- The Washington Times - Monday, July 9, 2001

What is it you want of the Jews of Israel? What is it you want of them, precisely, so there might be settlement after decades of war? For decades visiting Israel, I would get the contemptuous waving gesture at the sea from Arabs, again and again "We want the sea and no Jews between us and it."

Then I stopped asking the question because I learned the answer. I learned what so many of the Arabs believed and fought for fiercely that one day not distant, they would conquer the heart of Jerusalem and its surroundings, take the borders totally essential to its security, win more military allies then take nothing else for a while until the final Arab assault and then the end of the space for the Israelis.

Most times I thought the Arabs were mad in their demands, sometimes I felt the Jews were the mad ones in resisting them. Virtually all Jews kept considering more big concessions, then another and another.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will try to make a settlement but only of a certain kind. It will have to be one that cements permanent peace for the Jews, not one that this time is another rope for Israel. Added to all the other huge chunks of Israel given away to the Arabs, more would be a rope for Israel. Israel's answer would have to be, "You should live so long."

Still, it may be valuable for both sides to figure out why there has been war between Arab and Jew long before the official war started between Israeli and Arab. Some Arab diplomats often talk to foreign visitors with a touch of diplomacy. They are considered gentle then by Israelis, testing out the value of politesse for a while.

One such diplomat was Faisal Husseini, the senior Palestinian official in Jerusalem, who brought sorrow to many Israelis when he took recently to his final sick bed. In his last interview, for a nationalist Egyptian newspaper, he said frankly that the Arabs' political goals were set for a temporary time frame.

That meant Arabs "ambushing the Israelis and cheating them," Mr. Husseini said. But he said that if Palestinians were looking for the "higher" Pan-Arab strategy, he would immediately answer: "From the river to the sea."

I did not see those and similar statements of ethical standards in any journal except for the pro-Israel Middle East Media Research Institute.

The pro-Western press in Israel and abroad wrote in mourning after his death.

In his new book, "Does America Need a Foreign Policy," Henry Kissinger says Israel is being asked by the Arab states to cede "conquered territory" in exchange for recognition "of its very right to exist by the Arabs, a revocable act.''

"The prime obstacle to a culmination of the peace diplomacy is the different conceptions of it held by the parties," he writes. "Israeli and American leaders define peace as a normality that ends claims and determines peace as a permanent legal status in other words they apply and determine the concepts of a 20th-century liberal democracy. But the Arabs and especially the Palestinians consider the very existence of Israel an intrusion into 'holy' Arab territory."

It never seems to occur to Arabs that in addition to intrusion by gunfire and terrorism, they are imposing another form the foulest of insults against the Jewish name, history, religion, character, physical and mental heredity, an endless attack against Jewish humanity.

It sickens humanity I believe that in full knowledge the Nazis dug for Jews the huge fields of filth where they flung the corpses they burned, with glee. It sickens me that in the present day Middle East and often around the world present-day Jew-haters still scatter stocks of propaganda poison. Jews must now never be silent against the poison spread against them, or any religion anywhere.

Now at least after all the talk with Israeli Arabs, I know there is no mystery behind the Arab war waged for so many years. Israel has exhausted itself with vividly dangerous concessions and cannot burden itself still more.

Not until the Arabs recognize that this is their war of hatred against Israel, will it ever end in the hearts and fears of Israeli and Arabs.

A.M. Rosenthal, the former executive editor of the New York Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.


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