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Algeria's Policy toward Israel: Pragmatism and Rhetoric

Author(s): Jacob Abadi

Source: Middle East Journal, Vol. 56, No. 4 (Autumn, 2002), pp. 616-641
Published by: Middle East Institute
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Thisarticle is an analysis of Algerian-Israelirelations.Theauthorarguesthat

Algeriadid not cometo termswithIsraellargelydue to the rigidityof the FLN's
(Frontde Libe'rationNational) ideology and to the popularityof the Islamic
parties in that country.At the same time, however,he argues that a pragmatic
tendencyinAlgeria'sforeignpolicywas evidentsince the1960sandthatpolitical
and economicreasonsforced theAlgerianregimeto becomemoreflexible in its
attitudetowardthe Arab-Israeliconflict and to moderateits attitudetoward
FormerIsraeliPrimeMinisterYitzhakShamironce boastedthatunderhis right-wing
LikudgovernmentIsraelmanagedto breakthe walls surroundingit by establishing
diplomaticties with most countries.A similarstatementwas madeby formerLabor
PrimeMinisterYitzhakRabinin one of his speechesto the Knesset.1Indeed,by the
early 1990s, Israelmanagedto establishdiplomaticties with most countriesin Asia
andAfrica.And whenthe MiddleEastpeaceprocessappearedto havegainedmomentum towardthe middle of the decade, even the Muslim countriesof NorthAfrica
began warmingup to Israel.Morocco,Tunisia,and Mauritaniabecamereceptiveto
the idea of establishingdiplomaticties with Israel,andeven Libyamoderatedits antiIsraeli stand.Yet, despite the progressmade in the peace process and the growing
recognitionamongthese countriesthatcomingto termswith Israelwas no longeras
risky as it hithertohad been, Algeriaremainedone of the last countriesto consider
such a possibility.It was only whenIsrael'sPrimeMinisterEhudBarakmetAlgeria's
PresidentAbdelazizBouteflikaat MoroccanKingHasanR's funeral,on July25, 1999,
that commentsaboutrapprochement
were made.
Why Algeria remainedone of the last countriesto considerthe possibilityof
normalizingrelationswith Israelis the questionwhichthis articleattemptsto answer.
It arguesthatAlgeria'sreluctanceto mendfences with Israelwas a consequenceof

Dr. JacobAbadi is a professorof Middle EasternHistoryat the United StatesAir ForceAcademy

in ColoradoSprings, CO. He is the authorof the books Britain's Withdrawal
from the Middle East
1947-1971: TheEconomicand StrategicImperatives,andIsrael's Leadership:FromUtopiato Crisis.
In addition,Dr. Abadi has writtennumerousarticlesdealing with Middle Easternaffairs.
1. YitzhakShamir,SummingUp: An Autobiography,(Boston: Little Brown & Co., 1994), p. 252;
KnessetProceedings, July 13, 1992.

1962, when Algeriafought for its independence;and the ascendancyof militantIslamic partiesin thatcountry.
Algeria'sattitudetowardIsraelwas in largemeasuredeterminedby its colonial
experience.The leaders of the FLN (Frontde LiberationNational),who assumed
positionsof leadershipafterthe country'sindependencein 1962, were traumatized
theirlong struggleagainstFrenchcolonialrule, and,therefore,hatredof colonialism
occupieda centralpartin theirworldview.Israel'sassociationwith FranceandGreat
Britainduringthe SuezAffairof 1956reinforcedthe notionamongthe FLN'sleaders,
that imperialismand Zionism conspiredto suppressall liberationmovements.The
persistenceof the ColdWarandthe increasingSoviet influencein Algeriareinforced
that trend.
Despiteits declaredcommitmentto nonalignment,Algeria'sforeignpolicy orientationwas clearlypro-Sovietduringthe Cold Waryears.The FLN regardedMoscow as the championof all revolutionarymovements.Consequently,the notionthat
Zionismwas associatedwith imperialismpersisted,andthe hostilitytowardthe Jewish Stateintensified.Algeria'saversionto Zionismtaperedoff somewhatafterthe end
of the ColdWarandthe demiseof the SovietUnionby the late 1980s,butno meaningful dialoguebetweenthe two countrieshad yet takenplace.
The Algerianregime'sfailureto transformitself into a true democracyhad a
negativeimpacton potentialbilateralrelations.Moreover,the overwhelmingpowerof
the IslamicSalvationFront(FrontIslamiquede Salut,or FIS), which since the early
1990s had been locked in a furiousbattle againstthe military-backedauthoritarian
regime,discouragedthe Algerianleadersfromtakingmeasuresto improverelations.
ThatAlgeria'spolicy towardIsraelwas far moreradicalthanthatof any other
countryin NorthAfricawas largelydue to its bitterstruggleagainstFranceand the
collabohistoricalmemoryof the FLN's leaders,who neverforgotthe Franco-Israeli
was a high priorityon the agendaof the IsraeliForeignMinistryin those days. This
was largelybecauseIsraelhadvirtuallyno countryfromwhich it could procurearms
other than France.Realizingthat the only way to prolongsuch cooperationwas to
assist Francein its struggleagainstthe Algerianrebels, the Israeli secret services
begansupplyingFrancewith vital informationaboutthe rebels,theirsupplysources,
andtheirtrainingcampsin Arabcountries.Boththe Frenchdefenseestablishmentand
the PrimeMinister'sBureaurecognizedthe importanceof such informationand encouragedthe Israelisto expandtheirintelligenceactivitiesin Algeria.TheFrencheven
exploredthe possibilityof deliveringarmsto IsraelthroughAlgeria.2
The Israeli intelligence services began workingclosely with the French,and
2. MordechaiBar-On,TheGates of Gaza:Israel's Road to Suezand Back,(New York: St. Martin's
Press, 1995), pp. 167-168.

Israeliscame to Algeria for trainingas helicopterpilots, in orderto fight guerrilla
warriorswho infiltratedIsraelfromEgyptianbases. In return,IsraelsuppliedFrance
with informationabout Egyptiancooperationwith the FLN.3In an interviewwith
Sylvia Crosbie,Paul Grossin,a leadingFrenchsecurityfigure,had revealedthatIsraeliintelligencesourceshadbegunprovidingthe FrenchinformationaboutEgyptian
PresidentGamal'Abdal-Nasir'sinvolvementin Algeriasince the summerof 1955.4
Israel'sPrimeMinisterDavidBen Gurionbelievedthatit was largelydueto its conflict
with Algeria that Francewas willing to supportIsrael.And as one observercommented,"themoreintensethe rebellionin Algeriagrew,the closer did the rapprochement and the mutualunderstanding
betweenthe two democracies,old and the new,
become."5The Franco-Israelicooperationintensifiedin January1960, when GeneralsYitzhakRabinandChaimHerzogvisitedAlgeriato observeFrenchparatroopers
action in the Kabylie mountains.The Israeli Governmentencouragedthe 100,000
Jewswho lived in Algeriaat thattime,to provideall possibleassistanceto the French,
includinginformationon the activitiesof the FLN.Accordingto SeymourHersh,this
gave the Israelistremendousleveragein France,not only for purchasingarmsthere
but also for obtainingFrench supportfor the constructionof a nuclearreactorin

In August 1957, membersof the FLN appealedto Israelfor supportin the UN

GeneralAssembly's debate on Algeria's future.However,Israel refused and voted
againstAlgeria'smembershipin the UN. Thismiscalculationby the Israeliswas bound
to have a seriouseffect on bilateralrelationsfor yearsto come.7 Israel'sinvolvement
in Algerianaffairscreatedunexpectedcomplicationsnot only with the FLN, but also
with the French.On February23, 1958, an IsraeliB-17 planelandedat Bone,Algeria.
The plane was forceddown by the Frenchauthoritiesand was not allowedto return
to Israeluntil the armson boardwere confiscated.Rumorshad quickly spreadthat
Israelwas supportingtheAlgerianrebels,butBen Gurionthoughtit wise to denytheir
veracity.In his statementto the Knesseton March4, 1958, he arguedthatIsraelhad
purchasedthe arms from an Americancompanyand that they were destinedfor a
LatinAmericancountry.He went on to arguethat the Frenchauthoritieshad been
informedthatthe planewouldlandin AlgiersandDakaron its way,butParisfailedto
notify the Algerian authorities.Deputy Defense MinisterShimon Peres, who was
closely involvedin armsprocurement
fromFrance,explainedthatIsraelhadno choice

3. DavidBen Gurion,theFirstPrimeMinister:SelectedDocuments,(1947-1963),YemimaRosenthal
(Ed.), (Jerusalem:IsraelStateArchives, 1966), p. 321. 4. Sylvia Crosbie,A TacitAlliance:Franceand
IsraelfromSuez to the Six-Day War,(Princeton,New Jersey:PrincetonUniversityPress, 1974), p. 58.
5. Meron Medzini, Ha-Yehudiyahha-ge'ah: Golda Me'ir ve-hazon Yisra'el[The ProudJewess:
Golda Meir and the Vision of Israel],(Jerusalem:Edanim, 1990), p. 239.
6. SeymourM. Hersh,TheSamsonOption:Israel's NuclearArsenalandAmericanForeignPolicy,
(New York:RandomHouse, 1991), p. 36-37.
7. BenjaminBeit-Hallahmi,The Israeli Connection:WhoIsrael Arms and Why,(New York:Pantheon, 1987), pp. 44-45.

butto fly overNorthAfrica,in orderto avoiddetectionby hostilecountries.8Unwilling to antagonizethe French,Ben Gurionstatedthat he would understandif they
wouldnot allow the planeto continueto LatinAmerica.Ben Gurion'sannouncement
was receivedwith skepticismin Frenchparliamentary
circles, which arguedthathe
was deceivedby his subordinatesandthatthe planedid in fact carryweaponsto the
Algerianrebels.9All along,Ben GurionremainedconvincedthattheAlgerianrebellion
enhancedIsrael'sfriendshipwith France.He believedthatonce the rebellionended
the Frenchwould keep distancefrom Israel.
The Franco-Israelirapprochement
continuedto alienatethe Algeriannationalists.WhiletherulingMapai(Labor)partyrefrainedfrompubliclysupportingtheFrench
duringthe conflict,the right-wingHerut(freedom)oppositionpartyled by Menachem
Begin did not hide its convictionthat supportingFrancewas essential for Israel's
survivaland security.One of Herut'sleaders,Ya'acovMeridor,had once admitted
openlythathis partysupportedFranceon theAlgeriaissue "becausethe alliancewith
Franceis moreimportantthanidealism."''0
One of the rareopportunitiesin whicha verbalencountertook placebetweenan
occurredin 1958,whenthe FLN was in the midst
of its struggleagainstthe French.The AlgerianSecretaryof the ArabLeague,Ferhat
Abbas,approachedIsrael'sForeignMinisterGoldaMeir,who attendeda meetingof
and said:
Mrs. Meir,your countryis being armedby France,the arch-enemyof all those
who sit aroundthe table, a governmentthatis fightinga ruthlessand brutalwar
againstmy people and that uses terroragainstmy black brethren.How do you
justify your intimacywith a powerthatis the primaryfoe of the self-determination of the Africanpeople?"

GoldaMeirrespondedby saying,"I do not shareyourhatredfor FrenchPresidentde Gaulle,but let me tell you the truth-whetheror not you like to hearit: if de
Gaullewerethe devil himself,I wouldregardit as the dutyof my governmentto buy
armsfromthe only sourceavailableto us.""Algeria'sdisapprovalof Israel'sties with
Francehad a damagingeffect on Israel'sties with most Africancountries.This becameobviousin the springof 1960,whenIsraelwas not invitedto the annualmeeting
in New York,due to a protestmadeby the Algerianrepreof Africanrepresentatives
sentativewho arguedthat Israel maintainedties with his country'simperialisten-

8. See Peres' accountof this episode in Matti Golan, ShimonPeres:A Biography,(New York:St.
Martin'sPress, 1982), pp. 78-80.
9. BritishEmbassyin Tel Aviv to ForeignOffice, Public RecordOffice (hereafterPRO),London.
FO/371, 16407, ER103183, February2, 1962.
10. Citedin MichaelBrecher,TheForeign Policy Systemof Israel: Setting,Images,Process,(New
Haven:Yale UniversityPress, 1972), p. 173.
11. Golda Meir, My Life, (New York:Putnam'sSons, 1975), pp. 326-327.

emy.'2ForeignMinistryofficials in Jerusalemwere fully awareof the damagingeffect whichties with Francehadon Israel'srelationswith the Africanstates.However,
they regardedthe link with Franceas far moreessentialto Israel'snationalsecurity.'3
Whatintensifiedthe tensionin the bilateralrelationswas the fact thatIsrael's
activitiesin Algeria did not remainconfined to cooperationwith France.In 19611962, there were reportsthat Israel supportedthe French OAS (Organisationde
l'ArmeeSecrete)movementin Algeria,an ultra-rightist
organizationof Frenchsettlers
thatfoughtto prolongFrenchrulein Algeria.WhatboundIsraelto thatgroupwas that
bothhad identicalinterestin prolongingFrenchrule.However,cordialrelationswith
Francewere so high on the Israelinationalagendathat when the OAS approached
Israeliintelligenceagentswith the requestthatIsraelhelp in theirplan to assassinate
GeneralCharlesde Gaulle,not only did the Israelisrefuse,but also alertedthe French
Governmentto that danger.'4The idea of collaborationwith the OAS appealedto
someIsraelileftistswho favoredbetterrelationswithAlgeria.Accordingto UriAvneri,
editorof the radicalandcontroversialHaOlamHaZehweekly magazine,Ben Gurion
backedone faction within the OAS whose membersadvocatedpartitionof Algeria
into MuslimandEuropeanareas,but thereis no evidenceto supportthatclaim.'5
Membersof the OAS were knownto have had greatadmirationfor Israel.
Thus,for example,Jean-JacquesSusiniadmiredthe "fanaticismof the Jews in Palestine"andtheirpassionateattachmentto the soil. He believedthatthe Frenchandother
Europeansettlers(knownby the sobriquet,pieds noirs) were too soft comparedto
the Israelis,andhe advocatedthe formationof a "JewishHaganah,a civil armypowerful and with conviction,which would regainMuslim confidencefrom the F.L.N.,
and carryalong the seize powerin Algeria,in orderto assumeit one
day in France."'6Commentingon the difficultchoice whichIsraelhadto makeduring
Algeria'swarof independence,an IsraeliForeignMinistryofficialwrites:

12. Michael Comay to Foreign Ministry.(Michael Comay was the first deputy of the Director
Generalof the Israeli Foreign Ministry),Israel State Archives,Jerusalem.(Hereafter,ISA) 3301/22,
April 16, 1960.
13. WalterEytan to Haim Yahil (WalterEytan was the Director General of the Israeli Foreign
Ministryand HaimYahil was the Deputy Head of the Israeli PurchasingMission in Germany),ISA
2350/3, September12, 1960.
14. The assassination attempt was planed to take place during de Gaulle's visit to Algeria in
February1963. Accordingto the proposedplan, Israelwas asked to trainan IsraeliArab who was to
assassinatede Gaulle.Accordingto the group'scalculations,the publicwould be led to believe thatthe
assassinwas sent by the FLN. The membersof the groupwere convincedthatthe assassinationwould
triggerimmense hatredagainstthe FLN and its struggleto free Algeria, and therebythe atmosphere
would be favorableto seizureof powerby Algerie FranVaise.Fordetailsaboutthe scheme see Michael
Bar Zohar,Spies in the PromisedLand:Iser Harel and the Israeli SecretService, (Boston:Houghton
Mifflin, 1972), pp. 225-230.
15. MichaelM. Laskier,"IsraelandAlgeriaamidFrenchColonialismandtheArab-IsraeliConflict,
1954-1978,"Israel Studies,Vol. 6, No. 2 (Summer2001), p. 7.
16. Citedin AlistairHome, A Savage Warof Peace: Algeria 1954-1962, (New York:Viking, 1977),
p. 485.

Israeltriedto meet the dilemmawith an ambivalentpolicy,which Dr. Weizmann
used to call 'warmfrost'. Some cautiousoverturesto Algerianpoliticians,erroneously believed by Israeliexpertsto be the coming leadership,as well as full
public supportfor the politicaland militarypolicies of Francewere self-canceling efforts.... Immediatelyafterits accessionto power,Algeriajoined the Arab
League and became one of its most outspokenanti-Israelimembers.'7
Algeria's attitude toward its Jewish population was another factor, which contributedto its alienation from Israel. Anti-Semitism was common in Algeria during the
colonial era. It remained an article of faith of many pieds noirs who were highly
influenced by the proliferation of anti-Jewish propagandamaterial. Many were influenced by the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other anti-Semitic books that originated in Europe. Probably the most popular anti-Jewish book during the 1950s was
La France Juive, by Edouard Drumont. There were also plays and shows ridiculing
the Jews, which became popular among the piedsnoirs. According to Gabriel Conesa,
the pieds noirs had greatly admired the play, La Passion de Notre Seigneur Jesus
Christ. He recalled that during one of the performances, the crowd stamped their feet
and shouted, "Down with the Jews! Down with the Jews! Down!"'8
The Israeli Government had repeatedly expressed grave concern about the condition of the Jews in Algeria and sought to encourage Jews to emigrate before the
French withdrawal. In a letter classified "very secret" from July 11, 1960, an Israeli
Foreign Ministry official in Paris warned his government that the emergence of an
independentAlgerian state might lead to the abolition of the Cremieux Decree of 1870,
which granted the Jews the status of citizens of the French republic. He warned that
the Jews would become ordinary Algerian citizens and thus lose their identity. He
called upon the government to embark on urgent measures designed to encourage
their emigration.'9 The covert action taken by the emissaries of the Jewish Agency
and the Israeli intelligence community to encourage Jews to leave were not well received by Algerian authorities,who regardedsuch activities as interferencein Algeria's
domestic affairs.
Scattered over ninety cities and villages throughout Algeria, the Jews were an
essential part of the Algerian economy and many were well versed in French as well
as in Arabic. Their emigration was regardedby the Algerian regime as a serious blow
to the economy. Concerned about their fate, the Israeli Government began mobilizing
world public opinion. For example, in her trip to Sweden in May 1961, Golda Meir
expressed Israel's wish for a peaceful settlement of the Algerian conflict, saying that
Israel was deeply concerned about the fate of the Jews in that country.20Although

17. GideonRafael,DestinationPeace: ThreeDecades of Israeli ForeignPolicy: PersonalMemoir,

(New York:Stein & Day, 1981), pp. 79-80.
18. GabrielConesa,Bab el Oued, (Paris:Rene Julliard,1972), p. 620.
19. Veredto Meroz, ISA 941/6, July 11, 1960.
20. British Ambassadorin Stockholm to Home, PRO FO/371, 157754, ER103142/1, May 16,

they were recognizedas equalto all Algeriancitizens,the Jews had little faithin the
FLN and most of them decided to leave en masse to France and Israel.21Of the
130,000Jews living in Algeriapriorto independenceonly 35,000 were left.22
The anti-Jewishattitudewas common among Algeriangovernmentcircles.23
Anti-Jewishsentimentspersistedin Algeria after independenceand thus reinforced
the negative attitudetowardthe Jewish State. HouariBoumedienne,who came to
powerin 1965, afteroverthrowingPresidentMuhammadAhmedBen Bella, encouraged such sentiments.He exertedpressureon ThirdWorldcountriessuch as Cubato
to ridhis
severtheirdiplomaticrelationswith Israel.24Moreover,in his determination
countryof foreign influence,Boumediennerelieved many officials of the previous
regimefrom theirpositions.Among these were Egyptians,Marxistsand Jews.25
Ben Bella, who came to power in Algeria after the Frenchwithdrawal,gave
immediaterecognitionto the PalestineLiberationOrganization(PLO) andadheredto
the radicalconvictionprevalentat thattime in the ArabworldthatIsraelhad no right
to exist. He explicitlysaid thatIsraelwas an artificialstateandthereforemustdisappear.26However,Algeria'srhetoricaboutIsraeland Zionismrarelymatchedits actions. Algerianpoliticianshad shown unmistakablepragmatictendenciesand never
allowed their nationalinterestto be adverselyaffected by their officially declared
policy towardIsrael.27This becameabundantlyclear shortlyafterAlgeria'sindependence.WhenWestGermanyannouncedits decisionto recognizethe Stateof Israelin
March1965,theArabstatesheld a meetingin whichtheyagreedto recalltheirambassadorsin Bonn; sever diplomaticties with West Germany,if it decidedto establish
diplomaticrelationswith Israel;considereffective meansfor an economicboycottof

