Arabs often lament that America does not use her ability to influence Israeli policy. Dean Rusk, shortly before he ceased being Secretary of State, warned Mahmoud Riad: 'Do not ever believe that any future American administration will put pressure on Israel.' But the Arab cride coeur misses the point. The difficulty is not merely that America does not put pressure on Israel, who is militarily and economically dependent on her, but that Israel effectively controls American policy in the Middle East. The consequences of this extraordinary - and, for the Americans, humiliating - state of affairs are far-reaching. The great majority of Palestinians are in exile; the rest live under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. Having lost three-quarters of their country, the Palestinians are not allowed an independent state in the remaining quarter. Lebanon has been wrecked. Other Arabs are fearful of suffering from Israeli expansionism. The Soviet Union gains in prestige; and pro-Western Arab states are undermined by their subjects' contempt for the impotence of their governments. America tries to disguise its feebleness and double standards by making out that the Palestinian issue is secondary to the problem of Soviet penetration. Nobody is deceived, and the risk of a conflagration in the area grows.
LRB 18 February 1982 | PDF Download