The October 1973 Yom Kippur War: Fifty Years Later

Thursday, October 5, 2023
Yom Kippur War

Fifty years ago, on Yom Kippur, October 6, 1973, Egypt and Syria launched surprise attacks on Israel. The resulting conflict sparked an Arab oil embargo, a superpower confrontation, a global recession, and an Arab-Israeli peace process. Its repercussions are still felt today. This joint symposium between CFR and the Institute for National Security Studies (Israel) will bring together American, Israeli, and Arab experts to discuss the war’s lasting impacts on the Middle East and U.S. regional interests. Speakers include Ehud Barak, Henry Kissinger, Nabil Fahmy, Tom Friedman, Dorit Beinisch, and Richard Haass, among many others. 

Virtual Session I: Military and Strategic Lessons of the War—A Conversation With Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak

ROSE: Hello, everybody. So welcome to Session I of CFR’s symposium on The October 1973 Yom Kippur War: Fifty Years Later. This session is entitled “Military and Strategic Lessons of the War.” It’s a conversation with one of the great men of our time and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

But I just want to say a little bit about the overall conference before we get to our discussion with the prime minister. The United—the Council on Foreign Relations and Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies have been doing U.S.-Israeli workshops for many years, and for the fiftieth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War we decided to do something special, and so we organized this conference. It’s a tribute to Martin Indyk, our distinguished fellow— Lowy distinguished fellow in U.S.-Middle East relations; along with Manuel Trajtenberg, the president of INSS. And Nancy Bodurtha and the Events team at CFR has been a key partner in all of this.

And the reason we did this was because the ’73 war was a watershed not just for Israel; for the Middle East, for the United States’ diplomacy in the Middle East, and for the world at large. The surprise attack shocked everybody in many respects, and the course of the war surprised many people as well. And then the war segued into one of the most dramatic and impressive periods of Middle East peace diplomacy in history. By the way, if you haven’t, you should read Martin’s extraordinary book on that—on that process, which shows what we can learn from it today. And we have the opportunity to reflect half-a-century later, when many of the challenges have changed but many of them still remain, about what the lessons were—what actually happened in ’73, what the lessons were and impacts were, and where we go from here with Israel, with the United States, with the Middle East more generally.

We have the great opportunity to talk today with Ehud Barak. When you think about his biography and his career, the word that comes to mind is that classic WASP expression Dayenu. (Laughter.) Ehud joined the Israeli Defense Forces in 1959 and had a distinguished career as an Israeli soldier. Dayenu. He went on to become the most decorated soldier in Israeli history. Dayenu. He got into foreign policy and became the foreign minister. Dayenu. He got into politics and became the prime minister. Dayenu. Any one of these careers would have been enough to make him somebody worth listening to, but for somebody who was not only a soldier, who was not only a diplomat, who was not only a politician, and in later life has been a businessman, has been a think-tank commentator—in the green room, we were talking about everything from nuclear enrichment to contemporary politics to AI. This is somebody we want to hear from.

And this point, I will shut up and start talking and turning to Ehud. So I guess the first question that I would have for you is surprise. You were a tank commander in 1973. When the war actually started, were you surprised by it?

BARAK: I got the phone call at Stanford. I was a graduate student at the School of Engineering at Stanford and I got at 4:00 in the morning a call from our military attaché in Washington, the General—later on chief of staff—Motta Gur, and he told me, oh, there is a war at home; I don’t think we are losing the serious one. I ask him, what is the “we”? You are here in a formal role; I am a young lieutenant colonel in the command chain, so I have to—I have to go. I’ll call you from New York. And I called from New York and said, oh, you were right, it's an extremely serious war. The Syrians are already at the gates of Nafah. Nafah was the central command post of us in the very tiny Golan Heights. So I returned, improvised ten battalion, went to Sinai, and ended up, of course, in the canal in some of the most bitter battle zone, completing the encircling of the Third Army in Suez.

But for me, it was a surprise, but the surprise for me as a—as a human being, it’s unimportant. It was a surprise to the leadership of Israel as a whole. It’s usually counted only as a failure of the intelligence, why the hell they didn’t tell us in advance that we are going to be surprised. But when you look at it closely, it’s a much more complicated picture. It’s a failure of all layers. It’s true the intelligence was surprised by the—having a conception that nothing could happen, no major war until the Egyptian will have an air force that can hit deep into Israel, which they didn’t have, and sticking to this conception in spite of hundreds of pieces of information that showed to the opposite. For whoever were the—(inaudible)—about Pearl Harbor, it’s the same. All the signs were written on the wall and no one could read them. So that’s a major failure, especially once the intelligence promised both to the operational levels—I mean, the J2 promised or committed itself to the J3 that they will be given at least forty-eight hours in the case of early warning in case of a full-scale war, and that’s enough in Israel to deploy all forces. Unlike America that has to deploy all over the world, takes several months, but in Israel within thirty-six hours you can deploy the whole force, all mobilized reservists, on the border, and by then it’s a much lower chance that any even initial success will be won by the enemy.

So it was a warning that was based on the idea that they have certain guarantee. They had—the intelligence had certain system, information-collecting system that we deployed deep into Egypt and Syria in the years before. There were also special operations, very high risk, but they could give these guarantee. But for reasons unexplained till now, those special sources that could tell information for within the leadership of the neighboring armies were never approached and asked to tell what they—what they see, and that was a grave mistake.

But the operational level, the J3, misinterpreted the results of ’67 and, in a way, ’56. It was somehow subconsciously interpreted as the result of certain built-in superiority of us over the neighboring others. We have to always swear for peace, they will make a mistake, and from one mistake to another we always will use our built-in superiority and defeat them, and Zionism will jump a step forward, which will not do. The real interpretation, the right interpretation of ’67 war, is that because we initiated war, we were the first one to send our air force initially out. There were no air forces—or find out, there were no air forces around. And that opened the way for the success. We didn’t really properly, and we suffered from the very, very missing or blind spot that we had.

Once we were surprised, when I came from Stanford, first thing I did is to go to the central command kind of bunker in the middle of Tel Aviv. I saw people that I met just four months ago before I left, the leading generals full of self-confidence for Six-Days War. Some of them looked to me as they got ten years older within these four months, which eventually were within the last—(laughs)—thirty hours because it just started when the war open—except for Dado, the chief of staff, who somehow projected the kind of self-confidence: It will be tough, we’ll suffer a lot of damages, but we will win and it won’t take too long. And the rest of them will quite deeply shook. So the operational level misread or they, for example, did not prepare a plan B just for the case that in spite of their commitment, the intelligence will fail to provide these forty-eight hours. There should be a plan B.

They even were wrong on judging the options of Sadat. They thought in too-extreme terms: a very limited operation—we had several of them during the War of Attrition that ended in August of ’70—namely, a limited operation with limited amount of force for limited results, and it ended after twenty-four or forty-eight hours; and at the other extreme, a full-scale operation operated the whole army in order to compel Sinai from Israel. They didn’t observe the third possibility, which was that deliberate choice of Sadat to use the whole force that he had, 1 million soldiers, just in order to get certain grip of a land beyond the canal in order to shake the whole confidence of the Israeli elite, the trust of the people in the—in the armed forces and the decisions of the elite, and so on.

And some at the operation level couldn’t do it, in spite of the fact that we had the details from a spy. It happened to be the son-in-law of Gamal Abdel Nasser, a close aide of Sadat, Marwan Ashraf—Marwan Ashraf or Ashraf Marwan. He lost his life years later when his name was exposed as a spy, as he jumped or pushed out of the balcony in his residence in London. But basically, he gave us the whole plan. We knew exactly how they are going to operate and couldn’t read it properly.

And the thirdly laid corner of the failure was the political event. Based on what they heard from the intelligence and what they heard, the overconfidence of the J2, of the operational level, they created a feeling that whatever happens we will win. At most it will take a few days, but we will win. So why to contemplate or think out of the box? There were concrete proposal in ’71 by Sisco and Jarring; later on, ’73, by Dr. Kissinger and Nixon backed by Sadat to try to see whether something could be done in order to avoid a major clash. And even in April ’73, just half a year before the war, there were concrete worries that a war was going to open and concrete proposal to start certain kinds of conduct. They wanted to see all Sinai coming back to them with the—with the deep promises for the Palestinians, so on

But the idea that when it became clear that we are going to war, and in these inner Cabinet meetings in April ’73 it was put on the table by the head of intelligence at the Mossad, the heads of the Armed Forces, even Moshe Dayan that the Arabs, mainly Egypt, are not going to swallow the result of ’67 as a permanent situation; they will go to war in order to change it, if this will be the only choice. So it became clear that, without having a date, we are heading toward a war. And Minister—Junior Minister Galili, who was in the room together with Dayan and Golda—he was the only one, minister—he said: How come that we take it so easy? If we are going to war, we are going to pay a very heavy price. We don’t have a mandate as a government to decide. We decided in the government that the achievements of the Six-Days War, except for Jerusalem, is just a kind of a—I will call it some deposit that we have until the situation is ripe for a negotiation. How can we dare to go open-eyed into a war without even checking what could be the alternative? And Golda decided to end the discussion, and they didn’t bring it to the—to the committee.

So I do not pretend to argue that if all these failures were avoided and the government would decide to go into this discussion, we would avoid the war. I’m not sure. Probably the humiliation and somehow for the national honor or dignity, whatever, the Arabs had to have a war. But it’s, in a way, put a question mark about the judgment of our third element, the political leadership, that they thought they do not have the responsibility at least to try to avoid it through a certain negotiation.

And the irony, of course, is that after the war, after paying with the life of three thousand—almost three thousand young Israelis, the equation that Dayan made—it’s better to have Sharm el-Sheikh, the southern tip of the Sinai—Sharm el-Sheikh without peace than peace without Sharm el-Sheikh—it didn’t add the third corner of the triangle. How about having Sharm el-Sheikh, or trying to have Sharm el-Sheikh, if the price is to bury three thousand Israelis and to bury the trust of the people in the judgment of its leadership? That was a kind of unexplainable kind of failure and a good lesson, the same way that happened with Barbara Olson (sp). I always remember her because she made clear what were the mistakes on—in this nation some thirty—thirty?—thirty years earlier.

ROSE: I’m going to pause on ’73 for a second to follow up on that. You experienced ’73 as a mid-level officer in the actual battles. You later went on to high command, to head of military intelligence, to be the top general, to be the foreign minister, to be prime minister. When you were in the positions of strategic leadership, did the memories and lessons of what had happened in ’73 informed how you looked at the threat? Did you always, you know, have in the back of your mind, oh, there could be another surprise? Were you not taken by surprise later in your career because of what happened in ’73?

BARAK: The ’73 war was a kind of forming or formative event of our life, of our generation. We were the people they—out of after all these failures at the top of the J2, J3, and the political leadership, the war was saved by the courage, sacrifice, and sense of unity or cohesion of the fighting force in the field, which ended up—we had an army of three hundred thousand, but no more than thirty thousand showed fire, shot at enemy and enemy shot at them, some of the most bitter battles since the War of Independence. And, yeah, it was with us all the way how my generation swore—in fact, swore not to ever let it happen again.

So some nine years after the war, I found myself head of intelligence. The intelligence service was still under the immediate impact of this. Their real worry was every day to check that we are not going to be surprised. We invested a huge amount of energy and funds and political and physical risks in enriching our special means to collect information all around the region and never repeat the mistake of not answering them what happened with the slightest doubt about the situation, or low visibility for whatever reasons.

We had in the—in the intelligence service, we created several layers of control. (Inaudible)—advocate special department of—(inaudible). When I came there, I was not enough experienced in reading all these raw materials. One of my predecessors told me—I interviewed all of them that were alive. And one of them, Shlomo Gazit—he passed away a few years ago—he told me on the way from my home in Lamata Shavanz (ph) to my office Tel Aviv, I listen to the BBC and read Haaretz, and I know 80 percent of what I have to know about situation. Then, I invest some six hours in reading raw material in order to complete the last. So I didn’t find myself capable of doing it, so I nominated a special officer in my office that will read raw material all day, all day long, and notice to me if something happened.

We made, on the operational level, it’s not lessons that were immediate, but we have certain lessons that we looked at and it carried all along the way. You know, when I became a—or, in brackets—one of the my first encounters with this war was around the crossing of the canal, when we had to make sure that the bridgehead will not be cut behind by the Egyptian units that were already on the eastern side of the canal. So we had bitter battles around the place that was called the Chinese Farm—either Chinese or Japanese, but Israelis cannot differentiate the letters. (Laughs.) So we decided Chinese. It was a dry irrigation canal not operated yet; so not green, only a desert. But some of the bitter. We lost hundreds of people. And I personally felt they were the most bitter battles that we ever had.

And all along with this way, we fought for our life physically from distance that I have from here to Manuel Trajtenberg or Itamar Rabinovich, from our tank facing Egyptian tanks in the front and the Sagger missiles from the flank, and Egyptians all around us. I lost a good friend of mine who was not even a member. He was about to command the most advanced technology unit of the Israeli intelligence, named eighty-one to those of you are knowing the code. Not eighty-two; eighty-one. So even more superior kind of—he was supposed to do it, but he—in his past, he was a commander—a company commander in the parachutist battalion that we were going to drag out of the battle to save them all, take the risk over their heads. And he was—he was insisting that he will come on my tank, a genius in electronics and engineer capabilities, a young scientist almost. But with certain battle experience, he got a hit in his neck, kind of the blood flows in strong stream. I tried to close it and he fell down into the turret. It was decided by the last drops of kind of courage and so on.

When I became prime minister, I noticed that among my ministers around the table of the government there were four people who were in this morning at the same place in the Chinese Farm: myself; my successor, Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin; the commander of the parachutist battalion that we came to protect or take out of this hell, Yitzhak Mordechai; and the doctor that dealt with some. Together, we had more than sixty people killed within a few hours, and probably more than a hundred, a hundred fifty wounded. So the doctor, we were all there. And we all remember it. And so it was a heavy commitment. Never let it happen again. Israelis suffered major damage.

You know, our economy, we had 3.3 million people at the time, a GDP the equivalent of 11 billion (dollars), which now—let’s say by now it’s probably 77 billion (dollars). But it’s a very small amount. We make the defense budget some 15 percent of GDP. It’s probably three times the American levels in peacetime and up to 40 percent of the budget. The American support, the 3 billion (dollars), which is now probably few points—eight points, seven points—of our overall GDP, was at the time full probably 20 percent of it. So it’s—and we lost a decade, a whole decade, in going the—probably Manuel can tell you all about it because of it. But also it was traumatized—the whole country was, in a way, traumatized.

ROSE: So the—after the initial shock, and the initial Arab gains, Israel manages to regain its footing to push back, and pretty quickly the tide of battle changes. And then, as the extraordinarily impressive military operations, and very dramatic military operations, are taking place on the ground, there also are discussions—transatlantic discussions between the Israeli government and the U.S. government and other governments about resupply. Because it’s clear that the it’s not just the heroism of the Israeli soldiers that’s going to win the war, but resupply of materiel, and planes, and things like that. So were you aware of the sensitive dependence of Israel on the U.S. militarily? Something like a Ukraine situation now, in which the ability of Israel to keep performing on the battlefield was dependent on American military resupply? Did you worry about that? And did that also teach a lesson about dependence?

BARAK: The Ukraine war is already eighteen months or so. We almost closed the whole story by eighteen days. So it’s a—I was aware of this. And it was extremely important in symbolic terms and in in deterrence terms, in terms of signaling to the Egyptians but in a way to the Russians that America is fully behind Israel. It was managed very skillfully by Kissinger, both avoiding it being executed, our request, in a way that will appear as a panicking or encouraging the Egyptians indirectly, on one hand. And when they—a few days later, it became clear that, as you mentioned earlier, even the American military expert was surprised by the inability for Israel to close it within six days at most. He managed to influence Nixon to accelerate—Schlesinger was a little bit more hesitant—to accelerate and make it. But thinking of real terms, I don’t believe that any munition or tank or even a Phantom came early enough to be participating in the war.

So it was not influencing the war itself, but it was extremely important, creating even a kind of a good precedent later on; there come the pre-positioning of advanced, high-accuracy, or high-precision munitions, standoff munitions, so on, in Israeli soil, which could shave the time in real the kind of L-train (ph) and allow us, with American permission, to use it immediately. So it did not—it did not influence.

But I have to make another kind of observation of the overall war. You can judge the result of such a war on three different layers. One is the operational one of the military clash. Second, on the strategic one, is the—what are the consequential decisions by at least one side. So, for war, one side suffice to initiate it. And on a third level, on historic level.

So on the operational level, it was a brilliant Israeli triumph in a way more profound than the Six-Days War because we were under surprised attack—perfect surprise attack—and much stronger nations collapsed under such attack, sometime within a few weeks, and sometimes could recover only after only after a year or a year and a half. So we—within six days, we were much closer to the Damascus and another ten days much closer to Cairo. And basically, as I mentioned, through the fighting spirit of the field labors, and we won it brilliantly.

On the strategic level, it’s different. You have to ask here, what were the objectives of both sides? So, in Israel, the only objective was to remove the threat. So we succeeded in removing the threat. But in Israel, it’s until now it’s a mourning day, in a way, even after fifty years. In Egypt it’s celebrated, because what Assad—what Sadat tried to do is to shake the self-confidence of the Israelis in their own potency within the Middle East in military terms, and to get certain result, to make a sacrifice, and to get political results. And in a way, he achieved it. So in this regard, he was—had the upper hand on the strategic level.

But when you look at the historic level, it is my judgment that in those battlefields of the Chinese Farm and the crossing of the canal and Suez and the Valley of Tears and the Hermon Mountain in the—in the north, this was a place where the Arab leadership realized there is no way—if under such a surprise you cannot defeat the Israeli Defense Force in conventional war, you won’t be able to do it ever. It’s their last hope. And in the back of their mind, they had other consideration that according to foreign sources Israel turned into a nuclear power at that time, which put a limit on how effective could be your aspiration to destroy it.

So, all in all, in the battlefields of Sinai and the Golan Heights, the seeds for the political process that lead later on to peace with Egypt and later on to peace with Jordan—unfortunately, not with Syria and Lebanon—this was an historic win, in a way win-win for all, if you want to put it this way.

ROSE: So that’s fabulous. And we actually have a wonderful group of members here who want to get into this discussion and ask you stuff. We could be here all morning. Just want to get one more question in before we involve our members in the discussion. And it’s on exactly that last point. So the war goes from a surprise attack, to an operational victory, to one of the most impressive segues from military operations to diplomatic negotiations in history. A truly Bismarckian level of applying force and politics together to achieve a positive outcome, ultimately. So the war doesn’t just remove some of the threat immediately, but also segues that. Did you take lessons for your later career as a peacemaker, as a leader, from how the war and its negotiations afterward ended up in a series of—you know, from conflict to actual peace treaties?

