises [unclear] bring conflicting interests into [unclear]mony in the service of union.
The relationship between our [unclear]tionhood and our religious fai[unclear] of course, a profound and tom[unclear] [unclear]ing issue. Nobody can possibly [unclear]ceive that the jewish religious israeli History should be exactly [unclear] same as in any other national [unclear]tory. The fact is that religious [unclear] has played a unique part in pre[unclear] [unclear]ing the coheesion and the identi[unclear] our nation, and it would be unh[unclear] [unclear]ical to imagine that this should [unclear] no effects whatever on our [unclear] Reality.
But yet our current Reality [unclear] current Reality. It is the Reality [unclear] contemporary men and women [unclear]ing within the atmosphere of [unclear] Times, and there must be a com[unclear] effort to meet on a middle gr[unclear] which gives tradition its due [unclear] pride and stature, but which [unclear] acknowledges the inalienable [unclear] rights of citizens, including [unclear] rights of diversity. Nor can any[unclear] seriously look at jewish History without religious thought as a [unclear] as a Reality. One can regret this [unclear] or one can approuve, it makes [unclear] difference. Its factuality cannot [unclear]sibly be undermined by any [unclear] judgement. One can dislike [unclear] Himalayan Mountains and the Mississippi River, but disliking them [unclear] not make them go away. And [unclear] fact is that in jewish life, and [unclear]cially in american jewish life, [unclear]gious devotion is expressed in [unclear]ersity and in Pluralism, and no [unclear] within the the old monistic pat[unclear]. Therefore, if we are to asso[unclear] the whole jewish world with [unclear] israeli enterprise, there must be [unclear] kind of spirit of reconciliation [unclear] has not come to full expression. We need, also, to define our po[unclear] within a new public psychological understanding our place in the [unclear] without underestimating its [unclear]ngth, but also with a due sense [unclear] proportion. We need a reanima[unclear] of our intellectual life, sum[unclear] [unclear]ing to that task all of Israel’s [unclear]llectual and scientific resources, because the gap between Politics and academic life, between those who act and those who think, is [unclear]der in israeli Politics than, perhaps, in any other working Democracy. The task of the israeli intellectual is not to sit upon an ivorytower contemplating our society from impossible standards of perfection, nor to make sudden, parachutelike incursions a few weeks before each electoral struggle, but rather to undergo a constant exercise in the restraint of passion and rationality. For, in the life and [unclear]ory and Experience of our people, there are so many emotional, metaphysical and passionate ele[unclear] that it becomes the intellectual’s task to contribute the balac[unclear] dimension of rationality.
And we also face tasks in bringing about a closer sense of common identity between Israel and the jewish people. This common identity is, of course, unique. We have nothing to go on in the Experience of any other nation. This special kind of solidarity that is hard [unclear] work in the life and mind of jewish communities everywhere does [unclear] have any precedent or parallel. That does not mean to say that it is abnormal. Some historians, like Toynbee and others, in their passion for generalisation, tend to react with violence against anything which does not fit a generalised and classified system of ideas, and since there is nothing like the relations between jewish diaspora and Israel, therefore they decreed that it must be abnormal. A situation can be unique without being abnormal.
The unique links between Israel and those who share its heritage across the world are a part of the Cartography and the History and the cultural Experience of mankind. It is, I think, essential, however, that some limits should be observed. You might have noticed that we do not like being lectured to from Brooklyn, for example, about whether or not we should abolish our Socialism. We have a deep respect for religious authority abroad, but in our own reading of the jewish faith, one of the most emphatic commandments is that which is known as yishuv ha-aretz, namely, residence in the land of Israel, and somewhat less pedantically, at least – al ha regel – to come here three times a year.
Now, I have great respect for those who decide otherwise, but I must say that it does create a certain skepticism about their rights to influence decisions that affect the physical security and the concrete conditions of life of every citizen in this country. We, therefore, do ask our friends abroad to temper their Dogmatism with a constructive humility, and all this is quite possible within the framework of accepting the concept of a universal jewish solidarity.
One of the contributions of jews abroad is to bring into israeli life the warm currents of a universal solidarity. Something, I think, was missing in the first weeks after the Yom Kippur War. We needed, in my view, the spectacle of tens and hundreds of thousands of jews filling our streets and our buildings, whether or not they had any special vocation or any concrete purpose. The sheer physical illumination granted to our lives by the massive, concrete, physical presence of jews gathering around Israel in solidarity should have been asserted much earlier as one of the ways of reminding israelis that their solitude was a figment and that the map did not tell the whole truth about the sources of Love and trust and confidence that israel commands across the world.
The fact is that our burdens are too heavy for us to bear alone, and we see no reason why we should be called upon to bear them alone. For, after all, everything we have built and defended here, we have defended and built together in the service of a common solidarity and a common pride. We ask you, thus, to look upon the turbulent currents of israeli life and try to isolate those streams of History which make for progress, growth, affirmation and which would take our people’s minds away from the wounds on which it justly broods, for the only legitimate despondency is the despondence of grief and of mourning. Everything else can be reconstructed and replaced. That alone cannot be replaced. But not even the grief of the bereaved can be allayed by a paralysis of growth. In our tradition, insofar as consolation is conceived as possible, it arises out of construction. There is a saying which calls upon mourners to console themselves in the building of Zion and of Jerusalem, not to console themselves in a nihilistic paralysis of everything that carries the tale of life forward.
I, therefore, ask you to be objective and realistic about what you have seen, and to try to reach a generalised conclusion that might be transmitted back across the invisible electronic networks that bring jewish hearts together, to transmit back to the israeli nation the old message, chazak v’amatz, be strong and of good courage.

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