Statement to the Knesset by Prime Minister Begin
on the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty
(March 20, 1979)
On March 19, 1979, the Israeli cabinet confirmed the text of the treaty with its annexes. The next day, the Prime Minister presented the accord to the Knesset and asked for its endorsement. In a lengthy and highly detailed review of the events that resulted in the agreement, Mr. Begin asked for an overwhelming majority. Text:
The past few days have brought up to that stage, to the blessed hour at which I am able to stand before the Members of the Knesset and recommend to them to approve a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.
The start of these processes was in an Israeli "no" - absolute, justified, unavoidable. I received an invitation from the President of the United States to come to Camp David in order to hold what was termed a "summit" meeting with Dr. Khalil, Egypt's Prime Minister. I suggested to the Cabinet to make a courteous reply to the US President that unfortunately, I could not accept this invitation. The problem was not one of prestige. And as regards Dr. Khalil himself, I met him in Jerusalem during Sadat's visit: he is a very likable man, and I would gladly meet with him.
However, there is a difference in the standing of the Prime Minister of Egypt and of the Prime Minister of Israel. To clarify this constitutional issue, let us look, for instance, at the United States of America. In the US, the President is both head of state and head of the government. Here, the President is head of the state, as is stated in the first article of Basic Law: The President. Is he head of the executive branch? The answer is no. Why? Because the first article of the Basic Law: The Government states: "The Government is the executive authority of the State." While the person who holds the title and fulfills the task of prime minister is, as stated, "head of the executive authority." In Egypt, the head of the executive authority is, certainly, President Sadat, while the Prime Minister is appointed by him, and swears allegiance to him. The President of Egypt may dismiss his Prime Minister just as he appointed him. There is a difference in the standings.
Nonetheless, we would not have taken this difference into consideration. There was no question of honor, or of prestige here - but the question of whether such a meeting would serve the interests of peace, or adversely affect them. We had absolutely no doubt that if I were to take part in this kind of quasi-summit meeting, not only would we not promote the matter of peace, but we would do it harm. Why? Because at that time we already knew what the latest proposals were submitted by Egypt - and which the US supported - as our Foreign Minister received them at Camp David. (Later, I shall cite the content of the two gravest proposals submitted to us.) Of course, our Foreign Minister stated that these are not acceptable to Israel.
What could I have done had I come to this tripartite meeting? I would have said, with all due respect to the US President and to the Egyptian Premier, Dr. Khalil, that these proposals are not acceptable to Israel and therefore the conference would have ended as it began - perhaps within an hour. And Dr. Khalil would have said, if that is the case, I am going back to Cairo: and I would have replied, with all due respect and in all sincerity. In that case I am going back to Jerusalem. And what would have happened then? Who would have met with whom, then? Would President Sadat have agreed to meet with the Foreign Minister, or the Defence Minister, in order to conduct negotiations with him? Would President Sadat then have agreed to meet with me? Of course not. That is: we would have reached a stage of two "noes" and to a postponement for an indefinite period of the entire peace-making process.
Therefore, with the concurrence of the Government, I informed the President of the US, with all the respect accruing, that I could not accept his invitation to come and meet with Dr. Khalil, and with him. On the other hand, I said I was definitely ready, at any time convenient to the President of the US, to come to Washington in. order to hold talks with him on the problems of the region and on the peace process.
The President phoned me that day in the afternoon, to request that I come to the US that same week. I would have preferred to come the following Monday - but the press reports to the effect that the President told me, "Come at once," and issued me a call-up order, as it were: these reports are totally baseless. This is not the style in which the US President speaks with anyone, including the Prime Minister of Israel. We address each other in mutual respect and as free men. If we agree, we are happy; if we have differences of opinion we do not hide them. And this is not how the President spoke with me. But he did explain to me that he had a certain timetable: and certainly this is so, since he is the President of the US, and I not only could, but was obliged to take into consideration his timetable. Therefore we agreed that I would come to the US following an extraordinary Cabinet session, and would arrive there on Thursday (of the same week).
At Camp David II, as I already noted, two documents were submitted to us of which there could not be graver. One had to do with Article 6 of the treaty of peace between Israel and Egypt. To grasp the full import of this matter, I would like to cite to the Members of the House the full text of Article 6(2) and 6(5), which both I and the Foreign Minister have described - in my view, justly - the soul of the agreement. Article 6(2) states:
"The Parties undertake to fulfill in good faith their obligations under this Treaty, without regard to action or inaction of any other party and independently of any instrument external to this Treaty."
Article 6(5) states: "Subject to Article 103 of the United Nations Charter. In the event of a conflict between the obligations of the Parties under the present Treaty and any of their other obligations, the obligations under the Treaty will be binding and implemented."
I admit that to the ear of anyone who has not studied law, this sounds complicated. But it is very simple, as I shall shortly explain. These two paragraphs are the soul of the treaty. The former paragraph asserts that the treaty will continue to prevail even if Syria is obdurate in its refusal to join the peace process. And who can compel it to join? Me? President Sadat? All of us know what the Syrians are saying today - and not only about Israel, but also about Egypt and its President. Can the US compel Damascus to join the peace process? In all frankness, I told the President of the US: with all your strength, not only can you not compel Syria to come to the negotiating table - you won't be able to compel even Jordan to do so. And this even though it is you who supply Jordan with their last bullet. That is the actual situation. And were it not this paragraph, everything would seem to be dependent upon the will, decision or caprice of President Assad or King Hussein. And then, at a certain moment, one or another ruler of Egypt, one or another Egyptian government, could say that because no comprehensive agreement has been attained which takes in both Syria and Jordan, it is declaring the agreement null and void. Therefore we wrote, explicitly, that the peace treaty would be "without regard to action or inaction of any other party" in the Middle East.
Article 6(5) is a question of war and peace. What does is state? We are signing a peace treaty with Egypt. But Egypt is signatory to dozens of agreements with Arab states. We are signatory to no agreement with any country. We stand alone. The truth is that when I said this to the President of the US when I was in Washington, he asked me if I would favour a mutual American-Israeli agreement. I replied in the affirmative. And then I stated publicly that if the US should take the initiative, and propose to Israel a mutual pact, I would definitely recommend that the Cabinet accept it. But the initiative cannot come from the small state. It must come from the great power. So - we will wait. But the fact is that we stand alone. Throughout the years we have had no defence pact or security pact with any country whatsoever. On the other hand, Egypt has signed dozens of such agreements with Israel's most brutal enemies, including Libya, including Iraq. The Egyptian-Iraqi agreement states that its aim is "the liberation of Palestine" - and I need not explain to the members of the Knesset that these words have but one meaning: the annihilation of the State of Israel. For only then can what they call "the liberation of Palestine" be achieved.
So we said, You have such treaties, they are liable to conflict with the peace treaty, let us state that if such a conflict arises what will be binding is, clearly, the treaty of peace, that commitments will be according to this treaty, otherwise it is meaningless. Let us say that Syria attacks Israel - and I explained this to the US President without any hesitation then Israel will defend itself. But it is well known that the problem is not just one of good strategy, but of survival itself: Israel defends itself by means of counterattack. If attacked, it launches a counterattack. It has no other way. It cannot defend Tel Aviv, or Jaffa, or Netanya - absolutely not - because then it would already have its back to the sea. For the sake of life itself, if we have already chosen life, we must always be ready, if attacked, to transfer the war at once to enemy territory, and launch a counterattack.
