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Special Interview Herzog; a Diplomat Without Illusions

September 3, 1975
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Major General (Res.) Chaim Herzog–writer, commentator, military and political analyst, lawyer and Israel’s new Ambassador to the United Nations–assumes his new post at the time when Israel is being spot-lighted by an ongoing, relentless Arab public campaign to exclude her from the UN General Assembly, and, if possible, to oust Israel completely from the world body.

“I came to the United Nations with no illusions,” Herzog declared the other day in an inter view with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I am fully aware of the prejudice against the Jewish State on the part of the majority here. But I am determined to defend Israel in the best way I can.”

In Herzog’s opinion, the Arab public campaign to ban Israel from the UN has proved to have a boomerang effect. After a long period in which Israel’s public image has been at ebb, there has been a favorable shift in public opinion throughout different parts of the world, Herzog said. The viciousness and intensity of the Arab drive, without showing any concern that the UN might collapse if Israel is ousted, is to the advantage of Israel, he explained.

But the 57-year-old Irish-born Ambassador, who came to Israel (then Palestine) as a child, contends, however, that the second interim agreement between Israel and Egypt is very likely to moderate the Arabs’ anti-Israel campaign at the United Nations. At the same time, he added, the danger that such a move will be launched cannot be entirely excluded. “There is always the possibility that Arab extremists will try to sabotage the agreement by pressing for action against Israel at the General Assembly,” Herzog observed.

The envoy, who held various command and staff posts in the Israel Defense Forces, including the post of Director of Military Intelligence (1948-1950, and 1959-1962) also believes that the second interim agreement in the Sinai reduces the danger of a new outbreak of war in the Mideast. During the hour-long interview, held at the Ambassador’s office at the Israeli Mission to the United Nations here, Herzog also discussed the upcoming General Assembly, the lessons of the Yom Kippur War and his personal approach to his new diplomatic mission.


Following are excerpts from the interview:

JTA: Lately there has been a lot of talk about the Arabs moving to expel Israel from the next General Assembly. In your opinion, is this really going to occur?

Herzog: It is very difficult to evaluate exactly what will happen. Those who are instigating this anti-Israel move do not seem to be sure of their next steps. However, they must be aware that this attack on Israel is boomeranging to Israel’s advantage. In their attack they have already. passed the line of counter-productivity and it has brought clear statements in favor of Israel and against any move to expel or suspend her from the world organization. Such statements have already come from the European countries, the Nordic countries, the Socialist leaders of Europe during their recent meeting in Stockholm, and it brought about a split between the Arabs and some African states during their recent conference in Kampala, Uganda.

JTA; How would a successful interim agreement between Israel and Egypt influence Arab policy at the United Nations?

Herzog: If there is an interim agreement in the Mideast it will affect the votes of many countries who will not support a move to expel Israel. But the danger of such a move still exists. On the other hand, I believe that the Arabs, even the extremists, will think twice before they press for such action because the last thing they want is to be defeated. There is another aspect that could prevent the extremists among the Arabs from radical moves that would further break Arab unity: the majority of the Arab states will not favor widening the polarization among the Arabs.

JTA: Where does the USSR stand on the issue of Israel’s expulsion?

Herzog: The general indication is that the Soviets support the universality of the United Nations and therefore are against the move to ban Israel from the General Assembly. I have not met any Soviet diplomats since I arrived here two weeks ago and, as I said, this is the impression among the diplomats here.

JTA: What’s ahead for Israel in this year’s General Assembly?


Herzog: I have no illusion of what awaits us at the General Assembly. We can expect the automatic majority without any relation to the rights and wrongs of the issue. As in previous Assemblies, it is certain that all the usual anti-Israel resolutions will be adopted.

JTA: Even if there is an interim agreement?

Herzog: If there is an agreement, the Arab approach might be lower in tone but not in substance. We can expect less acrimonious debates but the anti-Israel resolutions, as I said, will be there.

JTA: How do you conceive your role as Israel’s Ambassador to the UN?

Herzog: I bring with me my personal approach, I am guided by the principle that no country has permanent enemies or permanent friends. A country has only permanent interests. I come here with an open mind, determined to defend Israel in the best way that I can.


JTA: Soon we will be marking the second anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. In retrospect, what are the major lessons for Israel to learn from that war?

Herzog: The main lesson–not to accept any preconceived idea or concept as binding. We live in a very volatile area and we must adapt ourselves to the fluidity of the situation in the area. We must understand the multifarious aspects of a defensive posture. The big mistake before the Yom Kippur War was to see in the Suez Canal a major answer to our military problems. We have ignored the overall importance of economic strength. A country with a deficit of $3.5 billion is not in the strongest bargaining position. If that country is not prepared to eliminate this deficit by working harder to raise the national productivity by 20 percent–which is all that is required–and if it allows itself, at the same time, the luxury of labor unrest, then it has nobody to blame but itself.

JTA: is there a present danger of a new war in the Mideast?

Herzog: I think that a great deal depends on the results of the interim agreement with Egypt and on the maintenance of Israel’s deterrent capability. However, I do not see an all-out war as imminent.

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