21. See accountof this episode in YehudaBen Ari, "HisulKehilatAlgeria" ['The Liquidationof
AlgerianJewry"],Gesher,Vol. IV, No. 33, (December 1962), pp. 61-65; David Sitton, Contemporary
SephardiCommunities,[Hebrew],(Jerusalem:Ahva, 1982), pp.153-154.
22. Ma'ariv, (Tel Aviv), June 28, 1962.
23. In a conversationwith the BritishAmbassadorin Algiers, FerhatAbbas said thathe had always
told his Jewish friendsthat the establishmentof a Jewish state in an Arab countrywas "intolerable."
Evans to Beith, PRO FO/371, 173138, VP1051/1, January2, 1962.
24. JerusalemPost, December28, 1978.
25. NachmanList, "MishtarBoumedienneBe-Algeria" ("Boumedienne'sRegime in Algeria:PreliminarySummaries"),Molad,Vol. 23, (1965), p. 155.
26. Al Ahram,(Cairo),May 2, 1965.
27. Ben-Gurionhad once remarkedin his addressto the Knessetthat,duringhis visit to Algeria in
the springof 1963, Nasir was displeasedwith Algeria's attemptsto preserveits independenceand its
links with otherMaghrebcountriesand, therefore,did not attendthe banquetgiven in his honor.The
only "positive"result of his visit was that he managed to secure Ben Bella's signatureon a joint
declarationon the liberationof Palestine.Reply by the PrimeMinister,Mr David Ben-Gurionto the
Knesset Foreign Affairs Debate. State of Israel, GovernmentPress Office. PRO FO/371, 170519,
ER1022/13, May 13, 1963.

WestGermanyandreassesstheirrelationswith any countrywhich decidedto recognize Israel. When the participantswere asked to vote on the resolution,Morocco,
Libya, and Tunisiaexpressedreservationsabout the first two points while Algeria
approvedof all pointsandseveredits diplomaticties withBonn.28Nevertheless,Algerialeft an openingfor reconciliationwithWestGermany.RadioAlgiersattackedTunisia, sayingthatit regrettedthe fact that"certainArableadersplace short-termnational
interestsabovethoseof theArabnationandsuccumbto thebriberyof certainoccidental
countries."29Nevertheless,the AlgerianGovernmentdid not encourageprotestsor
Althoughits radicalposition was more in line with that of Egypt, there were
clear indicationsthatAlgeria hoped to avoid a conflict with Tunisiaand West Germany.When he announcedAlgeria's decision to supportthe resolutionspassed in
Cairo,ForeignMinisterAbdelazizBouteflikasaid thatthe lack of consensusamong
the Arabstateson this matter,"provedeach countrycould expressitself in termsof
However,he refrainedfromattackingTunisia's
divergentstandon the issue. The Frenchdaily Le Mondecommentedon Algeria's
behavior,saying that the planneddemonstrationsby Palestiniansand Tunisiansin
Algiers againstthe WestGermanEmbassyandTunisianPresidentHabibBourguiba,
scheduledto takeplace on March18 of thatyear,had nevermaterialized.According
to the newspaper,this proved"theAlgeriangovernment'sdesireto do nothingwhich
would embitterits relationswith Tunisiaand even FederalGermany."31
whenan EastGermanparliamentary
delegationarrivedin Algierson March17, 1965,
Bouteflikadid not commithimselfto extendrecognitionto the East Germanregime,
sayingthathis governmentdid not examinethatquestion.Sourcesin Algiersmadeit
clear thatthe visit was "absolutelynot a preludeto recognition"of its government.32
On March20, HansJurgenWischnewski,a deputyof the WestGermanSocial
DemocraticPartyandPresidentof the Associationfor FriendshipbetweenWestGermanyandAlgeria,visitedAlgiers.Followingthe visit he told theWestGermannewspaperNeue RuhrZeitungthat"Algeriawill not recognizeEast Germanyeven if she
seversrelationswith Bonn."33He said thatwhile it was no longerpossibleto prevent
Ben Bella fromrecallinghis ambassadorin Bonn,no demonstrations
againstthe GermanEmbassyinAlgierswouldtakeplace.Moreover,BouteflikasaidthatAlgeriawanted
to maintaineconomic and culturalties with West Germanyand hoped to limit the
crisis in the MiddleEast.This pragmatictendencywas reinforcedby the fact thatthe
West Germandeputyrecommendedthathis governmentdeliver70 million German
marks(1 DM=US$.25at the time)in aidto AlgeriaandthatBonnrefrainfromobject-

28. Area Handbookfor Algeria, Richard F. Nyrop et al. (WashingtonD.C.: US Government

PrintingOffice, 1972), p. 241.
29. TheMaghrebDigest, Vol. III, No. 5, (May 1965), p. 38.
30. TheMaghrebDigest Vol IV, No 5, p. 39.
31. TheMaghrebDigest Vol IV, No 5, p. 39.
32. TheMaghrebDigest Vol IV, No 5, p. 40.
33. TheMaghrebDigest Vol IV, No 5, p. 40.

ing to Algeria'sentryto the CommonMarket.4
Algeria'sapproachto West Germanyremainedmoderateeven afterthe crisis.
WhenBonn suppliedIsraelarmsin lieu of reparations,whichit pledgedto pay Holocaust survivors,Directorof the PoliticalAffairsDepartmentin the AlgerianForeign
MinistryMouloudKassemcomplainedmildly.And whenaskedby foreignjournalists
to explainthathis counwhy Algeriadid not recognizeIsrael,he foundit appropriate
try would never do so even if all Arab states did, because Ben Gurionhad once
At the sametime,theAlgeproposedto de GaullethatAlgeriashouldbe partitioned.35
rianGovernmentcontinuedto reaffirmits unqualifiedsupportfor the Palestinians.But
such enthusiasticexpressionsof solidaritywith the Palestiniansstemmedprimarily
fromAlgeria'sdeterminationnot to remainin the marginsof MiddleEasternpolitics
and to avoid being overshadowedby Egypt.In a statement,which he made afterhis
of AfricanUnity'smeetingof foreignministersin Nairobi,
in the springof 1965, Bouteflikasaid thattheAlgerianGovernmentwas committedto
the liberationof Palestineno less thanEgyptor Syria.36
Supportingthe Palestinianstrugglefor nationhoodseemedto fit very well into
the regime'srevolutionaryphilosophy.Addressinga mass rally on March20, 1965,
Ben Bella said thatthe Arabswould neveracceptIsraelas afait accompli,no matter
how manyarmsit receivedfromthe imperialists.He added,thatthe imperialistswould
neverbe successfulin imposingthe "eternalexistence"of Israelon the Arabs.37Ben
Bella even wentto the extentof sayingthathe was willingto senda hundredthousand
soldiersto liberatePalestine.38Boumediennesharedthe sameopiniontowardthe Palestiniansand promisednot to deviatefrom his predecessor'spolicy.39
his hostilitytowardIsrael,Boumediennedeemedit wise to tune
downhis rhetoricwhendoing so seemedin Algeria'sinterest.Shortlypriorto his rise
to power he had a serious conflict with Ben Bella about the possible removal of
Bouteflika,his protege.Therewere speculationsthat Bouteflika'sextremelyradical
attitudetowardthe Palestinequestionmighthave causedthis disagreement.40
of the overwhelminginfluence which AmericanJewryexertedon the US Government,Boumediennesoughtto moderatethe anti-Israelistatementsof his ForeignMinister.However,the intensepan-Arabsentimentsof thatperiodcompelledhimto intensify his criticismagainstIsraelandto promotethe Palestiniancause. Israel'sassociation with SouthAfricaturnedit into an easy targetof criticismby theAlgerianregime

34. TheMaghrebDigest, Vol. IV, No. 5, p. 40.

35. Bromeley to Scrivener,PRO FO/371, 184100, VP 1022/3, March 1, 1965.
36. Ewart-Biggsto ForeignOffice, PRO FO/371, 184100, VP1022/5, March 12, 1965.
37. Hayday to Kay, PRO FO/371, 184100, VP1022/6, March 22, 1965.
38. Ben Bella's statementwas similarto numerousstatementsmadeby Libya's leaderMu'ammar
al- Qadhdafi,who on September1, 1980, proposeda unionwith Syria,threateningto enlist as a Fida'i
in Palestine,if his proposalwere rejected.In bothcases championingthe Palestiniancause fit well into
their scheme of transformingthe Middle Easternorder,in which they would become centralfigures.
Both leaderswere attemptingto challengeEgyptianhegemonyby championingthe Palestiniancause.
39. List, "Boumedienne'sRegime,"p. 155.
40. Bromeley to Scrivener,PRO FO/371, 184100, VP1022/8, June 7, 1965.

and in a debateover Apartheidon December9, 1966, the Algeriandelegateequated
Israel'spolicy to that of SouthAfrica and blamedboth for encouragingPortuguese
imperialismin Mozambique.4'
Algeria'scriticismof Israelintensifiedfurtherin the wakeof the Six Day Warof
1967.TheAlgerianpresscomparedthe warto theAlgerianrevolutionanddescribedit
as a majorstep in the Arab struggleagainstimperialism.42
Algeriasent an infantry
battalion,artillery,and about 100 MiG aircraftto the war front, but they were destroyedduringthe first stage of the war. In addition,75 T-34 and T-54/55 medium
tankswerepreparedfor shipmentto Egypt,butthe warhadalreadyended.Moreover,
on June6, Algeriaseveredits diplomaticrelationswiththe US anddid not renewthem
until 1974. Boumediennecriticizedthe subsequentcease-fireagreementwith Israel.
He arguedthatthe peacenegotiationsweredoomedto failure;thatthe violentstruggle
againstIsraelmust be total;and thatall means,includingmilitaryaction,shouldbe
utilizedagainstIsrael,regardlessof casualties.This, he said, shouldbe a protracted
warof attritionconductedmainlyby the Palestinians,butwiththe mostactivesupport
of the sisterArabstates.43
Boumedienneapplieda ThirdWorldrevolutionaryideology to the Arab-Israeli
conflict.GivenAlgeria'sexperiencein a warof liberation,thisideologyseemedappropriateat thattime. ZionismandIsraelwereregardedas agentsof imperialismandthe
Palestinianstruggle was comparedto the FLN's war of liberationagainst French
colonialism. In an interviewwith journalistEdmundGhareeb,formerFLN leader
MohammedYazidexpressedhis government'sview on the Palestinianissue. He said
that his countrywould always be readyto assist the Palestineliberationmovement
because"wefeel partof the Palestinianpeople."He addedthatanypeaceplanthatdid
wouldnotbe acceptableand
notrecognizethe Palestinians'rightto self-determination
thatthe best andmostrealisticsolutionwas to createa democraticPalestinianstate,in
whichall inhabitantswouldlive peacefully.Moreover,Yazidadmittedthathis governmenthadall alongbeen assistingthe Palestinians.He told Ghareeb:
You can stress the fact that we have trainedmany Palestiniansin the military
field, includingaviation.Some of themare known:AbuAli lyad, AbuJihad,and
Abu Sabri,who were trainedin Algeria, and hundredsof others.And we have
also trainedPalestiniansin otherfields, in the economicand industrialfields, to
preparefor the time when Palestinewill be independent.4

Followingthe Six Day War,Boumediennemet with Syrianrepresentativesto

discuss methodsby which the Arabs could increasethe terroristactivities against

41. "Statementby Shlomo Hillel in Special Committeeon Apartheid."ISA 3992/2, December9,

42. Area Handbookfor Algeria, p. 247.
43. Area Hanbook.
44. See" Interview:MohammedYazidon Algeria and the Arab-IsraeliConflict,"Journalof Palestine Studies,Vol.I, No. 2, (Winter1972), pp. 3-18.


