What If the Arabs Had Recognized Israel in 1948?

This poignant column is by A. Al-Mulhim, a commodore (ret.) in the Royal Saudi Navy, based in Alkhobar, Saudi Arabia. It was first published on arabnews.com and is reprinted in the Jerusalem Post.

I have been exposed to Palestinians since I was in first grade in Al-Hassa, Saudi Arabia. They were the most dedicated and intelligent among all my instructors, from elementary to high school. When I was attending New York-based SUNY Maritime college (1975-1979), I read a lot of books about Palestinians, Arabs and the Israelis. I have read every article about the many chances the Palestinians missed to solve their problem, especially the Camp David agreement between Egypt and Israel. I have seen and read about the lives of Palestinians in the US and other places. They are very successful in every field.

At the same time, I saw the Arab countries at the bottom of the list in education and development. And I ask the question: What if the Palestinians and Arabs accepted Israel on May 14, 1948 and recognized its right to exist? Would the Arab world have been more stable, more democratic and more advanced? If Israel were recognized in 1948, the Palestinians would have been able to free themselves from the hollow promises of Arab dictators who kept telling them the refugees would be back in their homes, all Arab lands would be liberated and Israel would be sent to the bottom of the sea. Some Arab leaders used the Palestinians to suppress their own people and stay in power.

Since 1948, if an Arab politician wanted to be a hero, he had an easy way of doing it. He just needed to shout as loud as he could about his intention to destroy Israel, without mobilizing a single soldier (talk is cheap).

If Israel were recognized in 1948, there would have been no need for a coup in Egypt against King Farouk in 1952 and there would have been no attack on Egypt in 1956 by the UK, France and Israel. Also, there would have been no war in June 1967, and the size of Israel would not have increased and we Arabs would not have the need for a UN resolution to beg Israel to go back to the pre-1967 borders. And no war of attrition between Egypt and Israel that caused more casualties on the Egyptian side than the Israeli side.

After the 1967 war, Israel became a strategic ally of the US. Before then, the US was not as close to Israel as some in the Arab world believe. The Israelis fought that war using mainly French and British weapons while the US administration refused to supply Israel with more modern aircraft and weapons systems, such as the F-4 Phantom.

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