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May 16, 2003

The Road Map to Munich
(By Steven Plaut, Middle East Quarterly | May 16, 2003)

In August 1998, according to press reports, official Israeli analysts met with Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet ministers to discuss what was termed the "potential strategic threat" stemming from the Arab population resident in Israel. Among other things, the report discussed a "worst case scenario" whereby these Israeli Arabs would launch a separatist campaign. The report went on to draw explicit comparisons between this threat and the role of Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s.

The report caused a minor uproar, forcing the government to apologize later and back down from this characterization of Israel's Arab citizens as a potential fifth column. Yet the comparison is an intriguing one, for Israeli Arabs and Sudeten Germans do have much in common, as recent research has established. The historic analogy with the Sudetens arises with respect to debate over the real motivations behind demands for Palestinian self-determination, demands sometimes extended to include Israeli Arabs. Does the Sudeten story of six decades back in fact have lessons for today?( the rest must be read).