TheFLN'sregimehadpubliclyexpressedits positionon the Palestinianquestion

in a six-pointdocumentsupportingthe resistancemovementagainstimperialismand
callingfor the liberationof Palestine.Y6
When the UN debatedthe proposalto send a fact-findingmission to the occupied territoriesin 1968, Israelrequiredthatthe missionalso examinethe conditionof
the Jews in Arabcountries.In response,the Algerianrepresentativesaid that Israel
had set conditions,whichit knew in advancewere unacceptablefor the fulfillmentof
mission.He arguedthatby doing so Israelsoughtto shirkits obligathe humanitarian
tion to accountfor the conditionsof the refugees,whichresultedfromits expansionist policies.47Yet,all along,Algerianleadersdid not lose sightof theirnationalinterests. TheAlgerianregimecontinuedto strivetowardthe restorationof its ties with the
US, which were severedafterthe Six Day War,by appearingas an honestbrokerin
disputes between Israel and the Palestinians,who resortedto hijackingaircraftin
orderto give publicityto theircause.
On July23, 1968, an IsraeliEl Al aircrafton its way fromRometo TelAviv was
hijackedby Palestiniancommandosand landedin Algeria.The IsraeliGovernment
was determinedto free the hostagesand despitestrongobjectionfromDefense MinisterMosheDayan,PrimeMinisterLevi Eshkoldecidedto deal with the Palestinians
the Palestiniancommandos.49
Its official organ,Al-Mujahid,arguedthat the seizure
of the aircraftwas justifiedsince it servedIsrael'smilitarygoals.50At the sametime,
however,theAlgerianGovernmentsoughtto appearas an honestbrokerin the deal to
release the aircraftin returnfor what it describedas a "humanitarian
Israel.The episodeendedup with Israel'sagreementto releasefifteenwoundedguerrillawarriorsfromIsraelijails.5'Indeed,thisoperationearnedAlgeriathereputationof
an arbiterin MiddleEasterndisputes52andpavedthe way for betterrelationswith the
US. Yetall alongAlgeriaallegedlyprovidedassistanceto thePalestinians.An unidentified source in Paris told the Israeli daily Ma'ariv correspondentthat Algeria was
trainingPalestiniansto hijackcivilian aircraft.Accordingto this source, an aide to
Bouteflikaacted as a liaison betweenthe AlgerianGovernmentand the Palestinians

45. Hadasto Michael, ISA, FO/3983/32, November20, 1967.

46. Jean-PaulChagnollaud,Maghrebet Palestine, (Paris:Sindbad,1977), pp.176-177.
47. MiddleEast Record,Vol. IV, (1968), Editedby Daniel Dishon, (Jerusalem:IsraelUniversities
Press, 1973), p. 115.
48. Moshe Dayan, Storyof My Life, (Jerusalem:Edanim, 1976), p. 720.
49. Israel'sChief of Staff laterrevealedthatthe IDF hadplannedto carryout a rescueoperationto
free the hostages aboardthe hijackedEl Al plane. JerusalemPost, July 6, 1977.
50. Zeev Shiff and RaphaelRothstein,Fedayeen:GuerrillasAgainst Israel, (New York:McKay,
1972), p. 132.
51. Dan Raviv andYossi Melman,EverySpy is a Prince: The CompleteHistoryof Israel's Intelligence Community,(Boston: HoughtonMifflin, 1990), pp. 176-177.
52. KameelNasr,Arab and Israeli Terrorism:The Causes and Effectsof Political Violence,19361993, (London:McFarland,1997), p. 52.

who were being trainedthere.The person'snamewas identifiedas HajAli.3 Moreover,Algeriaprovidedshelterto Palestinianswho committedacts of terrorismagainst
In the autumnof 1968, the Israelimediareportedthatthe Algerianswere training largeunitsof the PalestinianguerrillaorganizationFatahin specialbasesthroughout the country.54Similarreportsappearedlaterin the foreignmedia.Boumedienne
agreedto providemilitarytrainingto membersof the Fatahon conditionthat they
The notoriousMuhammadBoudiaof the radicalPalestinian
groupBlack Septemberwas reportedto have found refuge in Algeria. Boudia was
assassinatedby Mossad agents, who placed a bomb in his car in Parison June 28,

Boumediennecontinuedto show thathe was quiteenthusiasticaboutsupporting

the Arab cause. Priorto the October 1973 Arab-IsraeliWarhe sought to prove to
Egyptthathe was not seekingto replaceNasiras the leaderof theArabworldandthat
his sole desirewas to join the war effortagainstIsrael.Accordingto Westernintelligence sources,he helpedin coordinatingArabwar activitiesduringthe Yom Kippur
Algeriajoinedthe wareffortby sendingan armoredbrigadeandsmallerauxilforces
to Egypt.In addition,it deposited$200 million with the Soviet Union in
Boumediennewentto the extentof telling
orderto financeEgyptianarmspurchases.58
the Soviets to chargeAlgeriafor all Soviet militaryaid to the Arabs.59Nevertheless,
even Bouteflika,who was morehostileto Israelthanhis predecessor,avoidedalienating the US. Alludingto US air-liftto IsraelduringtheYomKippurWar,he once argued
that war.' He avoidedmentioningthe fact thatthe US used Portuguesebases in the
Azoresin orderto supplyarmsandequipmentto Israel.Obviously,Bouteflikafound
a more convenienttargetand blamedthe Portuguese.And what provedmore decisively thattheAlgerianregimegave priorityto nationalinterestsoverideologicalconsiderationswas the factthatit showedlittle enthusiasmin applyingthe Arabboycott's
regulationsagainstIsrael.6'It was far less riskyfor the Algerianregimeto denounce
the cease-fireagreementsarrangedby US Secretaryof StateHenryKissinger,in the
aftermathof theYomKippurWar,by sayingthat"asfar as we areconcerned,thereis

53. Ma'ariv, September22, 1970.

54. Ma'aniv,October21, 1968.
55. New Yorklimes, December31, 1968.
56. Ian Black and Benny Morris,Israel's SecretWars:A Historyof Israel's IntelligenceServices,
(New York:GroveWeidenfeld,1991), p. 275.
57. JerusalemPost, December4, 1973.
58. Lt. GeneralSaad el Shazly, Crossingthe Suez, (San Francisco:AmericanMideastResearch,
1980), p. 278.
59. JerusalemPost, November 15, 1973.
60. JerusalemPost, November20, 1973.
61. WalterHenryNelson andTerenceC.F.Prittie,TheEconomicWaragainst theJews, (New York:
RandomHouse, 1977), p. 45.

no differencebetweena Jew and an Israeli."62
Bouteflika,who servedat thattime as the Presidentof the UN GeneralAssembly
foundit less riskyto lend verbalsupportto the Palestinians,andwhenPLOChairman
YasserArafataddressedthe UN on November13, 1974, he introducedhim as the
Israelcomplainedthatat the
"commanderin chief of the PalestinianRevolution."63
therightto speak.f4WhenYugoslavia's
PresidentJosipBrozTitopaida visit to Algeriaon October1977,Boumediennejoined
him in statingthatthe only solutionto the conflictwas a totalIsraeliwithdrawalfrom
Araboccupiedlandandthe restorationof Palestinianrights.65TheAlgerianmotionin
the UN Economic and Social Council to brandIsrael racist was staved off by the
The sympatheticpronouncements
madeby theAlgerianGovernmentweremade
not only for domesticconsumptiondesignedto enhancethe popularityof the regime
in the eyes of the Algerianmasses, but also to embarrassthe Egyptians.Therewas
little wondertherefore,that when EgyptianPresidentSadatembarkedon his 1977
peace initiative with Israel, which resultedin the 1978 Camp David accords, the
Algerianswerehighlycriticalof him, sayingthathis visit to Jerusalemwas detrimental to the unity of the Arabworld.67Algeriaagreedto a numberof sanctionsagainst
Egypt and supportedthe Arab League'sdecision to sever diplomaticrelationswith
Cairo.The EgyptiandiplomatBoutrosBoutros-Ghaliwas rightto arguethattheAlgerian Government'scommitmentto the Palestiniancause had its limits. He writes,
"Algeriawantsto fight Israelto the last Egyptiansoldier...The zeal of the Algerian
brotherstowardthe Palestinianquestionis in proportionto the distancethatseparate
Algeria from Israel....The fartheraway...the greaterthe zeal."68Botrous-GhaliarguedthatAlgeriaaccusedEgyptof "sellingits soul to Americaat a timewhenAlgeria
was selling its oil to the same country."69
While it would be inaccurateto say thatthe Algerianregimedid not have
genuine sympathyfor the Palestiniancause, it would be just as hardto refute the
argumentthatthe Algerianssoughtto challengeEgypt'sleadershiprole in the Arab
worldby using the Palestiniancard.

62. JerusalemPost, august27, 1973.

63. David B. Tinnin with Dag Christensen,The Hit Team,(Boston: Little, Brown & Company,
1976), p. 226.
64. JerusalemPost, November 15, 1974.
65. "Jointcommuniqueissued on the occasion of the visit to Algeria of PresidentTito of Yugoslavia, Algiers,"October21, 1977."InternationalDocumentson Palestine, 1977, (Beirut:Institutefor
Palestine Studies, 1979), doc#168, p. 264.
66. JerusalemPost, May 13, 1978.
67. "Communiqueissued by the Councilof Ministersof Algeria statingthatthe visit of President
Sadat contradictsthe interestsand unity of the Arab people. Algiers, November20, 1977."International Documentson Palestine, 1977, doc#302, pp. 436-437.
68. Boutros Boutros-Ghali,Egypt's Road to Jerusalem:A Diplomat's Story of the Strugglefor
Peace in the MiddleEast, (London:RandomHouse, 1997), p. 264.
69. Boutros-Ghali, p. 274.


By the end of the 1970s,therewereclearindicationsthatAlgeriawas becoming
in the Steadfastness
less committedto a radicalanti-Israelipolicy andits participation
and ConfrontationFront,which opposedSadat'speace initiativewith Israel,was no
longer taken as seriously.This change occurredon February9, 1979, when Chadli
Benjedidwas electedpresidentafterthedeathof Boumedienne.UntilthenAlgeriawas
officiallycommittedto nonalignment.Boumedienne'sregimewas sympatheticto all
anti-colonialmovementsandZionismwas regardedas a tool of the imperialistpowers. Therefore,it seemedlogical to supportthe PLO.However,this sortof nonalignment was far from being genuine. Moscow bore part of the responsibility for
Boumedienne'sattitude.Anti-Zionismwas one of the methodsby whichSovietPresident Leonid Brezhenevsought to gain favor with Boumedienne.Brezhenevasked
Boumedienneto use his reputationas a mediatorin orderto create a united front
By denouncingthe
againstIsrael,which he describedas the "treacherous
West,Algeriafound itself close to the Soviet Union, from which it did not seem to
benefit much.Nor was the communistideology popularin Algeria.Friendshipwith
the Soviet Union appealedto Boumediennelargelydue to Moscow'sreputationas a
leaderof all anti-colonialmovements.
UnderBenjedid,Algeria aspiredto a more genuineform of nonalignment.It
became increasinglyactive in meetingsof organizationsattendedby Westerncountries.
Moreover,Algeriabeganto act as an honestbrokerin complicatedpoliticalaffairsin an attemptto win Westernsupport.In January1981,Algeria'srepresentatives
negotiatedthe release of 52 Americanhostages who were held in Iran for fifteen
months.In October1981, Algeria was one of fourteendevelopingcountrieswhich
met in Cancun,Mexico, to discuss economic matters.Algeriandelegates attended
similarmeetings,which latertook place in New Delhi and in Belgrade.At the same
time, Algeria'srelationswith Egypthad graduallyimproved,especiallyafterSadat's
1981 assassination.Algeriaalso supportedthe Fez Plan,adoptedat a meetingof Arab
representativesin 1982.71This meeting was significantlymore moderatethan the
previousones. Althoughit called upon Israelto withdrawfrom the occupiedterritories andto dismantleits settlementsin the occupiedterritories,it implicitlyrecognized
Israel'srightto exist.Algeria'sForeignMinisterwas a memberof theArabdelegation,
which made its way to Washingtonto discussthe plan. In addition,Algeriaactedas
mediatorin the Lebanesecivil war.Algeria's more moderateattitudeimprovedits
standingin the US and the commercialdealingsinvolvingthe sale of naturalgas increasedconsiderably.Benjedid'sregimehad demonstratedgreatersensitivityto US

70. "Messageto HawariBoumedien,(October9, 1973). By LeonidL. Brezhnev,TheIsraeli-Arab

Reader:A DocumentaryHistory Of the MiddleEast, WalterLaqueurand BarryRubin,(Eds.), (New
York:Facts on File, 1985), p. 461.
71. An Algeriancommuniquestatedthat"Algeriaremainsreadyandfirmlyin favorof unitedaction
on the basis of the Fez declaration."JerusalemPost, May 19, 1983.

mediationeffortsin the Arab-Israeliconflict, and its anti-Israelirhetoricdiminished
On his visit to Washingtonin April 1985, Benjedidsaid that his countrywelcomed any initiativewhich could bringpeace to the MiddleEast, but statedthatthe
Palestinianissue mustbe addressedin this context.72The negotiationsbetweenIsrael
and the Arabs,he said, should be direct and based on SecurityCouncil Resolution
242, which calls for the exchangeof land for peace.73Benjedid'spledge to support
SecurityCouncil Resolution242 stood in sharpcontrastto the joint communique
issued eight years earlierby Algeria and PLO's official spokesman'Abdal-Muhsin
Abu Mayzar,who visitedAlgeriain February1977. In thatcommunique,both sides
statedthatthey "affirmedtheirpositionof rejectingthe SecurityCouncilResolution
242, whichobliteratesthefixed nationalrightsof thePalestinianspeoplein theirhomeland, Palestineand emphasizedthatthis resolutiondoes not representeithera workable or a just or an acceptablebasis for the solutionof the Palestineproblem,whichis
the veryessenceof theArab-Zionistconflictin theMiddleEast."74
in Algeria'spolicy was inextricablytied to Benjedid'spolicy of rapprochement
the West and the "perestroika" in Algeria's foreign policy orientation.
Commentingon the prospectsof betterrelationswith Algeria, formerDeputy
Defense MinisterShimonPeres once said thatcountriesand people live longerthan
their rulers,and that there is no need to supposethat improvementin the bilateral
relationswas an unrealisticexpectation.He arguedthat severalof the FLN leaders
showedfriendshipand respectfor Israel,but thatBoumedienne'sregimesuppressed
such voices.75
New YorkTimescorrespondentJudithMiller once noted, that unlikethe Iranians, the Algeriansdid not tend to blame Israel for their misfortunes.She writes "I
made a mentalnote of the unusualreferenceto the radicalIslamists'Little SatanIsrael.Algerianstendedless thanotherIslamiststo blameIsraelfor theirwoes. There
wereso manyotherconvenientvillainsat homeandin nearbyFrance."76Besides,the
Algerianswere awareof the influenceof IsraeliandJewishelementson the formulationof US foreignpolicy.As YazidtoldGhareeb,"Withall duerespectto theAmerican

72. Benjedid'sreluctanceto lose the Palestiniancard,which gave his regimemuch prestigein the
Arab world, persisted despite his liberalizationprogram.There is little wonder, therefore,that he
continuedto provideshelterand assistanceto Palestiniancommandoswho were on sabotagemissions
to Israel.JerusalemPost, August 29, 1985.
73. "Review of the Visit of PresidentBenjedid of Algeria: Transcriptof a White House Press
Briefing,April 17, 1985 (Extract)."AmericanForeignPolicy CurrentDocuments1985, (Department
of State, Washington,1986), p. 534.
74. "Jointcommuniqueissued on the occasion of the visit to Algeria of PLO spokesmanAbd alMuhsin Abu Mayzar,Algiers, February21, 1977,"InternationalDocumentson Palestine, 1977, p.
75. Shimon Peres, David's Sling, (New York:RandomHouse, 1970), p. 288.
76. JudithMiller, God Has Ninety-NineNames: Reportingfrom A MilitantMiddle East, (New
York:Simon & Schuster,1996), p. 189.

peopleI feel thatthe Israelipresencethereis very strongandplays a determiningrole
in US


Moreover, Algerians were fully aware of Israel's expertise in science

and technologyand the benefitswhich normalizationwith Israelcould bringto their

country.Why thendid they not immediatelyfollow in the steps of Morocco,Tunisia,
andothercountries,whichdecidedto normalizetheirties with Israel?A close look at
the domesticpoliticalscenecouldclarifythe causeof theAlgerianregime'sobstinacy.
The reasonsfor Algeria'sinabilityto come to termswith the JewishState are
inextricablytied to the inertiaof domesticpolitics,whichstifledthe growthof democracy,increasedthe popularityof the FIS andleft the militaryin controlof the government.FornearlythirtyyearsAlgeriawas controlledby the FLN in a most authoritarian fashion. The fightersfor Algeria's freedomestablisheda regime committedto
socialismandrevolution.Resistanceto imperialismloomedlargein the FLN'sforeign
policy andthe commonrhetoricequatingimperialismwith ZionismandIsraelplayed
a majorrole in the party'sideology.TheFLN'sregimeremainedlargelyinflexibleand
thus failed to adjustto the needs of the modem world.Attemptingto live up to its
reputationas the championof all revolutionarymovements,and the Palestiniansin
particular,the regimeseveredits diplomaticrelationswith the US, which it regarded
as an imperialistpowerthatused Israelas a tool in an attemptto suppressthe Arab
masses. But when the regime'srevenuesfrom hydrocarbonsufferedin 1974, it was
forcedto ignoreits principlesandembarkedon an effortto mendfences with Washington.
The FLN'sregimeestablishedan enormousbureaucratic
no longer be supportedwhen oil prices plummetedduringthe mid-1980s. The attemptsmade by Benjedidto liberalizethe economyresultedin sharprise in prices.
Corruptionincreasedand very few benefitedfrom the new opportunities,which resulted from the liberalizationof the Algerianeconomy.Supportedby the FLN, the
andthe army,the regimeeffectivelysuppressedall political
parties.And what made mattersworse was the lack of culturalunity manifestedby
the mix of Arab,Berber,andFrenchelements.The regime'sinabilityto finda remedy
to the pressingdomesticproblemsresultedin angerthatled to a declinein its popularity andto the spreadof militantIslam.
The dramaticchangeswhichoccurredduringthe mid-1980s,which manifested
on the one handandin the
themselvesin the revivalof free tradeanddemocratization
andcommunismon the other,stood in sharpcontrast
bankruptcyof authoritarianism
to theAlgerianregime'spoliticalagendaandforeignpolicyorientation.Thesituationat
the end of the 1980s, as John Entelis put it, was that "therewas an enormousgap
betweenrevolutionaryrhetoricandthe oppressivenatureof Algeria'sdomesticpolitical economic order.Fundamentalchange was requiredin both nationaland foreign
policy spheresto reestablisha congruencethatmost people would find credible."78

77. MohammedYazid's Interview,p. 15.

78. JohnP.Entelis,"Islam,Democracy,andthe State:The Reemergenceof AuthoritarianPolitics in
Algeria,"Islamismand Secularismin NorthAfrica,JohnRuedy (Ed.), (London:Macmillan,1994), p.

