Warning to the West: Don’t Arm the Arabs
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Warning to the West: Don’t Arm the Arabs

Interview with Israel's Prime Minister

U.S. News & World Report, Sept.17, 1954



EDITOR'S NOTE: Is a new war about to break out in the Holy Land between Israeli and Arab?

What should the U. S. do about it? Is there any way to keep both Israel and the Arab world friendly to the West?

For Israel's views, Joseph Fromm, Regional Editor for "U.S. News & World Report", interviewed Prime Minister Moshe Sharett in Jerusalem. An Arab view was given by Egypt's Prime Minister Gamal Abdel Nasser in the September 3 issue of this magazine.

Each statesman gave his views without knowledge of the other's answers.

Q Mr. Prime Minister, since arriving in Israel, I have heard constant denunciation of the American plan to supply arms aid to Iraq. What's the reason for the tempest?

A If the Arab states realize, as they are now in the process of doing, that, peace or no peace, they can get arms, why should they make peace? The giving of arms to Arab states which refuse to make peace becomes a premium upon their policy of permanent warfare against Israel. The arms themselves enhance their capacity for mischief. That is certainly not a step in the direction of peace. It is a step away from peace.

Q If we don't provide arms to the Arab states, how do we build up Middle East defense against Russia?

A There is, first of all, the question of whether the Arab states can at all be relied upon to play an effective part in any war on the side of the Western powers or, for that matter, on the side of anyone.

The Arab states have a time-honored tradition of sitting on the fence. They did very little to fight Turkey in the First World War; although they achieved their independence as a result of it. It was just a windfall to them. They did nothing to help the Allies in the Second World War They firmly sat on the fence and jumped off the fence only at the very last moment when Germany lay prostrate and fatally bleeding. They formally declared war just to be able to share in the spoils or to figure as founding members of the United Nations. But during the war, in so far as they were active, they were active by rebellion in the rear. In so far as they took initiative, it was to stab the Allies in the back. They did that in Iraq and in Egypt.

You see, their reasoning is fairly simple. They say, "There are two sides to the conflict - one must be strong, and the other weak. The strong party does not need our help; the weak party does not deserve our help. It is only at the very end of the conflict that we can ascertain which party is stronger and which weaker. Therefore, let us bide our time . . ." There is no democratic idealism whatsoever throughout these countries. Democracy is not something that they would feel so precious as to be worth fighting for.

So, from the point of view of defending democracy, I think the Western powers should be warned against squandering their resources on the arming of Arab states.

Q What's the alternative?

A On that, opinions may differ. But as far as Israel is concerned, there is a more crucial point, and that is that arms given to Arab states are arms directed against Israel - potentially today, actually tomorrow or the day after. So, we watch with profound dismay and mounting anxiety the policy of the American Government to arm the Arab states - Iraq today, Egypt maybe tomorrow, and Syria the day after tomorrow.

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