Abba Eban questioning Israels diplomatic agenda

NEW YORK — In what he later called an "oblique" swipe at the Netanyahu administration, former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban lamented that the prospects for peace in the Middle East are fading because of diplomatic missteps.

"All Israeli governments have had to make such choices — another settlement in an area of contention or an alliance with the United States, a new tourist tunnel or regional conciliation, harmony with all expressions of Jewish spirituality or the alleged predominance of rigorous Orthodoxy," said Eban.

"In diplomacy, you simply cannot have everything. That's why choice lies at the very essence of the diplomat's task."

But Eban, in remarks at a State of Israel Bonds dinner at the United Nations to mark Israel's 50th birthday, suggested that the current Israeli leadership was more headstrong than the nation's founding fathers in seeking its objectives.

"Our founders accepted Jewish statehood but did not rigorously reject similar dispositions for our immediate neighbors," he said. "It was the evident and manifest equitability, the balance in our proposals, which won their way into the international consciousness."

In a later interview, Eban said, "We are really in a very big mess and we have been maneuvered by our leader into a superfluous confrontation with Egypt [and other Arab nations]. I don't remember a period where [our] total isolation was as great."

The international chairman of State of Israel Bonds, David Hermelin, noted the fact that the dinner was being held at the United Nations, whose vote to partition Palestine led to the creation of the State of Israel.

"No one truly knew how that vote would go," he said of the Nov. 29, 1947 vote of the U.N. General Assembly.

"It was the last time the fate of the Jewish people would be in the hands of others."