Shortlyafterhis rise to power,Benjedidhad embarkedon substantialreforms
designedto move the countrytowarddemocracy.The FLN was separatedfrom the
state, and the militarywas neutralized.However,by October1988, domesticconditionsin Algeriawereaggravatedto a pointwherethe alreadyunpopularFLNcouldno
longermaintainin control.At thatpoint,it seemedas if Algeriamightbe on its way to
democracy.Benjedid'sreformsprovidedthe necessaryingredientsfor a workable
democracy,and even a new constitutionwas introducedin February1989. These
changes,as Entelisnoted, had an impacton the country'sofficial politicalideology,
"butit also signaleda formalbreakwiththeideologicalfoundationof its foreignpolicy
orientation,based as it was on militantcollective self-relianceamong ThirdWorld
states organizedalong socialist principlesof redestributivejustice, collectivization,
nationalization,global cartelization,andWestern'paybacks'for past practicesof colonial exploitationand pauperization."79
Nevertheless,despitethe emergenceof new
partiesand organizations,the FIS was far betterin generatingsupportfor it aims. Its
political agendawas attractivebecauseit was tied to Algerianpopularand political
culture.The FIS embracedAlgeriannationalism,Islamicidentity,revolutionaryheritage, and ethnicdiversity.Therefore,it won the electionsof June 1990. However,on
January11, 1992therewas a coup againstBenjedid.Martiallaw was declared,andon
March4, 1992 the FIS was dissolved.
Benjedid'sreformsweakenedthe FLN and usheredin a periodof greater
democracyand openness in foreign policy. However,this process was interrupted
and thus slowed down the openness to the West and the normalizationof relations
with Israel.The riots of October1988 broughtmartiallaw and causedthe deathof
many FIS' sympathizersand therebygave greaterpopularityto thatparty.The FIS
managedto remainpopulardue to its grassrootsactivitiesthroughoutthe country.In
mosquesandlocal gatheringsFIS' representatives
spokein the nameof Islamictradition, criticizedthe government'scorruptionand its associationwith the West.
Despitethe effortsof the military-backed
governmentandthe formaldissolution of the FIS in March 1992, that partyremainedthe most powerfuland most
popularoppositiongroup,even afterthe arrestof its leaders,Ali BelhajandAbbassi
Madani.Boudiaf'sassassinationin June 1992 was a clear testimonyto the powerof
the Islamic establishmentin Algeria's highest militarycommandstructure.80
was little wondertherefore,thatthe authoritarian
regime,which disbandedthe FIS,
would be sensitive to criticismfrom its Islamic rivals and would thereforerefrain
fromopen associationwith the Westandwith Israelin particular.The inabilityof the
Algerian leaders to embarkon such a daringcourse of action as grantingofficial
recognitionto the Stateof Israelwas reinforcedby the fact thatthe legitimacyof the
regimelackedsolid foundations.Whereasthe Moroccanmonarchywas alwaysiden-

79. JohnP.Entelis,"Islam,Democracy,andthe State:The Reemergenceof AuthoritarianPolitics in

Algeria,"Islamismand Secularismin NorthAfrica, JohnRuedy (Ed.), (London:Macmillan,1994), p.
80. John P. Entelis, "Islam,Democracy,and the State:The Reemergenceof AuthoritarianPolitics
in Algeria,"p. 243.

tified with ProphetMuhammadand the King enjoyed a uniquereligious aura,the
legitimacyof the Algerianleadershipwas basedsolely on the FLN'srole in Algeria's
war of liberationagainstFrenchcolonialrule.The fact thatthe religiouspartieswere
left out of the politicalgame madeit easierfor the FIS to claim thatthe regimewas
Unwillingto be exposedto such criticism,the Algerianregimekept a
low profilein its ties with the US andavoideda dialoguewith Israel.
The pragmatictendencyof the Algerianregime had clearly manifesteditself
duringthe 1991 GulfWar,whenthe Algerianmediacondemnedthe US-led coalition,
which in its view was designed to supportIsrael's aggressionin the region. Press
editorialsaccusedwhat they regardedas a double-standard
US policy in the Middle
East,arguingthatthe demandthatIraqwithdrawfromKuwaithadto be accompanied
by a similardemandthatIsraelwithdrawfromAraboccupiedland.Tornbetweenthe
need to maintainnormalrelationswith the US and to preventthe FIS from gaining
greaterpopularity,Benjedidwas compelledto criticizethe US. However,he resisted
the demandmadeby the FIS to open militarycampsin orderto trainsoldierswilling
to fightfor the Iraqicause.Benjedidwishedto appearin the eyes of Americanofficials
as an honestbrokerin the conflict.He laterindicatedthathe triedto convincePresident GeorgeH.W. Bush to agree to hold an internationalconferenceto discuss the
Arab-Israeliconflict in returnfor Iraqiconsentto withdrawfrom Kuwait.82
Algeria'sattitudetowardIsraelimprovedsomewhatafterthe autonomyaccord
with the Palestinians,but the tension did not subside.In the summerof 1991, the
EgyptianpaperMisr al-Qanahhad reportedthatthe EgyptianGovernmentreceived
informationregardingan Israeliplan to destroythe Algeriannuclearreactorin Ain
Ousseara.83Such reportskept the AlgerianGovernmenthostile to Israel.The main
reasonfor the hostility,however,remainedthe Palestinianissue. OnAugust28, 1991,
Algeria'sForeignMinister,LakhdarBrahimi,told Le Figarothatthe only stumbling
block on the way to normalizationof relationswith Israelwas the Palestinianquestion.He drewa parallelbetweenIsraelandSouthAfrica,saying,"Wewantto see a De
Klerkin TelAviv."84
Algeria'seconomicwoes forcedit to moderateits standon the Palestinianissue
and when US Secretaryof State JamesA. Baker III visited the countryin August
1991, Benjedidgave him assurancethat he would supportthe Middle East peace

In the springof 1993, RadioAlgiers blamedthe Mossadand the JewishB'nai

B'rithorganizationfor supplyingweaponsto Algerianterrorists.86
81. Mary-JaneDeeb, "Islamand the State in Algeria and Morocco:A DialecticalModel,"Ruedy,
Ed. Islamismand Secularismin NorthAfrica, p. 286.
82. Bruce Maddy-Weitzman,"InterArabRelations,"MiddleEast ContemporarySurvey,Vol. XV,
(1991), Ami Ayalon (Ed.), (Boulder,CO: WestviewPress, 1993), p. 168, note number4.
83. Algiers Radio Broadcastin Arabic.July 2, 1991. FBIS-NES-91-128,July 3, 1991.
84. Le Figaro, (Paris),August 28, 1991.
85. JamesA. Baker,III with ThomasM. Defrank,ThePolitics of Diplomacy:Revolution,Warand
Peace 1989-1992, (New York:G.P. Putnam'sSons, 1995), p. 497.
86. Algiers, Radio Broadcastin Arabic,May 9,1993. FBIS-NES-93-089,May 11, 1993.

onset of the Israeli-Palestinian
dialoguetriggereda positiveresponsefromAlgiers.A
communiquepublishedon September12, 1993, statedthat"Inwelcomingthis event,
Algeriaexpressesthe hopethatthe Israeli-Palestinian
agreementwill be the firststage
in resolvingthe whole conflictin the MiddleEast."87
AlthoughAlgeria'scriticismof Israelhad significantlyabated,rapprochement
with Israelremaineda remotepossibilityduringthe 1990s. When the dialoguebetweenIsraelandthe Palestiniansstalled,AlgeriablamedIsrael,calleduponits leaders
to complywith UN resolutionsandreaffirmedits supportfor the Palestinianpeople.88
In May 1994, Yasir 'Arafatvisited AlgerianPresidentLiamineZeroual.'Arafatwas
receivedcordiallyandwas referredto as the "Presidentof the Stateof Palestine,"and
in turn,he praisedAlgeria'scontinuedsupportfor the Palestiniancause.89Suchstatements discouragedIsraeli ForeignMinistryofficials, who after witnessingthe tremendouspopularityof the Islamicmilitantpartiesbecamequitepessimisticaboutthe
prospectsof betterrelationswith Algeria. And when the 53-nationConferenceon
Securityand Cooperationin Europemet in Budapestin early December 1994, to
discuss the formationof a Mediterranean
securitygroup,an IsraeliForeignMinistry
official said with resignationthat"Algeriais a muchmorecomplicatedproblemthan
otherNorthAfricancountries."He added,"TheAlgeriansare very temptedby a re.but it looks as thoughwe have a few more years of growing
gional arrangement..
to deal with."90
In February1995, there were reportsthatAlgeria was aboutto participatein
joint navalmaneuverswith Israeland otherArabstatesin the Mediterranean.
A Foreign Ministryofficialin Algeriadeniedthe reportsandquestionedthe motivesof those
whom he blamedfor spreading"unfoundedallegations."9'
Accordingto the Algerian
newspaperAl-Watan,of June3, 1995, Peres was said to have had an interviewwith
TaiebBelghich, in which he said thatIsraelhad made secretcontactswith Algerian
officials,but regrettedthatAlgeriahad alwaysdeniedthatcontactswere ever made.
He said,"Ifail to understandwhy,buttheAlgerianGovernmenthas constantlydenied
thata secretmeetingwith Israeliofficials has takenplace. I regretthis and I wonder
why Morocco,TunisiaandEgyptopenlyadmittheirties with IsraelandAlgeriadoes
not."WhenaskedwhetherIsraelsuppliedUzi submachinegunsto Islamicfundamentalists in Algeria,Peresflatly deniedthe accusation.92
deniedthattherewere secretcontactsbetweenthe two countriessaying, "in view of

