paul sann journalism, letters, writing


                New York Post Tuesday, October 4, 1955

arab-israel peace
arab-israel peace
Jerusalem, Oct. 4--"Shalom" means peace and hello and goodby, too. It is a byword here on everyone's lips.
   But there is no peace.
    For all its brilliant sun and burning promise, the infant state lives and works and manages to thrive under a cloud that grows darker with each passing day.
    The cloud is cast by the Arab world, vast and menacing around the tiny jewish homeland where a dream a thousand of years old came true years ago.
    It is a war cloud and it grew darker when the Soviet bloc agreed to deal arms to Egypt. And it will grow darker still--much, much darker--if the U.S. and Britain elect to compete for Arab favor by following the Soviet lead.
    There is no terror here. The state goes on building. But there is a growing feeling that if Egypt can build up its war machine fast enough, then the long-threatened second round--an openly professed Arab ideal since Israel's stunning victory in the 1948 War of Liberation--may be at hand.
    Nobody likes to talk much about war, either in the streets or high places, but it is now clear that the wafer-thin, leaky armistice of the past seven years is shakier than ever.
    No one here talks very hopefully any more about the chances of sitting down at the peace table with Egyptian Premier Nasser or the rulers of the smaller Arab states. That kind of talk, however fanciful, vanished when Egypt's strong-arm man candidly said he needed Soviet arms because of his border troubles.
    Nasser meant the Gaza strip where the '48 war never really ended and men go on dying all the time--little by little, weeks and months apart, but dying nevertheless.
Who dies? Only the flower of both worlds here in this Middle Eastern trouble spot.
    Nasser keeps his best troops on the Gaza strip, led by his best officers.
    Israel has the cream of its young manhood--all trained fighting men--in the kibbutzim (farm settlements) along the lonely frontier, backed by skilled patrols.
    In some places, the two sides are no more than half a mile apart across a barren no-man's land.
    The gap between the nations is much wider. It is so wide that Israel, always hard-pressed for money, must take 50 to 60 cents out of its every dollar for defense alone. In a nation of 1.6 million people, most of them pilgrims who came from the whole face of the globe in search of peace and freedom, 250,000 men and women must be kept under arms or ready to shoulder them.
    Prime Minister Sharett came out of a special cabinet session yesterday and said Israel would have to increase its defensive capacity if Russia or the West arms Egypt on a large scale.
    Thus, while its achievements multiply, Israel stands, in a sense, under a constant alert. Hostile Arab forces lie to the north, east and south and there is no refuge on the west, for there is the blue Mediterranean.
    In the U.S. we are asked to please get our metal identification tags and pay some small attention to civil defense regulations.
    Here in Israel, especially on the frontier facing Egypt, where there are artillery pits and pill boxes and bomb shelters among the lemon and orange groves, it is well to keep your machine gun oiled and know your battle station.
    For you can't ignore the clouds back of the sun that hangs in the heavens over the troubled Land of the Bible. War or half-way peace, the clouds stay.


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