Therefore I told the President of the US: let us assume that Syria attacks us, and we would then launch a counterattack - of this there can be no doubt - in the Yom Kippur War we carried out such a counterattack, and we were within 40 kms of Damascus: I myself saw the outskirts of Damascus with an unaided eye from a certain point we reached - and in such a counterattack as we carried out against the Syrians we could get to ten kms from Damascus, or even less. Absolutely. Yes. It's possible. And then what would Damascus do? It would call Cairo, and say: 'You have signed a mutual defence pact with us. Come and save us. How can you help us? Attack Israel, and so divert the Israeli troops from the northern front to the southern front.' And even though we have signed a peace treaty, perhaps after a few years - no nation lives on borrowed time - at a certain moment we could face a war both in the north and in the south, both with a country which has not signed a peace treaty with us and continues to be in a state of war with us, and with a country which has signed a peace treaty with us, whose first article says that the state of war between us has terminated, and we are establishing full peace between the two countries.
Therefore Article 6(5), like 6(2), both of them are so important. But at Camp David, the Foreign Minister received from the American delegation, with the consent or the initiative of the Egyptian delegation - certainly with its enthusiastic agreement - the following proposal concerning Article 6(2) and 6(5): 'The directives of Article 6 shall not be interpreted contrary to the fact that this treaty is being signed in the context of a comprehensive peace settlement in accordance with the Framework for Peace agreed on in Camp David.' And then it went on: 'The commitments contained in the treaty shall be subject to the single sole priority determined in Article 103 of the United States Charter, and nothing in the treaty shall detract from the principle or recognize any other priority.' (NOTE: The words in single quotation marks are an unofficial translation. - Trans.)
The meaning of this interpretive note is that neither 6(2) nor 6(5) has any meaning at all. On the contrary: in fact, according to this interpretive note, had we signed it, as we were urged to at Camp David 11, we would have knowingly permitted violation of the peace treaty and nullification of Article 6(5) and 6(2). And we would have made pacts which Egypt has signed with many Arab states superior to the peace treaty. This, because we signed the peace treaty after these pacts were signed, and we knew their contents. Nor is this just a formal question of the Vienna Convention on international agreements. This is a clear case of a question of the contents. We well knew -"volenti non fit injuria" - and nonetheless we signed that interpretive note, so that it would be those which would be honored and implemented, and the peace treaty would rank below them. Thus, Article 6(2) and 6(5) would be meaningless. It was for this reason that our Foreign Minister replied with an absolute "no" to this proposal: we shall not sign any such interpretive note.
The second document submitted to the Foreign Minister at Camp David by the American delegation, with the Egyptians' consent and initiative - certainly with their knowledge - was what is called the joint letter. This is a letter which is to be signed by President Sadat and myself, and addressed to the President of the US. I shall read the letter. (I beg your indulgence for five minutes, but these are matters of such import that it is incumbent upon the Knesset Members to be acquainted thoroughly with all the documents.) The following is the text of the draft submitted to the Foreign Minister at Camp David, on 25 February 1979 - and this was the seventh draft submitted to us, and worse than all its predecessors, to wit:
'This letter approves an agreement between Egypt and Israel, as follows: The Governments of Egypt and Israel recall that at Camp David they agreed to the two attached documents, bearing the titles, Framework for Peace in the Middle East, and Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel, and which were signed at the White House on September 17, 1978. In order to attain a comprehensive peace settlement, according to the frameworks noted above, Israel and Egypt, which sign this letter upon the signing of the peace treaty, shall move to implement the directives for the establishment of the self-governing authority with full autonomy for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They have agreed to open negotiations within a month, following exchange of the instruments of ratification of the peace treaty, in accordance with the Framework for Peace in the Middle East. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is invited to join the negotiations. The delegations of Egypt and of Jordan will be able to include Palestinian Arabs from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, or other Palestinian Arabs as agreed on mutually. Egypt confirms its readiness to assume Jordan's role, should the latter decide not to take part in the negotiations. The aim of the negotiations shall be to work out the modalities for the establishment of the self-governing authorities to be elected in free elections, and to define its powers and responsibilities, prior to the elections, in accordance with the Framework for Peace in the Middle East, and to agree on them. The two Governments agree to negotiate continuously and in good faith in order to conclude these negotiations expeditiously. They also agree that the goal of the negotiations is the establishment of the self-governing authority with full autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza. In order to facilitate this process, they are ready to commence implementation of the Framework for Peace in the Middle East in the Gaza Strip. In that event, the invitation to Jordan and to the Palestinian Arabs, as mentioned above, would remain open, so that they might participate in the continued application of the self-governing authority, with the changed agreed upon. Egypt will appoint liaison officers in the Gaza Strip from the commencement of the negotiations. Egypt and Israel set themselves the goal of completing the negotiations so that the elections may take place within a year of the start of these negotiations. The self-governing authority shall be established, perhaps initially in the Gaza Strip, within one month of its election. When the self-governing authority is established and inaugurated, the five-year transition period mentioned in the Framework for Peace in the Middle East shall begin' (that is, from the introduction of the autonomy regime in Gaza alone: it is from then that the five-year period will begin to be counted). 'The Israeli Military Government and civilian administration will withdraw, so as to be replaced by the self-governing authority, as specified in the Framework for Peace in the Middle East. There will be withdrawal of Israeli armed forces and redeployment of the remaining Israeli forces in defined security areas. This letter also confirms our understanding that the United States Government shall fully participate in all stages of the negotiations.' (NOTE: The words in single quotation marks are an unofficial translation. -Trans.)
When we received this document from the Foreign Minister - who of course replied with an absolute "no" as regards the possibility of its acceptance - we, the Foreign Ministry's legal adviser, Dr. Rosenne, and myself, found seven salient deviations from the Camp David agreement in the letter I have just read out, and matters concerning which we did not even conceive of giving our agreement or signing to them. These violations were as follows:
1. The Camp David agreement makes no distinction between Gaza and Judea & Samaria. Negotiations are to be held between Israel, Jordan and Egypt, or instituting the autonomy regime in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The letter constitutes a deviation.
2. We never agreed that Egypt should replace Jordan. I shall explain to the House what we did agree to. In the Camp David agreement it is stated, written and signed - and we shall always honor our signature - that Israel, Jordan and Egypt will conduct the negotiations on the autonomy regime arrangements. Jordan is not participating. Prima facie, we could say that we shall wait until Jordan agrees to take part, since that is what is written. We did not say this. We conceived the autonomy idea in full faith that it is a fine Jewish, Zionist idea, and we want to realize this idea. Therefore, to demonstrate arrangements, we said: 'Let us write to each other: even though Jordan is not participating, we, Israel and Egypt, agree to conduct the negotiations between ourselves, without Jordan. Thus we demonstrate that we did not and will not look for any excuses so as to supposedly sidestep the negotiations on the autonomy arrangements and on its introduction in practice. Jordan is not taking part: we regret this. Should it one day decide to join, good; and if not, we shall conduct the negotiations with Egypt alone. But this (Egyptian) letter does not say this. It states that Egypt will assume Jordan's role." - and to this we never gave our consent. Egypt cannot assume Jordan's role. Egypt cannot give us peace to the east. Therefore we did not agree to this distortion, and we drew the attention of the US President to this particular deviation.