87. Africa ResearchBulletin,(Septemberlst-30th 1993), p.11167. At the same time, the Algerian
IslamicSalvationFrontjoined Egypt'sIslamicJihad,Lebanon'sHizbullah,andthe PalestinianHamas
in an Islamic conference held in Khartoumon December 2nd-41, where they totally rejected the
agreement.Africa ResearchBulletin,Vol. 30, No. 12, (December lst-31st, 1993). pp.11251-11252.
88. Algiers Radio Broadcastin Arabic,March 1, 1993. FBIS-NES-93-039,March2, 1993.
89. Algiers Radio Broadcastin Arabic,May 31, 1994. SWB. ME/2012 MED/13, June 2, 1994.
90. John Battersby,"Algeria:Islamic Militants ThreatenMore Than This N. African Nation,"
ChristianScience Monitor,December27, 1994.
91. Algiers Radio Broadcastin Arabic.February20, 1995. FBIS-NES-95-034,February21, 1995.
92. Davar, (Tel Aviv), Hamodia, (Tel Aviv), June 5, 1995.

these fabrications,the ForeignMinistryagainoffers a categoricaldenialand stresses
that there have been no contactsbetweenAlgerianand Israeliofficials."93
Yet such
reportsabout cooperationbetween the two countriespersisted.By the mid-1990s
observersestimatedthat in 1995 Algeria exported$600 million worthof goods to
Nevertheless,Algeria'sposition towardthe peace process remainedcool. ZeroualjoinedEgyptianPresidentHusniMubarakin insistingthatIsrael
sign the NuclearNon ProliferationTreaty.Both leaderssaid thatonly a total Israeli
withdrawalfromArablandandthe establishmentof a PalestinianstatewithJerusalem
as its capitalwere the acceptablesolutionto the Palestinianissue.95
The officialstatementof theAlgerianForeignMinistrytowardthe Oslo II agreement,in September1995, was that"Algeriaconsidersthe agreementa step aimedat
achievingthe constantnationalrightsof the Palestinianpeople,particularly
in establishingtheirindependentstatewithHolyJerusalemas its capital."Butas MaryJaneDeeb observed,this statementwas not very supportiveof the Oslo II agreement
becauseit was not madeby an Algerianheadof stateor by a ForeignMinister.Moreover,the statementdid not mentionIsraelat all and it focusedon Jerusalem,despite
the fact thatJerusalemwas not a partof the negotiations.In short,this statementwas
madenot for Israelbut for the Palestinians.96
A new eraappearedto have dawnedon the bilateralrelationsas the centurywas
drawingto a close. Reportsthat Israel was negotiatingan agreementto purchase
naturalgas in Algeriaweredeniedby Israeliofficials,in July 1998.97Whatseemedto
be a breakthroughin the bilateralrelationsoccurredwhen Ehud Barakmet [now
President]Bouteflikaat King HasanII's funeralin July 1999. Bouteflikatold Barak
thathe was willing to assist Israelin the mediationprocess.98Israeliofficialsreacted
with astonishmentand were encouragedby Bouteflika'sattitude.ForeignMinister
David Levy said thatthe meetingwas a significantstep in Israel'sacceptanceby the
Arabworld.99However,the reactionin Algeriawas mixed.Chairmanof the Algerian
NationalReformMovement,ShaykhSaadJabullahcondemnedthe meeting,saying
thatit representeda retreatfromAlgeria'spositionon the Arab-Israeliconflict, and
thatthe AlgerianGovernmentshouldavoid normalizationwith Israel,unless it with93. ParisAFP RadioBroadcastin English,June3, 1995;Algiers Radiobroadcastin Arabic,June4,
1995. FBIS-NES-95-107,June 5, 1995.
94. Samuel Segev, Crossing the Jordan: Israel's Hard Road to Peace, (New York:St. Martin's
Press, 1998), p. 6.
95. CairoMENA Radio Broadcastin Arabic,June 25, 1995. FBIS-NES-95-122,June 26, 1995.
96. Mary-JaneDeeb, "NorthAfrica in the Nineties: Moving Toward Stability?"in Robert 0.
Freedman,(Ed.), TheMiddleEastand thePeace Process: TheImpactof the OsloAccords,(Gainesville:
University Press of Florida, 1998), pp. 305-306.
97. JerusalemPost, July 6, 1998.
98. "Bouteflikameets with IsraeliPrimeMinister,"Regional-Israel,Politics, July 26, 1999.
99. "Levy:Bouteflika-Barakhandshakewas positive for acceptanceof Israel,"
Algeria-Israel,Politics, July 30, 1999.

drawsfrom all occupiedterritoriesandagreesto restorePalestinianrights.Suleiman
Shanin,a memberof the PeacefulSociety Movement,recommendedthatthe Shura
Council hold an emergencymeeting, to debate the issue and that a referendumbe
held.AhmadTalebal-Ibrahimiof theAl-Wafamovementarguedthatthe meetingwas
prematureandthatit had no benefitfor Algeriaas long as Israelcontinuesto occupy
Arablandandrefusesto recognizethe rightsof the Palestinianpeople.AnotherAlgerianParliamentmember,JalloulJoudifromthe LaborParty,expressedsurpriseat the
speed in which Bouteflikadecidedto normalizerelationswith Israel,sayingthatthe
meeting contradictedAlgeria's conditionsthat Israel must withdrawfrom all Arab
landandrestorePalestinianrights.But therewere moderatevoices as well. A spokesmanforAlgeria'sAl-Tajdid(renewal)Partyreactedby sayingthatthe meetingproved
to the internationalcommunitythatBouteflikawas readyto open Algeria'sthinking
andliberateit fromtaboos.Similarly,Ali Meimouni,a memberof the politicalbureau
of the AlgerianNationalLiberationFront,describedthe meetingas encouragingbecause it enabledAlgeria to fulfill a constructiverole in the Middle East peace process. 100
Seekingto wardoff criticismfromthe oppositionparties,Bouteflikasaid, "Algeriawill notestablishrelationswithIsraeluntilafterits withdrawalfromall occupied
Arabterritoriesandits honoringof therightsof thePalestinianpeopleto establishtheir
own independentstate."'01
And in his speech at the Councilof ForeignRelationsin
New Yorkon September21, 1999, he said, "Algeriashall act for the withdrawalfrom
all Araboccupiedterritoriesandfor the respectof the legitimaterightsof the Palestinian people."'02Nevertheless,he was not willingto abandonthe normalization
and continuedto speakof his meetingwith Barakas a turningpoint in the bilateral
In a statementto the Algeriandaily Al-Watan,DeputyForeignMinisterNawaf
MasalhasaidthatBouteflika'smeetingwithBarakeliminatedall disputesbetweenthe
two countries.He expressedhis convictionthat his country'srelationswith Israel
would become normalonce Israel establishedpeace with Syria, Lebanon,and the
Bouteflikawas reportedto havesaidthatAlgeriawouldestablishdiplomaticrelationswith Israelbut only afterit withdrewfromsouthernLebanon,andthe
GolanHeightsandallowedthe establishmentof an independentPalestinianstate."0"
Meanwhile,Israeliofficials had revealedthatlower-levelmeetingsbetweenIsraelisandAlgerianshadtakenplacepriorto Barak'smeetingwithBouteflika.Meetings
100. "Algerianreactions to Bouteflika-Barakmeeting,"Algeria, Politics, July 28, 1999. http://
101. "Bouteflika:We will not establishties with Israel,"Algeria, Politics, August 25, 1999. http:ll
102. "Statementof His Excellency Abdelaziz Bouteflika Presidentof the People's Democratic
Republic of Algeria at the Council of Foreign Relations New York, 21 September 1999," http://
103. "On Israeli-Algerian Relations,"Algeria-Israel Politics, September 22, 1999. http://
104. "Bouteflikaand Israel,"Algeria, Politics, October2, 1999.

of professionalsin a varietyof scientificandentrepreneurial
fields hadtakenplace in
foreign countries,and Algeriannews reportersarrivedin Israel. In October 1999,
Bouteflikawas reportedto have pledgedto establishlow-level diplomaticrelations
with IsraelafterOmanand Qatarreturnedthe diplomatsthey withdrewfrom Israel
following BinyaminNetanyahu'srise to powerin Israel.Accordingto press reports,
Bouteflikahad made such a promiseto Israel'sForeignMinisterDavid Levy during
the UN GeneralAssemblyopeningin New Yorkin September1999. Israelisources
toldMonteCarloradiothatan Israelidelegationof expertsin tradeandindustrywould
be visiting Algeria within two monthsand that the process of normalizationwould
startby economic cooperationbetweenthe two countries.'05
Algeria's move triggeredan angryresponsefrom the radicalArab states and
most of all from the Palestinians.Reactingto Bouteflika'sstatements,a spokesman
for Fatahsaid thatAlgeria'snew orientationwas "a stab to the Arab standand its
forces which rejectthe normalizationprocess."'06
At the same time, the resistancein
Algeriaintensifiedconsiderably.In November1999, a groupof Algeriandignitaries
decisionto establishdiplomaticrelations
with Israel and called upon the Arab League to stop the normalizationprocess.'07
Nevertheless,it seemedthatthe momentumof the Israeli-Algerian
stop. In May 2000, Algeria'sParliamentSpeakerBachirBoumazatold the leadersof
the Jewishcommunityin ParisthatBouteflika'srecentoverturesto Israelreflecteda
consensusof the Algerianpeople.'08Encouragedby Algeria'spositiveremarks,Levy
told the JerusalemPost thatthe bilateralrelationswere "changingand growingrapidly."'09Algeria'smove did not remainrhetorical.Steps to increasecooperationbetween the two countrieswere underwayin the summerof 2000. In July of thatyear,
the FrenchnewspaperL'Expressreportedthattherewas a close cooperationbetween
IsraelandAlgeriaon methodsof fightingterrorism.Algeriawas also reportedto have
received medicinesfrom Israel."' IsraelisourcesstatedthatBouteflikahimself had
asked for Israeliaid in counterterrorismand in traininghis bodyguard."'However,
the moodin Algeriaremaineddefiant.Morethana hundredAlgerianintellectualscon105. "Israeli delegation to visit Algeria," Algeria, Politics, October 25, 1999. http://
106. "FathdenouncedAlgerianPresident'sstatementsover Israel,"Algeria, Politics, October26,
107. "Algerian,Palestiniancondemnationof Mauritania'sdiplomaticrelationswith Israel,"Algeria-Palestine, Politics, November 4, 1999.
108. "Algerianofficial meets FrenchJewishleaders,"May 17, 2000.
109. JerusalemPost, July 27, August25, September10, andOctober13, 1999;June 15, 18, and27,
110. "OncooperationbetweenAlgeriaandIsrael,"Algeria-Israel,Economics,July 17, 2000. http:/
111. YediotAharonot,(Tel Aviv), March 15, 2000.