BARAK: You have a much more a kind of profound student of Bismarck in the afternoon here. And he will happen to be the man who really led it, with a lot of a personal gift even for negotiation and reading the psyche of characters like Assad on the one hand and Golda Meir on the other, not simple characters on either side, and it was a masterpiece. And the irony officially that he—at least the first step of—steps of it he initiated and discussed in quite shocking details before the war. We know it now from documents that were not available to the whole public.

I think that, you know, there were—in certain years after the war, there were some doubts in Israel whereas about the role of Kissinger. Someone found some remark that he made in front of Nixon or whatever that sounds not extremely supportive to Israel. But when you look now in the documents and what we know now, he made a masterpiece of work on all sides. So, basically, the peace process afterwards—the interim agreement was basically based on the same bricks that were on the table before and never approached even the experiment by our leadership, and it was unimpressive.

I did not believe as a young officer that we will see so early and so closely after the war—within five years after the war, there was a signed document, a framework for peace. We kind of ratified both in Cairo and in Jerusalem, and within less than ten years we complete the whole execution of it. And it’s not the kind of peace between the U.S. and Canada or something like this, but it’s strong enough. And it’s—you know, in the Middle East, you don’t have a peace something comes naturally. I remember the shock after the Second World War that the French and the Germans who slaughtered each other—three generations, once and again and again, and from Bismarck to Hitler—and then they could find the—within few months there came leaders on both sides saying let’s solve the problem.

In the Middle East, it will take the other course. At first it will be only a structure decided by politician, a(n) almost legal contract about peace, and then start a process that might take generations, the (litmus ?) of education until the peoples will really respect each other. And even in this regard, after fifty years we have certain kinds of promising hints.

So it’s a different kind—it was called peace, but it stood even when Israeli tanks rolled into neighboring Arab capital a few years later in Beirut. And it stood even when Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood took over Egypt; they didn’t cancel it. So I think there’s something extremely kind of promising, and in this regard we have to thank the American(s). I don’t want to thank Sadat for it in any way because he initiated the war that cost us so much. But, basically, it’s a great achievement, very promising.

ROSE: Thank you. Thank you very much.

At this point, I’d like to bring in our members in New York and on Zoom. First, I should remind everybody this meeting is on the record. I will take our first question in New York. Yes, back there?

Q: Thank you. I’m Nick Rostow. Thank you, sir. Very interesting.

It leads one to ask: What about Iran? In the context of the lessons learned from 1973 and the, quote/unquote, “threat” to Israel posed by Iran, what lessons would you apply to Israeli-Iranian relations? Thank you.

BARAK: Iran is a major threat not just for Israel, for the stability of the whole region—in a way, the rest of the world. I think that Iran is de facto a threshold nuclear state already now. They have no incentive to admit it because it will just kind of add to the sanctions. And probably the administration doesn’t have an incentive to admit it because people will ask: How it comes—how can it happen? What have you done about it? What are you going to be—to do next day or next week about?

So there is a common kind of incentive to leave it this way and make sure that they will not turn from a nuclear threshold state into actually having an arsenal. They still have to solve some problems. I’m not sure whether they fully know how to deal with the metal uranium-235. The product of the centrifuges is gas. They have to turn it into metal. It’s not easy to deal with it. And they still have to pack it into a warhead, which is some—sort of something this diameter. It’s not a big container. So they still have certain work, but this is the work that’s the definition of threshold nuclear power, that it’s beyond your reach. These parts of the process could be concluded in a lab about half of the size of this room, and you can put it wherever you want, and you—Israel or the United States might not even know when it’s exactly happening and cannot block it in any physical way. So it’s quite dangerous.

I’m interested in physical studies—physics—(inaudible). So if you read the publications of Iranians in physics, you’re left with no doubt that there is no shortage of talent and gifted people and knowledgeable people about nuclear physics to solve these two problems. So we cannot delude ourselves that they—oh, they are still far—they are far. Iran and only Iran will decide when it will turn into actual nuclear powers arsenal. And based on the past experience with North Korea or Pakistan, not to mention another country from a few decades earlier, the intelligence assessments about where a nuclear aspirer—a country that wants to turn nuclear—where they really stand, it was usually ahead of what the intelligence services saw.

And so Iran should be taken as nuclear. It means that we fail, in a way. We and you, together, we failed in blocking them from doing it. We tried for certain years, some more than a decade ago—from 2009, 2010, 2011, even ’12—to follow our usual trajectory, just having a surgical operation to destroy it. Because in the last thirty-five years there were six pretenders to turn into nuclear powers, second-rate pretenders who tried it. Two of them were blocked by external pressure: Gadhafi after Lockerbie and the South Africans during the regime change. Two were blocked by surgical Israeli operations: Saddam in ’82 and a generation later Assad in 2007. And two defied the whole world and turned nuclear: North Korea and Pakistan. If you listen to the text that young Clinton told the American public with a lower forehead and curls—curly hair, and he’s very fluid—compared it to what Obama told some twenty years later; it was exactly the same text.

And in fact, Iran is following in the footsteps of North Korea. They are determined to defy the whole world and turn nuclear. And it seems that they succeeded, unfortunately. And that’s dangerous. The danger is not that they will so drop a bomb on Israel. We are sometimes frightening ourselves—over-frightening ourselves basically in ceremonies to the Holocaust, led by Netanyahu especially. It’s the same way that North Korea never thought of dropping a bomb neither on Seoul, not on Japan, not even on Guam. They will—and they have good reason for it. They don’t want to go back to the—they’re extreme, but they’re not stupid. They don’t want to go back to Stone Age. So they produce it only in order to protect the survivability of their regime. It’s about protecting their dynasty, not about dropping a bomb on anyone.

For the same reason, the Iranians would not dare to drop a bomb on Israel. That’s not the risk. It will change—it’s a dramatic change for the worse by many aspects because it protects the longevity of these two regime, and we have a quarrel or fight only with the regime. The Iranians is a very good people, very successful civilization from the dawn of history. I still remember the young major coming here. They were our best friends. To this day, I don’t dare to repeat in public what was on the table when Israel dealt with the Iranians fifty-plus—no, fifty—no, fifty-plus years ago because it might embarrass us a little bit. So it’s—basically, it’s not about the Iranian people; it’s about those ayatollahs. They are extremists, extreme of extreme. But they’re extremely clever, extremely calculated, cold-headed. They make a(n) intelligent assessment about the intention of their rivals, us or you, at least at the same level of sophistication that we are doing it about them. And I do not fret that they will drop a bomb, but it will change the balance. It will give them a cover to keep operating under this umbrella all around—all around the region.

So it’s dangerous. We have to learn to—it was a major mistake of Israel to try to torpedo the JCPOA. And, unfortunately, we could not reach even consensus before the JCPOA to launch a surgical attack on them, when it was still possible. But I cannot even tell you for sure that it was a better result than the JCPOA, which delayed it by a long time. It was a bad, bad, bad agreement, but once it was signed it became a fact, and to cancel it there are much worse consequences. It was an extremely grave mistake, bordering on grand negligence, to convince the Americans to get out of the agreement without preparing a plan B for the case that the Iranians—it was taken for granted that in the first years after the JCPOA they will follow it very, very accurately—the Iranians will follow the agreement in order to have all the benefits for them. But no one could predict what will happen in the other half. And to leave it—by leaving the agreement, the agreement remained there. The Russians were still there. The Europeans were still there. The Chinese were still there. And Iran got the full legitimization to do whatever comes to their mind because whenever there was a, as I say, comment, the Americans are the ones who basically canceled the agreement, not us. So it was a grave mistake to do it without having a ready, effective military plan B what to do if the Iranians try to break out or do what they’re now doing or completing, which is becoming de facto threshold state.

It’s a little bit too long answer, but the subject is very important. Many people do not read it honestly, so to speak.

ROSE: As you can see, we could literally have this entire conference just with Prime Minister Barak. Unfortunately—and fortunately—we actually have a full day of fabulous speakers. And I will be killed by everybody if I let this go on longer because we—one of the great traditions of the Council is actually starting and ending.

BARAK: Equality for women. There is one lady asking—

ROSE: There is one lady? OK. We will—one quick question over here very quickly, and then we’ll go in.

Q: Very quick question, thank you. Elmira Bayrasli with Bard College.

Could you talk a little bit about Golda Meir, and what she did right, and what she could have done differently?

ROSE: A quick answer on Golda—(laughter)—because we’re already into our time. Very quick.

BARAK: She was a great character, very steady and strong. Probably her youth in the weather of Milwaukee made her tough. And she was a—she was the—presiding with a very heavy hand, reigning over all these men around her. She started to become prime minister when she was already—had been sick and sort of retiring, but it energized her. And during the war itself, she was great. But before the war, she made, I think, certain quite grave mistakes.

And it’s now in fifty years we’ve become softer, so there are some books that describe her in more rosy colors and even—probably very good. I didn’t see it yet, but I am hearing that there is great movie with Helen Mirren that (would protect her ?). You might hear from Dr. Kissinger later on a lot of compliments of her, but when you look at the—later the documents, there was certain kind of arrogance. She argued that she got it from the generals, these professional generals, but that’s only partially true. She could—she had a direct, direct access not just to the material that came through Mossad on this Marwan Ashraf, who made in the last days very clear statements about the intention to have a war; she was visited by King Hussein some two weeks, I believe, ahead of the war, and he basically told Golda and Dayan and then some other people behind the one-sided mirrors or curtains that he is—King Hussein convinced that Sadat and Assad planning a joint attack on Israel on the coming days. And she somehow ignored. I mentioned earlier another kind of point that she ignored. So it’s probably even she—if she would try everything that I mentioned, we would end up with the same war. But it’s a grave mistake not to—not to give it a chance, not to consider it and to—in a way, to ignore the opportunities.

You might hear also that the—

ROSE: We’re going to have to wrap it up.

BARAK: Yeah. There was quite clear proposals, both by Dr. Kissinger, that had been kind of ignored.

ROSE: Prime Minister, thank you so much. (Applause.) There will be a video and a transcript of this session on the website. Back here in ten minutes for another wonderful session, “The Long Shadow of the War,” with Richard Haass, distinguished guests. And welcome to this conference, and thank you for participating.


Virtual Session II: The Long Shadow of the War

LABOTT: Are we ready? Yeah? Thank you, everybody. That was some session that we started off with, with Ehud Barak, and that really leads us into this next session.

I want to remind everybody that this is on the record on this symposium. And before I introduce the panel, just let’s kind of set the scene.

As Gideon pointed out, while the war itself lasted less than three weeks, the consequences of the Yom Kippur War are still profound today. And the strategic repositioning of the U.S. support for Israel, OPEC’s oil embargo, and ultimately the peace treaty with Israel and Egypt would create a new international dynamic around fracture lines in the Mideast with the U.S. as the dominant peacemaker. How did the U.S. use that opportunity? How did the war impact Israel’s approach to peacemaking? And what was the impact on the Palestinians?

To discuss the war’s long-term consequences and the oil embargo’s impact on regional and global economies, could we have a better panel right here? I am joined by Richard Haass, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The Bill of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens; Tamir Hayman, managing director of INSS and former director of military intelligence of the IDF; Khalil Shikaki is joining us virtually, the director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research; and Manuel Trajtenberg, executive director of INSS and former member of the Israeli Knesset. Really can’t think of a stronger panel to talk about the long-term impacts of the war and how we look forward for future peacemaking, hopefully.

Tamir, let’s start with you. You know, the understanding of how to ensure Israeli security really changed after that war. And there are still parallels, I think, today. You know, in the West Bank and Gaza, no matter how, you know, good the Israeli forces are, we know that we’re never going to be able to have a lasting military defeat without peace. And talk to us about whether Israel has been effective in using those opportunities created by the war to achieve its strategic objectives, and particularly when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And how can we resolve that dichotomy?

HAYMAN: Well, there are two circles that you need to address when dealing with the question, the first of which is the circle of nation-states, which is the states that surrounds Israel and have—used to have conventional military power and can threaten the territorial sovereignty of Israel or maybe can influence the stability of Israel. And there is the internal challenge of the Palestinians-Israeli conflict.

Regarding the external threats, due to the fact that all of our opponents/rivals came to the conclusion that conventional warfare is not efficient in order to crush or to defeat Israel, they have altered their strategic goals from the full-scale approach of aggressive manner to a more political-based strategy alongside with terror activities that have been supported beneath the table. And that kind of approach leads us, from ’73 to 2006, the tragedy in Israel that we haven’t really understood that trend. Until 2006 and since ’73—maybe we can talk about it later—Israeli was preparing to the ’73 war. We were fully committed to win the war that we have just concluded right now. The only factor that drifted or shifted our attention was the 2006 war.

Regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the ’73 war was, I think, the third tragedy or blow or defeat of the Palestinians that created the third humiliation. The first humiliation is the Nakba, where Israelis defeated all the rivalry countries and the Palestinian aggressions—back then it was the Arab aggressions; that’s how we called it—and which led to the beginning of the state of Israel. The second blow came what we call the Naksa. It’s ’67 war, when Israeli occupied the West Bank, Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula. Those two main blows to the Palestinians came from Israel. Israel was the force that defeated them. The third blow was the most humiliating one, is the Yom Kippur War, because Jordan didn’t join the war, who is the most prominent country that controlled the Palestinians back then. Gaza, with Egypt, it did join the war. But Jordan, some area was under the control of Israel and Jordan not only did not join the war, but, as presented here earlier, gave an early warning to Israel in order to ensure the stability of Israel. And after the war, even through the peace process talks with the Egyptian, with Sadat, there was a vague notion of some kind of solution to the—to the Palestinian people problem, but it was not solid, tangible, and had some sort of basis on the ground. So it—this time—and of course, the settlements started expanding and the de facto situation that we are living here started just after the ’73 war.

So they could have suffered the two first humiliation because there was the aggressor. The aggressor was Israel, the Jewish. Now they were being betrayed by the Arabs. They were being neglected by the Arabs. So they knew that they have no one to rely on. The only way to achieve their national vision was through direct violence against Israelis. That leaded us to what happened in the first Intifada, the first Lebanese war, the second Intifada, and the situation—and the violent situation we are now facing. So in a matter of fact, the ’73 war projected the current trajectory of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the lack of confidence of Palestinian on Arabs and all of the rest of what they thought to be their potential solutions to the problem.

LABOTT: OK. Thanks for setting that up.

Khalil, let’s talk about the Palestinians. How do—from the Palestinian perspective, how do you believe the war and its immediate aftermath impacted the manner in which the Palestinians organized their relationship with Arab states, the international community, and their views on the conflict with Israel?

SHIKAKI: Thank you for having me.

I will disagree with my co-panelist. There is no doubt that the war was a dramatic moment and it did leave very serious long-term impacts on the Palestinians. It did what neither the ’48 war nor the ’67 war did, which is to trigger the pragmatism that we saw in 1974. This pragmatism was by far the most important development that the war created. This was the most important outcome. And the long-term implication of that decision back then, in 1974, to accept what was called the provisional program of the PLO, that it led us to the acceptance of the two-state solution in 1988, and the other long-term implications all came from that. This was a fundamental shift that also shifted the emphasis of the Palestinians from outside to inside, with the PLO in the outside and the Palestinians under the Israeli occupation in the inside.

This Palestinian pragmatism, then, created a much greater interest in state building in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. That decision by the PLO produced the Arab recognition—the Arab state system recognition of the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians. That was a great achievement. To a large extent, that achievement was due to the fact that Jordan did not enter the war and the Palestinians were very much interested in moderating their views in order to prevent Jordan from claiming to speak on behalf of the Palestinians. The decision, therefore, to accept the PLO in 1974 as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians essentially led to ending the Arab concern about what was sometimes called the Jordan option, the return of Jordan to control the West Bank. And in the long term, of course, it led Jordan itself to disengage in 1988.

And the third outcome that had long-term implications was, of course, the international recognition. This international recognition of the PLO, of course, eventually led to the acceptance of the state of Palestine as a non-member state or observer state in the U.N. system.

These outcomes, of course, were all short term, but had all these long-term impacts. Most importantly, however, at the end of the day these short-term impacts cemented the leadership of the most pragmatic leadership of the PLO—that is, of Arafat—which basically led to the marginalization of the leftist forces led by the PFLP and other forces. And in the long term, with that marginalization of the hawkish elements in the PLO, the declaration that I mentioned earlier in ’88 was feasible and the Oslo Agreements were also feasible.

LABOTT: OK. And we’ll talk a little bit more about, you know, how the Palestinians—whether they, you know, were able to take advantage of that opportunity.

Richard, obviously, America’s role in the war helped secure its dominance in the region and role in peacemaking—the war and successive agreements starting with the Egypt peace treaty, Oslo, and leading up through all the way to the Abraham Accords. I mean, obviously, dominance peaked during the Gulf War—First Gulf War, and then Madrid, and kind of then went downhill after the failure of Camp David, then the Second Gulf War. Talk about America’s, you know, failure to complete the peace process, and whether its pursuit of war weakened that potential and that dominance, and how the U.S. really used the war and the diplomatic openings to create this position of dominance that some might say was squandered.

HAASS: So now I’m going to disagree both with your question and with the title of this panel. (Laughter.) That’s one of the good things about having—

LABOTT: Well, as president emeritus, he’s entitled. (Laughter.)

HAASS: Yeah. One is that’s not the way to measure this. A far more—I actually think far more significant things came out of this, and I wouldn’t call the peace process a failure in any case, wouldn’t attribute it necessarily to the United States to the extent that it hasn’t succeeded. But I think there’s far more significant things. And indeed, the title of this session, “The Long Shadow of the War,” seems to me to get it wrong, because shadows tend to be dark and I actually think a lot of good stuff came out of this. So let me just say one or two things there and then you can have at me again if you don’t like my answer, Elise.

Take a step back. This war took place at roughly what we now know with the advantage of hindsight the halfway point of the Cold War. And I actually think it was extraordinary for several reasons.

One is that the United States and the Soviet Union effectively managed this situation. They each had important allies or proxies there. And I just say this because think about if an equivalent situation happened today; is anyone confident that the major powers of this era could so manage it? Not obvious to me. So to me the most impressive thing about this is, one, it was managed by both superpowers, and they did it without formal rules of the road. Indeed, the effort to write and enshrine formal rules of the road had failed. Well, what this showed to me was the power of informal or implicit rules of how to conduct great-power relations, and I think a lot can and should be learned from that.