3. The Camp David agreement makes absolutely no mention of any Egyptian liaison office or liaison officer in Gaza. This was never spoken of at Camp David last September, it was never agreed to, it was never even mentioned. What in the world? What right does Egypt have to set up a liaison office in the Gaza Strip? What is the Gaza Strip? Part of Eretz Israel. In 1948 Egypt launched aggression and invasion into Eretz Israel a land not belonging to it - and captured a part of it, called the Gaza Strip, and held on to this part of Eretz Israel in occupation for 19 years. What right, what standing does it have in the Gaza Strip? We never agreed to any liaison office or to any liaison officers.
4. The Camp David agreement makes no mention of any target date. Whereas this letter states that the autonomy regime will be instituted within one year. We never gave our agreement to such a date - neither at Camp David nor at the New York airport, where we met with the Secretary of State - and the Cabinet decided unanimously that Israel will not agree to any target date. Let me explain why: A year, it could be said, is a long time. Why should we not agree to this? Our answer - as we also explained to the US President in Washington - is as follows: Should there be any fixed target date for introducing the autonomy regime, this date itself will nullify it. Why? Because the murderers organization called the PLO will know exactly when to perpetrate there all its terrorism and intimidation so there will be neither candidates nor voters. And we have proof that it has already commenced such acts of intimidation - all the more so if it knows, say, that another three months are left to election day, another three months for the candidates to register. How terrible! - what it would be capable of doing then with the residents of Ramallah or of Bethlehem. And it would be enough if it murdered three persons so not one candidate would be left, or another five persons - and they are capable of murdering five Arabs: this is no secret. Then there would be no more candidates and no more voters, and the autonomy regime would be deferred indefinitely.
(After several interjections by the Members from the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, the Prime Minister stated:) I want to say to the Communist MKs today that the US President is not today sitting on the platform, and I shall today reply to these interjections as they deserve.
(Interjection: Don't threaten us!)
Premier. I am not threatening. I want to say that no Communist-Stalinist will dare preach to us!... You foreign agent!... You think we don't remember your past deeds. You Muftist!
(Interjection by Knesset Member Meir Wilner, of the DFPE: You are a fascist! You defend the murder of pupils!)
Premier. Mr. Wilner, you were the admiring slave of Stalin, of Brezhnev, of Malinkov...
(Interjection by a Member for the DFPE: The IZL conducted negotiations with Mussolini, Hitler's ally!)
Premier. You think this is the special session with President Carter, eh? (Following more interjections:) The brazenness of foreign agents whom we permit to sit in this House!
MK Wilner. You proposed bases to the Americans! You are selling Israel to the Americans. You are an American slave!
(Many interjections concerning the right to make interjections.)
(Interjection by MK Shoshana Arbelli-Almoslino, of the Alignment: Mr. Speaker, may I remark to the Prime Minister that he should not employ inappropriate expressions in a parliamentary forum?)
(Interjection: This after he has been told "you are murderers?!")
Premier. MK Shoshana Arbelli, I am also a Knesset Member, and you know that I have been in this House for 30 years, and I know how to restrain myself. But there is a limit to arrogance from this side of the House. They will preach to us!
(At this point, the Speaker, having called MK Tewfiq Toubi, of the DFPE to order three times, exercised his right under the Knesset rules and regulations and, following a vote, asked MK Toubi to leave the hall.)
(The Speaker stated that he was employing Article 62(b) of the Knesset regulations, by which no Knesset Member was permitted to speak without asking permission of the Speaker, even when a speaker was on the platform. An MK may ask a question with the permission of the Speaker.)
(Interjection: We may call out interjections-)
Premier. Absolutely. I agree. If you make a proper interjection, I shall reply to it respectfully. You know that I am capable of this. But what they tried to do was to prevent me from speaking in this House. In the Supreme Soviet they wouldn't behave like that...
5) Another deviation from the Camp David agreement is expressed in the words, "full autonomy to the West Bank and Gaza District." This is not stated in the Camp David agreement. It states "full autonomy to the inhabitants." And these are two different worlds. I can assure the Knesset that we would never have signed the Camp David agreement had the words in the letter submitted to the Foreign Minister appeared there. We agreed to give autonomy to the Arab residents in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. To the Arab residents, full autonomy; whereas the term "to the inhabitants" was erased from this letter.
6) Yet another deviation: At the time, at Camp David, we requested that following the words "self-governing authority" it be stated, in parentheses, "administrative council." The Egyptian representative argued that if this were to be stated in parentheses, it would mean that at every point in the document at which the self-governing authority was mentioned, it would be understood to mean that it was an administrative council. And then the Attorney General (now Justice) Dr. Barak said, on behalf of the Israeli delegation: 'That is exactly what we mean. It is an administrative council.' And great importance attaches to this. I shall explain the importance. If it is an administrative council, it is autonomy. An administrative council - made up of eleven or nine or thirteen members, holding administrative positions, to run the residents' daily affairs, in which we shall under no circumstances intervene - does not have the right to change the agreement and declare, out of the blue, what is termed a Palestinian state. We simply will not allow this. We will not agree to, allow or permit such a violation of the Camp David agreement. On the other hand, if these words be erased, as they were in this letter, then "self-governing authority" could also be taken to mean "(legislative council)" - and that is something else entirely. Therefore we insisted on the restoration of the words "administrative council", because it was this and this alone to which we agreed.
7) Another deviation: In all the drafts of this letter we wrote, "and other related issues" - referring, of course, to Israeli security, because there is a clause in the Camp David agreement which states that all measures will be taken in order to afford Israel and its neighbours - security for the five years and beyond - so that in the negotiations we would have to raise all the entire matter of internal and external security in Judea, Samaria and Gaza upon institution of the autonomy regime.
Seven salient deviations from the Camp David agreement. I may inform the Knesset that two days after I had given this explanation to the US President and his aides and advisers, a member of the American delegation told us the argument was just and the President accepted it in toto.
We continued our discussions in Washington. The talks between the President and myself - between just the two of us alone - lasted five hours; and the two delegations sat for another seven hours, all told. And we explained why we would under no circumstances be able to accept this interpretive note to 6(2) and 6(5), as these documents were submitted to our Foreign Minister at Camp David II.
Sunday arrived. I had previously been invited to ABC, to appear on their "Issues and Answers" program. Of course I agreed to be interviewed. On the Saturday evening I spoke in private for two hours with the US President. There was no change in the situation. I want to relate something piquant concerning that Sunday interview. I was asked tough questions. I was interviewed by a man who at the time moderated the entire program, produced by ABC, concerning the murderers organization called the PLO. So one can imagine that he has a certain attitude towards the State of Israel, and so he put some difficult questions to me, but in our time, on TV, this is the norm and one must accept it. I replied as best I could. At the end he asked me - no more and no less - "Tell me, Mr. Prime Minister, why are you here at all?" And I, very astonished, said to him that I had never heard such a strange question. I'll tell you why I'm here - you invited me." So he said: "You are speaking to the American people above the head of the Government of the United States?" Well, really, I said, "You barraged my office in Jerusalem with telegrams asking me to be interviewed on this program. You looked for Barbara Walters throughout Europe. You did not find her because she was in Morocco, looking for the Shah in order to interview him. So you are taking her place. You are asking me questions and I am answering you. And after all this, you ask me why I am here..."
