LONDON (May. 24)
A major study of the world strategic balance published here today asserted that the danger of another war in the Middle East has receded and that even if peace negotiations fail, a new war threat will be most unlikely for the next two or three years.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies pointed out that the Egyptian armed forces need rebuilding and that the Syrian forces are heavily committed in Lebanon, even though the Soviet Union has begun to supply Syria with advanced weapons. The report, titled the “Strategic Survey, 1977,” added: “Israel has nothing to gain and much to lose, from another war. In these circumstances, it is for the time being improbable that the only alternative to peace is war.”
On the political level, though, the survey said that American mediation is a factor of declining power, at least in the short term.
“Israel is now so strong militarily compared with her neighbors that there is no immediate need for American support or supplies in the event of another violent conflict,” the report stated. “Second, the economic gamble Israel has taken, if it is successful, means that in the not too distant future she will rely much less on Western and American subventions than hereto.” Thirdly, the psychology of the Likud government precludes a ready subservience to American demands, the report said.
LONG-RANGE WARNINGS TO ISRAEL
However, the survey posed long-range warnings to Israel, noting that another war, even with Israel victorious, would raise the specter of a tremendous loss of life, and could “divide the national from the religious sentiment, even in breasts which contain them both.
“Also, the knowledge that the strength of Israeli forces can only buy one temporary respite after another, and probably at increasing cost, is a powerful argument for those members of Israeli society who maintain that peace is a long-term necessity, even more important than the short-term necessity of maximum security.”
ROLE OF SADAT’S PEACE INITIATIVE
Analyzing President Anwar Sadat’s peace initiative, the survey said the Egyptian leader displayed the rare courage of political logic. “If the deadlock could not be broken from outside the region, it would be best to break it from inside. By his unambiguous acceptance of Israel’s legitimacy, he put the onus on her to respond with the substantive concessions on territory that are essential for any durable solution of the conflict.”
However, the main stumbling block remained the difficulty of reconciling the notion of security held by Israel with the notion of sovereignty held by her neighbors, the report stated.
“The maintenance of existing, and the establishment of new, Jewish settlements on Arab lands seemed to the Begin government a legitimate demand and a precondition for the return of occupied territories to Arab sovereignty; but to its neighbors it was an unacceptable infringement of their sovereignty.” While claiming that Israeli Premier Menachem Begin did not meet Sadat half-way, the survey added that the Arabs, too, split angrily over the initiative.
VIEWS SAUDI ARABIA AS A FRONT-LINE STATE
On Saudi Arabia, the survey said that the kingdom must now be regarded as one of the Arab “front-line” states. But this is not because her territory adjoins southern Israel or even because of the acquisition of new aircraft which can reach Israeli cities. “It is also because Saudi Arabia is an essential link in any common Arab strategy towards Israel,” the survey observed.
While noting Saudi Arabia’s regional, international and economic influence, the survey added that the limits of Saudi financial diplomacy had also been shown when President Sadat took his November initiative without the Saudis’ agreement and even to their annoyance. “To withdraw financial support would only have either hardened Egypt’s resolve or endangered Sadat’s internal position. Neither outcome would have been in the Saudi interest,” the survey said.
THE CONSEQUENCE OF BEGIN’S VICTORY
Summing up the end of Labor Party rule in Israel and the election victory of Begin, the survey said that these events were the start of “a second Israeli republic,” (a reference to similar major political transitions in modem France.)
In conclusion, the survey said Israel has produced a government which in the short term is bound to take a tough and independent line because it reflects many of the internal requirements of her society. “But it would be a mistake to imagine that such an approach precludes the possibility of genuine negotiations for peace–either with President Sadat or in a Geneva conference….”
The nature of the Likud victory seems to suggest, according to the survey, “that in the medium term it is essential for both superpower and local diplomacy to reconsider an approach to the interaction of questions which have so far bedeviled President Sadat’s courageous initiative: those by which peace becomes dependent on security, and those by which security is dependent on peace.” The “Strategic Survey 1977,” is published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London.