ISRAEL

By way of introduction, I will briefly give the general characteristics of modern Israel as a government and nation.

Foreign tourists - including Ukrainians - who visit Israel today in large numbers are mainly pilgrims who tour the "Holy Land"; that is, old Jerusalem, Calvary and several other well-known sites of the New Testament. Descriptions of these places have frequently appeared in the press and other publications; therefore, that part will be omitted in my report.

The modern State of Israel was formed in 1948. Before the first World War, Palestine, which in ancient times existed as the Jewish state of "Israel", was under Turkish domination. In 1917, when England was at war with Turkey, it announced the so-called "Declaration of Balfour": Palestine, upon its recovery from Turkey, would become a Jewish nation. The League of Nations supported this declaration in 1922, and in 1923, a League of Nations mandate turned Palestine over to England for a 25-year administration.

During those 25 years, however, the Jews had no chance to turn Palestine into a Jewish state. Their plans met with strong Arab opposition and the British desired no conflict with the Arabs. In May of 1948, Britain's mandate ended and on May 14 of the same year, the Jews announced the creation of an independent Jewish state of Israel. This resulted in the first Jewish-Arab war, which was ended by the intervention of the United Nations. By UN decision, Palestine was divided into a Jewish section under the name of Israel, and an Arab section became a part of Trans-Jordania - under the new name Jordan.

The city of Jerusalem was divided into "East" (Arab) and "West", or new Jerusalem (Jewish). In accordance with the UN decision, all Jerusalem should have been international territory but, at the proclamation of Israel's independence, the Jews announced Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Actually, the capital city was Tel Aviv but after the 1967 seizure of eastern Jerusalem, the Israeli government proclaimed all Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of Israel.

Israel's territory occupies an area of 8,000 square miles, approximately the same as the state of New Jersey; of this, more than half is occupied by the near-desolate Negev Desert. The northern part - (the fundamental part of Israel) is also arid, with calciferous mountains and hills, which even today turn green primarily during the rainy season. There are few mineral deposits and no oil springs at all. Up until the time of Israel's formation, only small areas near Nazareth, Bethlehem, and by the sea, lent themselves to productive agriculture; the rest was utilized for sheepherding. But Israel, the Jews say with pride, worked three wonders: they built up an exemplary agriculture, organized the best army in the world, and returned national pride to the Jews, along with a belief in their own power.

The rich waters of the Sea of Galilee, which for eons had calmly flowed to the Dead Sea, must work for the nation's agriculture: by way of concrete, iron and plastic pipes. The lake waters are dispersed throughout all of Israel. The amount for each household is regulated automatically by computors. Thanks to this, the entire ocean shoreline is abloom with fruit trees, mainly grape and orange orchards and agricultural fields. Through the latest technology, the land is covered with modern roads and wonderfully spacious cities.

Industry is expanding. For example, the diamond industry which cuts and facets imported South African diamonds is the largest in the world. Atomic reactors have been built for producing electricity.

This imposing expansion is due largely to the strong financial assistance of the Jewish communities in the U.S., and the U.S. Government.1

In spite of this, however, the country is in economic trouble. Taxes are high, and the currency is falling in value at an annual rate of 130 percent (which is why, at first, there were "Israeli pounds", then "liras", and now "shekels"). The social welfare system is outstanding, but it is also a burden on government finances. The national debt - five billion dollars (proportionate to the population is identical to that of Poland).

The population of Israel itself is about four million. Of this there are two million eight hundred thousand Jews, and a million, two hundred thousand Arabs. According to the constitution, the Arabs are fully priveledged and equal to the Jewish citizens of Israel. Arabic is Israel's second language.

In the 1967 War, Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the sub-Jordanian section of Jordan which the Jews call Galilee and Samaria. From Syria, Israel captured the Golland Heights. Although this seizure of parts of Old Palestine enlarged Israel's territory and more importantly established its borders along the Jordan River and safeguarded the Golland Heights, it also added 1.3 million to Israel's Arab population.

The seizure of Trans-Jordania on the western shores of Jordan was accepted by the Jews as a liberation of the ancestral Jewish land, given to them by Jehovah. For this reason, the Jewish attitude is without exception, never to surrender it to the Arabs.

This has, however, created difficult external and internal political problems. Even Israel's best ally, the U.S., refuses to acknowledge this interpretation and supports the Arab demand, that this territory be returned to the Arabs. On this basis, a widening conflict has arisen between Israel and the U.S. Now the question of this territory has become an especially painful problem for Israel and is passionately discussed in the Israeli press, in politics and privately. On one hand, the Jews are all in agreement not to surrender, and on the other, they fear a rift with the U.S., without whose assistance the Israeli economy would collapse.

A burning question in Israel today is what to do with the Arab population of this territory. If there is official recognition of Galilee and Samaria as integral Israeli territory, then they would be Israeli citizens with full civil rights. In terms of numbers, together with the Arab population of Israel proper (1.2 million) they would constitute an Arab minority of 2.5 million which is almost equal to the Jewish population of 2.8 million. To the latter we should add the 300,000 Jews who reside permanently in the U.S. and hold dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship.

The Arab population increase is twice that of the Jewish. Furthermore, the flow of Jews to Israel has dwindled: in the past five years, twice as many emigrate from Israel, as immigrate. Of those who come from the U.S.S.R., less than a third remain in Israel. The rest speedily depart for the U.S. or elsewhere. At this rate, Jews will soon be a minority in Israel.

What can be done? What if Israel had to allow the return to its territories of even a fraction of the three million Arabs who were expelled upon the formation of a new Israeli state?

The New York Rabbi Dr. Kahane - who holds dual, U.S. and Israeli, citizenship and is the founder of the JDL (Jewish Defense League) has a simple solution. He proposes to banish all the Arabs. Dr. Kahane feels the world would raise a fuss and then get used to it. This is appealing to Jews but in the current situation it is not only impossible to realize or to even covertly discuss, since it is not in Israel's interests. This is why Dr. Kahane asked the Israeli government for a timely reunion with the U.S.

This problem is becoming more acute and continues to be ardently discussed, all the more in that the Jews are fully aware that even those Arabs who have been citizens since 1948 evidence visible hostility toward the Jews.

The following is an episode that serves as an illustration of the Arab stance: I was sitting in a restaurant, wearing a short-sleeved shirt, when one of the Arabs who was present noticed a number from Auschwitz on my arm.

"Are you a Jew?" - he asked me, astonished that I was speaking neither Hebrew nor English with my wife and son.

"No," I said, "I'm Ukrainian. In German concentration camps there were Ukrainians and other Christians. Do you know anything of all this?"

"I do," said the young Arab. "During the Second World War Hitler destroyed six million Jews and we, the Arabs, will now destroy 12 million of them".

I smiled in surprise. "Isn't that too many? In all the world there are 12 million Jews and here in Israel only three".

"We know this. That's why I said we'd destroy 12 million, so that not one would be left alive in the entire world!"

Another burning issue is the peace with Egypt.

Egypt's President Sadat, through the brilliant maneuver of a peace proposition, took Israeli politicians, including Begin, by surprise. The U.S., however, intervened in the matter, and before Begin realized what was happening, in spite of his heroic stubborness in Camp David, he was forced to agree to surrender the Sinai to Egypt in exchanhe for Egypt signing the treaty with Israel.

In view of Israel's difficult situation, that of being surrounded by the hostile Arab world, the peace treaty with a recognition of Israel by Egypt seemed at first glance to be a success for Israel and a breakdown of the united Arab front. However, the Jews eventually began to critically analyze this step. To seize all of the Sinai and retain it forever as a part of Israel was a Jewish dream. Strategically, the Sinai is an ideal buffer for Israel against Egypt. Given the opportunity and holding the Canal's western shores, Israel could have eventually become co-owner of the Suez Canal and taken advantage of the revenue derived from it.

It was revealed, moreover, that the Sinai has considerable deposits of naphtha, which are much needed by Israel. All this would be lost when the Sinai returned to Egypt. At what price a peace treaty? What significance do treaties have in today's world? Egypt wants peace until it gets all of the Sinai back. When it does, it can break the treaty.

It is difficult to return the last of the Sinai now that it has two of the most modern Jewish military airports. Must they be returned untouched? The general idea is to take everything that can be taken, destroy the rest, and return only bare cliffs. As an incentive, the U.S. promised Israel two billion dollars for the building of similiar airports on Israel's territory on the condition that the Sinai airfields were turned over untouched to Egypt.

In addition, U.S. - Israeli relations have recently become an excruciating problem for Israel. Israel has grown economically, politically and militarily, thanks to the colossal assistance of the United States, American presidents have often reiterated that the U.S. has a "special obligation toward Israel". An Israeli politician expressed it thus: "Israel is unconquerable because it has a colony that is the travail of the world and is called the United States of America".