I wish to make a very important statement here, in order to clarify the situation between Israel and the United States. The United States is a completely free nation, and the TV stations there can invite anyone they please, and if it is an interview, he replies, of course, to these questions. And I did not even imagine that I was speaking to the American people above the head of the US Government - and this is my statement - comes to the State of Israel, and he will want to be interviewed over TV, and to speak against the policy of the State of Israel, not only will we allow him to do so, I am certain that our TV station will do so with especial delight. Of this there is no doubt. So would the Secretary of State please take note: he will no doubt be paying us a visit soon. Should he want to go to Israel TV in order to attack the Government of Israel and its policy: as he wishes.
On that Sunday, at 2 p.m., the Israeli delegation was invited to the White House for another meeting with the President and his advisers. And then, for the first time, there came a very fundamental shift in the situation as I have described it so far. The President opened the meeting, saying that they had had a serious discussion of the issues, and he asked the Secretary of State to present to us the new proposals. These were the proposals of the President of the US as stated by the Secretary of State:
With regard to Article 6(5) the American delegation suggested to the Israeli delegation that it be stated: "It is agreed by the parties that there is no assertion that this treaty prevails over other treaties or agreements... The foregoing does not derogate from the provisions of Article 6(5) of the Treaty, which reads as follows:" - And he then read out verbatim the text of Article 6(5), which I have earlier read out here. On the spot I proposed an amendment to the Secretary of State's proposal: "If you are proposing that it be stated that this treaty has no priority over other treaties, then add the reverse as well." He accepted the proposal at once. So that the agreed Israeli-American proposal on this issue was: "It is agreed by the parties that there is no assertion that this Treaty prevails over other treaties or agreements or that other treaties or agreements prevail over this Treaty." And then came the rest, as I quoted it above.
Thus I gave my agreement, and I recommended to the Cabinet that it accept the new formulation and I shall explain why below.
With regard to Article 6(2) the American proposal - on Sunday at 2 p.m. - was: "The provisions of Article 6 shall not be construed in contradiction to the provisions of the Framework for Peace in the Middle East agreed at Camp David." I suggested an amendment and I said to the Secretary of State: "What you wrote concerning 6(5), you should write also with respect to 6(2), that is: "The foregoing does not derogate from the provisions of Article 6(2) of the Treaty, which reads as follows: "And then just to repeat verbatim the text of 6(2) as I read it out earlier here. The Secretary of State accepted this proposal as well. And then we had a complete proposal concerning Article 6(2) and 6(5).
What, then, is the significance of these interpretations? They restore the content of Article 6(2) and 6(5) to its full meaning, respect and implementation when the time comes. There is absolutely no doubt of this. Therefore it was with a quiet heart that I was able to recommend to the Cabinet that it accept this formulation, and the Cabinet approved it.
Against this background I must say at once that following the US President's visit to Cairo, he returned - with respect to these two paragraphs, which had been agreed by the American and Israeli delegations alike - with two changes. Instead of "does not derogate" - "is not inconsistent." And as regards 6(2) a sentence was added following the words "agreed on at Camp David," which obligates a "comprehensive peace settlement in the Middle East" etc.
When we here, in the meeting between the American and the Israeli delegations, read this proposal for changes, we said we would not be able to accept them. With regard to Article 6(5), "is not inconsistent", was tantamount to a return to the earlier interpretive note. That is: it is the first part which is binding, so that the second part - i.e., 6(5) - is annulled. We could not agree to this. We were told, "But it is difficult for Sadat to accept the term 'does not derogate'." - This is so typical, because for some months - both at home and abroad we were told that we were, allegedly, dealing with words, playing with legal definitions. So I asked the US President: "One word - why should Sadat say that this word is unacceptable to him? After all, it's just a word. You agreed to it, I agreed to it. The Secretary of State proposed it. I gave my consent. There is full agreement between the US and Israel - only Sadat says that this word doesn't please him, and you're already suggesting that we switch it with words which totally nullify the meaning of Article 6(5)." Just look at how much attention is paid to one word - and how! So we did not accept this new American proposal - which was, of course, agreed with the Egyptians.
We looked for an out. We wanted a way out. I think we found it. If a synonym can be found which doesn't change the content, we said, we will sear our brains to seek out such words, in order to reach an agreement which we want with all our heart, in order to bring peace, which we desire with all our soul. So we all made an intellectual effort, at the end of which we found the appropriate words. Instead of "does not derogate" and instead of "is not inconsistent," we wrote: "is not to be construed (upon the suggestion of the Attorney General Prof. Zamir) as contravening Article 6(5) which reads as follows..." This was a formulation which we could definitely accept, without any doubt, and once more I may say that on the basis of this formulation, Article 6(2) and 6(5) were restored to their full meaning in the peace treaty. On the other hand, we insisted on the erasure of the addendum concerning the "comprehensive peace settlement."
The American delegation told us that they would find it very hard to convince President Sadat to agree to this erasure. We told them: "Give it a try. After all, this is why you have come to the Middle East - in order to convince. So try to convince him." I may tell the Knesset that in the telephone conversation between President Carter - from Cairo and myself, he informed me that President Sadat had accepted this erasure, so that both paragraphs, as I read them, are now agreed by Israel, the US and Egypt, and they do not adversely affect by even one iota, in their content or meaning, the peace treaty.
Now I shall turn to the document entitled the "joint letter". From Cairo, in the wake of the talks we had held in Washington, the US President brought us a new formulation of the letter. He took into account our arguments. I shall read out the text as it was brought to us from Cairo:
'This letter confirms that Egypt and Israel have agreed as follows: The Governments of Egypt and Israel recall that at Camp David they concluded the two annexed documents entitles "A Framework for Peace in the Middle East" and "Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel" and that they signed them at the White House on September 17, 1978. For the purpose of achieving a comprehensive peace settlement in accordance with the above-mentioned Frameworks, Egypt and Israel, who are signing this letter, will, upon the signing of the peace treaty, proceed with the implementation of those provisions relating to the establishment of the self-governing authority with full autonomy for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They have agreed to start negotiations within a month after the exchange of the instruments of ratification of the peace treaty. In accordance with the "Framework for Peace in the Middle East," the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is invited to join the negotiations. The delegations of Egypt and Jordan may include Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip or other Palestinians as mutually agreed...' (NOTE: The words within single quotation marks are an unofficial translation. -Trans.)
(Interjection by MK Uri Avneri, of Shelli: Does it not read "Palestinian Arabs"?)
Premier. No. It says "Palestinians." We exchanged letters with the US President and asserted in those letters that at every point where "Palestinians" are mentioned, the State of Israel says "Palestinian Arabs," and, in Hebrew, "Araviyei Eretz Yisrael."
(Interjection: But you said it was the English version which was binding.)
(Interjection by MK Avneri: Mr. Prime Minister, does that alter their essence?)
