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August 16, 1991 - Image 29

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-08-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ARTHUR J. MAGIDA

Special to The Jewish News

W

ith Israel bogged
down in serial wars
and surrounded by
hostile neighbors since its
founding, the phrase, "Israel
at peace," may seem like an
oxymoron. Yet three little
words —"Mideast," "peace"
and "negotiations" — now
being trumpeted in
headlines are boosting hopes
that some form of peace may
prevail in the Middle East in
the next few years.
If the peace efforts being
orchestrated by the United
States and the Soviet Union
are ultimately fruitful, op-
timists say that something
novel may be in store for the
region: cooperation, har-
mony and, most important, a
future void of the seemingly-
constant tensions and com-
bat that have wracked the
area.
Others caution that, for
now, such a vision has little
bearing in reality: All the
parties invited to the Oc-
tober peace conference
haven't even agreed to at-
tend; and if the opening
gavel ever does announce
that the conference has ac-
tually started, there will be
an unenviable thicket of
issues to be settled before
there is peace in our time.
"At this point," cautioned
Shoshana Cardin, president
of the Conference of Presi-
dents of Major American
Jewish Organizations, "a
real peace is still a wish and,
I'm afraid, an illusion. We're
dealing with a region with a
preponderance of dictator-
ship and a heritage of hate
and vengeance. A real peace
— one that truly transforms
belligerency — will take
several generations."
Yet, with at least the no-
tion of a peace making the
rounds, it may be instructive
to look toward a distant
future in which an
Israeli/Arab peace prevails.
Spirits in this new Israel are
high; a swarm of Nobel

Arthur J. Magida is senior
writer for the Baltimore Jew-
ish Times.

Artwork from the Los Angeles Times by Matt Mahurin. Copyright c 1989. Matt Mahurin. Distributed by Los Angeles Tunes Syndicate.

Beyond A Peace

Although a Mideast peace is still far away,
some experts speculate what the region would
be like after armistice.

Peace Prizes has been
awarded • to peace talk par-
ticipants; and the world has
issued a collective sigh that
this seething cauldron of re-
gional volatility has finally
been stilled.
For this scenario, specifics
of a Middle Eastern peace
are deliberately fuzzy. Such
details are for statesmen and
politicians. For now, just
imagine a Middle East with
safe and secure borders, with
free and unimpeded trade
and travel, with some
semblance of trust.
Utopia the region is not:
Arms have not been beaten
into plowshares and the
Messiah has not arrived. But
a transformation is in the
works, one rooted in hope
and, maybe, even in outright
euphoria that the "garrison
state" mentality that has
burdened Israel since its
creation can finally be aban-
doned.
With this hypothetical
peace, Israel has been offi-
cially welcomed to its neigh-
borhood, and, as Mrs. Cardin
said, Israel's potential for
good can finally be realized:
"Israel could finally
become a light unto the
nations. Until now, she

hasn't been permitted to be.
One cannot focus on peace
and the more beautiful
aspects of life when struggl-
ing to survive."
But if peace does come,
cautioned Marvin Hier, dean
of the Simon Wiesenthal
Center in Los Angeles, "we
are in for a lot of introspec-
tion."
American Jews, he said,
might reconsider their
obligations to an Israel that
is no longer beleaguered.

"Israel would lose
its place as
Number One on the
Jewish charity
circuit."

Marvin Her

And in Israel itself, tensions
from certain domestic
disputes, such as those bet-
ween the religious and the
secular, might be unleashed
in all their fury.
Yet, reflected Rabbi Hier,
such bickering may be in-
nate to both Jews and to a
Jewish nation. Jews, he said,
"are biblically called_ a stiff-
necked people: (Deuteronomy
9:6 and 10:16). By their very

nature, the Jewish people are
not meant not to have
problems."

'Vacation' Time?

Most experts expect an
Arab/Israeli peace to poten-
tially alter almost every
aspect of Israeli life, from
the way Israelis relate to
each other to new priorities
placed on their economic and
social institutions.
As Deborah Lipstadt, ad-
junct professor of religious
studies at Los Angeles' Oc-
cidental College, said,
"There will be a lot less of
being held 'hostage.' Israelis
are always citing the matzav
(the 'situation') for their
country's shortcomings."
And as Rabbi Hier said,
"In the past five decades,
Jews' greatest fear has been
our fear of others. There
have been the Nazis and the
Soviets and the Arabs.
With peace, we might have
to fear ourselves. Jews know
how to survive in an alien
society, but do they know
how to take a vacation? If
there is a stable peace,
would they know what to
do?"

The Arab threat has forced
Israel to create a massive
military establishment.
About 24 percent of the
government's budget goes
toward defense. While this is
down from roughly 36 per-
cent during the late 1970s, it
is still almost 12 percent of
Israel's gross national pro-
duct.
The average Israeli male
spends two years on active
duty in the military, then
serves in the reserves for 30
days each year until he is 55.
With citizens' military
obligations diminishing in
peacetime, there would be "a
happier Israeli public;" ac-
cording to Marvin
Feuerwerger, a senior stra-
tegic fellow at the Washing-
ton Institute for Near East
Policy.
Yet no one envisioned even
a partial dismantling of the
country's defenses or its
defense industry. Kenneth
Stein, director of Middle
Eastern programs at Emory
University's Carter Center,
anticipated some minor
shifts in resources and
governmental allocations
from military to domestic
programs, "just as there was
no great reduction in U.S.
arms after we got out of
Vietnam."
Although the United
States may sign "as iron-
clad a security treaty with
Israel as possible," Prof.
Stein said Israel would en-
trust its security to no other
nation. It -will continue to
put its money into high-tech
weapons, of which the Arrow
anti-missile-missile (being
developed by Israel) is but
the first generation."

Mellow Israelis?

One drawback as military
life becomes less essential to
Israel's survival, said Prof.
Lipstadt, is that an element
common to many Israelis'
life would disappear.
"On the one hand," she
said, "lack of Army service
would be wonderful. Most-
people go into it hating it
and they leave tolerating it.
But it's a great leveler, a
great democratizer."
Peace could be an econ.-

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

29

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