Plus, even better from the point of view of the United States, it not only managed to avoid direct confrontation with the Soviet Union and the rest, but it came out on top. So this, to me, was a major triumph for American foreign policy, not just in the region but globally. And it showed on one hand that the Soviet Union was pretty much a one-dimensional superpower by this point and the United States was a multidimensional one, and that gave America great advantages. And I actually think it presaged some of the next two decades about how things played out in this part of the world and more broadly. So that would be sort of my basic point.

Second of all, diplomatically—and I expect you’ll hear about it this afternoon—it shows how war, if properly managed, can be the prelude to peace. Rather than being contradictory, they can be seen as sequential or as complementary if it’s—if it’s handled—and I think there’s lots of lessons which we’ve seen in other wars both observed and violated about understanding certain things like about limited outcomes on the battlefield, which can, again, set things—set things up. In some ways, the way the war was managed created conditions of ripeness that didn’t exist before.

Thirdly, I think it shows the importance of not equating diplomacy with peace. Martin writes it—about it really thoughtfully in his book, but diplomacy here was wielded to great effect, but it didn’t bring about peace. There’s a whole range of diplomatic outcomes other than peace or short of peace, and often they are the wise ways to go. We can argue in this case whether—it would be an interesting question to ask Dr. Kissinger later—whether there was more opportunity than he took advantage of at the time, something Martin hints at in his book. But also—but I do think, again, looking at current circumstances, the advantage of diplomacy that doesn’t aim for peace but aims for lesser but still desirable outcomes. And one could obviously think about in the Ukraine situation that peace is not—is not going to be an option potentially for generations, but there might be other diplomatic outcomes that would still add stability and the rest.

And fourthly, very different, is I think the oil weapon showed that for all this conflict highlighted about American primacy, in many ways it was suggesting elements of a post-Cold War world. And what it showed, that power had been distributed in many forms—in this case energy—beyond the writ of the United States to control. And this, to me, was both the centerpiece of the Cold War but also, I think, some of the—one of the early glimpses of the post-Cold War world, because the United States could not prevent the Arab oil embargo. It was vulnerable to it, showed the link between domestic realities here and international developments. And it gave an early glimpse of a world that was increasingly not dominated by either the United States or the Soviet Union, and obviously we have a world on that on steroids.

And so, again, I think, you know, the implications of this—at least for the, quote/unquote, “peace process”—again, it led to all sorts of agreements, but subsequent things that, you know, in the last two decades I don’t think it’s fair or right to necessarily draw linkages between this and what either happened or didn’t happen at some point, particularly in the post-Cold War moment when other dynamics took hold.

LABOTT: OK. Well, I think that’s an overly rosy assessment, personally. (Laughter.) But you know, we can have a poll at the end.

Before you steal Manuel’s thunder here, why don’t you talk a little bit about the oil embargo in response to the U.S. support for Israel? And it, obviously, sent ripples throughout the world, aggravated previous problems of the world economy, displaced millions of people. Talk about how geoeconomics was impacted by the war and bring us to, you know, how that really affected how we look at the region today in terms of these fault lines between the oil producers and—

TRAJTENBERG: Right. So, you know, every war—any major conflict has, of course, wider repercussions than just the military or the geopolitics field. But it seems that the law of unintended consequences was working overtime in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, and one of these consequences was the weaponization of oil and more general of energy later on.

I mean, to the best of my recollection, never before a major raw material like oil—in that case that, you know, it’s a sort of thing that moves the world—was turned into a weapon. And in a surprising move, the oil embargo and then, you know, immediately the oil crisis when the price of a barrel of oil shot up four times and trigger a new concept in economics, which is stagflation. Stagflation is a combination of stagnation and inflation, which is caused when you have a supply shock that shoots up a crisis and at the same time—so that’s an inflationary process, but it goes together with stagnation. And that was of tremendous importance for the world, for the U.S. By the way, you remember the Carter years when inflation was rampant and that brought about Reagan and the neoliberal policies and so forth and so on. So one vector stemming from the war is the oil crisis, stagflation, new concept in economics. By the way, we are sort of experiencing a mini chapter of the same with the war in Ukraine—the prices of wheat, of energy shooting up; inflation; and trying to kind of reconcile these two opposing phenomena. So that’s kind of one very clear one.

Internally for Israel, the war triggered what is called the lost decade, and Ehud Barak mentioned that. Truly, a lost decade from an economic point of view that was dramatic. Just to give you some numbers, inflation in Israel in ’72 was around 12 percent. Ten years later, it reach 500 percent—hyperinflation, a concept that we thought had disappeared after the Second World War, OK?

And of course, it brought about a steep decline in growth. Again, some numbers. Prior to the—to the Yom Kippur War, in the years between the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, the growth of GDP in Israel reached an average of 11.9 percent per year. This is rivaling the heydays of China. Now China, you know, is not doing so well, OK? But that—those were the numbers. Growth collapsed following the Yom Kippur War to around 3 percent per year. Not bad, we’d say, no, no, no, but the population in Israel was growing at more than 2 ½ percent, so essentially freezing living standards in Israel. The debt-to-GDP ratio shot up to 150 percent. So it was a disaster.

And the war, by the way—and this is important to remind—the war was a trigger; it wasn’t the only cause of this process. I would like a few sentences and I stop there. It was accompanied by fiscal irresponsibility and by populism, and this is something we need to remember these days. War can be a trigger, but you can manage it responsibly. Not then. I don’t know what’s happening now.

LABOTT: Right. Thank you.

Tamir, you and I have talked about the whole idea that war is a zero-sum game. And I mean, I think Ehud Barak kind of put it really perfectly. You know, Egypt may have not technically won the war, but at the end it achieved its strategic objectives and was able to get this—you know, negotiated a peace treaty that returned the Sinai Peninsula and shows that it’s not a zero-sum game. And is this perception of, you know, a constant struggle and zero-sum game the way we should look at it? I mean, you know, that’s an excuse people use, but you know, how did—how did you perceive the peace process with Egypt and Jordan? Could it be—have done sooner? And the question becomes, when we look at the Palestinian question, you know, are you going to wake up and see—the Israelis going to wake up and see that ending the occupation is necessary? You know, we saw that settlements were dismantled in the Sinai and removed; it’s possible that that could be done.

HAYMAN: The concept of zero-sum game should be addressed in the special—the relationship between the political level and the military level. As a military guy most of my career, military guys tend to see the world in black and white and a zero-sum game. Any kind of achievements to the enemy is a defeat to my perspective. But the political level should sail above it.

Let me give an example—Ehud Barak is sitting here—the withdrawal from Lebanon. I served most of—years in Lebanon, in southern Lebanon, and suddenly the—and we were sure as a military level that if we were to withdraw from Lebanon all hell would break loose. Hezbollah will charge on the—on our border, and there will be chaos, and—this was the military approach. But the political level thought differently, and saw opportunity, and took the risk, and this is why we ended the eighteen years of absurd presence there that after (fall ?) it was irrelevant. Everybody knew that. And nothing happened when we withdrew. So there was another case, specific case, where the political level thought differently than the military level, and that’s the reasonable way to handle political—geopolitical affairs.

The problem is if they will switch sides, and then the political level will see all of the world as a zero-sum game. There, you can get to a stalemate and never get any risk in order to extend or enhance your national security status in the broader aspects. For example, the Iran deal. The Iran deal, all of the military level in Israel were totally against it because the Iranians will get approval to enrich uranium over Iran’s soil. By the way, this is the kind of dispute that we are having right now over allowing Saudi to enrich uranium over Saudi’s soil, you know, of course. But eventually, after opposing the deal, few hours or days after the deal we could see that, wait a minute, it’s not a zero-sum game; we gain a lot from that deal. We opposed it dramatically, but the Iranians have done a self-inflicted rollback that we cannot really imagine in a future military operation. They were more—(laughs)—efficient than we could ever imagine in unilateral military activity to be approached.

And right now also, when we come to deal with the Saudi-Israel-United States normalizations, you should consider of a more complicated approach, that you should have some benefit to the other sides, and not all benefits to the other side means that you are losing your statehood. And when—and Israel has this kind of notion that the military is very, very strong in the—in the decisions-making process in the—in the higher level. As military myself, as a head of military intelligence, I was responsible for national assessment. It is not really something that happens in democratic states, but this is the situation. This is how Israel is evolved. Therefore, you need a different approach by the political level.

The question whether we could have achieved peace with Egypt before the war is long debated. I tend to disagree with the concept that there was a suggestion and we could have achieved whatever we kind of achieved after the war before the war. There was a humiliation. There was a culture there. The war was necessary in order to create a different way approaches. But regarding Jordan, I think we could have achieved more. And right now, with the Saudi, we can achieve much more if you won’t let the shadows of the past haunt us—the concept of whether the regime will collapse, whether they will betray us in the end, and what are we going to lose in the elements of security.

LABOTT: Yeah. Richard, I mean, the war was set up with Egypt as the main player, you know, and the focus of the diplomacy was on Egypt, and they weren’t prepared to condition its peace with Israel on a solution for the Palestinians. And so they designated the PLO as the sole legitimate representative, you know, took Jordan’s role away. You know, bring us here to current day. The Saudis say that they’re, you know, conditioning the peace—a peace with Israel on the Palestinians, but we see that history seems to repeat itself in terms of countries are looking out for their own interests. And then I want to turn to Khalil on that.

HAASS: But the reason that Egypt was the center of it is then Egypt was correctly seen as the center of the Arab world. That’s where the weight was.

LABOTT: Right. Right, and—

HAASS: And it was the most significant protagonist. And, correctly, people assessed if you could take Egypt out of the equation militarily, it took away any military—serious military option. So that was—that was a historic breakthrough. But, yeah, I tend to agree with you, that the Palestinians were losers. It’s almost like musical chairs. And when the diplomacy was done, Palestinians didn’t get a chair in this—in this process. So here we are now, skip ahead to the Saudis. The Saudis, for them, the priorities of negotiating a deal with the United States, you’d have to go far down the list of priorities before you reach the word Palestinian. It’s just not—it’s just not there.

LABOTT: There’s a lot of lip service, but—

HAASS: Just as an aside, people have memories. One of the things I expect a few Saudis remember is that when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, when Saudi Arabia was threatened, well, who was on the other side supporting Saddam? Who was cheering? Among them, the Palestinians. So the idea that the Saudis are necessarily going to forget that? Not so much. They’re much more concerned about Iran, much more concern about getting support from us, and so forth.

I actually think the big impetus for getting the Palestinians involved in the current process comes from the president of the United States, in part out of American strategic belief that this is important, in part out of a count of votes in the Senate. If you believe that—I mean, if the Saudis are demanding a treaty, the only way to get a treaty is by getting two-thirds of the Senate to vote for it. Last I checked—I know we’re all focused on the House—but the last I checked, you’re not going to get two-thirds in the Senate to vote for it without Democratic votes. You’re not going to get sufficient Democratic votes without a significant dimension that protects Palestinian interest. So that’s where we are.

LABOTT: Right. Right. Khalil, when you look back at, you know, the Palestinians, you know, have been accused, as the Israelis have, of never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity. I’m not sure if it was Martin that once said that, or Dennis Ross or—

(Cross talk.)

LABOTT: Oh, OK. Excuse me. But how do you grade the PLO in their performance since then in securing Palestinian rights? And then bring us to today, and how you think they can, you know, insert themselves into, you know—obviously, given what Richard said about the Palestinians being very low on the list. How do they assert themselves to secure Palestinian advantages and objectives?

SHIKAKI: There is no doubt that the Palestinian move in pragmatism was very gradual and very slow. And this had to do with the difficulties within the Palestinian—within the PLO, in particular, but also within the larger society and the division between the inside and outside, and with various interests, and so on. So it took us a long time to get from there to ’88, with the with the Declaration of Independence. And then it took us another five years to get to the Oslo agreement. So the process was, no doubt, very slow.

But by the time the Palestinians accepted the two-state solution in the ’88 declaration, it was very clear that this is not what Israel wanted. The consensus that the Palestinians built around this notion of six or seven borders with East Jerusalem as the capital and so on, were achieved during this period between ’74 and ’88. And by then, however, the Palestinians had their own strength—only their own strength in which they could impact the situation. The major Arab countries, as the case is today, were certainly focusing on their interest. And this was true in particular for Egypt, of course, but it was also true for the other countries. Most importantly for the Palestinians, of course, Jordan and Syria, because they are—so the three countries did not play a constructive role during this period to help build a coalition that could have brought along the Palestinians.

Given the lack of leadership today on the Palestinian side, the Saudi normalization deal could very well move forward with little or no input from the Palestinians. Although, there is no doubt that the Palestinian leadership is trying to have an impact. Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership cannot have an impact just by talking to the Saudis. Yes, the Saudis do have an interest in having—continuing to have Arab and Muslim leadership. And they do have to pay attention to what is happening in the Arab street. They can’t move too far away from that.

Nonetheless, at the end of the day they will do what is in their national interest. The Palestinian leadership, lacking the ability to take the initiative, unlike what Arafat did, for example, in ’74, or ’88, or ’93, the current Palestinian leadership is not using the assets that the Palestinians have to impact the situation, whether the impact, most important, of course, on Israel, or the impact on the region as a whole. The lack—this lack of initiative on the part of the current Palestinian leadership is going to be the reason why the Saudis will go along and normalize relations with Israel without paying a lot of attention to the Palestinian needs.

LABOTT: OK. Thanks, Khalil.

Manuel, you know, the oil embargo and what happened since then really projected the oil-rich producers of the Gulf into this pivotal position that I think, you know, still remains today. You know, oil money flooded the Gulf, you know, underpinning their large development and infrastructure projects. Migration into the Gulf states—you know, the oil-poor Middle Eastern states, you know, had devastating inflation, as you said, and kind of set up this, you know, have and have-not, this system of inequality that still lasts today. And I’m wondering, you know, how do we see that? And is there any way to—you know, obviously, money-wise, we can address the imbalance. But how does that affect the geoeconomics and the region?

TRAJTENBERG: Right? So, yes, I mean, the war triggered that, as I said, before, you know, oil turning into a weapon, and a huge redistributive force. Not just in the Middle East, but beyond. We forget that the big chunks of the less-developed world, they are oil-poor. And so they suffered the most from this shift of riches. But, you know, this is the point to make, I think, an observation that is more general. In the history of economic development, ever since the Industrial Revolution, never natural resources were the key for long-term growth and lifting standard of living. But rather, you know, good institutions, first and foremost, brain power, stability of the political system, and so forth. And, more often than not, the riches that come from the ground don’t lead to a bettering of the long-term situation and living standards of those countries.

You mentioned the Gulf countries. And, yes, in the last decade we see, particularly the smaller states, a big kind of push towards, say, development in the wider sense. And not just you’re reaching a small elite. But, you know, the judge is out there. I mean, it’s not clear what will happen in the longer term. You know, you take the Emirates, the UAE. They have a ten million—a population of ten million, out of which only 10 percent are Emirates. The rest is foreign workers. Is that a sustainable situation? Saudi Arabia, 30 percent of the population is foreign. And foreign, foreign. I mean, it’s not just, you know, kind of a wishy-washy concept, and so forth.

So we have to be very careful with that. And the Middle East is the—kind of the ultimate example of this shifting between the oil-rich and the oil-poor. Take Egypt. OK, Egypt had some—has some oil. But nowadays, they have gas, OK? Is that making a difference for the 120 million Egyptians that they are suffering from, you know, dire economic condition? Barely, OK? Is that going to solve—suppose that they triple the gas discoveries in the Mediterranean—

LABOTT: So it’s a combination of the money, and the vision, and the—

TRAJTENBERG: Right. So we have to be very, very careful with that. Nevertheless, oil became, and is still playing, a very important geopolitical role. I mean, it’s a weapon, OK? And gas, and oil, and so forth. And as any weapon, we have to be very careful about how we use.

LABOTT: Thank you.

OK, we’re going to open it up to questions. I’ll remind everybody that we’re on the record. Please identify yourself and keep your questions short, and to a question, so that we can get as many questions as possible. Right here in front. Yes. Get her the microphone.

Q: Hi. Thank you. Nazee Moinian, Middle East Institute.

I want to shift this a little bit to nonstate actors. We’ve been speaking about the role of Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and their dealing with Israel. So what lessons have they not learned? Mr. Barak stressed that Jordan and Egypt agreed to peace deal after 1973 because they decided Israel’s undefeatable. But Hamas, Hezbollah, and all the other nonstate actors that are agitating at the border have not learned. Where is that pragmatism that is supposed to be ushed in?

LABOTT: Mmm hmm. Tamir, do you want to take that one?

HAYMAN: That reflects about the method of actions and their concept of operation. The idea that Israel cannot be defeated with straightforward operational, from the external, lead to the idea that Israel can finally be defeated by invoking internal problems and creating or accelerating what was considered to be our weakness spot, which is our home front command in our society. By inflicting Israel with large-scale terror activities, by creating social disruption through social media, by enhancing capabilities of missiles and long-range capability, our enemies—particularly from the Palestinian arena and our external enemies—are trying to bypass the battlefield by hurting us where we are weak. And this is an ongoing operation right now.

Palestinian sections, like Hamas, like Fatah, like other section, is a total different problems then the external—other external threat. Because there you have an unsolved conflict that’s being accelerated, and there is no potential outcome that is acceptable on all other sides. So violence seems to be the only things that we do while we are waiting for something else to be had. We are conducting—managing the conflict, and they are managing the crisis, in order to sustain it above the awareness of our people—of the society.

I don’t think that the flexibility is abolished. There is flexibility among the political section in the Palestinian Authority. There is still this concept of a nonviolent, or nonaggressive aspirations to achieve their national aspirations. But as long as the Palestinian Authority will not be focused on nation building and not create the necessary transition process towards the next generation, and continue to be aligned, or from—or attached—dis-attached completely with the streets, of Jenin, and Tulkarm, and Bethlehem, other—the void will be filled by other forces. Which now is the mass majority of youngsters that being good grouped into sections that in total the age—they are total frustrated from the current leadership and they are taking actions to their hand. And that creates what we are faced with right now.

HAASS: Can I have a different—very different answer. It’ll take one minute.

LABOTT: Yeah, and then I want to get Khalil.

HAASS: Khalil, yeah. I just think it’s incomparably more complicated. When you’re negotiating with governments, you’re negotiating with government’s clear authority. You don’t have that on the Palestinian side. When you’re negotiating with countries, you have clear territorial reach. You don’t have that with the Palestinians. So actually I think it’s totally predictable that you would have realized far more progress with Jordan, Egypt, Syria, in a de facto way the Abraham Accord countries, than you would with the Palestinians, because it’s a fundamentally different and more complex challenge diplomatically.

