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Labor Action, 7 March 1949


Al Findley

Armistice Between Israel and Egypt
Opens Way for Peace in Palestine


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 10, 7 March 1949, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Peace is returning to Palestine and the Near East. Egypt, the most adamant enemy of Israel’s independence, signed an armistice on February 24 and became the first Arab country formally to call off the war and, by implication, recognize Israel.

The armistice lines are almost the same as the present actual truce lines, with this difference – that broad areas are limited to “defensive” forces without tanks or planes. One area is demilitarized. Israel retains all of the territory won in the offensives since October 14. Egypt is left in control of only a small coastal strip, starting at Gaza. Trapped Egyptians at Falaya are to be released.

While this is not a peace, the preamble specifically declares that the agreement is a step toward permanent peace. The agreement also states that final boundaries are subject to peace treaties, but there seems to be little doubt that for the southwest of Palestine this will be largely determined by the present armistice line.

Factors in Change

The factors that caused the Egyptians to accept peace are: (1) military defeat; (2) U.S. pressure and the promise of economic aid; (3) suspicion of Abdullah. While Labor Action readers are familiar with these factors, a few new developments took place in the latter two points.

The Egyptian Premier publicly appealed to the U.S. for economic aid in the week before the signing of the pact. In the past it was assumed that U.S. aid would take the form of the extension of the Marshall Plan to the Near East. It is now reported that the Near East will be the first region to receive the “benefits” of Truman’s “bold, new program” for the development of backward areas by the export of American capital.

In relation to intra-Arab League feuds, two points are of special interest. First, the Egyptians, have given the Jews a free hand in the eastern part of the Negev and in Beersheba. Beersheba is the main city of the entire area, is of the greatest strategic importance and was of the highest PRESTIGE value to Egypt. This is directly aimed at Abdullah. Israeli government officials shrewdly played the game of utilizing these rivalries to the full and announced a policy of opposition to the annexation of Arab Palestine by Abdullah in the fortnight preceding the signing of the armistice – a move which probably was important in bringing the long negotiations to a conclusion.

No Credit to UN

The reader will note that I do not give ANY credit for the armistice to the UN, under whose “auspices” the armistice was arranged. It deserves none. At best, it was just the stage used. As a matter of fact, it was the UN’s vacillation that contributed to keeping the fighting going since the second truce. The main hope of the Arab rulers since then was to force a shift in their favor by the UN.

The rest of the Arab states are expected to sign agreements soon. Lebanon may complete the talks within the week. Saudi Arabia and Yemen, which had no direct armies in the field, have joined Iraq in accepting any settlement reached by the Arab states bordering on Palestine. Syria alone may hold out a little longer, not from strength or greater opposition to Israel than other Arab states, but because of greater fear of being absorbed into Abdullah’s “greater Syria.”

Formal peace talks between Israel and Transjordan began this week at Rhodes, after a continuous period of “contact” between the two governments. The Transjordan front was the front which has had the most effective truce. Last week an exchange of able-bodied prisoners of war took place, one of the greatest indications that peace is around the corner. Since the real borders of Israel and the fate of Arab Palestine will be decided at these negotiations, they are expected to take a long time and involve a great deal of haggling. The question of Jerusalem and the corridor to the sea will be one of the main issues in the negotiations.

Near East Unity

It is inconceivable that the Israeli government can prevent the annexation of Arab Palestine to Abdullah’s realm, short of a resumption of the war. At the same time, it is highly improbable that Abdullah will recoup any sizable portion of the land assigned to Arab Palestine but occupied by Israel. The Egyptian-Israeli truce has greatly reduced the bargaining power of Abdullah. It is for this reason that the British. Foreign Office did not hail the armistice, but announced that it was “satisfied” and would “study” the, agreement. Abdullah himself, however, is not too troubled by the disappointment of his masters, as long as he can get an agreement which will advance his dream of a “Greater Syria,” that is, a united Transjordan, Eastern Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq – under his own rule.

The issue of unification of the Near East may not share the spotlight with Abdullah in current negotiations but is of prime importance and given much thought by the power politicians. The war has dramatically uncovered the disunity and weakness of the separate Arab states. There seems little doubt that the movement toward unification will be greatly stimulated. The question is what form it will take. Will it be a Bismarckian unity of “fire and sword” under imperialist auspices, or will it be a people’s unity guaranteeing the national rights of ALL the peoples of the Near East – Arabs, Jews, Druzes, Kurds, etc.?

At present, two countries hold the key to this question – Israel and Transjordan. Abdullah is openly trying to make Transjordan the Prussia of the Near East. Such a unification can only endanger the real independence of- Israel and thwart the national aspirations of the other nationalities of the Near East. However, opposition to unification will be of little avail in the long run. Israel, as the other key power in the area, is the only power capable of putting forward, the only real alternative, of raising the banner of a people’s unification of the Near East. It is in Israel’s interest, both for the benefits it will give ALL of the Near East, and because it is one of the surest guarantees of its own national freedom.

Problem for Israel

Another danger faces Israel, not an immediate danger, but a danger nevertheless: that the defeat of the Arab states may cause some of the younger Arab nationalists to turn toward Stalinism and totalitarianism. The miserable social conditions, the utter weakness of the present nationalists and their current disillusionment make such a development a possibility on the part of sections of the intelligentsia in particular – unless a democratic revolutionary socialist alternative is offered.

Unfortunately, some Jewish circles and especially the Mapam (which claims to be a democratic revolutionary party) look forward to such a development. That they ignore the fact that Stalinism is totalitarian, anti-equalitarian and anti-democratic in its home territory, is bad enough. But what is of more immediate concern to a people that is just winning its war of independence, is that Russia has reduced all the countries it “influences” to satellites, deprives them of national independence and freedom, stifles their industrial development (Yugoslavia), drains their natural resources (Rumania and Manchuria) and liquidates the Fierlingers and Quislings that helped bring them to power.

The antidote to both these dangers lies on the same road. Israeli labor must take the lead in creating an independent socialist movement in the Arab countries and for a people’s unification of the Near East.

The kind of peace negotiated by Israel will do a lot to further these necessary developments. The internal policy and, especially, the way the Arab agrarian reform will be treated, is an important component of such a policy.

Points in a Program

While Labor Action cannot substitute itself for the Jewish and Arab labor movement, whose job it is to work out a concrete program, Labor Action can and does offer a few suggestions that can be the beginning of such a program:

  1. Economic union of Israel and Arab Palestine and/or Transjordan.
  2. Return of Arab refugees.
  3. United Arab-Jewish trade unions and political parties in Israel.
  4. Direct contact with the Arab labor movement outside of Palestine.

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