The decisive influence of the Jewish-American community in the U.S. is considerable. Currently, however, this influence has begun to fade. At the time of my stay in Israel, a significant test of power was occuring between those proposing unquestioned support for Israel and President Reagan. At issue was the sale of sophisticated jets to Saudi Arabia. In this test of strength, the Jewish lobby lost a significant round.

Israel accepted this with alarm and as a formidable warning that the United States and more specifically the Reagan Administration would in the case of U.S. national interest ignore Israeli and Jewish-American demands especially with regard to the Arabs. This has thrown a menacing shadow over any future Arab-Israeli armed conflict. The question that is now being asked is: would the U.S. unconditionally support Israel against its Arab neighbors?

Israel has the best army in the world. It is the best-trained, thanks to a system which requires that every male between 18 and 21 years of age undergo a three-year army training and that every female undergo two-year training. Thanks also to the passionate patriotism of the entire Jewish youth. Thanks to gargantuan U.S. assistance, the Israeli Army is the best equiped.

In the Yom Kippur war, if it were not for the colossal, incredibly swift U.S. aid in modern tanks, airplanes and ammunition, the very existence of Israel would have been questionable. Such assistance to Israel by the United States is essential in every future war with the Arabs. Therefore, Israel could not afford an irrate U.S. administration refusing it aid.

In Israel there are twenty-odd parties. They all disagree with one another in internal Jewish affairs. With regard to foreign affairs, however, they are all united. Small differences emerge only in questions of tactics.

All sides of the above-mentioned problems are presented in detail by the Israeli press, especially in the very well-edited, English-language daily, the "Jerusalem Post".

This overview gives a clear picture of the problems facing the Israeli state and touch on the very existence of Israel. Therefore, it is no wonder that among them there is no place for an interest in Ukrainian matters. The Israelis are a practical nation. They deal only with present powers. What can Ukrainians give them today? Actually, nothing. Anti-Ukrainian attitudes and actions, however, will certainly meet with the approval of the Russians, the Poles, and even the Hungarians and Rumanians. Ukrainians can also be used as a commodity of trade with the Kremlin.

Is Ukraine's position as a free nation in the future important? Undoubtedly, but when a free Ukrainian state should arise in the world arena, then, if it is within Israel's national interest, Israel can than establish friendly relations. The Ukrainians, on the other hand, would respond in kind, forgiving the past Israeli anti-Ukrainian stance. Afterall, didn't they forget, several days after the defeat of Hitler's Germany, all the wrong-doings and brutalities inflicted on Ukrainians by the Germans? The Ukrainians today would be glad to give back the Crimea to the Tartars, who for centuries pillaged Ukraine. Would they not search out the Tatars dispersed in Siberia in order to bring them back to the Crimea?..

Currently, however, Ukrainian affairs are not a priority in Israeli politics.

For clarity, I must refute the information given last year in the Ukrainian press in the United States that: "for the first time in the history of Ukrainian-Jewish relations" the government of Israel invited three Ukrainians from Chicago to visit Israel. There was no such invitation for Ukrainian representatives from the government of Israel. The division of Israeli propaganda, in cooperation with the Jewish association in Chicago, organized a trip to Israel for 15 residents of Chicago, among whom there happened to be three Ukrainians. This is why they did not meet as Ukrainian "representatives" with anyone from the Israeli government.

 

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[1] Mr. Dan Morgan, from Washington Post Service, gives the following facts: "This year the Israeli government will spend $5.5 billion on defense. One out of three dollars will corne from the U.S. Treasury... Without spare parts, Israel's military machine would grind to a halt. It gets $500 million worth of those parts from 15,000 U.S. companies... Theoretically, Israel's budget of $20 billion - which includes $5.5 billion in defense expenditures - is balanced. But that balanced budget is possible only because of American aid (which includes $785 million in economic assistance in addition to $1.8 billion in military grants... If all the U.S. aid was divided among the four million Israelis, each would get about $600..." (Philadelphia Inquirer, July 23, 1982. p. 15-A). And, reporting the Israel's reaction on the Reagan's peace plan, the American journalist recalls: "The United States provides Israel with nearly $1 billion a year in economic aid, without which the Israeli economy would collapse". (Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 3, 1982, p. 15-A) . And in his edition of Oct. 9, 1982. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that for 1983 Israel requested From the U.S. "$1.96 billion in military aid, and $1.22 billion in economic aid".