Premier. You have asked, and I have replied, with all due respect.
(Interjection by MK Yossi Sarid, of the Alignment: You have stated that it is the English version which is binding, have you not?)
Premier. The letters are also binding. What are they written for? What I have stated is so, but the letter between myself and the US President has meaning - yes or no? But I must beg the Knesset's indulgence: I erred in the selection of the second document. It is identical to the first document, and that was why I stopped reading it. I don't have the second document here in my file.
I beg your pardon for this hitch. But I may inform the Knesset Members that the second document contains all the amendments that I proposed in Washington to the President and the Secretary of State. For example, the word "inhabitants" was restored, etc. But some very grave things remained in it, in that version: the target date remained -one year for the introduction of the autonomy regime - there remained the liaison officers in Gaza, and the notion of having the autonomy regime commence in Gaza. So obviously we objected also to these deviations from the Camp David agreement. As regards the Egyptian liaison officers, I have already explained this earlier.
Following all these discussions, we agreed to a different version of the letter. It is here before me. It is important, and I shall read it, because Egypt has now given its agreement to this letter and it is agreed to now by all three delegations:
"This letter confirms that Egypt and Israel have agreed as follows: The Governments of Egypt and Israel recall that they concluded at Camp David and signed at the White House on September 17, 1978, the annexed documents entitled 'A Framework for Peace in the Middle East Agreed at Camp David' and 'Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel.' For the purpose of achieving a comprehensive peace settlement in accordance with the above-mentioned Frameworks, Egypt and Israel will proceed with the implementation of those provisions relating to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They have agreed to open
"For the purpose of achieving a comprehensive peace settlement in accordance with the above-mentioned Frameworks, Egypt and Israel will proceed with the implementation of those provisions relating to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They have agreed to start negotiations within a month after the exchange of the instruments of ratification of the peace treaty. In accordance with the Framework for Peace in the Middle East" the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is invited to join the negotiations. The delegations of Egypt and Jordan may include Palestinian Arabs from the West Bank or other Palestinian Arabs as mutually agreed. The purpose of the negotiations shall be to agree, prior to the elections, on the modalities for establishing the elected self-governing authority (Administrative Council), define its powers and responsibilities, and agree upon other related issues. In the event Jordan decides not to take part in the negotiations, the negotiations will be held by Israel and Egypt.
"The two Governments agree to negotiate continuously and in good faith to conclude these negotiations at the earliest possible date. They also agree that the objective of the negotiations is the establishment of the self-governing authority in the West Bank and Gaza in order to provide full autonomy to the inhabitants.
"Egypt and Israel set for themselves the goal of completing the negotiations within one year so that the elections will be held as expeditiously as possible after agreement has been reached between the Parties."
Some words of explanation: There is no more target date for the institution of the autonomy regime. The negotiations are to go on for a year. They will begin one month after the exchange of instruments of ratification, and they are to continue for a year. While the elections themselves for the administrative council are to take place "as expeditiously as possible." There is no longer a target date for instituting the autonomy regime, as we demanded.
"The self-governing authority referred to in the 'Framework for Peace in the Middle East' will be established and inaugurated within one month after it has been elected, at which time the transitional period of five years will begin."
When the autonomy regime exists in Judea, Samaria and Gaza alike - then the five-year period will begin to be counted.
"The Israeli military government and its civilian administration will be withdrawn, to be replaced by the self-governing authority, as specified in the 'Framework for Peace in the Middle East.' A withdrawal of Israeli armed forces will then take place and there will be a redeployment of the remaining Israeli forces into specified security locations.
"This letter also confirms our understanding that the United States Government will participate fully in all stages of negotiations." Signed: Mohammed Anwar El-Sadat, Menachem Begin.
There is a note below: "In each paragraph in which the expression "West Bank" appears, it is being and will be understood by the Government of Israel as Judea and Samaria."
This is the official document, to which all three delegations agreed: the Israeli, the American and the Egyptian.
(Interjection by MK Uri Avneri: I see a gap here, between the English and the Hebrew versions.)
Premier. The Knesset votes on one version in the language of the Jewish people...
(Interjection by MK Shlomo Hillel, of the Alignment: Mr. Minister, what is the binding version which you are going to sign?)
Premier. The Knesset has both the English and the Hebrew versions before it. But I think I shall be saying something straightforward which will be acceptable to all the Members: We vote on the Hebrew version, with the English version before you also. You can compare between them. - Now, what did you ask, Knesset Member Hillel?
(MK Hillel: What is the binding version, to which the Prime Minister intends to sign his name?)
Premier. I have stated that there will be three versions: Hebrew, Arabic and English. All the parties have agreed that should any problem of understanding words arise, it is the English version which will determine with regard to interpretation.
Now I am moving to another subject. After we resolved the question of Article 6(2) and 6(5), and the problem of the joint letter, to satisfaction, and the Government approved them, and the Knesset, too, will be asked to approve the peace treaty with all its annexes, including the last accompanying letter which I have just read out to you - there was a question of the exchange of ambassadors. At the time, President Sadat agreed, following the request of the US President, that one month after our withdrawal to the Ras Muhammad-El Arish line, resident ambassadors would be exchanged between Israel and Egypt. At Camp David I, one of the members of the Egyptian delegation got clever, and in one of the discussions he remarked, 'In fact, we could appoint our ambassador to Cyprus as ambassador to Israel.' This was really clever, and it gave grounds to demand that the treaty state "Ambassador resident." And the first article of Annex III states that "upon completion of the interim withdrawal, Egypt and Israel will exchange resident Ambassadors." That was what we agreed to.
However, in accordance with what was agreed between the US and Egyptian Presidents, a month was added to these nine months required for the withdrawal of our forces to the El Arish-Ras Muhammad line. And we lived with this for many months. One day, President Sadat said he was revoking his agreement to this. He explained this by saying that he had been assured, in the Blair House talks, that for the nine months there would be certain places from which he would withdraw before the end of the nine months, such as El Arish and other places as well. The Government decided, at the time, to let this possibility remain - but it also decided that it was not ready to bind itself to dates in advance. President Sadat said that for this reason, which he never knew about - that is, that there was a connection between the exchange of ambassadors and the stages of the withdrawal for the nine months - he would no longer agree to send an ambassador ten months after the exchange of the instruments of ratification, nor would he receive an Israeli ambassador.
I should like to explain to the House that this is a very serious problem. It contains symbolism and expression of the normalization of relations. In the 19th century there were authorized representatives of countries who were not necessarily ambassadors. This is not the case in our own time. The smallest country dispatches and receives an ambassador. And when the day came that the US normalized its relations with China, the two states decided to exchange ambassadors. Until then, for the past two years, there were diplomatic representatives of China in the US, and of the US in China. But relations were not yet considered to be normal. When were they thus declared? After the two countries decided to exchange ambassadors. Therefore the exchange of ambassadors as agreed - and one of those agreeing was the US President - was for us of great importance. We would commence the normalization of relations between Egypt and Israel. In Egypt there would be an Israeli ambassador, and in Israel there would be an Egyptian ambassador.
