The Israeli Peace Plan of Levi Eshkol

(May 17, 1965)


In a speech to the Knesset dealing with foreign policy issues, the Prime Minister itemized an Israeli peace plan. He explained the Israeli views on the questions of borders, refugees and navigation, and suggested a mutual security pact between Israel and its neighbours. Excerpts follow:


These two elements - the inevitability and the blessings of peace - are the basis of Israel's fundamental conception, one that has found expression in statements, reactions and proposals throughout the years of our renewed existence as a State. Even before that, our movement of renascence was accompanied, almost from its beginnings, by the conviction that there is room for a common path for us and for the Arab States achieving their liberation, and that any clash between the two is bound, in the long run, to be but a fleeting episode in the annals of the nations.

If we try to sum up our peace plan as it has been articulated in our statements, hopes and actions, we should say, first of all, that the foundation of it is full respect for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all the States in the region.

From the juridical point of view, the effort for peace in the region is anchored to two international obligations, one general and the other specific. The general obligation is the duty accepted by all member-States of the United Nations to live with each other in peace and good neighbourliness, to unite their forces for the maintenance of peace and security in the world, and to refrain from the threat or use of force against the independence or territorial integrity of any State. I am quoting from the United Nations Charter, which both we and the Arab States signed.

There is, however, a second obligation in the armistice agreements of 1949. These lay down that they constitute a transition stage towards permanent peace. We propose, therefore, that direct negotiations be conducted between Israel and the States that signed the agreements with us, to replace them by pacts of peace. The peace settlement will be made on the basis of Israel as it is. Today, the States that signed the agreements have crystallized the patterns of their lives and developmental undertakings behind the existing borders. The Arabic-speaking States extend over an area of eleven and a half million square kilometres, and generally speaking, are thinly populated. The four Arab States which have borders with us alone extend over an area of one million two hundred thousand square kilometres, and Israel has only a sixtieth part of the area in its possession, in other words, slightly more than 1.5 per cent - twenty-one thousand square kilometres. In this situation, there is neither sense nor justice in territorial changes to Israel's disadvantage, and there exists neither power nor possibility, juridical or practical, to carry them out.

Historic Rights

And this without saying a word on the fundamental and natural historic rights of the Jewish people to its Land, to its only Homeland, from which it was expelled by brute force. To this Land it has lifted up its heart and its prayers during the years of exile. In every generation, throughout the tribulations of epochs and regimes, its sons have come forward, braving hardship and suffering, to settle on its soil. Through the Land it has preserved - alone among all contemporary nations - its distinctiveness and its existence. Never has the Jewish people abandoned its Land, never has that Land been devoid of a Jewish population. In recent generations, the Jewish people dedicated itself to the task of safeguarding its rights to its Homeland under the law of nations. Through its toil and sacrifice, and with the support of humanity's finest sons, after the most appalling of history's tragedies, the State of Israel arose in a partitioned Land of Israel.

In this heritage, and within these boundaries, we shall do all we can, and more, to gather in the scattered sons of our people and to unveil anew the light of our genius.

There may, indeed, be minor border adjustments, mutual and agreed, at certain points where there are hindrances to the daily pursuits of the populations.

Programme for Peace

But this is the rule: peace comes to change relations between States, but not to change the States themselves.

First of all, this applies to the express obligation to refrain from all aggression. We give warning against the aggressiveness of certain Arab rulers, and we can point to threats of aggression, and to planning for aggression, on their side. On the other hand, any Arab who proclaims a fear of aggression on our part is simply a victim of propaganda - if he is not one of those who, in the talmudic phrase, 'know the truth and seek to rebel against it'. One way or the other, by all means let there be a mutual undertaking to refrain from aggression, so that our justified apprehensions and vain Arab fears may be dissipated at one and the same time.

Once peace is assured, we shall all be free to enjoy its rewards, and they can be most important in many fields. First of all, let it be pointed out that the State of Israel stands at the crossroads of Asia and Africa. If the entire region becomes an open area, dedicated to co-operation and mutual aid, that will be a blessing to the peoples of both Continents, and, among them, to ourselves and the Arab States as well.

Orderly land transport by road and rail; freedom of transit through airports; radio, telephonic and postal communications; access to our ports on the Mediterranean in the form of free areas in them, under suitable conditions, for the benefit of Jordan, which has no outlet to that sea; facilities for the sale of oil by reviving the oil pipeline or building larger ones; encouragement of tourism to all the lands of the area; free access to the Holy Places with amenities for religious pilgrimage to centres sacred to all religions - all these are only part of the picture that will take shape as the outcome of the liberation of the Middle East from the oppressive atmosphere that now prevails.

Regular processes of trade will be instituted; patterns of economic co-operation will be worked out on the basis of the experience acquired in other parts of the world. There is room for joint exploitation of raw materials through extraction and marketing, and for joint research on the problem of water desalination which engages certain of the countries in the region. Let us work together to make and areas fertile; let us co-operate in conquering disease, in medical and agricultural research; let us strive side by side to utilize new sources of energy, for mutual cultural and scientific productivity, in the broadest sense of the term.

A climate of negotiation for peace will, of course, enable us to act together in restraint of the arms race and to cut down armaments in the region. The States there cannot but benefit from reliable arrangements for the limitation of armaments under mutual control; all of them will be able to divert tremendous financial and human resources, now used for purposes of war, to the development of their economic and scientific potential and the diminution of the need for external aid.

The Refugee Issue

The vast assets which will be released in that way will also largely facilitate the completion of the resettlement and absorption of the Arab refugees in their natural national environment, namely, in the Arab States, with their extensive territories and wealth of water, but sorely in need of development and, to take part in that development, of people who are their brothers and sisters in nationality, language and customs, in outlook and faith.

Israel is prepared to help financially, to the best of its ability, and with the aid of the Great Powers, in this work of settlement and rehabilitation. Let it be remembered that the flight of the Arabs from Israel was devised by a leadership which had planted in their hearts the hope that they would return after we had been destroyed by the invading armies. Nevertheless, Israel has never ignored the human needs of those who uprooted themselves from their former abodes, whatever their motives might have been. The settlement of the refugees in the Arab States is the only solution consonant with their true interest, as well as ours.

In a similar way, in a natural national environment, Israel has absorbed Jewish refugees from Arab countries to a total not less than the number of Arab refugees who left our territory, and, from the legal point of view, it has thus perhaps already fulfilled its obligation.

This programme for peace is no fantasy. I do not imagine that the co-operation which exists today in Western Europe, for example, seemed less fantastic as little as twenty years ago. We are approaching the end of a score of years since the War of Independence. It can be done here too.

I have not touched on all the questions involved in a peace settlement. I have not enumerated all the boons such a settlement would imply, or, indeed, all the problems that are liable to arise. Our World knows many forms of productive co-operation between independent and distinctive States, in mutual respect for each other's sovereignty and integrity. It is the debate that has come out into the open on the other side, the recognition that a readiness to think about co-existence, about life side by side, is beginning to take shape there, that led me to outline a few basic principles and to voice the hope that my words will find an echo sooner or later - I hope, not too late.

The beginning of wisdom is the courage to free oneself from the self-hypnosis of hate propaganda, to sit down at the conference table without prior conditions and, in full mutual respect, to start spinning the thread from the point where the armistice agreements left off - and the benefits will follow.


Source: Israeli Foreign Ministry.