Prime Minister Shamir On Threat
That Lebanon Will Abrogate Peace Treaty
(February 16, 1984)
When the Prime Minister addressed the Conference
of Presidents of major American Jewish organizations, there were reports
that the Lebanese government was considering abrogating the May 17,
1983, Israel-Lebanon Agreement.
Mr. Shamir warned that
Israel would protect its interests
and ensure the security of the northern border. He also warned that
Israel would not tolerate any attempt to establish in Lebanon
terrorist bases operations against it. Under Syrian pressure, Lebanon
did ultimately renege on the treaty.
Mr. Chairman, Dear friends,
I bid you all a very friendly Shalom and beruchim habaim
to Jerusalem and to Eretz-Israel.
I welcome your decision to come here, to listen, to
see for yourselves, to discuss with us and to express your views and
reactions. To know more is to understand better, and a better understanding
will bring us closer together, will further cement our partnership and
will enable us all to project better and more effectively Israel's message
to the outside world.
You represent the great American Jewish community and
through you, I want to extend to them all a message of solidarity and
unity of purpose. There is an urgent need to strengthen Jewish identity,
to deepen Jewish consciousness and strengthen the bonds between us.
Of course, we would like to see more and more of you here, visiting
us, sharing our unique experience and making Israel your permanent home.
Much attention is being paid to our external and international
relations. But at this particular stage, our foremost priorities lie
in the domestic sphere. Since the beginning of its term, this Government
has concentrated a major effort in overcoming our economic problems.
We are attempting to combat inflation, to increase our exports and redress
our balance of payments, while maintaining our defence capacity, preventing
unemployment, and stabilizing our standard of living. At the same time,
we want to sustain our scientific and technological development and
we want to encourage aliyah. Altogether, these objectives are a major
challenge to any Government. But we are determined to meet this challenge
and we strongly believe that the goals we have set are attainable.
I say this with a high degree of confidence because
we have a sound infrastructure, an advanced technology, a basically
healthy economy and, above all, we have a highly motivated society that
understands the meaning of sacrifice and realizes that it is imperative
for all of us to win the economic battle.
The Government is setting the tone by undertaking drastic
cuts in the national budget. We have appealed to the people to join
in the national effort. We are witnessing the first glimmers of achievement
with a rise in exports and a decline in imports. We are on the right
track, but we need much patience and tenacity until we bring this vital
chapter to its successful conclusion.
Let me turn now to our international situation.
What is happening in Lebanon today is, in many ways,
a reflection of the situation throughout the Middle East. Like Lebanon,
this area is ridden with ethnic, religious, political and ideological
divisions. It is constantly on the verge of violence, which often erupts
fiercely and mercilessly. No regime can pretend to be stable because
none of them reflects the will and choice of the people and none of
them is willing to pass the test of a free choice by the people. Dictatorship,
totalitarian Government and repression are chronic ills.
Lebanon was different from its neighbours in one respect.
It adopted a system of Government that was close to a democracy, which
required a self-imposed balance between the various communities. This
isolated attempt at democracy in the Arab world turned out to be a tragic
failure. The forces of darkness, intolerance and violence imported into
Lebanon by the Syrian Ba'ath totalitarianism, Arab terrorism and Khomeinistic
fanaticism engulfed the little state and brought it to its knees.
When we went into Lebanon in June 1982, the country
was largely occupied by the Syrian army and P.L.O. terrorists and the
Government in Beirut was under the heel of Damascus. The blow we delivered
to the terrorist organizations and the Syrian army opened up an opportunity
for the restoration of a sovereign independent Government in Beirut.
It was an opportunity.
With the help of the U.S., we negotiated an Agreement
with the Lebanese Government, which was freely undertaken and overwhelmingly
supported by the Lebanese Parliament and people. It was justly considered
by the Lebanese as a true expression of their sovereignty, in defiance
of Syrian coercion and pressure. The Agreement was designed to enable
the withdrawal of our forces under conditions that would ensure the
security of our common border, while safeguarding Lebanon's sovereignty.
It was intended to pave the way to coexistence and normalization between
Israel and Lebanon.
But the Syrian regime set out to destroy the Agreement
by using its Lebanese proxies for that purpose. Syria was bent on preventing
any Agreement with Israel, even at the price of destroying Lebanon in
A unilateral abrogation of the May 17 Agreement by
President Jemayel would be, first and foremost, a blow to Lebanon's
own sovereignty, to its people and to their chances of freeing themselves
from the Syrian's grip. Israel's signature on that document is a fact
of history and international law. We will not renounce our signature
nor our readiness to carry out the terms of that Agreement bilaterally.
In any case, we shall now protect our interests and
ensure the security of our northern border in the manner which we deem
I want to address a warning that Israel will not tolerate
any attempt at reestablishing in Lebanon a terrorist base of operations
against Israel or against Israelis in Southern Lebanon.
My friends, we are at peace with Egypt, but the present
state of relations with Egypt falls far short of our expectations and
is a cause for much concern on our part. The concrete expression of
peace is normalization of relations. But the Egyptian Government has
suspended normalization and maintains what its spokesmen are calling
a "cold peace" with Israel. The Egyptian media attacks Israel,
the Jews, and Judaism constantly. More serious is the recent Egyptian
courting of the P.L.O. and the Egyptian attempts at distancing themselves
from the Camp David Agreement.
Apparently the Egyptian Government has decided to sacrifice
its relations with Israel for the sake of reintegration into the Arab
fold. It is a tragic mistake. The so-called Arab consensus will demand
of Egypt an ever-increasing price at Israel's expense. We call on the
Egyptian Government to go back to the path of peace and to the spirit
of Camp David. We are ready to resume contacts with Egypt, to discuss
all pending issues, to renew the -peace process and the autonomy talks.
We hope that the U.S. Government will exercise its influence on Egypt
for the purpose of advancing these objectives. Finally, we must register
our growing concern that Egypt's behaviour is casting a dark shadow
on the credibility of Arab commitments in the future.
We find no justification for Jordan's unwillingness
to enter into negotiations with Israel in accordance with the Camp David
Agreements. These Agreements were the first breakthrough which resulted
in a reasonable and equitable compromise after much soul-searching and
many concessions on our part. They produced a formula that addressed
the difficult issues of the future of Judea, Samaria and Gaza in the
only manner acceptable to both Israel and the Arab side.
It is inconceivable to us that the Jordanian Government
will turn to the P. L. 0. for any purpose whatsoever, least of all for
the purpose of negotiations with Israel. The P.L.O. is the opposite
of peace and a threat to Jordan's own stability. Negotiations and accommodation
between Israel and Jordan are possible and even necessary because we
have many overlapping interests that require normalization of relations
There still is some misunderstanding on the subject
of our presence in Judea and Samaria. Our right to live in the area
that was the heartland of Jewish sovereignty and history for thousands
of years cannot seriously be challenged. The very idea that the Government
of the Jewish State should, by its own action, prevent Jews from living
in Beth-El and Shiloh, in Hebron and Shechem is preposterous.
We will maintain our policy of setting up new villages
throughout Eretz-Yisrael. During the six years of the Likud Government,
185 new villages, new centres of population, were established in Eretz-Yisrael,
compared with 51 during the preceding 10 years. Of these, 62 were established
in Yehuda and Shomron, 64 in the Galilee, 17 in the Jordan River Valley
and 29 in the Arava.
Peace, the yearning for peace, and the readiness to
make peace is not just a matter of policy for us. It is part of our
nature and faith. It is inherent in our system and philosophy as a free
and democratic nation. But we will not permit our desire for peace to
be used by our adversaries as a means of extracting concessions from
us at the expense of our security and future.
