Eban: Mideast Conflict is Between Extreme Arab Nationalism and Principles of International Civility
Menu JTA Search

Eban: Mideast Conflict is Between Extreme Arab Nationalism and Principles of International Civility

Download PDF for this date

Abba Eban, the former Foreign Minister of Israel, characterized his country as “only one of the victims of the militant current in Arab policy” and urged that the world “stop talking exclusively about the conflict between Arab nationalism and Israel” because “there is a wider conflict between extreme Arab nationalism and the principles of international civility.”

In remarks prepared for delivery at the Weizmann Centenary Dinner at the New York Hilton Hotel here tonight, the Israeli statesman and member of the Knesset declared, “There is a need for creative intellectual leaders in all countries to take counsel together on the preservation and promotion of international civility in face of the forces that threaten its downfall.”

He charged an “Arab effort to eliminate Israel and replace it by a 21st Arab State” which “has disrupted law and destroyed innocent life through rampant terrorism.” He said that “no other force at work in the life of our generation has made such a concentrated assault on the principles of reverence and order in human society.”

Eban is to deliver his address to a large audience attending the dinner organized by the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science at Rehovot. The event will be the first in a year-long series of programs marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late Dr. Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first President. Eban, who is currently a visiting professor at Columbia University’s Faculty of International Affairs, will share the platform with Nobel Laureate Dr. Gerald M. Edelman.


In his prepared address, the former Foreign Minister warned that there has been a deterioration of the situation in the Middle East since Israel signed its disengagement accords with Egypt and Syria earlier this year.

“The passage of time without further substantive negotiation has had a negative effect,” he said. “Syria has resumed a militant rhetoric and has evaded the constructive implications of the disengagement agreement….The Soviet Union has kept the arms race in full escalation” and “the United Nations seems ready to legitimize terrorist organizations whose aims are subversive of international order and hostile to the sovereignty of two member states.” The UN is “becoming not an instrument for solving conflicts but an arena for waging them,” Eban charged in his address.

“The urgent question about the Middle East.” he said. “is not what Israel is going to do about withdrawal but what the Arab government is going to do about peace. The principle of withdrawal to compact, secure boundaries in a peace settlement is already part of Israel’s national consensus. If the Arabs will give us a great measure of peace. they can recover a great measure of lost territory. The way out of deadlock lies through reciprocal concession,”

He said the reality of Arab attitudes needs to be explored. “When they say ‘Palestine’ do they mean instead of Israel? If so our only course is resistance…Or do they mean Palestine in addition to Israel and by Israel’s side? In that case, we answer ‘yes.’ and should then proceed to an integral discussion of relations between Israel and a Jordanian-Palestinian Federation,” Eban said.


The former Foreign Minister welcomed the Soviet Union’s declaration at the UN General Assembly Sept. 24 of Israel’s right to security and statehood, but observed that “The Soviet Union Itself is very far from drawing the full conclusions from its stated principles,” and suggested that detente may further Soviet movement along those lines.

“The Soviet need for detente has helped the United States to have a positive influence on Soviet policy in the matter of emigration. Might it not open the way for America to moderate Soviet policies on the arms balance and on the need for a negotiated rather than a dictated peace in the Middle East,” Eban said.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund