What follows is a letter to the editor of the Tel Aviv New Outlook by Bertrand Russell, published there in March 1963. At the time of Russell's writing, the Arabs and the Israelis were between wars between the 1956 Arab-Israeli war and the six day war of 1967 by which Israel underwent significant de facto territorial expansion. Israel's population was growing fast during this period, and the Arab territorial "conviction", referred to by Russell, would prove true in the wake of the '67 war. Russell identifies the (Palestinian) resettlement problem as central to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and he recommends a remedy which, as he says, would require a "magnanimous gesture" on the part of Israel. Of course, Israel has long been sensitive about the "demographics problem", and it's no surprise that Russell's proposal would fall on deaf ears. But some, like this editor, might say that had the sort of suggestion made by Russell been accepted by Israel in 1963, the coming war and all the problems of the "occupied territories" which that war has engendered could have been avoided.
4th February, 1963
Karl Netter 8
I am very grateful to you for your kind cable and I am greatly encouraged by the efforts you make to bring about friendship between Israel and the Arab World.
I consider the main difficulties to consist of the disposition of the refugees and of the Arab conviction that Israel cannot absorb its expanding population without expanding its boundaries. It seems to me that if Israel were to make a magnanimous gesture, which might take the shape of agreeing to accept the return of all Arabs who have left Israel and to finance the re-settlement of all those refugees who did not wish to return then it might be possible to have serious talks with Arab Governments, which could lead to the normalisation of relationships. A further point would be a non-aggression pact, guaranteeing that Israel accepts her present boundaries to be final.
I am writing in this way, because I believe that the Arabs feel themselves to have been fundamentally wronged and are, therefore, not able to take the initiative. It is in Israel's fundamental interest quickly to settle her dispute with the Arab world. It is, therefore, for Israel to make several generous steps which would remove the major source of grievance without endangering the basic Israeli requirement of acceptance.
I accept the honour you do me in identifying yourselves with my remarks in your recent Symposium. Please keep me informed of your efforts.
With good wishes,