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Quotes on Judaism & Israel: Abba Eban

On the United Nations

“If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.”

On Peace with the Arabs

“The Arabs say they want their territory back, but they don’t want to talk to us, and they don’t want to negotiate with us, and they don’t want to recognize us. They want peace by immaculate conception” - Quoted in Alfred Leroy Atherton, Jr., Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, Summer 1990

On Israel's Right to Exist

Nobody does Israel any service by proclaiming its 'right to exist.' Israel's right to exist, like that of the United States, Saudi Arabia and 152 other states, is axiomatic and unreserved. Israel's legitimacy is not suspended in midair awaiting acknowledgement.... There is certainly no other state, big or small, young or old, that would consider mere recognition of its 'right to exist' a favor, or a negotiable concession.” - New York Times, November 18, 1981

On Negotiations

To succeed at the negotiating table, it is sometimes necessary to be obdurate and tenacious. But this is bad for the image. To succeed in image-making, it is better to be always flexible. It is important to be popular –but even more important to be alive. If you are alive, you can work hard to reconstruct your popularity, whereas if you are dead, you will be conspicuously popular during the funeral oration. But the consolation will be transient and brief.

“The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” The quote is attributed to Abba Eban after the Geneva Peace Conference with Arab countries (December 21, 1973).