Bridging the Gap: Jews and Arabs Must Unite
by: Levi Eshkol, 1967, The Jerusalem Post
Every nation has its landmarks - events that help shape its history and the memory of which is passed on from generation to generation. Not all such landmarks, of course, are vouchsafed the honor of a permanent place in the collective national memory. They must pass the test of time - and of future developments.
The Six Day War of 1967 - itself a milestone of undoubted importance on Israel’s road of life - has modified many perspectives. It has cast some of the events in our recent history, previously considered as landmarks, into the shadow of relative inconsequence, while bringing out others in bold relief.
One development whose crucial character remains beyond question was the issuance 50 years ago of the Balfour Declaration. This was indeed an event of paramount national, international and historical significance. The promise it held out went far beyond the formal undertaking of the British Government to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine: implicit in this Declaration - and therein lies its deeper import- was the promise of general international recognition of the historic rights of the Jewish people in Palestine, a recognition to be realized a few years later in a decision of the League of Nations.
The Jewish people, in those critical years following World War I, stood on the threshold of a new era. In 1919, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the man whose efforts contributed so greatly to the insurance of the Balfour Declaration, signed an agreement with the Emir Feisal, which carried the seeds of Jewish-Arab understanding and cooperation in the Middle East, a thought implicit also in the Balfour Declaration. Had that agreement, and the spirit it represented, not been superseded in the years that followed by the intransigence and blind hostility of extremist Arab nationalism, the general recognition of Jewish rights that came a few years later at the League of Nations could have been universal, and Jew and Arab could have tackled the problems of the country and the region together. Unfortunately, that was not to be.
Today, once again, we stand on the threshold of a new era. Once again, the opportunity for Jewish-Arab understanding, for regional cooperation for the common benefit of all the peoples of the Middle East, beckons to us - nay, cries out to us - and to our Arab neighbours.
This time we must, jointly with our neighbours, seize that opportunity with both hands and together turn the promise of regional peace, of Jewish-Arab cooperation in the Middle East - the unfulfilled hope of the Balfour Declaration - into reality.
Levi Eshkol served as the third Prime Minister of Israel from 1963 until his death from a heart attack in 1969. He was the first Israeli Prime Minister to die in office.