LABOTT: Khalil, how do you see it? I mean, separate—you know, separate the idea that there’s a current—separate the idea of the current government and its, you know, role in in this, versus the idea that there is, like, a general sense of this pragmatism that you spoke about, you know, post-’73.

SHIKAKI: The main problem confronting the Palestinian leadership today is the fact that it does not have legitimacy. The lack of legitimacy means its ability to make tough decisions is absent. And that essentially leads to paralysis, with very few exceptions here and there. But essentially, this is where the Palestinian leadership is. It means it is divorced from the basic sociopolitical developments within the Palestinian society. And the Palestinian society, in the absence of that leadership, is essentially divided. We have Hamas and Islamists in general, Hamas leading them, that seeks essentially to keep the conflict alive by building a military capacity. And the non-Islamists, that is the secular nationalists in the society, who are essentially moving in a different direction, but one that accept the reality as it is, as a one state reality, and is thinking slowly, gradually, but it will be getting there soon, in terms of having a single state with equal rights.

So these are the two societal forces that are currently emerging. And the Palestinian leadership is in a totally different place right now, unable to influence these two but also unable to take the initiative. And this paralysis in the Palestinian leadership, as I indicated earlier, is the main difficulty that essentially means that the Palestinian Authority does not really have a future without having to essentially address the main difficulty it finds itself in, which is lack of legitimacy, lack of credibility, inability to make tough decisions.

LABOTT: Thanks, Khalil. OK, if you have a question, please raise your hand. Sir, right here, if you can get him. And then we’ll go to the woman in the back. I can’t see who that is, but yes.

Q: Thank you. Hi. I’m Gabe Mansky. And my question is to—may I call you Tamir?


Q: OK. (Laughs.)

So the words that I captured when you were talking now, or responding to the question, was building a nation. How can you build a nation when you’re under occupation? How can you build a nation when you have a government—current government in Israel now that includes Ben-Gvir and Smotrich and their buddies? OK, I just don’t think it’s feasible now.

LABOTT: Thank you. Yeah, and if you could pick up on the thread that we were talking about that we didn’t have time to get into, is the idea that a lot of even military generals, and we see what’s going on with the reservists, is the threat to Israel right now an external threat or an internal?

HAYMAN: Well, I give up, OK? (Laughter.) The problem—nation building is a slow, graduated state that was ten years ago there was a real, genuine effort in the Palestinian Authority to create the establishment in a very moderate manner from bottom up, in order to establish the bureaucracy and the structure of the future Palestinian state. That really you can’t do it—you can do it, and they have done it, without the interference of Israel. Because although you need the prospect—and I do agree. The problem of the occupation is not the steady state of the occupation. It’s the lack of hope, the lack of prosperity, the lack of the idea that we can—we are in the way. OK, that’s a problem.

But why—let’s put that aside for a minute and let’s think about minor steps that you can do in order to enhance your capabilities. For example, building hospitals, building a new infrastructure, building new roads. You need, of course, cooperation. And in that aspect, in terms of economic cooperation, you will find there is some flexibility inside the Israeli administrative level. Regarding the internal situation right now, internal situation is something crucial because it’s being perceived by external enemies like weakness and the lack of deterrence of the of the idea.

They are not perceiving the—what we are facing currently as a vivid democracy fighting for its survival. They are considering this first signals of the long vision that Israel will corrupt from—will be broken from the inside. And they are not perceiving the IDF pilots who suspended their volunteering as people who are so worried about Israel. And they are fighting this time in a different manner in order to proceed but they fought for all their lives, a vivid Israel Zionist democratic state. So this is—that leads us—that could lead us to a shift in the balance of deterrence that may make—may be a problem in the future.

LABOTT: Manuel, why don’t you talk about the economic cooperation and the nation building?

TRAJTENBERG: Yeah, I mean, one remark I think it’s important to make. The state of Israel was not created in ’48. That was a formality. The state of Israel was created gradually during the first half of the twentieth century, and under occupation. So it was a gradual process of building, you know, the transition, the day of—the Declaration of Independence from a nonstate to a state was seamless, because everything was there. I mean, all the institutions were there. The democratic institutions, everything was there. You know, it was to be further developed, but, you know, it’s not something that happened overnight. And I think that, you know, of course, it’s much more difficult for the Palestinians not underestimating that. But I’m saying that, you know, what pains me is that, you know, take the model, design this model, apply it to the Palestinians, OK? That will be fantastic.

Now, regarding the current situation it’s, of course, the current coalition will not allow for any positive development. But that’s it. You know, first of all, that’s an issue for us, Israelis, OK, because it’s affecting badly our country, OK? And the huge protests in Israel, which is unprecedented in magnitude, fourteen consecutive weeks where you have, you know, it has been made the calculation, that around a million and a half people in Israel are taking part at least five times in these weekly demonstrations. It’s huge, OK? So it’s our problem. We need to bring about change in government. There is no question about that. But, you know, they are parallel processes, OK? The Palestinians have to do their own. And kind of we have to, you know, do our homework in order to bring about and facilitate that.

LABOTT: Yeah, Rich—wait, let’s get some other questions in, though. But, Richard, there have been efforts in the past. Like, in the absence of viable peace negotiations for the state, there have been, you know, efforts to, you know, help the Palestinians. You know, Secretary Kerry, parallel to the peace process, was adding this whole development plan for the Palestinians. In the absence of what Khalil was talking about, you know, a legitimate Palestinian government, how can you—or can you really help with the nation building of what Salam Fayyad would talk about, you know, creating the space for a Palestinian state?

HAASS: Look, whether it’s under occupation or not under occupation, there’s probably no more daunting task in diplomacy than nation building. Look at what the United States has recently experienced in parts of the Middle East. If you’re not humble about that, you have to rethink. This is a—we’ve had positive experiences in Japan and Germany after World War Two. There were other positive experiences. This is a different kind of situation.

So, look, diplomatically, you can do the Hail Mary, if I mix my metaphors, do something ambitious. You can do something modest in diplomacy. Or you can emphasize the precursors, the prerequisites. And that’s what you’re getting at. And the answer is: Yes. And you want to build the institutions, you want to build capabilities. The idea is to give Palestinians hope that they see betterment. It also builds confidence on the Israeli side, if you build—you have to, in some ways, build the partner. That’s part of what—the prerequisites of peacemaking there.

It’s just going to be extraordinarily tough given two things. One is the divisions in nature of large elements of this Palestinian constellation of leaders, shall we call it. Can’t speak about leadership, it’s plural. And second of all, given this Israeli government that, quite honestly, large elements of which do not want to foster or encourage such a process, which is the reason we are where we are.

LABOTT: Khalil, do you want to just—look, come on—Khalil, do you want to weigh in a little bit on this?

SHIKAKI: Sure. Look, there is no doubt that in the last decade, the issues of institution building have suffered considerably. And, indeed, the end of the term of Salam Fayyad was certainly a point after which we’ve seen significant decline in institution building. Nonetheless, institution building by itself is not going to be sufficient if there is no partner for peace. And there is no doubt that Israel is moving in a direction that makes it a non-partner for peace. That it’s becoming more right-wing, more nationalist, religious. And that rules out a two-state solution, at least under the current trends in Israeli society. Nonetheless, we need to have a legitimate government. We need to have strong accountable institutions, that we currently do not have. That is our fault. That has nothing to do with Israel. We are failing ourselves in this regard.

LABOTT: OK. Thanks, Khalil. Just super, super quick because we’re really—getting the eye roll right now that we have to end on—I really do want to try and end—

Q: Thank you. My name is Orren Tambour. I’m an Israeli veteran of ’73 war, the Yom Kippur War.

And my question is as follows: The Yom Kippur War included also a war between Israel and Syria. Can you kindly elaborate what are the long-range consequences of the war between Israel and Syria and ’73? Thank you.

LABOTT: Thank you. Tamir. Can you repeat the question?

HAASS: What are the long-range consequences of the war between Israel and Syria in ’73—the Syrian dimension of a ’73 war?

HAYMAN: Thank you. I think while there is a dispute over what the outcome of army—military victory in the Sinai Peninsula, although I think it was a military victory, there is no doubt that in the terms of the Golan Heights, it was a full, total, unprecedented military victory. And the problem of that kind of victory, that the lessons learned after the victory are wrong. Because you—there is a kind of what I call the post-traumatic learning disorder. (Laughter.) So you need to learn fast, but you’re traumatized. And if you are investing long-range investment on that learning, you’re creating a problem. So for years, we have suffered from that kind of a false understanding of what happened there.

On the one hand, Syria, all of the aspiration of the Assad regime was crushed. There was a political process that eventually—there was a peace process that eventually was halted, and part of what happened—and a few researchers think that whatever happened eventually in Syria could somehow relate to that. But the essence that we have kept the Golan Heights for years after that on the same tactical approach and the same operational approach, we lost years of understanding what’s really happening in in that area. And we have changed only our—after the civil war, I was the commander of the Golan Heights. I still remember the last day of the—what we call the standard procedure of rushing to the—with tanks to the border, in order to defend Israel. We still kept that from ’73 to 2012, which was irrelevant, I think, ten years from that happening.

LABOTT: I’d like to thank our panelists. This was—thank you for joining this session. And thank you to Richard, Tamir, Khalil, and Manuel.

Please note that the video and transcript for this will be posted on the website, and this really—we’re going to take a quick coffee break—but this really sets up the third session perfectly, “Peacemaking Following the War,” and obviously bringing it current. Thank you very much. (Applause.)


Virtual Session III: Peacemaking Following the War

ROBBINS: So welcome to Session Three. Our topic is peacemaking following the 1973 war.

We are joined today by CFR members attending in person in New York and over a hundred and twenty-five attending virtually via Zoom. You have the bios for our speakers, all of whom are well known experts and actors so there are no surprises to you. So I’m just going to give the briefest of introductions.

Speaking virtually, hey, Nabil. It’s so great to see you.

FAHMY: Hi, Carla.

ROBBINS: Nabil Fahmy, dean emeritus.

(As an aside.) Just keep this covered or no? OK.

Dean emeritus, the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, the American University in Cairo, and, of course, Egypt’s former foreign minister of foreign affairs and ambassador to the United States. Nabil, it’s really great to see you again.

FAHMY: Thank you.

ROBBINS: Also speaking virtually William B. Quandt, Stettinius professor of politics emeritus from the University of Virginia, and author of Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict Since 1967. Dr. Quandt served on the staff of the National Security Council during the Nixon and Carter presidency and was deeply involved in the Camp David negotiations. And, Bill, it’s nice to see you again.

QUANDT: Nice to see you.

ROBBINS: And here with me on the stage in New York Ambassador Itamar Rabinovich, vice chair of the Institute for National Security Studies, distinguished fellow of the Brookings Institution, former Israeli ambassador to the United States and head of peace negotiations with Syria from 1993 to ’96. And he, too, an author of many things but Middle Eastern Maze: Israel, the Arabs, and the Region.

And I know all of these people. I’m very lucky to have a chance to speak with you guys. I’m Carla Anne Robbins. I’m a longtime reporter and editor for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. I’m a senior fellow now here at the Council. I’m also faculty director of a master’s program at Baruch College.

And a little pitch. I’m co-host of the Council’s The World Next Week podcast. So please listen. This is a hybrid meeting and it’s all on the record.

So just a sense of our timeline. We’re going to chat for about thirty minutes. I’ve got a lot of questions. I’m going to talk very fast and ask everyone to be economical in their responses. And then we’re going to open it up to members for questions and then we’re going to finish promptly at noon.

So let’s turn now and—to our questions and, Bill, can we talk—start with you?


ROBBINS: So looking back over fifty years, which makes us all sort of feel a little old, how do you rate the American performance from the end of the war through Camp David? It’s a really big question but, you know, could we have done things differently and increased the chance for a broader peace? Are you filled desperately with regret?

QUANDT: I think it’s always interesting to try to think of alternative ways that things might have played themselves out and to imagine that they might have produced better results. I think one of the biggest questions is could we have launched an American-led diplomatic effort before the October 1973 war that would have stood a reasonably good chance of eventually bringing us to the same place that we achieved in 1978-79, namely, an Egyptian-Israeli peace.

But I think there’s a pretty good argument that can be made that there was a possible opening earlier in 1973. The objection at that point was largely an Israeli one. Golda Meir was going to be up for elections in the end of October. She was not interested in seeing any diplomatic effort starting and she was excessively confident that if war came Israel would win it just as they had won it in 1967, a view shared not by President Nixon but by Henry Kissinger.

He also thought that deterrence would work, that although he was already committing himself to a political initiative by the end of the year I don’t think he felt the urgency and he didn’t understand that Sadat felt an urgency.

So we made a misjudgment there. Fortunately, emerging from a very costly war for the Israelis, for the Egyptians, for the world economy, we got back on our feet and got a political process going that did eventually produce the Egyptian-Israeli peace.

Could it have done more? That’s another topic for discussion and it really has to do more with the early days of the Carter administration, which I also was involved in.

ROBBINS: So I know—I want to throw this open to everyone else but can you talk very briefly about the Carter administration and the—are you talking about a lack of ambition there or were there more—

QUANDT: No, the ambition—the ambition was quite substantial. We wanted to try to get the Egyptians and the Syrians and the Jordanians and Palestinians all into some kind of a negotiating process, sort of like what the first President Bush and his secretary of state, James Baker, got going at the Madrid Conference.

That was kind of what we had in mind. It was thrown off kilter, not so much because of the concept per se but Israeli elections produced a surprise that we didn’t expect, namely, the election of Menachem Begin.

We had built our initial strategy around the assumption that Yitzhak Rabin would be the prime minister we would be dealing with and he had given us in the very first meeting he had with Carter, which was not a particularly friendly meeting but it was a very serious meeting—he made it clear that he was ready for negotiations and he was ready to make hard decisions.

But he also, as a politician, said, but I have to get myself reelected first and, of course, he didn’t. So we had to deal with a very different Israeli political leader and I think that radically forced a reassessment as we came to understand the depth of Menachem Begin’s commitment to keeping all of the West Bank under Israeli control.

It made us realize that our possible grand design had to be modified to accept the reality that Egypt was the country that we would have to focus on and, of course, Sadat helped make that easy by his trip to Jerusalem in November of 1973.

Sorry. Sorry. Of 1978—’77. My dates are getting confused here.

ROBBINS: Thank you for that.

Mr. Fahmy Nabil, I’m going to ask you pretty much the same question about decisions made by Egypt. Many people would argue that President Sadat, you know, did an extraordinary thing. It led to both Egypt getting its territory back and a major breakthrough on at least one front in peacemaking. How do you look at this time period? Wrong ambition? Wrong choices?

FAHMY: First of all, it’s great to see you, Carla, Itamar, and Bill. Longstanding friends.

To answer your question, I think Sadat was underestimated. Sadat took a courageous decision to go to war, not to fight but to negotiate. He had tried even before the war by offering peace initiatives: I’ll open the Suez Canal up for civilian navigation if you just withdraw fifty kilometers and other initiatives, all of which were ignored by the Israelis and, frankly, not particularly engaged on by the Americans, neither by the Soviets. So, ultimately, he decided he had to go to war but understood that given his difficult relations with the Soviets and the strength of American-Israeli relations, besides Israeli military superiority he wasn’t going to go there to liberate all the Sinai but to change the paradigm—the global paradigm—to enable negotiations to be a factor and he did that.

He made Egyptians more confident in themselves. He made the Israelis come out of the stupor and arrogance of invincibility, and he made the Americans and the Soviets pay attention that you can’t keep ignoring the Middle East without it ultimately having a cost on your interest as well. And, ultimately, it opened the door for a different way for the Egyptians to look at the Israelis, for the Israelis to look at the Egyptians.

And that’s—for me, the first step in the peace process was the first bullet across the Suez Canal. But it wasn’t the wild bullet. It was a clearly determined contained process with one objective is I want to negotiate.

Now, so I give him tremendous credit for that, and there was a(n) understandable focus on the American role. I would argue, and especially if you read Martin’s recent book, Dr. Kissinger from the very beginning said his interest is not in peacemaking. It’s in establishing order, establish a status quo so that he could negotiate a larger issue with the Soviets.

Well, if the American role is, I want to contain the process rather than to make the most out of it, then it becomes detrimental rather than a positive role. Is it important? Yes, of course. But I make this point because it’s a lesson we all draw from.

You need to depend on yourselves most of all, and if you look at the history of the Middle East war and peace in the Middle East was made by Middle Easterners, not by anybody outside the Middle East.

So could the results be different? Yes. I think, frankly, if we had had a different American approach, if we had had—and I say this with tremendous respect for President Sadat—had he been a little bit more patient possibly we could have had more progress on this.

And Bill may correct. My understanding is that after the Egyptian-American-Israeli Camp David the Israeli prime minister basically said, I will respect the agreement with the Egyptians because they were my negotiating partner here. But anything else, which was the framework agreement regarding Palestine, et cetera, I’m not down with.

So, yeah, it makes it a much more important platform and if you understand how important—Itamar, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. The trump card on the Israeli side is security and not having Egypt as a military threat was the jack or the king, if you want. I’m not a big card player. And that’s what’s important to the Israelis and I think in exchange they would have given more.

ROBBINS: But does Sadat—I mean, Sadat got what Sadat wanted. Did he betray the Palestinians? I mean, could he have gotten more if you said—if he were patient?

FAHMY: I don’t think he betrayed the Palestinians at all. Sadat from the very beginning wanted to modernize Egypt and he said that openly many, many times. So that was also very clear with his Arab partners that we need to work together towards a new Middle East.

We’re not in this to recreate battles. And you might remember that the first absent partner in the negotiating process was the Syrians. They didn’t come to the very first Geneva talks, which gave a message to Sadat that, you know what, there may be some baggage that won’t flow easily here.

So they started to think, OK, where are my priorities and where aren’t they. I think Sadat was prepared to—sorry, wanted to have a comprehensive peace but he was not going to sacrifice what he felt was an opportunity for Egypt if he couldn’t achieve that.

ROBBINS: So I want to turn to Ambassador Rabinovich on this but one very quick question here for Minister Fahmy, which is did Sadat expect the level of isolation that Egypt was going to—the price that Egypt was going to have to pay?


ROBBINS: Yeah, I’m going to ask—just ask Nabil that question quickly and then turn to you.

FAHMY: I can’t speak on his behalf, frankly, because—you all, you know, say this frequently—we are the mother of the world, so you can’t cut yourself off from your mother. So did we really believe that isolation could have existed? No, we didn’t, and it, frankly, wasn’t as strong as people imagined.

But there was a point where the Arab political machine to move towards peace broke down after Jerusalem visit and restarting it had created completely different dynamics.