Our true strength derives from our freedom, our democracy
and our heritage, and not from our military might. Around us, mighty
military establishments have risen and fallen because of the human and
social weakness on which they were built. A growing realization of Israel's
inherent strength has brought about a marked improvement in attitudes
to Israel on the part of nations and Governments in the west, and especially
in the U.S. The recent closer relationship with America is an expression
of this realization and we expect it will lead to a stable, long-term
political and military understanding that will contribute to more stability
in our region and enhance the prospects of peace. We are encouraged
by the renewal of our diplomatic relations with a number of African
states and hope that their courageous action will be followed by others.
Meanwhile, we are troubled by the influx of massive
quantities of sophisticated military equipment into the hands of notoriously
dangerous or unstable regimes such as Syria, Saudi Arabia and others.
We consider it especially disturbing that Western Governments have developed
a habit of recycling petro-dollars by selling arms to states in our
region. It can only fuel the fires of war and contribute to further
Over and above this, the prospect of German arms in
countries hostile to Israel, such as Saudi Arabia, is intolerable. We
have tried to explain to the Government and leaders of the Federal Republic
of Germany that the supply of German military equipment to Arab countries
and their possible use against our soldiers in the future would be a
very serious matter for all Jews in the world.
With the election of Konstantin Chernenko as the new
leader of the Soviet Union, I express the hope that his Government will
re-examine Soviet policy in the Middle East and change its attitude,
especially towards Israel. The time has surely come for them to show
greater understanding of Israel's national aspirations and legitimate
striving. They could make a substantial contribution to the stability
and peace of this vital region of the world by stopping the supply of
vast quantities of the most sophisticated weapons to our enemies.
And it is appropriate that at this meeting of Presidents
of Major American Jewish Organizations I would address a call to Konstantin
Chernenko to recognize the right of Jews to repatriation in their homeland,
Eretz Israel, and to open the gates for their exit. In the Brezhnew
years we brought about 200,000 Jews to Eretz Israel from the Soviet
Union. Unfortunately, in the 15 months of Andropov's regime, the flow
was drastically reduced and almost stopped. Let us resolve tonight,
you the leaders of American Jewish organizations, and we representing
the Government of Israel, to revive the struggle on behalf of our brethren
in the Soviet Union and to pursue it with the utmost vigour until the
Soviet Authorities will again open the gates and let our people go.
My friends, you have been here with us in days of renewed
turmoil in the Middle East. There has been an escalation in the Iran-Iraq
war. Nearby in Lebanon we are witnessing the torture of a country and
a nation. Only yesterday an extraordinary event occurred when a host
of Lebanese refugees streamed into the area under our control seeking
safety among the Israeli people. And in these shifting sands Israel
stands not only as an island of democracy but also as an island of stability.
I am sure that you found, despite our own grave problems, that the people
of Israel have confidence in the future and faith in the goals for which
we strive. It is my firm belief that we shall overcome the present difficulties
and that we can look ahead with hope providing we all make the necessary
efforts and sacrifices.
Sometimes when we are caught up in the problems of
the day and weighted down by burdens and anxieties, we should pause
and reflect on the great transformation that has taken place in our
own lifetimes. Perhaps our greatest source of faith in the future is
the knowledge that we have a wonderful and dedicated young generation
that is ready and willing to defend the State and to develop it; that
is capable of taking the helm in the constant striving to make Israel
strong, secure and successful.
We are after all an ancient people with a rich experience
both in our own land and in the dispersion. In the course of our long
history, we have experienced Jewish sovereignty over many hundreds of
years and its destruction, once and twice. We have behind us an impressive
record of achievements, and some blunders as well. This immense wealth
of experience provides us with an exceptional guide in our inevitable
march toward realizing the age-old Jewish dream of securing the permanent
existence of the third Jewish commonwealth. We will continue to build
it and strengthen it with confidence, tenacity and wisdom.