demnedthe visit of Algerianjournaliststo Israel,sayingthatthe visit hadno justification as long as Israelcontinuedits occupationof Arabland."2
The beginningof the Al-Aqsa Intifada,in the autumnof 2000, presentedthe
Algerianregimewitha seriousdilemma.Bouteflikawas in no positionto proceedwith
the normalizationprocesswithoutregardto the eventsin Gazaandthe WestBank.In
October2000, Bouteflikadecided to help the Palestinianvictims of the Intifada.A
medicalteamandtwo planesloadedwith medicineandmedicalequipmentwere sent
to the occupiedterritories.Accordingto the Algeriannews agency,"thisstep came
dueto thedecisionof theAlgerianPresidentAbdel-AzizBouteflikawithinthesolidarity
with the Palestinianpeople who endurebravelyto confrontthe Israeliforces in the
occupied Palestinianlands."(sic)"3At a meetingof the Organizationof the Islamic
Conferenceheld in Doha, Qatar,on November12-13, 2000, Bouteflikasaid:
It is regrettableto see that the spilling of Palestinian blood is necessary to
bring the internationalcommunityand those who have direct responsibilityin
the Middle East peace process to the realizationthat there will not be peace in
this region as long as the Palestinianpeople cannotexercise its inalienableand
legitimaterights, which include its right to self-determinationand the restoration of its national state with Jerusalemas its capital. In addition, a durable
peace could not be materializedwithoutrecognitionof the inalienableright of
Syria and Lebanonto recover their occupied territories.14

However,despitethese declarationsof solidarityfor the Arabcause Bouteflika

was still reluctantto let the outbreakof the Al-AqsaIntifadainterruptthe normalization process.Accordingly,the AlgerianInteriorMinistrywas instructedto impose a
banon pro-Palestinian
by the oppositionparties.TheInteriorMinistry
issueda statementprohibitingpublicmarches,allowingdemonstrations
in closedplaces
An Israelischolarcommentedon Bouteflika'sattemptsto suppressthe expression of solidaritytowardthe Palestinians,saying, "Interestingly,
AbdelAziz Bouteflikagave cold shoulderto Arafat,andpopularexpressionsof supportfor the Palestinianswere discouragedin Algiers.""6
112. "Algerianintellectualscondemnthe visit made counterpartsto Israel,"Algeria-Algeria,Politics, July 10, 2000.
113. "Algerianmedical aids to Palestinians,"Algeria-Palestine,Politics, October 12, 2000. http://
12, 2002.
114. "La Palestine au coeur: Discours prononce'devant le 9e sommet de l'OCI tenu a Doha
(Qatar),[Palestineat the Heart:Address to the 9th OCI Summit in Doha].
115. "Algeria bans demonstrationby opposition parties in support of Palestinians,"AlgeriaPalestine, Politics, October 13, 2000.
116. Bruce Maddy-Wetzman,"The Arab World and the Al-Aqsa Intifada,"Tel Aviv Notes: An
Update on Political and Strategic Developments in the Midde East, Mark A. Heller (Ed.), No. 4
(November23, 2000), p. 2.

Algeria'srestraintwas largelymotivatedby its desireto improverelationswith
the US. In November2001, Bouteflikavisited Washington,wherehe met President
George W. Bush and expressedfull supportfor the US anti-terroristcampaignin
Bouteflika'stourwas aimedat obtainingWashington'said to helphis
countryout of its economiccrisis.Reactingto pressureby criticswho arguedthathis
with Washington,he
recentpolicy shift stemmedfrom his desirefor rapprochement
categoricallydeniedthathis attemptsto normalizerelationswith Israelwere tied to
The pressureon Bouteflika intensifiedfurtherwhen the Intifadareachedits
crescendoin the springof 2002, afterIsraelinvadedthe occupiedterritoriesin retaliation for the killing of Israelicitizens by Palestiniansuicide bombers.The Algerian
its solidaritywith the Palestiniansand the governmentfelt obliged to respondto a
Palestinianrequestfor financialassistance,and,like Egypt,it donated$30 million."I9
The public sentimentin Algeria remainedoverwhelminglypro-Palestinian,and the
presswas repletewith editorialsdenouncingIsrael.In April2002, Israelwas severely
criticizedfor its retaliatoryaction in the Palestinianrefugeecamp of Jenin and the
Reactingto the arrestof Marwan
confinementof Arafatin his Ramallahheadquarters.
Berghouti,leaderof a Palestinianmilitantgroupaccusedby Israelof planningthe
suicide bombings,an Algeriananalystsaid that Israel was playing a double game;
proposinga regionalconferenceto end the violence while continuingto carryout its
militaryoperationsin Palestiniancities, whichclaimedmanyPalestinianlives. He argued thatthe IsraelDefense Forceswent afterBarghoutias if the killingof hundreds
of Palestiniansin Jenin'srefugeecampandthe arrestof some 4,000 otherswere not
enoughfor Israel'sPrimeMinisterAriel Sharonto fulfill the promiseshe madeto his
Not only was Sharona targetof a fierce
electorateand to increasehis popularity.'20
one editorial,the writersaidtheAlgerian
attackby the press,
Governmentwas anxiousto mendfences with the US andthereforedecidedto warm
up to Israel.Such policy,he said,was meantto serveAlgeria'sgovernmentbutnot its

This essay surveyedthe course of Algerian-Israelirelationsfrom the war of
Algerianindependenceto the present.Its mainargumentis thatAlgeriadid not come
to termswithIsrael,bothdue to the FLN'sideologyandto domesticinstability,which
1 7. WashingtonPost, November6, 2001; Washingtonlimes, November6, 2001.
Al-AhramWeeklyOnline,July 19-25,2001.
118."Bouteflikagoes aid-hunting,"
119. Jordan Times,(Amman),March 12, 2002.
120. Ani Djaad,"Sharon'sSoldieryArrestMarwanBerghoutiin Ramallah,"La Tribune,(Algiers),
April 16, 2002.
121.NordeanAbouBadisAl-Jazairi,"AlgeriaandIsraelHell or Paradise,"http://www.geocities.coml
CapitolHilllLobby/8324/Alg-Isrl.html,April 26, 2002.

gave rise to militantIslamicparties.The Algerianshad always equatedtheirwar of
liberationagainstthe Frenchwith the Palestinianwar againstthe Zionists.'22In some
ways,Algeria'spolicytowardthe Palestinianswas similarto thatof Libya,in thatboth
fashionedideologies that would enable them to alter the statusquo. This explains
Algeria'ssupportfor the Palestiniansandits decisionto severits diplomaticrelations
with the US. However,pragmatismprevailedfromthe late 1960s onwards,when the
Algerianeconomylost the US marketfor hydrocarbons.
reestablishdiplomaticrelationswith the US in 1974. Yet, the AlgerianGovernment
was reluctantto relinquishits pro-Palestinestand,which providedjustificationto its
revolutionaryideology.123This explainsits readinessto host the meetingof the first
Palestineparliamentin 1983 andthe 1988 meetingin whichthe Palestiniansdeclared
their statehood.
Algeria'ssupportfor the Palestiniansdid not earnit handsomedividends,butthe
Palestiniansseemed to have benefitedsignificantlyfrom it. The FLN's accomplishmentsagainstthe Frenchservedas an exampleto the Palestinians,who drewa parallel betweenAlgeria'swaragainstthe Frenchimperialadministration
againstthe Israelioccupiers.As Abu lyad had noted, "ThePalestinianyouth sensed
that they were not inferiorto theirAlgerianbrothersand that they were capableof
unfurlingthe bannerof armedstruggleand carryingit out."124
As it turnedout, however,the PLOdid not turninto a revolutionaryforce envisagedby FLN leaders.The
historianR. StephenHumphreyshas rightfullyargued,thatit is "profoundlyironic"
thatAlgeria and Palestinebecamethe hotbedsof Islamicmilitancy,consideringthe
fact that both the FLN and the PLO were highly influencedby nationalliberation
ideologies,which originatedfrom the ThirdWorld.125
The decline of the FLN, the openness to the West, and the democratization
processinitiatedby Benjedidcouldhaveled to increasedpragmatismandeventuallyto
betterrelationswith Israelduringthe early 1990s. However,the fact thatthe process
was interruptedand thatmilitantIslamicpartiescame into prominenceslowed down
the normalizationwith Israel.The immensepopularityof the FIS did not allow the
regimeto embarkon a new foreignpolicy aimedat quickfence mendingwith Israel,
particularlysince manyFIS memberswere enthusiasticsupportersof the Palestinian
cause. For example,FIS' chief representativein the US and Europe,AnwarHaddam
was highlyimpressedby the Intifada,whichin his opinionusheredin a new periodin
the historyof the Palestinianpeople by transformingtheirmentality.He told Joyce
Davis that "in Palestine,therehad been deep work withinthe populationfor having
122. MartinStone, TheAgony of Algeria, (New York:ColumbiaUniversityPress, 1997), p. 230.
123. When Prime Minister Shimon Peres met Algeria's Foreign MinisterTalib Ibrahimiat the
funeralof Sweden'sPrimeMinisterOlof Palme,theAlgerianForeignMinistrydeniedthatthe meeting
ever took place and expressed sympathy for the Palestinian people against "the Zionist enemy."
JerusalemPost, March 17, 1986.
124. Cited in Shaul Mishal, The PLO underArafat:Between Gun and Olive, (New Haven:Yale
University Press, 1986), pp. 4-5.
125. R. Stephen Humphreys,Between Memoryand Desire: The Middle East in TroubledAge,
(Berkeley:Universityof CaliforniaPress, 1999), pp. 195-196.

this intifadato changethe mind of the people."126
Nevertheless,the Algerianregime
showed willingness to accept the peace process, and the commercialdealing with
Israelincreased.Barak'smeetingwith Bouteflikawas an encouragingsign;however,
the beginningof theAl-AqsaIntifadaandIsrael'sreactionto it compelledtheAlgerian
regimeto exercisemorecaution.It wouldbe difficultfor the Algerianregimeto deal
with Israelin an overtfashionbeforethe establishmentof an independentPalestinian
state.And even then,recognitionof the Stateof Israelby Algeriawill remainriskyas
long as the Islamicmilitantpartiesenjoyimmensepopularity.

126. Joyce M. Davis, BetweenJihad and Islam:Profiles in Islam, (New York:St. Martin's Press,
1999), p. 66.