ROBBINS: So we were talking before this and you said it’s—we don’t want to start the process of understanding, you know, that it starts in ’67, not ’73. You want to talk?

RABINOVICH: Yeah. First, I’d like to say to my friend Nabil you can no longer use the term trump card. (Laughter). OK.

Now, obviously, we are focused today on Yom Kippur war in ’73 but I think we need to go back to ’67 because it created it. You cannot draw a direct line from ’73 to today. Lots of things happened in the middle. But from ’67 to the present you can draw two direct lines.

One is the reality that Israel controls the whole of mandatory Palestine. Controls—a more or less equal number of Jews and Palestinian Arabs live in the same territory, and that’s a reality—maybe the most important element in our reality and the most important, to me, national security threat to Israel, more important than the Iranian threat.

Second is the transformation of religious Zionism. Religious Zionism used to be a dovish party in Israeli politics. The dovish opposition to Ben-Gurion in 1948 came from the National Religious Party. Seventy—’67 changed that. For them it was a messianic moment and religious Zionism decided that their role now should be the completion of the Zionist enterprise by continuing and adding the West Bank to the original Israel, and people like Smotrich are the product of that. That takes us directly from ’67 to the present.

Now, back to ’73. I think the most important outcome was the beginning of the peace process. The very term peace process has been in currency since then and only five years later we had the Camp David Accord, the great breakthrough, the end of belligerency between Egypt and Israel, the creation of peace—accord peace but still peace between Egypt and Israel, a major turning point in Arab-Israeli relations.

Secondly, the war created a distinction or separation between the Arab states and the Palestinians. From the late ’30s when the Palestinians recruited the Arab world to support them in the conflict with the Zionists in Palestine the Palestinians then lost control of their fate and they felt that they were led by the Arab states and the Arab states felt a commitment to the Palestinians.

In ’67, when Egypt and Syria lost territory it became for them a primacy to regain their territory and at the moment of truth they gave priority to their own state interest rather than to the Palestinians. So that was one very—one very important outcome.

With Syria there was no continuation to the peace process after ’73. When the war coalition was created—Egypt and Syria—it was a coalition between two unequal partners—the senior Egypt, the junior Syria—with different war aims in mind. Sadat, as was said several times today, went to war in order to solve the diplomatic political process.

Assad went to war because Sadat invited him to join a war to liberate the Quran and he couldn’t say no, but did not share Sadat’s strategic vision of what the war was about. He felt that he was shortchanged by Sadat several times during the war, including at the end of the war. And, yes, he wanted the lost territory—some of the lost territory back, and he had to sign an interim agreement, which he did in ’74. But that was the end of that.

So the peace—for him, by the way, the war that persuaded him that it was time to negotiate peace with Israel was the Gulf War because in the Gulf War the Syrian participated or they were present and they saw what the American military machine was like and they understood what the Israeli military machine actually was like at that time and they understood that there was no military option.

It was a very important motivation for Assad to decide a year later that he would respond to Baker and join the military peace process.

ROBBINS: Many wars—many wars and still no peace.


ROBBINS: So I want to turn it over to the group. But so I’m just going to do—I’m going to—many questions here that we’re not going to get to but I do want to push it forward, being the journalist that I am.

We have another potential peace deal out here—a big one, in theory—between the Saudis and the Israelis with the Americans having—not only mediating it but the Americans, in theory, offering quite a lot.

If I can start with you, Bill—(inaudible)—brought you into the White House—and they may have already brought you into the White House—and asked you, based on your experience both in the Nixon administration and the Carter administration, as well as all the research you’ve done since then, what are the lessons that you could give them to tell them how to approach this process right now?

QUANDT: I think the—whatever we want to call this—the Saudi-Israeli peace deal in the making, the Abraham Accords, whatever—first of all, they’re very—it’s very different from the other part of the Arab-Israeli conflict that had traditionally been our focus of attention.

There is no real, you know, active hostility that takes the form of occasional outbreaks of violence between Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states or Morocco or Sudan or the other parties to the Abraham Accords.

So what these amounted to was building on little areas of common interest, sometimes economic, sometimes intelligence, sometimes arms exchanges, and saying that’s enough to bring a kind of under the table relationship that is proving to be mutually useful into the light of day and call it a peace agreement.

But there’s no territory involved. There are no negotiations of the sort that had to be done to get the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement. Itamar was involved in these early Syrian agreement that was about territory, security, very tough issues. They actually eventually came fairly close in the Carter and the Clinton period.

But that’s a different kind of peace effort than essentially bribing one party or the other—that is, the Saudis or the Israelis—with American commitments to do what they’re already doing pretty well on their own, and I think we have to be fairly careful in thinking about what is our interest in this.

You know, simply being able to declare victory and say we’ve carried the Abraham Accords one step further, Saudi Arabia is now openly at peace with Israel—but at what cost to us? Are we really going to sign on to a NATO type of military commitment to Saudi Arabia? Will this help relations with Iran in the region?

Will it accelerate their drive for nuclear weapons? Will our—they’re requesting nuclear assistance from us. That is, the Saudis want some kind of a nuclear domestic program. Are we really setting the stage for a new—a round of proliferation in the Middle East or would this actually help prevent that?

I have a lot of doubts and, honestly, I can tell you very honestly the White House has not called and asked for any of my advice because I would be telling them things they probably don’t want to hear.

ROBBINS: Bribing. That’s quite a word there, bribing, and an interesting take on this, I mean, including the Saudis, who are asking for the fuel cycle, and we all know that once you can make fuel for civil engineering—

QUANDT: And they have a declaratory policy that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons they will go nuclear themselves. So, you know, we have to be wide eyed—have our eyes wide open before plunging further into this.

Meanwhile, Israel and Saudi Arabia seem to be doing fine on their own. Let them do it.

ROBBINS: Nabil, what do you think of that word bribing and looking at as an experienced diplomat as—and your friends in Washington were to ask you about this is this just, you know, Biden wants to declare a success? Or do you think—see this as—further as potentially stabilizing the Middle East more?

Is this a good thing? Bad thing? Politically motivated?

FAHMY: Let me start with the following. I think this is going to go on until the American elections because it serves the purpose of the Americans and the Israelis, and the Saudis have no reason to object to keep this process ongoing. So I don’t expect it.

I don’t expect either of the three to come up and say, no, this has failed. We’ll stop. That’s the first point.

The second point is we seem to have sort of decided to solve the problem from outside but ignore the core issue. Anything that gets the parties to talk together, to move forward, to look forward in a more compassionate fashion I’m ready to support.

But from our own experience, and Bill mentioned this, well, the very first process of normalization was between Egypt and Israel. Didn’t work very well because there had been actual active war between the parties.

But, at the end of the day, we signed an agreement. Jordan did after that. It was the Oslo process. As long as you have occupation you will not have peace in the Middle East. No matter what you do around it, if you don’t have—if you have occupation you will not have peace in the Middle East.

You will have different forms of violence, and so on and so forth. So—and I was, frankly, quite taken by—if I may say so, by the prime—the prime minister’s comments; not by his coalition, which have taken even worse positions, but by the prime minister’s comments that we’ve decided to deal with the Arabs, then we can come back to the Palestinians later if we have to.

That’s just not a policy that solves the problem. Does America want to deal with it that way? Does that serve America’s national interest? It’s a question. I want peace with—among all Arabs and the Israelis. There’s no ifs, no buts. But I want a peace that ends occupation and a peace that makes everybody feel secure, including Israeli citizens. So find me a—find me a roadmap that deals with all these issues and I’ll be the first clapping right ahead of the group.

ROBBINS: So how do you see the Saudi deal and is this going to end up looking like Camp David, in which it’s—looks great. It is an incredible breakthrough. The comparison doesn’t really work. It’s bilateral, and you leave the Palestinians aside and the politics of the individual countries seem to be driving it.

RABINOVICH: OK. First, I’d like to say the potential Saudi deal is quite different from the Abraham Accords in the following way. The Abraham Accords—the process was that President Trump began by trying to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The plan that he laid on the table failed. The—stumbled upon the prospect of making the Emirati-Israeli deal and then the United States was willing to pay with American assets to help Morocco and Sudan come along.

In this case it’s beginning actually with the request of the Biden administration to improve—fix relations with Saudi Arabia, block the Chinese, and in order to get it through Congress added the Israeli-Palestinian—the Israeli-Saudi dimension in order to get Democrat and—Democratic and Republican congressmen to vote for it. So it’s actually quite the opposite from the process of the Abraham Accords. That’s number one.

Number two is a very significant Israeli domestic dimension to this. In every peacemaking that we mentioned, there was a domestic issue. Oslo was very problematic and ended almost in a civil war and the assassination of prime minister. The prospect of withdrawal from the Golan raised a—produced a massive popular movement against it in Israel. Here, Israel may have to offer minor concessions to the Palestinians. But let’s remember two weeks ago the administration asked Netanyahu to give five personnel carriers to the Palestinian Authority, unarmed, and Netanyahu was unable to get it through his coalition government because of the right-wing opposition. So even minor concessions to the Palestinians may be a problem for him. And Netanyahu will come to a moment where he’ll have to make a decision: Do I—am I going to capitulate to my right-wing partners and hold onto power at any price, or am I going to make a leap in trying to leave a major legacy in my wake?

ROBBINS: A decision he has never made.

RABINOVICH: Yeah. He’ll have to make that choice.

ROBBINS: So we’ve had bribing, stumbling .This is not a very uplifting perception of—perception of this deal. Is this a deal? Is it a good deal for Israel if it were to get through? Is it that important?

RABINOVICH: Yeah. It’s a great deal because it would not end—I fully agree with Nabil—it would not end the Arab-Israeli conflict. But it would be yet another step toward normalizing Israel’s relationship with the Arab world and in the region and would have impact on Israel’s relations with Muslim countries because of the importance of Saudi Arabia in the Islamic world.

So definitely a very important step. Would certainly affect the standing of the government in Israel. It would be a big deal in Israel, yes.

ROBBINS: I’d like to open it up to people on Zoom and people in New York and let’s start with—oh, I have notes I’m supposed to read, aren’t I? I’m fine. OK. Can you give me permission to just go? Thank you very much.

So, Martin, have I asked any of the questions you wanted me to ask?

Q: Of course. This is a question for Bill, who when I was a Ph.D. student explained to me what happened at Camp David when Jimmy Carter was faced with choosing between what in effect was a separate deal between Israel and Egypt and a more comprehensive deal that had something more substantial for the Palestinians.

Fast forward to today. I can imagine that Joe Biden will be facing a very similar dilemma whereas it’s the Saudis are not emphasizing something significant for the Palestinians. I mean, MBS sounds more like George Shultz talking about—(laughter)—easing the life of the Palestinians than he does like his father calling for a Palestinian state. So in those circumstances, where Biden doesn’t have an Arab partner who’s insisting on something for the Palestinians and Netanyahu has little room to maneuver in order to give without losing his government, is that a correct analogy? And should we expect Joe Biden to take the Jimmy Carter course?

QUANDT: Is that for me or for Itamar?

RABINOVICH: That’s for you.

ROBBINS: That was—that was for Bill. That was for Bill.

QUANDT: Well, I think it’s not a perfect analogy because in going with the Egyptian-Israeli agreement that we got at Camp David we knew that it was a long shot to get anything out of the other part to the so-called transitional period for the Palestinians.

It was never—we were never very confident, especially as long as Begin was in power, that that would lead anywhere. But we thought the strategic value of the Egyptian-Israeli agreement, especially as other problems in the Middle East were getting worse such as the Iranian revolution, that we could not forego clinching the deal between Egypt and Israel by trying to wait until we could get either the Syrians or the Palestinians or the Jordanians to join in.

So I think the setting that drove us to essentially accept a separate Egyptian-Israeli agreement was quite different from where we are now. There is no prospect whatsoever, as far as I can see, of revivifying a—any kind of a peace process that would include the Palestinians or the Syrians these days. It’s just not on, and you can point to five or six different reasons for that. But at least at the time when we were trying to struggle with what to make of the second part of Camp David there were at least ways of thinking about how you might proceed.

And as I said before, Jim Baker basically showed what you could make out of that process. But after the Gulf War for reasons that, you know, Itamar mentioned that the Syrians saw an interest in joining. But also at Madrid there were also Palestinians and Jordanians sitting down with a Likud-led government.

So there are moments when you can put a number of pieces together simultaneously. We’re not at one of those moments now, in my judgment. Whatever the Saudis get in return for making peace with Israel will be in the bilateral channel with the United States, not serious concessions from the Israelis, in my judgment.

ROBBINS: Martin, you know the—you know the administration. Do they understand what Bill says? (Laughs.)

Q: Since I’m not on the panel—(inaudible)—to become a panelist. I think I do understand it. I think Itamar made the point that the magic number here is sixty-seven. Not the sixty-seven lines but sixty-seven votes in the Senate. And I don’t believe that Biden wants to do this deal on the backs of the Republicans—a majority of Republicans.

So he needs to bring the Democrats along. Twenty Senate Democrats signed a letter yesterday making it very clear that they want to see something significant for the Palestinians of a territorial dimension. No expansion of settlements, no legalization of illegal outposts, and transfer of territory to the Palestinians from the areas that Israel controls.

So that, I believe, is the going in position of the administration. But that’s what I was trying to get at asking Bill, and the president has to make a choice between making it a peace deal and not insisting on something significant for the Palestinians, or losing the deal because he insists. I suspect that Bill is absolutely right that he’ll choose to go for the deal.

ROBBINS: And then not submit it to the Senate, another one of these accords. So—we just can’t get anything through the Senate these days anyway.


ROBBINS: Yes? Yes, Itamar? Yes, and then we—

RABINOVICH: In a different context yesterday, Tamir Hayman was here. He made a very important point. He said, in fact, 6 percent of Area C have been taken over by the Palestinians, who’ve built up 60 percent of Area C. So the Israeli government could make a virtual concession by giving them 60 percent of Area C without giving away anything, if that government has a few inches of flexibility, which is—which I’m not sure of. But the prospect is available.

QUANDT: But, honestly, it doesn’t make much difference, in my view.

ROBBINS: Do we have—Nabil, yes?

FAHMY: Yeah. Just to jump in very, very quickly.

First of all, as you can see, all of the people who spoke, including Martin, have a considerable amount of white hair and that shows you how long we’ve been doing this and, frankly, the many failures we faced in the process.

But none of us have actually said how this deal helps the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It’s all about what happens vis-à-vis Israel and the U.S., U.S.-Israel, Saudi-U.S. and vice versa.

This is not a tactical issue. There has to be a strategic position taken not because somebody has won an election here or there. We need to preserve peace between Arabs and Israelis. That has to be our common goal and we look at ways to achieve this.

If this deal—and I’m all for creativity—if it has enough meat in there on the core issue I’m all on board. But if it’s a tactical process to achieve three different objectives that have nothing to do with Palestine then I’ll have some more gray hair.

ROBBINS: As someone who went to Madrid and lived through a lot of this coterie offered by Martin, I don’t see the passion for a Palestinian peace deal in Washington. I don’t—you know, I don’t feel the Dennis-Martin-Aaron-Baker thing.

You know, I just don’t get that in Washington right now, unfortunately. So—

QUANDT: There’s a reason. It’s not there.

ROBBINS: And you don’t have a—you don’t have a president—you know, that’s not his bandwidth focus. It’s just not his focus so—at least in my impression for someone who works in Washington.

OK. Yes, Mr. Minister. You have a question? Yes, did you have a question or you were just waving at me? OK. Do we have some—do we have somebody online who has a question? No.

Another question?

RABINOVICH: There’s a lady—young lady over there behind the pillar. Yeah.

ROBBINS: Oh, yeah. A woman. Yeah.

Q: Hi. My name is Simone Jaroslaw.

If both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia demonstrate a willingness to do what it takes to reach a normalization deal but Israel or Netanyahu and his coalition do not how could that impact the U.S.-Israeli relationship or the Biden-Netanyahu relationship?

RABINOVICH: OK. We’ve seen a shift in President Biden’s attitude towards Netanyahu and his government in the past few months. A couple of months ago, three months ago, Biden was critical, refused to meet with Netanyahu, refused to invite him to the White House, and so forth.

And then at some point he decided that he needs Netanyahu in order to get his Saudi deal through Congress and he changed his attitude. You don’t hear criticism of Netanyahu and the government’s policies. There was a meeting, yes, in New York and in the White House but a promise to invite him to the White House by the end of the year. On the whole, looked like a positive—a positive meeting and to boost Israel was given the visa exemption, which was a big—a big deal for the government.

So you can see in the investment by the Biden administration in trying to cultivate goodwill and cooperation with Netanyahu.

Now, should we come to a moment where the Americans and the Saudis are agreed and the Israeli government refuses to offer its part of the deal I think you would see here a return to a tense relationship between the Biden administration and the Israeli government.

Q: Hi. My name is Gabe Mansky, actually.

So the discussion about the peace treaty or peace agreement with Saudis is extremely important. I get it. But Israel is surrounded by four countries. Israel is surrounded by Egypt, by Jordan, by Lebanon, and by Syria.

OK. We have peace now with Egypt and Jordan. What are the prospects is my number one question, and I—unfortunately, I think I know what the answer is—with some kind of an agreement with Syria, which is depleted. I get it.

You know, Syria today is not Syria of ’73. We know that because of the civil war, because of, you know, internal strife. Then we have Hezbollah, OK? What are the prospects there? And of course—and of course, again, the Palestinians.

ROBBINS: Itamar, Nabil, do you want to talk about—both of you want to respond to that?

RABINOVICH: Yeah, he said it. Israel is surrounded by, like, four Arab countries. In a meeting with King Hussein, I think it was Golda Meir who said to him: But, Your Majesty, you must realize we are surrounded by enemies. And King Hussein said: You are lucky; I am surrounded by friends. (Laughter.)

Now, on—to your question, first, there is no—the whole idea of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement is irrelevant now. It’s very difficult to think of any final state of Israeli-Palestinian agreement and the prospect of an Israeli-Syrian deal is off the table for two reasons. One, Syria is not a functioning—is not a fully functioning country. Assad survived the civil war, but he’s in control of about 60 percent of the country. Forty percent is outside his control. There are Russian, Iranian, Kurdish, American, Hezbollah presence; Shiite militias in the country. It’s not a country that you can negotiate for peace with. And, secondly, you will not sell to the Israeli public here that you make peace and return the Golan to a ruler like Bashar Assad. So I don’t think it’s in the cards altogether.

