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Israel's Position on the Middle East Arms Race - Statement to the Knesset by Prime Minister Eshkol

(May 20, 1964)

On 9 May 1964, Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev arrived in Cairo on a fortnight's State visit. In the course of it, he indulged in verbal attacks on Israel and promised Egypt to satisfy its requests for arms. On 20 May 1964, in a reply to a question in the Knesset, Prime Minister Eshkol explained Israel's position on the arms race in the Middle East and touched upon charges that Israel was developing nuclear weapons.


From time to time unfounded rumours are disseminated about Israel's intentions in the field of security and defence. As far as concerns nuclear development in Israel, I can only repeat the statement made by my predecessor in the Knesset on 22 December 1960, when he said that nuclear development in Israel is designed exclusively for peaceful purposes, for scientific and technological study and research, and to serve the needs of industry, agriculture, health and science in Israel.

It is desirable to define once again the policy of the Government of Israel in regard to the arms race in the Middle East:

(a) The Government of Israel rejects the policy of belligerency maintained by its neighbours and especially by Egypt. Israel's goals are solely defensive.

(b) The Government of Israel believes that the arms race in the Middle East is unnecessary and harmful, as it endangers peace and injuriously affects the economic and social development of the people of the area.

(c) The Government of Israel is against any additional supply of armaments to the region. We are prepared to join in any effort to rid the area completely of all the arms at present in the area under reciprocal control, without posing total world disarmament as a prior condition.

(d) Faithful to its policy, the Government of Israel has not taken the initiative in introducing new arms or new types of arms - either conventional or non-conventional - into the Middle East.

(e) So long as our enemies are not prepared to cooperate in regional disarmament, it is our duty to take all necessary measures for the consolidation of the deterrent and defensive strength that we require for the maintenance of peace, and we shall do so in the light of the responsibility imposed upon us.

(f) The Government of Israel regrets that, in spite of the Egyptian ruler's aggressive declarations against Israel, he receives political support and supplies of arms from sources that generally advocate peace and co-existence. The world is composed of regions, and anyone who aspires to world peace must also support regional peace, in theory and in practice.

(g) For years, Egypt has been engaged in a feverish arms race. Egypt was the first to introduce into the area the most modern types of land, air and sea arms now to be found in the Middle East. It was Egypt which received from the Soviet Union, and was the first to introduce into the Middle East, the supersonic jet planes, the missile boats (Komars) and the heavy armour now in its possession.

With the aid of German and other scientists, it is developing missile armaments on a large scale and devoting incessant effort to their improvement and expansion. It is also engaged in developing destructive weapons which are not to be found today in the Middle East. Arms in Egypt's possession today are not designed for any anti-imperialist purpose or for any purpose of national liberation. These arms are dedicated, according to Egypt's declared policy, to war against Israel. These arms also serve Nasser's aims of winning domination over the neighbouring Arab countries.

All this is obviously and profoundly incompatible with the belief in peaceful coexistence, which is accepted by the Soviet and the West alike, and with the ban on efforts to solve border disputes by force of arms instead of by negotiation and agreement.

Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs