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January 20, 1984 - Image 31

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-01-20

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Friday, January 20, 1984 31

An Arabist's View of U.S. and Israeli Middle East Policies


MIAMI — The leading ar-
ticle in the Winter issue of
Foreign Affairs, one of the
most influential organs • of
the American foreign af-
fairs establishment, states
flatly that Israel failed to
achieve its objectives in its
invasion of Lebanon in 1982
and the unexpected conse-
quences of its failure "have
significantly changed the
entire range of power rela-
tionships in the Middle
The consquences of the Is-
raeli Lebanese adventure,
the article states, "have
enabled Syria suddenly to
emerge from isolation and
humiliation and to seize the
power switch of Middle
Eastern diplomacy. They
have diminished and ren-
dered uncertain Israel's role
in the area. They have
brought the Soviet Union
back into the Middle East in
a position of influence from
which it will not be easily
"They have profoundly af-
fected American diplo-
macy," this analysis finds,
"drawing it away from a
broadly-based peace initia-
tive and sinking the
Marines into a narrow,
dangerous position in
Lebanon where U.S. forces
have already suffered seri-
ous casualties. And they
have conjured up again the
danger of a superpower con-
frontation in the area v,rhich
neither power desires but
which the Soviet Union may
be less reluctant to avoid
than in the past."
For this devastating
portrayal of the Middle
East situation, the editors
of Foreign Affairs, which
is published by the elite
Council on Foreign Rela-
tions, turned to Robert G.
Neumann, former Am-
bassador to Saudi
Arabia, Afghanistan and
Morocco, and currently
senior adviser and direc-
tor of Middle East studies
at the Center for
Strategic and Interna-
tional . Studies of
Georgetown University.
Neumann is a most un-
usual personality who has
had a remarkable career.
Born of Jewish parents in
Vienna, he left the Jewish
community at the age of 14
and was converted to
Catholicism at the age of 17.
He was a schoolmate of
Bruno Kreisky who sub-
sequently, as Austrian
Chancellor, promoted Yasir
Arafat's acceptance by the
Socialist International and
the European Community.
Neumann emigrated to
the U.S. in 1939 after two
years of internment at Au-
schwitz and Dachau, be-
came a naturalized citizen
and embarked on an aca-
demic and diplomatic
career. He was one of the
small circle of foreign af-
fairs advisers to Ronald Re-
agan despite his strong
anti-Israel posture. He was
forced to resign as envoy to
Saudi Arabia in 1981 be-
cause of his acerbic attacks
on Secretary of State Ale-
xander Haig and the Ad-

ministration which he ac-
cused of being too soft on Is-
Neumann, who writes
with intimate knowledge of
the Arab countries and from
a close relationship with
many of their leaders, ac-
cuses Israeli Defense Minis-
ter Ariel Sharon, abetted by
Prime Minister Menahem
Begin, of launching the
Lebanese invasion in 1982
as the first step in a
grandiose plot "that would
bring Israel's power to the
borders of Saudi Arabia and
radiate its influence as far
away as Pakistan and even
into Africa."
Thus, he asserts,
"would Israel become the
overwhelming master of
the Middle East, the Arab
cause would be seen as
hopeless and one Arab
country after another
feel compelled to sue for
But all that has come to
naught, Neumann claims,
and Israel today has
"shifted from adventurism
to damage control . . . A de-
eply divided Israel, still ab-,
sorbing the lessons of Leba-
non under a less charisma-
tic leader than Begin and
facing deep economic prob-
lems, is in no mood for new
adventures unless directly
As Israel pulled in its
horns, he says, "America
moved increasingly into Is-
rael's former role without
understanding all its impli-
cations. No grand design
underlay U.S. involvement
in Lebanon. Rather it was
the result of miscalcula-
tions which were quite
different from those of the
One American error was
the three-month delay after
the Israeli invasion began
before President Reagan
laid down the lines of
American Middle East pol-
icy with a plan epitomizing
the "territories for peace"
formula and "a clear-cut
U.S. position favoring
Palestinian self-
government in conjunction
with Jordan."
Then, says Neumann,
"a series of wrong predic-
tions and wrong moves
shifted the entire em-
phasis of U.S. policy to
Lebanon, leaving the
broader peace objectives
One of the American mis-
calculations, the former
envoy asserts, was the ex-
pectation that King Hus-
sein of Jordan, in agree-
ment with Yasir Arafat,
"would produce some
movement on the broader
peace front by declaring his
willingness to negotiate
with Israel." That was an
unrealistic expectation, he
says, because Hussein had
made it clear all along that
he would not negotiate un-
less the eventual disposi-
tion of the territories was
discussed, not merely the
transitional autonomy
terms. These, Neumann
says, were "preconditions
certain to be rejected by the
Begin government."
The Americans misnlcu-

lated again when the
Lebanese-Israeli with-
drawal agreement was
reached, Neumann asserts.
"It was greeted with consid-
erable satisfaction in Wash-
ington, yet it bore within it
the seeds of its own destruc-
Much of Israel's troubles
in Lebanon, Neumann
charges, were due to the fact
that "Menahem Begin and
Ariel Sharon, with their
total disdain and ignorance
of Arab mentality, never
understood that it might
well have been to their
interest to give in to Bashir
Gemayel's insistence on
putting some distance be-
tween himself and them."
He repeats the charge
that Syria had the tacit
consent of Israel" when
its forces entered Leba-
non in 1976 because Is-
rael "coveted the south-
ern region of Lebanon for
Neumann is not optimis-
tic about the future of Leba-
non. He sees no prospect of
peace there unless there is a
"fundamental restructur-
ing of political, social and
economic power" there that
would reduce Maronite
domination. It has to be ac-
cepted, he points out, that
for the foreseeable future,
President Hafez al-Assad of
Syria will remain the do-
minant force in Lebanon
and through that, "a place
in the Middle East so strong
that nothing can be settled
there without his consent.
"For Lebanon, this cer-
tainly means that the
Syrian troops will remain
not only as long as the Is-
raeli forces are there but
also as long as the Israeli-
Lebanese withdrawal
agreement remains in force,
as it gives special rights in
Lebanon to the Israelis."
In the new situation
created by a more powerful
Syria, Neumann predicts, a
new Jordanian initiative in
the Palestinian question
becomes even more difficult
and Hussein consequently
"has begun to take steps
toward better relations with
both Syria and Moscow."
Hussein, however, ac-
cording to Neumann, is
not comfortable in that
association and would
prefer to return to his
earlier initiative "if he
were confident of U.S.
steadfastness and could
count on a forthcoming
Palestinian attitude."
Neumann has reserva-
tions about Assad's ability
to remain king of the hill in
the Middle East and sees his
long-term success as by no
means guaranteed. Assad
has risen high, he says, but
his power base is very nar-
He sees a number of
threats to Assad: from Iraq
when that country dis-
entangles itself from its
exhausting war with Iran;
from Egypt when President
Hosni Mubarak decides to
seek for Egypt the leader-
ship of the Arab world it
formerly enjoyed by virtue
of its size and power; from
factions within Lebanon

unwilling to continue under
Syrian domination.
With the many enemies
he has, Neumann asserts,
Assad has to take only one
serious misstep to fall into
great difficulties. Mean-
while, he is the strong man
of the Middle East; every-
thing the U.S. does to op --
pose him will strengthen
him "albeit at the price of
moving even closer to his
great protector, the Soviet
Assad's position today
would make a purely
"Jordanian solution" of
the Palestinian problem

difficult and would
necessitate revision of
the Reagan Plan.
Also to be considered, he
says, is a growing realiza-
tion by Israel's "volatile
public". of the fact that the
permanent presence of a
large Arab population will
bring insoluble problems
and is bound to burden se-
verely Israel's vital rela-
tions with the U.S.
He also expects Israel's
"impoverished Sephardi
element" to be concerned
"lest continued costly set-
tlements on the West Bank
endanger social benefits."

If the Palestinians would
accept that armed struggle
has become "an impossible,
romantic dream" the situa-
tion would favor new initia-
tives toward peace.

American success in deal-
ing with the Middle East,
Neumann warns, will de-
pend "on its ability to retain
a sense of proportion in all
its relations with Middle
East and superpower par-
ties and, while doing so, to
master the traditional Mid-
dle East game of opposing
and cooperating at the same


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