Lebanon is a different issue. In the ’50s, there was a cliché: Lebanon will be the second Arab country to make peace with Israel. They are only waiting—and it’s a Christian country, very moderate—they’re waiting for somebody else to take the first step, then they will. Now, unfortunately, I can give you a short presentation on why Lebanon would be the last Arab country to make peace with Israel: because it’s dominated by Hezbollah, by Iran, to some extent by Syria. The country is—basically, it’s a failed—it’s a failed state. It’s not a candidate to make peace with Israel. And the only way to deal with that is if the international community decides to deal with the Iranian policy in the Middle East—not just the nuclear issue, but the whole issue of undermining other—(audio break). Lebanon is the prime example, but Syria/Iraq are also areas of Iranian hegemony or influence.

I think it’s beyond the capacity or even the interest of just Israel to do that. There will have to be a larger regional international effort to deal—to restore Lebanon to a better time.

ROBBINS: Nabil, do you want to add something to this?

FAHMY: Sure. Ironically, if one goes back to the post-’73 all the way up until the—2000, the easiest deal was probably the Syrian deal because it was about territory. It was about security. There was no ideology involved in that. There was no real overlap in the commitments to territory ideologically. And as I was at least told, the deal was almost there—85 percent there—but they couldn’t get over the last couple of steps, especially regarding the Rabin document that had been deposited with Christopher.

I talked to—(inaudible)—personally, and he said, how do you know it’s so close? He didn’t say it isn’t. He said, how do you know it’s so close? Because it doesn’t make any sense. If you get these pieces together, it serves your interest and the Israeli interest to sign a deal. He didn’t respond further than that. But at a meeting very soon after that, where as the Egyptians and Jordanians do frequently we were focusing on the Palestinian issue and the Palestinians were engaging the Israelis quite well, the Syrians came in and said, basically, OK, you’re engaging individually; we won’t be left out.

I say this point to conclude with the following: I don’t see the prospects for a Syrian-Israeli deal in the near future. Nobody wants to talk to each other. You’ll probably have a longer de facto no war situation rather than a peace process situation. And Americans and Russians don’t talk to each other. Too many complicating factors. There’s no peace process per se. But I would argue that this would have been among the easiest of deals and I would argue that if somehow we can get back the Palestinian-Israeli process, and I know I’m not going to hold my breath to one on this, that’s much more of a temptation to the Syrians than anything else, the desire not to be left out.

But I’m not going to put any money that this is going to happen in the near future.

ROBBINS: More questions? Oh, we have a virtual question.

OPERATOR: We will take our next question from Rob Danin.


Q: Hi, Carla, and hello to the panelists. Bill, Itamar, Nabil, great to see you all, even though you can’t see me.

ROBBINS: We did that on purpose.

Q: Can I ask you to address the strategic component today? When it comes to the Yom Kippur War, you know, Sadat had a geostrategic concept and did Kissinger, which was to bring, you know, Egypt from the Soviets into the American orbit and that was an important dimension to it.

And today when talking about the Saudi peace with Israel what seems to be a(n) important driving force—at least this is what you hear in Washington from the administration—is China and fear of China.

So if you could address this geostrategic element—I haven’t heard a discussion yet about China—both for the administration, how much this is sort of a correct analysis of the situation, to the extent to—and also how the Saudis are managing to, if you will, you know, use this China card in order to bring the Americans back to the—you know, to their doorstep?


QUANDT: I wonder if this really is the motivating factor on the part of the United States. I think it raises the larger question of should we be so terrified of China as a competitor in the Middle East.

I mean, obviously, China is a big economy. There are—it has some diplomatic weight. I think there’s no reason in the world that we should panic over China’s growing influence in the Middle East. It’s simply inevitable.

We have made a conscious decision to disengage from a losing proposition in Iraq and in Afghanistan. What do we think is going to happen in terms of other countries seeking to displace some of our influence?

So I think we have to get used to the idea that we can’t monopolize the role of outside influence here in the Middle East. Those days are really gone and we shouldn’t panic over it. I mean, when the Chinese helped restore relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran was that something that really hurt American interests?

I’m not even sure where it’s going to lead. But if we think that the Saudis are somehow going to reverse course and drop all of their interests in a relationship with China after they have gotten the security commitment and oil commitment they want from us I think we’re living in a delusional world.

The Saudis are going to pursue their interests. For example, do we even know what price we want the Saudis to price their oil at? What we do know is that the higher they price it the better it is for the Russians.

Not for us. We’ve asked them to lower the price. Have we gotten any indication from the Saudis that they would produce more oil, bring down the price of oil on the world market in exchange for this?

I strongly doubt it. The Saudis are feeling very much as if they have a strong hand to play, they can ask for things. They don’t need to give up very much in return.


FAHMY: If I may, just very quickly. One correction, if I may, and then a comment.

One has to give Sadat credit. He decided to change Egypt’s posture and to be in the middle between the Americans and the Russians. He’s the one who asked the Russians to leave Egypt before the war. It was not an American—it was not an American request. It was his initiative. And when he sent his foreign minister to see President Nixon immediately after the war—the foreign minister who, by the way, was my father—

QUANDT: That’s right.

FAHMY: —Nixon told him, you’ve now made a strategic decision and you’ve helped us in our competition with the Soviets. If you had told us, we would have given you something.

RABINOVICH: (Inaudible.)

FAHMY: But, in any case, we will now deal with you as a strategic partner. I make this point because regional players are the ones who define direction in each region. That’s the lesson we all need to draw from. It’s not superpower politics.

But we cannot ignore the superpowers—the big powers—and I completely agree with Bill. Do you really think China is going to give a security blanket to half of the Middle Eastern countries? Why is the Chinese competition in the Middle East so problematic for America? Is it competition? Of course, it’s competition. I thought capitalism was based on competition. But the idea that this is a generic threat. And then you guys are the ones who said you’re bored with the Middle East, solve your own problems; I’m going to look towards Asia. You want to look to Asia, and we’re supposed to look towards Virginia? (Laughter.) Come on, guys.

Thank you.

ROBBINS: Itamar, last comment to you, and we’re going to move on to our coffee because of—before the last comment. Is this all about China?

RABINOVICH: Yeah. I want to bring us to a lesson of the Yom Kippur War, that we spoke about Golda Meir refusing to negotiate, refusing to make any concessions, even though the writing was on the wall that we were driving to the—towards the wall or leading the ship, the Titanic.

We are in a similar situation. I mean, we have a government that openly advertising—part of the government advertising their plan to annex the West Bank and to create the one state. I mean, that’s the Titanic, and we keep driving towards it. And the lesson from the Yom Kippur War is if you see the iceberg is some distance stop or drive away. Don’t drive into the—into the iceberg.

ROBBINS: I would very much like to thank Ambassador Itamar Rabinovich, Dr. Bill Quandt, and Minister Nabil Fahmy for a very good conversation and onto—and just a reminder, this will be on the CFR website. (Applause.)


Virtual Session IV: Keynote Conversation With Henry Kissinger

INDYK: Good afternoon. Thank you all for joining us. I hate to start by apologizing, but as you can hear my voice cords are not functioning very well at the moment. So I hope you can understand me, between my voice cords and Dr. Kissinger’s German accent, at least we’ll understand each other. I’m not sure about the rest. But let’s give it a try.

Henry, first of all, thank you for agreeing to participate in this discussion today. It is an historic moment, fifty years after the outbreak of war on Yom Kippur in the Middle East. Here you are, in in great form at one hundred years of age, to give us your unique perspective on what I believe was, in many ways, your most important achievement. You know, I’m supposed to give you an introduction—(laughter)—but as I’ve heard you say on other occasions, I don’t need an introduction, but I like one. (Laughter.) So I’ll introduce you simply as the Secretary of State of the United States, on October 6, 1973, when the war in the Middle East broke out.

And that was, I think, a huge achievement, what you did with that opportunity, that crisis. And I just wonder how, when you look back on it and you compare it to all the other things you did—the détente with the Soviet Union, the opening to China—where does the breakthrough to peace in the Middle East that you engineered after the outbreak of war—where does that fit in your sense of achievements?

KISSINGER: I think I rate the Middle East war among the most significant events in which I participated in, in my public service. We had the—we conceived very early the idea that no settlement was possible as long as the Soviet Union was the chief armorer of the Arab world, and as long as it backed an intransigent policy. So we decided we would try to—we would not—and it was not possible to get to an agreement with the Soviet Union at that moment for the United States. And of course, not for Russia. Russia took a very aggressive stance during that period.

So, to me, the outbreak of the ’73 war was sort of the culmination of the policy we had carried out. We had not expected it to happen. We thought the influence of Russia would that appear—would appear by itself. But when that did not happen, when the war broke out I thought that was a crucial moment, which paradoxically could end with a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, as a keystone to Arab agreements—other agreements with Arab countries in the Middle East.

We would speak, but my own situation, for me Israel could never be a country like any other country, given the history of my family and given the ties that one had to have with the—with the democratic country that had built itself into such a formidable force. And I’d that seen from ’61 on still. But I was also secretary of state. Until the—to coincide the interests of Israel with the United States was not always easy. But I think it was managed and achieved.

Now about the outbreak of the war itself, when I became secretary of state, I didn’t know that State Department had an intelligence unit. (Laughter.) And when I found out, I visited it on a Sunday two weeks before the war broke out. And I asked them what they were doing. And they showed—they showed me document and briefings that there were military concentrations on the Egyptian and on the Syrian border. I asked the CIA what they knew, but actually the intelligence was so coordinated they didn’t know anything different. And then for the two weeks before the war broke out, I was very uneasy. So for the two weeks before the war broke out, I asked for a daily assessment of the CIA.

They told me that there was no threat of war because Sadat, very cleverly, had mobilized three—three times, I think, before. And Israel responded each time and paid a heavy cost in manpower. All of you here know that for Israel do call up reserves and stop operations has a serious economic effect. And also, I believe the Israeli government told us that there was no threat of war because they were afraid of an American piece offensive. So all these factors combined, so that we went—we, and it’s not the royal “we”—that everybody concerned, there was no dissenting opinion. Martin actually knows more about all these questions than I do, because he’s written such a seminal book on the subject. (Laughter.) But this is basically what happened.

INDYK: So there was one factor in this that you didn’t mention, which was your underestimation of Sadat. And you’ve said on various occasions that you viewed him in those days, before the war, as a buffoon, as a character out of operetta. You are very astute, absolutely.

KISSINGER: That’s absolutely true. I thought of Sadat like a character out of Aida. (Laughter.) He kept making threats, and making what seemed to us grand speeches, and never followed through on any of them. But so this is the case. But Israel itself wanted to—didn’t mobilize. The thinking in our administration by that time had so crystallized that at the first meeting—I had a group called the Washington Action Group, that dealt with crises. And at the first meeting after the war broke out, they told—the assessment was that probably Israel had started that war. And I knew it would not start a war on Yom Kippur. (Laughter.) And it wouldn’t have started—there was a naval action at the southern end of the Suez Canal. It didn’t look like an Israeli—it was so inconsistent with the conversations I had that the week before. So I was convinced from the beginning it was an Arab attack, or an Egyptian attack.

INDYK: Did you have an understanding with Golda Meir, the prime minister of Israel, that in the event of a war Israel should not under any circumstances preempt?

KISSINGER: Yeah. This is correct. We had felt—when I say, I mean Nixon and I. We had felt that if Israel launched another surprise attack, like in ’67, the reaction of all the outside world would be so negative that it might be hard to sustain support for Israel. And we had to told Golda to desist, to not do a surprise attack. And that, in retrospect, may be the mistake. But I don’t think there was any great inclination in Israel until about two days before the war started.

And even then, from what I understand, opinion in Israel—when I say that, I mean the top level of Israel, the Cabinet, was divided on whether to use—Israel had become convinced, as we had become convinced, that Egypt had no capability of a sustained offensive action. And that was the key to all the decisions that were made in the previous week. We were in daily contact, literally. We were tracking these military movements. And I was worried, and I’m sure the Israeli leaders were worried, but they didn’t think it would come to a war.

INDYK: And what you said is very interesting because even if it came to a war, their assumption was that they would turn the tide of battle very quickly. So they didn’t have the need to preempt, in their own minds, because they could absorb the first strike and gain the benefit of not having struck first.

KISSINGER: The difference military between 1967 and 1973 was in 1973 Israel had a coordinated plan in which land forces and air forces were well coordinated and ready. In case the air force was knocked out before the war—in ’67—before the war could even start. In 1973, Israel’s military position were not prepared really for a successful Egyptian crossing of the canal, and getting through the lines that had been built there. There were no reserve forces in the Sinai. There was no coordinated plan for an attack that would squelch it. In 1973, Israel had to mobilize while the war was going on. And so the land war was isolated and didn’t really start until three days after the war had begun, when the land war between the forces, apart from the Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal and the Syrian crossing across Syria.

INDYK: Some of your critics have accused you of holding up arm supplies to Israel in the opening week of the war. What actually happened?

KISSINGER: They said what?

INDYK: That you were responsible for holding up arms supplies to Israel, in the first week of the war.

KISSINGER: Arms supplies?

INDYK: What happened?

KISSINGER: Yeah. Well, the war started on a Saturday. And by Friday, America declared the airlift. That’s not a hell of a long wait. (Laughter.)

But I can tell you exactly what happened with the arms supply. In the first few days, in the—and you have to assume, you have to understand, that we took it for granted that within three days Israel would be an Egyptian territory. So it was not an emergency situation. For us, it started Saturday morning. On Monday, the assessment was still that Israel would break through the lines. On Tuesday morning, the military attaché of Israel, General Dure (ph)—a brilliant man—came to me and told me they had lost three (hundred to four hundred tanks in the first days of the war. It seemed almost inconceivable.

And he wanted Golda to come over immediately, or they were planning to have Golda come over, to ask for weapons. I thought that that would really turn the situation into a panic if this happened, especially since at that moment Nixon was negotiating with his vice president about retiring from office. And so all that day on Tuesday, Nixon was occupied. So I told Dure (ph) that I would take it up with the president at five o’clock that afternoon. And that we would supply all the weapons Israel needed. And in the afternoon, I told him that it seemed to me that they should use whatever weapons they had in reserve. And that we would resupply them as soon as the war was over, or as much during the war as we could.

But we had some internal problems, which I don’t think held up actual supplies. The Defense Department was, as an institution—this not a comment against the secretary—but they were geared to the Saudi relationship and to the Arab relationship. And they did not want to produce a situation of crisis. But what we did, as a practical matter, we tried to organize a civilian airlift to the Middle East by calling up the reserve airlift that is on—that exists on paper. But when you try to implement the airlift, it turned out there were insurance problems, that the airfields along the route were not as unquestionably open as we thought.

And all this developed on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday morning, I went to Nixon and explained to him what the situation was on the issue of resupply. And we both concurred that a civilian air—a military airlift was needed, which was implemented by Friday afternoon, and was—and put the entire military airlift of the United States at the disposal of Israel. This is the evolution. So when asked to look what happened in those five days, and one thing that happened in those five days was that the Israeli government was beginning to move towards an idea of a ceasefire on Wednesday night, and our time, well, and Thursday morning.

I’d strongly opposed this, and urged the Israelis that they could not settle until they had obtained a retreat or at least a stoppage of the Syrians. And that if they ended the war on that day, that would create temptations by other Arab countries. And it would be, in a way, a victory for Soviet arms. So that was the situation, as I remember it.

INDYK: You remember it amazingly well. You know, the idea that you can remember what happened on Wednesday, Thursday. and Friday—(laughter)—fifty years ago. I can’t remember what happened Wednesday, Thursday, Friday last week.

KISSINGER: It seems to me like yesterday, because every day was a moment of high tension. And every day, groups of people came in to argue one side or the other. Many Arab envoys came. And so I have in my retrospectives and segments when various segments started.

INDYK: It’s amazing. The Soviet Union. You had developed a relationship of détente with the Soviet Union before the war broke out, which explicitly stated in its principles that neither side would seek to take unilateral advantage, or some language like that. But, in a sense, on the one hand, it’s clear you want to maintain the détente. But, on the other hand, it seems to me that you were systematically picking the pocket of the Soviet Union. Most importantly taking Egypt out of the Soviet camp, but also taking Syria out too. How did you manage to play that game and convince the Soviets that you were working with them, when in fact you were working against them? (Laughter.)

KISSINGER: Well, first of all, let me say a word about the concept of détente. The problem in American thinking about relations between states is the view they are either friendly or hostile. And then, if we have a hostile relationship, then the enemy must be defeated. In relation to the Soviet Union, it was impossible to defeat them in any actual terms other than in performance during wars at the fringes of geography.

So then the question is, when you are in such a relationship should you operate at the highest level of hostility at each point of time? Or should you build a margin within which some common interests can be developed, so that the fear of losing these interests is one of your weapons during crisis. If you’ve taken away everything, there is no—then every crisis has a high capacity of escalating into all-out war. This was the general view of Nixon and me that détente was a weapon of strategy.

And when you—there is a little book by somebody who sat in as a notetaker at the Politburo discussions. And it appears from there, they said when the issue of airlifts came up in the ’73 war for the Soviets, Brezhnev rejected it because he had a security agreement discussion going, and he had a Berlin Road and Berlin Government agreement, and a number of others. So while he supported the Arab side during the war, and at one point even threated us with acting unilaterally, the basic principle of détente was not to sell out our friends. The basic principle of détente was to move with the Soviet Union in such a way that we had a civil pressure, in addition to the military pressure.

It’s an issue that now has reappeared even more drastically in relation to China. And so when people of my persuasion urge, in the case of China, a less aggressive attitude, that is to give a margin for either crisis or, really, creating some collaborative sense. So the Soviets in the early stages of the war were at least diplomatically fully supportive to the people who launched the attack. And they were very threatening when the Syrian—when the Israeli forces were making progress towards Syria, and in fact were on the right road to Damascus. The Soviet forces and Soviet Union made very threatening noises. But again, using my memory, on December—in December—on December five days after the war started—

INDYK: October.

KISSINGER: —the Israeli government came to us with a ceasefire proposal. And I told them that we wouldn’t—I didn’t say we wouldn’t do it, but I urged—I urged them not to make it as a request. And then on Saturday, after the—after Israel had made significant progress against Syria, we allowed Britain to put forward a ceasefire request on behalf of Israel. By that that time, as I said, Israel was on the way to Damascus. They had no intention of going into Damascus, but nobody knew at the time exactly what everyone was doing. So they were on the road to Damascus. And so we permitted Britain to put forward a ceasefire request, which said that in the meantime Assad had appealed to Sadat to help him out vis-à-vis—and to do so by launching an attack into Sinai.

And then Sadat made a huge mistake in launching the attack with two armor divisions, but not the air cover that he had had along the canal from Soviet-operated antiaircraft batteries. And then the Israeli Air Force wiped out these divisions and two Egyptian divisions were destroyed. Two Egyptian armor divisions were destroyed. And Britain had made explorations and found that said that Sadat wouldn’t accept a ceasefire at that time. That was a great mistake on his part. And the defeat of these armor divisions enabled Alon to cross on Tuesday.

INDYK: Sharon.

KISSINGER: The next Tuesday. So all of this happened in very short timeframes. And when you read things about what one could or should have done, we had to make these decisions within hours. And there was not unanimity within the administration. But one of the great strengths of Nixon was that when things reached such a point, he made the decision to allow the airlift to go forward.

INDYK: I want to save some time for the audience to ask you questions, but you are such an astute observer of the character of statesmen and leaders. You wrote a whole book about it. I wonder if we could just do—ask you some quick assessments. You’ve talked about Sadat. What was your view of Golda?

KISSINGER: What was my reaction to?

INDYK: What is your view of Golda as a political leader? You didn’t put her in your book on leadership. (Laughter.)

KISSINGER: I adored Golda as a human being. (Laughter.) She had tremendous human—she had marvelous human qualities. And she acted as if she were my favorite. And that I—but she was also very tough and very strong. She came from the generation that had prevailed in Palestine by every mile of advance was hardship and danger. And so she wanted peace, but it also broke her heart to give up anything that had been acquired.

INDYK: Yeah. What about Assad?

KISSINGER: She would invite Nancy, my wife, and me to dinner in her home. And then she was like, as I said, like a favorite. And then, after dinner, she’d invited me into the kitchen for a dialogue, so that Nancy didn’t have to watch it. And then she worked me over. (Laughter.) And that was my relationship with Golda. (Laughter.)

INDYK: I think in the end you got the better of her.

KISSINGER: But, you know, there were situations when she was politically aggressive against me, or at least there was a moment. And the first time I visited Sadat, I did not have a concurrent visit in Israel. And that was a big mistake on my part. There was a reason for it: because I hadn’t met Sadat. So there was—and I did send Joe Sisco to Jerusalem to bring her fully up to date to what had happened. But symbolically, it would have been better to have somebody in Jerusalem.

Anyway, my historic feeling about Golda is that she was a tremendous force, who took very tough decisions, for whom the war itself was heartbreaking. And when—however, when she agreed to a project, like the land for peace process, which in effect was going on, she stuck to what she had agreed to and carried it out with enormous strength. The basic position of Israel and Egypt was internationally that Israel was a very small country. In terms of population numbers, Egypt was a great country with a long local history. So internationally, Egypt had more contacts than Israel had, and one always had to be concerned in executing our strategy that there wouldn’t be U.N. pressure or some other international pressure to let it evolve.

But our fundamental concept of the war was that the best outcome for peace in the world would be an Israeli victory. That would, however, be addressed by American diplomacy in such a way that Egypt would make peace rather than driving the war to such a point that Sadat would be overthrown, and then some other radical would come in and there was no way to bring it to an end. That was it basic strategy. And all the other comments are simply not correct.

INDYK: Fascinating. Let’s go to questions. Elise. Let’s try to do quick rounds.

Q: I think I can speak loud enough, I’ve been told. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much. Elise Labott.

I’m wondering if you could widen the lens a little bit—(comes on mic)—and speak to your strategic thinking about the U.S. dominance in the region. I mean, beyond your strategy for ending the war, you know, with an Israeli victory, and to some extent getting the Russians out, did you see the chessboard ahead in terms of, you know, cementing U.S. dominance in the region? And, kind of as Martin wrote in his wonderful book about you, Master of the Game and your Middle East diplomacy, you know, setting up this new political order that, you know, really we’re still seeing today? Thank you.

KISSINGER: Well, we intended to carry this step-by-step approach further. And, in fact, we negotiated an agreement which said that with Assad, comparable to the agreement we had made with Israel. And we thought, and had we stayed in office, would have continued the step-by-step approach. But what we also wanted to achieve is to bring Russia back into a relationship of negotiation with the with the West. So it was never just concentrated on the Middle East. But it had an Arab component, a Soviet component. There were many people here, and you could read it in commentary, who wanted an all-out hostility to the Soviet Union. We thought it was better for the peace of the world if we managed to combine a policy, as we did in the Middle East, of basically eliminating the influence in the key countries, or at least sharply reducing it, while maintaining dialogue with them on notions of overall peace in other areas, like then still in Europe. That was our basic strategy.

INDYK: So let’s take a question—sorry.

KISSINGER: There were people who opposed it. I respect their intentions. I can only tell you what we thought.

INDYK: Let’s take a question from our online audience or hear them.

OPERATOR: We’ll take the next question from Aaron David Miller.

Q: Martin, this is a fascinating session.

There are no rewind buttons on history, but I wonder, looking back now, do you think there was ever, in the months preceding October ’73, a realistic diplomatic off ramp that could have prevented the war from taking place? And if so, any regrets in not pursuing it?

KISSINGER: We had made an assessment based on actions which we knew about and actions which we knew from covert sources that there was no possibility of making a peace with Egypt while Nasser was in office. So you have to remember that. When we started on this, Nasser was in office. And he refused to resume diplomatic relations, unless we had delivered Israel to him. So that was one obstacle. The second obstacle was that almost every country was urging that Israel should return to the ‘67 borders. And we could have made a piece offer by urging that. I thought that—we jointly thought that it was not America’s duty to return—to force Israel back.

And those of you who follow Israeli affairs know that forcing Israelis to return to their ’67 borders, at that time, would have been a serious blow against the self-confidence of the country and the dynamics of the country. So, for all these reasons, we didn’t do it. But at the same time, we advocated a gradual withdrawal of Israel, without setting the exact limit of it, which might have let—the Palestinian issue always overhangs Israeli affairs. And forever we are recommending that there is a different scope to American actions. But it was our view that good relations with Russia should not be built on the corpse of Israel. And that was our policy.

INDYK: We’re out of time. Feels like you could go on forever. (Laughter.) And that would be great for us, but we have another session, unfortunately. Henry, I want to ask you a close-out question here. What’s your feeling about this Israeli-Saudi peace deal that’s being developed now? Particularly with its nuclear fuel cycle dimensions and NATO-like security guarantee?

KISSINGER: Now, I think that any negotiation may evolve once America has—or, may not emerge until—it is not in our interest—let me put it this way—that China becomes active in the manipulation of the disagreements. And so we have to build it into a larger framework. The agreements that were made with the—with the Arab—



INDYK: The Abraham Accords.

KISSINGER: And the agreements that were made for recognition with Morocco, the proper steps. And now the issue of Saudi Arabia is coming up. I’m very uneasy. On the one hand, I would greatly welcome such an agreement. And on the other hand, I do not like two things about the agreement. One, the entrance of recognition of country to each other should be based on their own perception of what is widely in their interests. And generally, the idea that a third country should pay the price and another country should benefit does not give you much hope for the utility with which the agreement will be observed. So I think it would be better to return negotiation to the country that are directly involved.

But I haven’t fully made up my mind on that. I think, also, to go back to my previous point, that when such an agreement is made, is it safer if both countries have made a contribution to it, and if it is based on that contribution and not on that of an outside country. But I haven’t—but this is a public affair. But I haven’t made it a formal position of myself. And I wouldn’t have said this if somebody hadn’t asked me about it. (Laughter.)

INDYK: I’m glad I did. Dr. Kissinger, Henry, thank you for sharing on this stage. (Applause.)


Virtual Session V: The Fallout from Israel’s Internal Crisis

MITCHELL: Good afternoon and welcome. Welcome, everyone, and my apologies. I was on the air. And I see a lot of friends here in the audience. It’s good to see you. We were going through New York city traffic. Not as bad as UNGA, but still not great. So apologies to be a little bit late.

I am Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent and host of Andrea Mitchell Reports on MSNBC. And I am so pleased to be here with Dorit Beinisch, former president, chief justice of the Supreme Court in Israel. And, of course, my colleague and friend, Tom Friedman, who is, of course, Tom Friedman. (Laughter.) The first—he became the New York Times foreign affairs correspondent—foreign affairs, excuse me, opinion columnist back in 1995, and needs no introduction.

So let me just get right into it. I am so sorry that, anchoring my daily show from 12:00 to 1:00, I missed Dr. Kissinger. So I don’t have the benefit of knowing what he says about the Middle East, which would inform everything that I believe would happen in the Middle East. (Laughs.) But so be it.

Let’s talk about this session on the fallout from the Israeli internal crisis. Tom Friedman, you’ve been writing about this. Since this is a hybrid session, let me just say I wanted to go to Tom first. We have many people also following us online. And we’ll have time for questions, of course, from our people in New York and our online participants. Tom, let me ask you about how you think the fallout from this unusual—I think it’s fairly described as far-right—coalition affects the possibilities of peace with the Palestinians and, I think most immediately right now, the possibility of an agreement? A follow up on the Abraham accords with Saudi Arabia, which is something that the administration is pursuing fairly intensively, and I know that Prime Minister Netanyahu and MBS also want. I know you have some strong opinions about it.

FRIEDMAN: Well, Andrea, great to be with you, and great to be with Dorit. Thank you all for having me. Those of you who follow my column know that I really just write about three things right now. I write about Ukraine, I write about Israel, and I write about Donald Trump. Because my view is very simple. If Israel goes autocratic, if Ukraine goes Putin, and America goes Trump, the world I want to leave for my new little grandson and granddaughter will not be here. I think this is a really fundamental moment.

I lived in two countries in the Middle East, Andrea, each for about five years. One was called Lebanon. One was called Israel. They couldn’t be more different, except in one very important way: They’re both really, really, really small countries, and really, really, really diverse countries. And America is really, really diverse and really, really big. Now, when you are really, really small, and really, really diverse, there’s only one way to govern democratically. And that is, live and let live. Or, as they say in Lebanon, no victor, no vanquished. Lebanon lost that character when Hezbollah decided there would be a victor and there would be a vanquished. And what threatens Israel was a judicial coup that was based on a similar notion that it would not be live and let live, that a majority—a slim majority—would actually impose its will.

Now one of the problems that I’ve encountered, or the reason I dived into the story the way I did—I believe I’ve written seventeen columns on this subject since Israel’s election, which I haven’t done since 9/11—is very simple. The whole U.S.-Israel relationship for seventy-five years was very simple. It was built around a super-story. And the super-story was: The job of American government, American military, American intelligence, and American Jews, and American citizens was to protect Israel from Arab and Iranian enemies. Same super-story for seventy-five years. And then one day, beginning with the last election, a wholly new situation arose where the threat Israel’s future, the fabric of Israeli society, was a threat from within, a threat from a judicial putsch.

And the system in the United States completely froze, because there was no Israeli embassy pounding on the State Department door saying: Hey, we’ve got a real threat. It’s actually from the prime minister, OK? AIPAC was not pounding on the Congress door, saying: Hey, we’ve got a real threat. It’s from the prime minister’s coalition. So the whole system here froze because it did not know how to—how to deal with this threat. And so everything I’ve been trying to write has been to alert people that this is—this threat can fracture, I fear it may have already fractured permanently, Israeli society. And Israel will not be the stable ally that we need.

Now let me just say two things about the Saudi-Israel deal. I have no idea whether I will support the Saudi-U.S. security treaty, civil nuclear program, arms agreement. I have no idea, because I don’t even know the details yet. So I haven’t really opined on that. But I know one thing, this deal can happen in one of two ways. We can have normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia and preserve Israeli democracy and preserve a two-state solution. And that will require demands that Israel meet regarding the Palestinians in the West Bank that blow up this Israeli coalition. Or we can have peace normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia that preserves this Israeli coalition and destroys a two-state solution. It’s going to be one or the other. And a lot will ride on the Palestinian dimension of this.

As I’ve written before, Jewish history—Joe Biden, and MBS may not be interested in Jewish history, but Jewish history is interested in them. So everything I’m trying to write is to make clear, and to ensure, and to drive, and inspire that it’d be door number one. That it’d be a normalization agreement that preserves Israeli democracy and preserves the two-state solution. If it is door number two, it will be a complete disaster. That is, if you get normalization with this government, that it can take credit for, ensconce itself in power, and destroy the two-state solution, it will be a disaster. And all I can tell you is I will use every fiber of my being to go crazy to absolutely inspire everyone in Congress to oppose that deal, because it will be a disaster for Israel, it will be a disaster for Jewish democracy, and it will be a disaster for the United States. It’ll even be a disaster for Saudi Arabia. But we’re sitting here on a knife’s edge and, Andrea, I can’t tell you which way it’s going to go.

MITCHELL: Justice Beinisch, from my perspective—my reporting perspective, the White House and a number of senators—important senators on the Foreign Relations Committees—most recently yesterday in a statement said that the two-state solution and preservation of Palestinian options is essential, as well as nuclear safeguards, for their support for this. And it won’t go anywhere without Senate ratification. But I do not believe, from my reporting, that this Saudi leader has the same commitment at all as late King Abdullah had to Palestinian rights, and certainly Prime Minister Netanyahu does not, from everything that he has done from his coalition. So what is your perspective on whether or not this normalization, which all three leaders dearly want for different reasons and there’s a huge economic impetus behind it, which Tom and people interested in the two-state solution believe is incompatible with what’s—what be acceptable to this coalition?

BEINISCH: If you allow me, my expertise is not in politics, not in relations of the United States and Israel. I know a lot about it, but I don’t think that this is my advantage in this discussion. I really think if it’s important, I’m not involved in it. I aim for a two-state solution. But let’s be realistic, since ’67 until today, we don’t have a solution of two states. Not only with this government. I agree that it is much more difficult if we talk about this coalition, but we have a long way to go. And all the background is not my field.

I share with Tom the concern and really the worries about what’s going to happen to Israel, to the Israeli society, because of this regime. But I don’t think—it’s not a judicial coup. It’s not a legal coup. This is a—the purpose of it is to change the democratic—liberal democratic regime of Israel. It is it is not—it has actually nothing to do with the law. It’s to change the law—it’s the tool to change the reality in Israel. And to change the reality means to destroy, actually, all institutions that were built, and I’m very proud of them, in Israel, in every field.

First of all, the legal system itself, which is a good system, a great system, very much appreciated with other countries and legal professionals. And the idea is not that they really care about what is the situation of the court or the law. The court is our only guarantee for having checks and balances, because maybe it was naïve to think so, but we all believed that our democracy is strong. We have no constitution, written constitution. We have, of course, constitutional norms. We have no guarantees for having checks and balances to restrain the government from seeking power, and more power, and only power. And this is what happens now.

They need a weak court just that no one will interfere with what government wants to do to change, as I said, the regime with everything—with everything. It starts with the court. All democratic states, as we know, that started to change from democracy to dictatorship, started the first move by the book with courts, because courts interfere with their plan to change the country, to change society. And we are—with our judiciary review we can do a lot. And very carefully, although you hear all the time that the Israeli court is so active in change, in politics we couldn’t change. I mean, two-state solution, the court will not interfere to say that the government has to withdrawal from the territories. No, this is not the role of court. But to protect human rights, to protect separation of powers which is so important, this is our role as a court and judicial system. In our judicial system, of course, it’s complicated from the beginning because the government rules that—the executive rules the legislature. By coalition they can do with a very small, very small majority, whatever they want in legislation. The only body that can say this is impossible, this is against the norms, you have to see the rights of minorities, you have to keep it, is the court.

So this is why it started with the court. Not because they wanted to improve our system. There is a lot that you can do, but this is not the plan. If the court will not review government decision, and the first move for them is the idea that court should not review reasonableness, because everybody agrees the government should function reasonably. But the court will not tell them what is reasonable. It’s nothing. You cannot order anything that will show that there is an omission, you have a function to do. You are the minister of justice, you have to convene the selecting committee for appointing judges. But you don’t do that. There is a pending case now in court. According to the new law, the court shouldn’t tell him that he has to do that if he doesn’t want to. He says it’s my basis, my authority. And this goes from one thing to the other.

The idea is to start with the courts. But the next step is everywhere—the media, the academia. Those are step after step erase the Israeli democracy. Of course, there is no liberal democracy without an independent court. Whatever we do to diminish the independent court, then we have to bring our judges, which will not be objective. They will be with us, with the government. We’ve seen it in Poland. We’ve seen it in Hungary. This starts. It’s not one move. It’s a process. A process that I’m very worried that this populism is now going and spreading not only Israel. I’m afraid to say, it’s not for me to comment on what happened this week in the United States, but you I can see that a small, extreme majority can take the power and change the situation. And this is something that I’m afraid is parallel to the process that we have.

But we are not that big, not that strong. We don’t have two houses of Congress. We don’t have a constitution. So we cannot compare the guarantees for our democracy to the American. But there is, I’m sure, and I think this is what Tom keeps saying, it changes the society, which is a complex society anyway. It gives power to extreme groups. It gives power to religion, religious parties, that are not only conservative. It goes backwards to all what we achieved—we achieved for women, we achieved for LGBTQ, for minorities, for societies. This is now the direction that the government is taking too. And this is worrying—very worrying, because I think our power, as a small—as you said, Tom, a small country. But it was really liberal, democratic.

And I don’t think we can—to go into the Palestinian problem, because this is kind of international. I agree that it has to be solved politically. But this is another thing. But you can say that it is impossible now. It’s, of course, impossible with so extreme, extreme parties—very small, but involved and influential. And the Prime Minister is dependent—the coalition is dependent on these people, who it took to the coalition. So I really don’t know if you can come to a normal agreement, not with Saudi, not with any other country, because it’s under the threat of a free democratic state.

MITCHELL: Let me ask you, Justice Beinisch, about the latest Knesset votes. Is there still a way to stop this from happening in the Knesset? Or is the battle over the independence of the judiciary lost?

BEINISCH: No, I don’t think it’s lost. I want to believe. I want to be optimistic. It’s not lost, because we don’t give up. Because too late—and this is something that connects us to the issue today of Yom Kippur. The Israeli society was surprised—was taken by surprise with all these moves. Actually, similar to what we were talking about the war, there weren’t enough signs. Maybe if we would be really with open eyes, I mean, the society could see how this process—like in every populist government—this process was going on and on. But we didn’t see. Today it’s forty weeks that every week, and almost every day, people demonstrate, people protests. And I believe that this is the reason why the Knesset couldn’t go on so easily with all the legislation plan. And I believe that we can stop it. To come to an agreement it’s a very complicated issue too, because to compromise between one extreme and one normal society and to come to an agreement, who will give up? With every compromise that we heard last session, you will have to give something to one side and to the other side. I don’t think we can give anything. But people should understand that the situation is so serious, so dangerous, that they have to stop this trend. And we started it very strong. And it’s not the political parties, not the opposition. It’s the street. It’s the best people, those who fought for the independence of the country, for the security of the country, pilots, people from the military, people from high-tech economy. Everyone sees the danger to our society if they will not fight—really fight for our democracy.

MITCHELL: Tom Friedman, we’ve never seen this kind of popular outpouring across all sorts of divisions in the society, from security, from the military. What is your perspective on whether or not this can be turned around?

FRIEDMAN: Well, Dorit will be able to assess what the court could and might do and how it could rule legally. And I’ll be interested in her analysis. But I think that the Biden administration’s done everything it can do. It’s very difficult for a foreign power to intervene in a domestic issue like this in Israel. I think President Biden’s done a lot in speaking out the way he has, it’s been quite remarkable. And I really praise him for that. I’m watching Israel not just for Israel. It’s an allegory. Israel as to wider trends in civilization what off-Broadway is to Broadway. Stuff starts there in miniature and comes to Broadway. And Trump and Bibi are just brothers from different mothers. So the—it’s just a larger version of this that’s going on here.

And I think that, just to drill down on something Dorit said, people should read the translation of the dialogue between the justices and Netanyahu’s lawyers when they came before the court. Because there was one particular moment where basically one of the justices asked his lawyer—remember, the attorney general refused to represent the government because she said, the whole thing is not on the level. And just to reinforce Dorit’s point, this is not about compromise. This is not about judicial reform. If it were about judicial reform you’d create a national committee, you’d assign them a year, you get people from a cross-section of the country, you’d have expert witnesses. And you’d figure out what needs fixing and what is sustainable, and how to do it. This is nothing but a naked power play. That is all that this is.

And you don’t believe a word that comes out of Netanyahu’s mouth on this, including “and” and “the.” It is a complete lie, OK? This is nothing but a power play. And the truth of it came through in that court dialogue where the justice asked Netanyahu’s lawyer: Now wait a minute, what you’re saying is if a simple majority passes a law and calls it a basic law, that that becomes the law of the land and the court can’t intervene? What if your simple majority passed a law that said there won’t be elections for ten years? Or that women with red hair can’t vote? Or that Arabs can’t vote? And his response was—you can look it up on Google—was the cure for that is another election.

In other words, their view of democracy—democracy is about two things. It’s about popular sovereignty, people voting, the will of the people. And it’s about liberty, OK? It’s about the web of laws that protect the minority’s rights. Their view of democracy is only the elected majority has rights, and the only way to cure an abuse by the elected majority is with another election. There is not a law school anywhere west of Poland and Hungary who holds that view. But that is their view. So as Dorit said, when you come and say, well, they’ve got a point, and we’ve got a point, we have to have a compromise, you’re just playing into the hands of people who are ill-intended, who are trying to destroy the law because they want to dismantle two things.

They want to dismantle the Oslo Peace Agreement, and they want to dismantle the court. And then they will have a free hand to carry out the stated view of this this coalition—the first in Israel’s history—the stated goal of annexing the West Bank and, of course, the goal of the ultra-orthodox to excuse their youth from any serving in the army. This is—this is code red, folks. This is the most serious threat to Israel that has ever been posed to the state. It is a thousand times more than Iran could ever do, because it is going to fracture Israeli society. And if there’s one thing I learned in Beirut, you break it, it’s gone. And you cannot get it back together.

MITCHELL: Tom, you said that President Biden has done a lot. He denied a meeting—an Oval Office meeting with the prime minister. He didn’t call him after his election. Immediately he sent every possible signal on the eve of a critical Knesset vote, the final reading. He put out a statement, which some—even some of Netanyahu’s critics thought was putting his finger on the scale too much and backing Netanyahu into a corner where he wouldn’t have made another decision. And I personally don’t think he would have made another decision. That train had left the station. But in any case, he’s done a lot.

But in their meeting, he came to a meeting at the U.N.—not getting a Washington meeting which the Israeli leadership really wanted. Got a meeting on the sidelines, like other—many other leaders, a U.N. meeting. It seemed to me that the president and his team were leaning over backwards to convey support for Netanyahu some amelioration of their previous pretty much tense relationship dating back to 2009, when Vice President Biden arrived for his first visit in Israel as vice president and Netanyahu expanded the settlements on that very day. I was covering that. You remember that. That was very, very difficult. Biden almost turned around and went home.

In any case, he leaned over backwards. They sent every signal that it was a positive encounter. He did invite him to come to Washington sometime. So in an election year, how strong do you think that Joe Biden will be in getting into the middle of the domestic Israeli situation?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I don’t—I believe people completely misread the U.N. meeting. And I wrote a column about it. Because there are a lot of Israeli reporters who kind of wanted Biden to take Bibi by the hair, drag him around the room, drop a chair on his head, kick them around like a soccer ball, and say: Get your ass out of here, OK? That was never going to happen. We actually have something in this country too called politics. So I thought Biden played it brilliantly. He put his arm around Netanyahu’s shoulder. Bibi, it’s good to see you. Welcome, blah, blah, blah. Although it wasn’t a particularly chummy meeting, if you watch the introduction.

And then, as I wrote, he, metaphorically speaking, slipped a note in his pocket. And the note was on the demands that Netanyahu’s going to have to meet on the Palestinian issue in order to get an agreement. And you could tell something had happened because Bibi came out of that meeting actually quite sober. You know, I mean, that he clearly some—he had homework, OK? Biden gave him homework. And he didn’t it in the most, I think, really wise and effective way. You would have needed instant replay slow motion to see it, but it happened. And I think Netanyahu—remember the meeting was just four eyes. They dismissed all their aides. So there was a reason for that, too, because Bibi didn’t want to hear any—have anyone hear whatever Biden was asking.

Bibi’s only going to play that Palestinian card when he knows what he’s got or what he doesn’t. So again, I repeat, I really don’t care about the Saudi deal right now. If it happens, it happens. You know, whatever. I’m only interested in the Saudi deal as a lever to blow up this Cabinet and let the actual new politics of Israel, manifested by this amazing democracy movement, take political shape, be unlocked, and emerge. That’s all I’m interested in right now. Because no Saudi deal is going to be sustainable, I don’t think, with this government, because you just have to read the news every day. You know, Jewish nationalist spitting on Christians this week, you know, clashes that week.

These people—Andrea, you have not met these people. You didn’t go to Jewish summer camp with these people. They weren’t in the cabin next to you in the Catskills. You did not meet them on your latest UJA tour, OK? These people are completely outside the bounds of Israeli politics. These are the Proud Boys of Israel. Imagine a U.S. Cabinet of Mike Flynn as defense secretary, Marjorie Taylor Greene, OK, as head of Homeland Security, and Matt Gaetz as secretary of state, and you’ve got the Israeli Cabinet. (Laughter, applause.)


BEINISCH: This is not a joke. We have them. (Laughter.)

MITCHELL: In some contexts, it’s not that hard to imagine right now.


MITCHELL: I cover the capital. (Laughter.) Justice Beinisch.


MITCHELL: Do you think that Bibi Netanyahu would ever yield on his coalition in order to get what he really wants, which is normalization with Saudi Arabia, in order to do it with what Joe Biden, with the note in his pocket—and, you know, Tom is absolutely right. Biden made it clear that the two-state solution, that the Palestinian rights has to be part of the deal. Do you think that he would ever make that compromise?

BEINISCH: I would say that although I believe that the two-state solution is the most important for our future, I don’t really think that this is the immediate thing that we can, with any government that we have, solve immediately. It’s a process. It is not—you don’t achieve it in one day. And I don’t rely, I think, very important, the American attitude and Biden’s attitude, you can’t rely on that only. Next year, who knows? After the election, will we have Biden? I don’t know. You cannot give up our internal fight and just think that the Americans will save us. We need them. We can’t without Biden or another good Biden, but it is not enough.

The internal gaps, the conflict—not only extremes didn’t accept easily the two-state solution. This is a process that will take time. The first process that we need now—and I think, Tom, you mentioned it, is if you really want to see what is the constitutional situation, what is the situation of the state, where are we going after seventy-five years, this is not done in one month in the Knesset. Then you need a serious body that will see and research what are the needs of the system, what could be done to keep the democratic system? This is not a serious thing, because they aim—as you said already—to annex the territories. And for that they don’t need—the court will not disturb them. And the court was very careful in interfering with this subject because it is a sensitive political subject.

And what we need is really to be very strong with our values to keep them—to keep the status of the court, to give if—I wish we could have more guarantees for checks and balances. We don’t have any but the court. And now they’re threatening the court. You hear so much, really simply putting it, lies, fake news about the court, about the justices, about the system. We don’t have the time to analyze what you heard came here on air and saying that it’s the same thing like a constitution, the basic laws that we have. It’s not the same thing. It’s not accepted the same way. It wasn’t legislated as a constitution.

Some of them is part of our constitution, and to say that maybe we’ll not obey the court if they will interfere with our constitution, is nonsense. It’s not the way they have the authority to interfere. And I never can imagine, prime minister or any politician or anyone will say: We don’t have to obey. We’ll consider it. It’s impossible. This is the threat for democracy. And we have to save ourselves from this. No external power can save us. We have to save ourselves. And this is the fight that we have to keep this power of the system. It’s not the court. Court doesn’t seek for power. But the idea to appoint politically—which is possible with the guarantee that you have in the States—to appoint political justices that will accept whatever the government says.

This is the—this is the scheme. This is what they want to do, to change the system of appointing judges. And then they will be our judges. Now the idea that we were elected and this is a democracy wasn’t invented by Bibi. There are different ideas. And with us, you know, everybody knows that the basic norms of Israel is being a Jewish state and a democratic state. But there is no consensus. What is the Jewish state? If you ask the religious parties, this is not what we have. The Zionist idea wasn’t a religious state. And what is a democratic state? Which means separation of powers, protecting the rights of the minorities, the human rights. This is not only the majority. It’s needed, but this is the not the only condition.

But, as I said, Bibi didn’t invent it. It exists in other countries too. I mean, other regimes that we want to be like them. And many say, well, this is why we have elections. Let them—I think I heard that here too—let them have elections and change the government, OK? As long as we have the power, we are all about power. We are taking it. This is something that is not acceptable in a democratic state.

MITCHELL: At this point I want to invite our members and guests here in New York and those on Zoom to join us for questions, starting with our guests here in New York. Wait for the microphone and please identify yourself. We were on the record, of course.

Q: Elise Labott. Thank you so much.

I’d like to follow up on your comments, Justice, about what you just said about, you know, the character of society. And I’m wondering if we’re focused too much on this particular coalition. I mean, obviously, Prime Minister Netanyahu needs this coalition and he’s been going farther and farther to the right to hold on to power. But are we too focus on this as a populous anomaly? Is this more about the religious right and the—you know, the debate in Israeli society, which has actually been happening for many years, about the character of society, as Tom was saying, the role of the orthodox and obviously the courts? Thank you.

BEINISCH: You’re right. It didn’t start now. I said before, this is a process that took years. We didn’t realize how much power it is. Extreme people, very extreme, that believe in, I don’t know, religious state, they were just a minority. They didn’t gain—and a small minority. They didn’t accept the concept of a Jewish liberal state, OK? But they were not those who decided. They were not the mainstream. Bringing them into the coalition gave them much more weight than they really have in society. They do have influence, but not as much as is given to them now. See, women served in the military, women were in the—in all the offices. More and more, they want to take them out. Why? It never occurred to us that it can happen. This is a process that goes step after step to give those small—relatively small, very extreme, very strong, very noisy groups, a power, much more proportion that they have in this society. So the real fight is now to show that this is not the way to take the power and give it to this group, instead of listening to what really our society needs, to what we are looking for, and what we need, so.

MITCHELL: Tom, do you want to weigh in on that?

FRIEDMAN: You know, the Economist magazine in 2022 named Israel is having the fourth-best economy in the world. Know what that is, to have the fourth-best economy in the world? How is it Israel had the fourth-best economy in the world with this awful, terrible, maligned, broken legal system? Just ask yourself that question. If it was so bad—you know, I never forget the first time I went to Hong Kong, 1981. Landed at Kai Tak Airport. And for the first time I saw that amazing skyline of skyscrapers. And I just was blown away—blown away by it. I thought about it afterwards. I said, you know what that is? That’s Chinese creative energy bounded by British rule of law. You bring those two things together, you get skyscrapers to the heavens.

You know what looks like that skyline today? Tel Aviv. That was Israeli creative energy bounded by Israeli rule of law. You fracture that rule of law, that system will leak energy and eventually you won’t have any more skyscrapers. The Israeli shekel, I will remind you, just hit an all-time low, I believe, yesterday—or, a new low for whatever period. People are figuring it out, you know? The rule of law is essential for how Israel got here. It had—it had one of the best legal systems in the world. This has nothing to do with the law. This has everything to do with power.

MITCHELL: Let me take another—

BEINISCH: Completely agree.

MITCHELL: Thank you. We have more questions here. Yes, hi. Yep, the microphone is coming.

Q: Hi, I’m Gabe Mansky.

Maybe it’s a naïve question, but I think that the only solution to this—or, only way to stop it is to topple the government. Now, people say this is not right and left issue. My question is to Justice Beinisch, whether you know that there are some attempts to get some of the more moderate Likud members to actually—what’s the word I’m looking for here?

FRIEDMAN: Defect. Defect.

Q: To defect, right. (Speaks in Hebrew.) OK? OK? And I think that if we get four, five, six of those people, and then there will be a vote of no confidence in the government, OK, something may happen. The question—I also know that these people want to stay in power, and they’re afraid of, you know, an early election, right?

BEINISCH: Well, this is not a question for me. Again, with our separation of powers and the rule of law, we don’t change governments. This is not our role. Politicians have their role, and legal people have—the justices have their role. We can pay overview, we can review, we can strengthen certain norms. We are not changing government and not politics. This is why I say it’s so important. It could be the opposition. It could be in Israel now the situation more than—because of lack of leadership, in a way, it’s the people, the street, the strong people—you know, people that were admired for what they did in economy, in high tech, in the military, the pilots. People that were really we are proud.

And we were very proud of them, and everybody was proud of our legal system. I was with very good connections, relations with judges in many Western democratic countries. Everyone really admired our system, the system of appointing judges, the system of our judicial review, our keeping norms without a written constitution. This was everywhere appreciated and admired, actually. So now with inciting against it, they want to make it weak and to use this tool with get more power for the political branch instead of the legal branch. This is not for us. I mean, “us,” I’m not in office anymore, but not for the justices to turn it over. This is the role of politicians, the role of people who vote for them, who voted. And they have to state what they miss and what they have to do. So I cannot help you in saying that we have to change them and take others from another party. This is not my role. I try not to go to the Knesset not to meet them, anyway.

MITCHELL: Tom Friedman, do you think that there’s—there are Likud members who might be the equivalent of the so-called problem solvers in our own Congress, you might create some sort of a more moderate camp?

FRIEDMAN: I wouldn’t—I wouldn’t count on it. There may be one or two. but the fact is the reason you have the Likud that you have today is—and the reason you have these even farther-right Jewish supremacists, is because all of the moderately Likudniks left Netanyahu a long time ago. So he’s left basically with the—with the farthest of the far right. And so it could happen but I’m very dubious. And that’s where I think that the only dynamic that can crack this nut right now is this Saudi-U.S. American dynamic that puts a choice to Netanyahu, annexation or normalization, your Cabinet making history or not. And if this Cabinet falls, somehow—and it’s a long shot—you know, a whole phenomenal democracy movement has emerged in Israel from the ground up.

It’s manifested a whole new group of leaders who aren’t quite represented by the political parties as they exist today. And if you did have new elections, I think it would be an amazing moment in Israel of great, you know, plasticity, of a whole new generation and cohort forming parties and coalitions. But it’s going to be very hard. This coalition is bound together by a mendacity. And also, if you’re the four Likudniks who walked out of this government, or five, and brought it down, I hope you have a lot of security. It’s not unlike this country. There’s a lot of people with guns in Israel. And these people will stop at nothing. They have God on their side. So there’s a real fear of what could happen if anyone—to anyone who brings down this government.

MITCHELL: Any other questions? Martin. We have a microphone.

Q: Dorit, this is a question for you about the actual judicial process going forward. I don’t know whether you feel comfortable commenting on that. But what’s the best-case scenario and the worst-case scenario going forward now, given the law that’s on the book, the reasonableness law which has to be adjudicated, the other law, and the laws that the government wants to push through? So can you give us a sense of how this is going to evolve? Worst case and best case for the protest movement?

BEINISCH: It’s hard—it’s hard to predict. First of all, of course, I cannot comment what will be, and I don’t know. I think there is still—I believe there is still a majority that understands the importance of those cases that are pending in the supreme court. And I believe that some of them, there are three or four very important, will—I trust, will give the right decision. But it’s complicated. It’s not that simple. From the legal point of view, those are not easy cases professionally. And in the case of the reasonableness, this we have fifteen justices sitting on that case. A majority in it depends what kind of majority is very important. The idea that you don’t have to say this is a conservative, this is a political judge. In the court, in spite of what Bibi is saying everywhere, is a pluralistic court. It’s not a one way of thinking. We have different justices, high professionals, but more conservative, more—it’s not that simple.

So I can’t say. I think, let’s say, that a simple thing, what is simple, is to order the minister of justice to order—with a reasonableness—but just to say that he has to convene according to the law that exists now the committee that appoint judges. He says, no. I don’t want to. Here comes the question of obeying the court. If—God forbid. If the court will decide that he has to do this, and he will refuse to obey, I really don’t know what can happen in the country. I’m worried about it. I mean, we are already in a constitutional crisis. But still, we keep the normal way of going to the court, arguing in the court. As Tom said, the thing is, the attorney general’s opinion usually should direct the government how to—how to act. They didn’t accept any of the opinions of the attorney general.

Then they took private lawyers, it was once in years, and now it’s almost in all those cases because the attorney general decided against their opinion, doesn’t want to represent—can’t represent the government. This is already a very dangerous situation. I still believe that if the court will decide the way we believe they should do that, they will accept it. I believe that they will accept it. I always say, serving—before I was a judge—with governments, different governments, coming to the prime minister to say: You lost it. They didn’t accept what you wanted. It happened to me, with talking with Shamir, with prime minister. You see, they can’t stand it. But of course, they say, we’ll obey. If this is what the court decided, we have to think again. But we will obey. This is unheard of, the idea. And I believe that this will happen here too. But this is my optimistic view.

MITCHELL: Well, with that I think we have to wrap it up. But our thanks, of course, to Tom Friedman and to Dorit Beinisch. (Applause.) Thanks to all of you. The video and the transcript will be posted on the CFR website. Thanks so much to CFR for letting me host this.

BEINISCH: Thank you.

MITCHELL: Thank you so much.


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