This was what the debate was all about. In Jerusalem we solved the problem. How? The Government decided that it was ready to accept the possibility - after the Defence Minister would put the proposals before the Cabinet and it agreed to them - of withdrawal stages for nine months, prior to the completion of that 3/4 of a year. After we gave our agreement, I received the following letter from the President of the US yesterday, and I confirmed its acceptance:
"Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
"I have received a letter from President Sadat that within one month after Israel completes its withdrawal to the interim line in Sinai, as provided for the Treaty of Peace between Egypt and Israel, Egypt will send a resident ambassador to Israel and will receive in Egypt a resident Israeli ambassador. I would be grateful if you will confirm that this procedure will be agreeable to the Government of Israel. Sincerely, Jimmy Carter."
Already yesterday I confirmed acceptance of this letter, and so the problem of the exchange of ambassadors was resolved.
I move now to a very serious issue, that of oil. Israel's annual oil consumption is between eight and nine million tons. This is an essential matter for us., not only so Israel's citizens will be able to drive a car and not only so that the wheels of our industry will be able to revolve - we are an industrialized state - and our workers will be able to work -but this is an essential matter for the maintenance of our entire defence system, and a word to the wise is sufficient. Here, no further detail need be added.
I want now to tell the House that the Government acted with caution concerning this important issue. Even before the revolution or the overthrow in Persia, we heard from the Shah two announcements that worried us - he was still in full control in Iran. The Shah stated publicly that if at any time the Security Council of the US should decide on an oil embargo against Israel, Persia would join that embargo. I called in our fine Energy Minister, I drew his attention to these two statements by the Shah, and I told him: "My friend, don't wait: Go and look for other sources of oil, at once.". And he went, and he searched, and he found.
Therefore, we, as you noticed, after Persia cut off its oil supply - not even one drop of oil - in the wake of the Khomeini revolution, which certain sections of the world regard as a progressive revolution: woe to the ears that hear thus - after this Khomeini revolution we did not approach the United States to ask that it implement the commitment it gave-to my predecessor, Knesset Member Rabin, in 1975, after we withdrew from Abu Rodeis. This is a very important commitment: the supply of all Israel's oil needs for five full years. We did not approach the US, and we shall do everything so we do not have to approach them, and let us hope we are successful in this. But this is a key issue.
Upon the end of nine months we are going to leave the oil wells we dug and labored over in Sinai - on the Sinai coast and in Sinai. It was for this reason that we asked Egypt to give us a commitment that it would sell us, at market prices - we asked no favors - a certain amount of oil: 2.5 million tons. Today we produce from the oil wells 1.6 million tons annually. Within three or six months we would without difficulty be able to reach a production of 2.5 million tons. And that is the amount we now need to make up our shortfall. So that was our request: an undertaking to sell us, at world market prices, 2.5 million tons. As you know, Egypt has no need for oil, and it is already today exporting oil - so that there was no injury to Egypt here, either to its standing or its economic needs.
The Egyptians did not accept our suggestion. Therefore we said that since this was a vital matter a solution had to be found for it before we were ready to bring the peace treaty for Knesset approval or to sign it. After discussions back and forth, and at the initiative of a group of Cabinet Ministers, our Foreign Minister met, on Monday night, with the Secretary of State, and put to him an idea. It cannot be said that he brought him a proposal, because there had been no Cabinet decision on this yet. But he did have full authority to put forward this idea, namely: The Egyptians would undertake to sell us oil at world market prices, with no discrimination, as with all other countries. While the US would give us a 20-year guarantee that should the need arise it would supply us with all our annual consumption. The Secretary of State said that 20 years is a very long time. They at first suggested ten years, and as usual in such cases a compromise is arrived at - and we agreed on 15 years. And it is to this that the US has now committed itself, namely: Egypt is to give us a letter which states that it will sell us oil at world market prices and without discrimination. The quantity will not be mentioned in this letter from the Egyptian Government. On the other hand, the US will give us a letter in which it will inform us that should we be short of oil, it will be ready to supply us with our full need for 15 years, as it stands today, between eight and nine million tons annually.
(Interjection by MK Tamar Eshel, of the Alignment: Do we already have the American letter?)
Premier. Not yet, but we will have it. I assure you, Mrs. Eshel, that we shall sign the peace treaty when we have the letter, and not afterward. Nor have we as yet received the letter from Egypt, and we are awaiting it.
(Interjection by MK Uri Avneri: Are the words "will entertain bids" a commitment to sell, or a commitment to consider?)
Premier. Egypt's commitment will be to sell us oil as it would to anyone who wants to buy oil from Egypt: without discrimination. That is the commitment: "As any other bidder." I shall hide nothing from the Knesset. Just as we agreed to these things, so shall I explain them.
There is another proposal by the Minister of Energy - a very important one - to ensure the amount of 2.5 million tons annually. The Members of the House will bear with me if I do not detail this proposal, because it is still in the midst of being negotiated. But the proposal is an important one. It is not related to the Egyptian Government, but what is involved is a clarification of the situation so that we can be certain that we will definitely get 2.5 million tons annually from these oil sources. But this special proposal is, as I said, still being negotiated.
Thus was the oil problem solved, according to our lights. I want to at once tell the Members that we shall do everything in our power so that we will not have to approach America on this matter: not to request the implementation of its commitment of 1975, and not the commitment it will give us in the coming days for 15 years. The commitment is a very serious one, of that there is no doubt. The United States of America is undertaking in writing to do something, before the whole world. Who is the cynic who will imagine that such a commitment will be violated? No.
The problem on the agenda is entirely different. America itself is today facing an energy crisis. The fact is that many large airlines have already today cancelled dozens of flights because of the energy shortage. The White House has dropped its temperature in a manner to set an example for the citizens of the US. And there will be more restrictions soon.
(Interjection by MK Mordechai Algrabli, of the Democratic Movement: And what about in the Prime Minister's Office?)
Premier. I'll tell you: For nine months of the year there is no need to reduce the temperature here. Thank God, we have sun in our little country. For three months there is sometimes such a need. We'll be able to make out. But I want to assure you that if the need arises to introduce such a restriction we shall not hesitate to do so, and I am certain that the citizens will understand. For this is a life-and-death matter. Why should we waste energy? We ought to use it without waste.
I noted that about ten days ago the US President held a press conference. One reporter asked: "Mr. President, in the USA there is an energy crisis - and you are going to give oil to Israel?" The President replied, honorably - and I want to express our full appreciation for this reply - by saying: "A) We shall honor our commitments. B) The entire Israeli consumption is no more than one percent of our - i.e. America's - consumption." A fine, honorable reply, which does credit to he who gave it. But we must not lose sight of the question, either. There are liable to be those in the USA who, when difficulties arise there, will say: "We have lowered the temperature at home, we cannot go out for a drive on Sunday - and we are giving oil to Israel?" And another version may also be possible, which we would not like to see. This is an important psychological matter. So we want to be certain that we are doing everything possible to get the oil from other sources. However, the American guarantee is a real guarantee - but let us not require it. We shall make these efforts. But, true, if there is no other choice, we shall approach the factor that made the commitment, and I have no doubt that it will honor its commitment.
The Prime Minister of Egypt, Dr. Khalil - a likable man, as I have already noted - a few days ago delivered a speech in which he said: "In Gaza and in the West Bank there will be a Palestinian state. Israel will withdraw to the 1967 lines. The eastern part - as he puts it, "the Arab" part - of Jerusalem will not be handed to Israel." After he made these three declarations, Dr. Khalil deigned to say that during these days, before and on the brink of the signing, it was best for all the sides to refrain from public political statements, so as not to worsen relations.
But since he made these three declarations, as Prime Minister I have no choice but to reply to them in unequivocal language - to the people of Israel, to the people of Egypt, to Saudi Arabia, where Prince Fahd yesterday made a declaration, to the USA, to the people around the world. I make these declarations, as I know the views of the Members of the Knesset, not just with the concurrence of one side of the House, but also with the concurrence of those Members sitting opposite me, and with the concurrence of those on my right. That is, the decisive majority of the Knesset, the representatives of the people.
The first declaration by Dr. Khalil, Prime Minister of Egypt: Israel will return to the lines of 4 June 1967. Dr. Khalil, I wish to inform you that Israel will never return to the lines of 4 June 1967.
Secondly, Dr. Khalil stated: the eastern part of Jerusalem will be severed from the State of Israel. Dear and distinguished Dr. Khalil, please take note: United Jerusalem - the one - is Israel's eternal capital and will never again be redivided. It will remain one for generation unto generation.
The third declaration, in reply to Dr. Khalil: Dr. Khalil, in Judea, Samaria and Gaza there will never be established a Palestinian state. One might ask me: And how do you know that? This is my answer. With the concurrence of the decisive majority of this House - we will not agree to this, we will not allow it, we will not enable it. Period.
(Interjection by MK Arbelli-Almoslino: The autonomy regime mill lead to a Palestinian state.)
Premier. The autonomy regime will not lead to a Palestinian state. It is an autonomy, not a Palestinian state... Knesset Member Arbelli Almoslino, I want to tell you, I am an old Jew, you are younger. You will yet have many years left after I am no longer around to see that there is an autonomy regime and not a Palestinian state, and so, too, your sons and your grandchildren and the generations to follow.
(Interjection by MK Meir PaT, of Shelli: Mr. old statesman, listen to a young MK: a great statesman never says
Premier. Who said I was a great statesman? Who told you that?
(Interjection by MK Uri Avneri: We will see a Palestinian state alongside Israel.)
Premier. Listen to me, both of you, the two Shelli representatives, because the matter is a serious one. I have a literary gem for you. You'll be interested in it. These words were written by Ibsen, in his drama, "The Enemy of the People." In English it has a nice ring to it: "In politics, never say never."
I accept what Ibsen said. It's correct. But what I said has nothing to do with any politics, it is a matter of our life and our survival. We want to show a fair attitude, mutual respect, to our neighbours the Palestinian Arabs. A Palestinian state is a danger to our very existence, to the country for which we have shed our blood and risked our life. And we must leave the country for our children after us! There is no force on earth which will compel us to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Which will endanger our children in Tel Aviv, which will murder our women in Petah Tikva. That has nothing to do with politics!
It is our very existence which is at stake. Do you think we will let people play with slogans when what is involved is the lives of our children? And have we had no experience? In Romema (in Jerusalem) there was a family with three little children. They were almost murdered in their cradles. And I saw the ruins of that house with my own eyes. Who those grandchildren are, I shall not say. Do you want that to be the situation? That is how things would be if an Arafat state were to be established in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. It would also be a Soviet base. Within days there would be Soviet generals and advisers in Bethlehem. Who needs it?
(Interjection by MK Uri Avneri - following a series of interjections: - Mr. Prime Minister, this issue is too important to be shrugged off with a few slogans. Perhaps the Knesset will once hold a rational debate on it?)
Premier. Submit a motion for the agenda. If you do so, if you submit a motion for the agenda concerning a debate on the Palestinian question, I shall take the floor to reply to you and I shall recommend to the Knesset that it hold a full debate on this question. Then at the end of the debate you will see how few in this House support this contemptible, dangerous idea - whose danger is not even calculable.
The Jewish people has the full right to settle in Eretz Israel. This right has been and will be maintained. I only regret that there are those among us who have been misleading the public for a full year and are denying what has been done in this sphere over the past year and a half. But let them remember what is stated in the Torah: "Keep far from a false charge." They should bear that sentence in mind. I want to say that the Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, recently decided - in an expanded forum of five Justices - that civilian settlement is part of Israel's defence system. That is a verdict of principle, a precedential one. And if anyone ever tells me that settlement in Eretz Israel is illegal, no matter who says this, I shall reply to him as follows: There are judges in Israel.
(Interjection by MK Meir Pa'il: I declare in the Knesset that that verdict was political.)
(Interjection: Don't throw stones at the Supreme Court. That is forbidden.)
(Interjection by MK Shulamit Aloni, of the Citizens Rights Movement: The courts are under scrutiny.)
Premier. Knesset Member Shulamit Aloni, how many times have you called for court verdicts to be honored? And now not? This is a judgment of the Supreme Court, in a forum of five justices. There is no appeal before this.
(Interjection by MK Aloni: We have already had political judgments. Also when Arabs are not permitted to reside in the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem. One may differ with them. Justices err.)
(Interjection by MK Yehuda Ben-Meir, of the National Religious Party: Anyone who casts doubt on the decisions of the court is committing an offence. If you did not have parliamentary immunity, you would be placed on trial.)
Premier. Mr. Speaker, just a few moments ago a very serious thing occurred: A Member of the Knesset, taking advantage of his immunity, allowed himself to say that the Supreme Court adopted a political decision. This is an extremely grave injury to the courts in Israel. The courts are completely independent, and anyone who says this is undermining the bases of democracy in Israel. I request the Speaker to convey, orally or in writing, to that Knesset Member, that he abused his immunity, in doing injury to the honor of the courts in Israel. - If the Supreme Court had handed down an opposite verdict, the Government would have carried it out.
Mr. Speaker, Member of the Knesset,
After the Knesset has given its approval - provided it gives its approval - we shall be able to sign - as we hope, next week - the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Our security problems have not yet been solved. The security of Israel remains at the centre of our concern. Even then, after we sign the Treaty of Peace between Israel and Egypt, we will have a northeastern front, and I shall explain what this means: eight armored divisions, six mechanized divisions, 15 independent brigades, 5,920 tanks, 3,320 guns, 800 fighter planes and bombers, 113 submarines, nine SCUD missile-launchers, 14 missile boats, two frigates - and there is more.
That front today will be based on Syria and Jordan, and on Lebanon which is partly occupied by Syria, and on Iraq. And perhaps also on Saudi Arabia. The Members of the House ought to know that Iraq has purchased - mainly from West Germany - one thousand tank transporters. In other words, within 48 hours four armored divisions, with their tanks, could cross the desert, reach the Golan Heights or another Israeli front.
Such a situation did not exist heretofore. Within a few years, Saudi Arabia will have the F-16. Jordan has a good army: let us admit the truth. Syria has more tanks than Egypt. Syria has 2,800 tanks; the Egyptians have between 2,200 and 2,400. That is the kind of northeastern front we will have. We will not be frightened. If attacked, we shall launch a counterattack, and the God of Israel will be our help, and we will crush our enemies and maintain our liberty and our independence. But the danger is serious.
The House must know that this does not depend on us. We want to sign a peace treaty with Syria and with Jordan and with Lebanon. It is they who are not ready today to come to the negotiating table. I shall not weary, shall not tire of calling on those three states to take part in the peace process. I think we may say: Enough of all the wars in the Middle East. What do the Arabs get out of them? Do they destroy the State of Israel - for that is the objective of this kind of war. Can they ever dream of annihilating the State of Israel. They shed their own blood in the thousands and the blood of our sons, too. The blood of their sons is the blood of human beings. Therefore do I respect and esteem it. The blood of our sons is more precious to us than anything. All these wars are for naught: they will never attain their objective. Why wage pointless wars? Why not make peace?
But I know that this call, too, for the time being will be as the voice of one calling to the wilderness. They will not come. The hour will come, it will arrive, when with them, too, we will conduct negotiations and sign peace. But in the foreseeable future I cannot say this is how things will transpire. This is a Baghdad front. This front convened in the capital of Aram-Naharayim and there there was a decision which stated explicitly: that Israel must disappear from the map. This is a front of enmity.
(Interjection by MK Uri Avneri: That is incorrect, Mr. Prime Minister. The Baghdad resolutions speak of peace with Israel ... We both read it: a just peace in the Middle East with Israel.)
Premier. You are telling me what is written there? I read every word. You also know what kind of material I read.
(Interjection by MK Avneri: Would you be so kind as to quote the sentence you have just referred to?)
Premier. Uri Avneri, it's not to your credit to defend the Baghdad Conference. After all, you are an ex-soldier of Israel's. How can you defend the Baghdad Conference? It was a Conference of hostility, of hate, which threatens also the life of President Sadat, threatens the State of Israel, works hand in hand with the PLO, with the murderers. Arafat has already threatened Sadat's life, and you are one of Sadat's friends - from your youth and you do not take this into account?
I have read the resolutions and I know what they say. Therefore I want to say that the dangers to the State of Israel have not yet passed, and we cannot yet find rest and we shall have to be on guard. And it is important that the free world hear and know what is involved, and that it strengthen the State of Israel. Yes, I shall say so, and I will not take any shouting into account: "Tua res agitur". It is the interest of the free world to strengthen the State of Israel because it is an integral part of the free world. This is a democratic state, hence a stable one. Here, no bullet will solve any problem, nor will any violent demonstration overturn established things or the Government. Stability is implanted in our democratic regime. So the free world has here a true, stable, serious ally - and one whose strength is not to be dismissed lightly in the Middle East. Therefore we will bear in mind both the danger and the measures to be taken to stand at the gate and prevent war. We do not want to win a war. We do not want it to break out in the first place. And that is how we shall act.
In conclusion, I want to explain what the Government has decided, and what it is asking approval for. Today, with the concurrence of the Government, I call on the Knesset to approve the Treaty of Peace between Israel and Egypt including its annexes and the accompanying letter. No more than that. There is one major problem: the autonomy arrangements. On this issue we will have to conduct negotiations one month after the exchange of the instruments of ratification of the peace treaty. The Cabinet decided to set up a committee - you have read the names of its members. Following the signing of the peace treaty, this committee, which already has three proposals before it, will accept additional proposals, too. It will discuss all of them and will take decisions. After the Cabinet approves these proposals, it will bring them to those who will conduct the negotiations with US.
I want to make another commitment to the Knesset. Before we sign the agreement concerning the autonomy arrangements, it will be brought for the Knesset's approval. The Government, even if approves that agreement, will not sign it until the Knesset approves it - just as we are doing today with regard to the peace treaty. And just as we are honoring our commitments with regard to the peace treaty, you can be certain that we shall also honor our commitment with regard to the detailed agreement on the autonomy arrangements. Therefore, today we are not discussing the autonomy question. We are discussing just one question: the Treaty of Peace between Israel and Egypt, as it is tabled before you and which you have read in toto: we hid nothing from the Knesset, we signed no secret agreement not with America, not with Egypt, and we shall act similarly in the future, too.
What is the value of this peace treaty, ladies and gentlemen, for which we have made very heavy sacrifices? Not only will I not deny this, I will be the first to admit and state this: very heavy sacrifices. One of these sacrifices - I am incapable of finding words to express my hurt over it, but thus we decided, the great majority of the House. And why? A peace treaty is a breaching of the wall of enmity which has surrounded Israel since its establishment: in fact not 30, but 60 and more full years were we surrounded by states which declared us their enemy, which maintained a constant state of war against us, which perpetrated acts of hostility against us, which waged five wars against us.
And we aspire - all the Government of Israel - to breach this ring of enmity, to try to arrive at a life of peace, without killing, without orphans, without bereavement; to try to arrive at normalization of relations, to visit one another, to help one another, to get to know one another - there are no horns on either side - free nations which want peace. To develop together industrial plants, to set up factories together, to look ahead, not to live in the past - the terrible past: what losses, what orphans and widows, what acts of brutality!
In our time, in our era, one cannot live in the past. We must look ahead. So we want to give peace a chance - as the sabras say - with the largest and strongest of the Arab States. And if it succeeds - and with God's help it can succeed - then perhaps, perhaps this model will attract other neigbours as well. They will learn from life, from reality, that it is possible to live alongside Israel in honor and in understanding - and, most important, under conditions of peace. So they, too, will join. And we will make peace with them, too.
If we are privileged in our generation to arrive at such an hour - peace unto Israel, all of the Jewish people; peace unto its neighbours, all its neighbours - then every Jew and every Zionist will be able to say, How fortunate am I to have been privileged to see such a moment.
So this peace treaty is so important: the first that Israel is signing ever since it was established as an independent state. The first it is signing after five wars, 12,000 killed in order to prevent the war which, all agree, is heaviest on the eastern front, with 40 million people, with an army of hundreds of thousands and perhaps more than this one day.
To breach the ring of enmity - that is our goal, that is our aspiration, that was our dream. With all my heart and all my soul I say - knowing all the sacrifices we have made - it is worth it, we must, we should take this step: for our people, for all our sons and daughters, for our future, for the peace and security of our neighbours, too.
It is a humane act of the first order. It is a paramount Jewish act. It is an immensely valuable Zionist deed. A peace treaty for the first time in the history of this country, for whose establishment in fact six million Jews gave their lives, all of whom could have been its citizens and residents - if. For which our sanctified heroes gave their lives. Without complaint. For which we have the mothers of our sons: and they do not utter complaint. Which was under danger in every war, for its survival, and the whole population was in danger of its life. We overcame in the past; in the future, too, we shall stand firm. But we do not want to arrive at that situation, so that we will be able to say to the whole house of Israel: Yes, there is a good hope in the heart that there will be peace.
We do not exult. There is no reason for exultation. We do not boast. There is no cause for boasting. All the previous governments wanted what this Government is proposing to you today, and all due respect to their efforts. But it so fell out that at this very time we can sign a peace treaty. Therefore without exultation, without boasting. But with subdued heart, and with abundant love, and with profound faith.
On behalf of the Government and with its concurrence, I ask that the Knesset approve the Treaty of Peace between Israel and Egypt with its annexes and its accompanying letter.
Source: Israeli Foreign Ministry