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Statement by Ambassador Abba Eban to the Security Council

(August 4, 1949)

As Israel's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Eban set forth Israel's expectations and its hopes that the armistice agreements would lead to peace. Excerpts from his statement follow:

The Government of Israel gave immediate and wholehearted support to the resolution adopted by the Security Council on 16 November 1948, calling for "negotiations ... with a view to the immediate establishment of the armistice". In proposing that resolution the representative of Canada called attention [380th meeting] to the need for a new impetus moving away from the precarious balance of a military truce towards the procedures of pacific settlement. The Acting Mediator reminded the Security Council that the armed conflict had become utterly futile. He went on to say [380th meeting]:

"Whatever might have been the objectives of Arab arms in Palestine last spring, almost six months later these objectives have not been achieved. On the other hand, the objective of Jewish arms has been to defend their people and ... State ... against attack. The State of Israel ... is a strongly entrenched fact today, despite concerted opposition, and that opposition, therefore, has ceased to have practical purpose in terms of its own stated original objective."

At all times the fundamental issue in the Palestine conflict was the rightful existence and sovereignty of the State of Israel. The international community had emphatically determined that issue by its own prior judgement and was later to confirm it after the event by solemn acts of recognition and acceptance. With the basic issue firmly settled, the Security Council was true to its highest purposes in calling the Governments concerned to the adjustment of their differences by free and direct negotiations.

There was a note of imagination and faith in that call; for at no previous time during this savage and inveterate conflict extending over three decades, had Arab representatives agreed to establish formal contact with Jewish representatives for the settlement of opposing claims. Sceptical voices were therefore heard, casting doubt on the realism of making the prospects of a settlement depend upon the chances of direct negotiation. Those sceptical voices became more insistent a few weeks later when the General Assembly, too, by its resolution of 11 December, called for a political settlement to be attained not by authoritative intervention from outside but by negotiations leading to voluntary agreements. The responsibility for evolving a full settlement in two stages was thus placed squarely and irrevocably on the parties themselves....

One of the factors contributing to the success of these negotiations was the procedure of bilateral meetings. Since Israel was in contact with each Arab State individually, it was possible to relate the agenda to specific and practical issues affecting the interests of two parties and two alone. Thus the complications of inter-State relations were kept down to the minimum. The conditions affecting Israel's relationship with the Arab States are obviously not identical in each case or uniform for the area as a whole; geographical and political differences were important ill respect to the armistice, as they must be in respect to the final territorial settlement....

It becomes evident, therefore, that further progress toward final peace can only be made by maintaining and developing the procedures of contact and negotiation used in the Armistice Agreements. The General Assembly's resolution is quite logical ill envisaging the peace settlement as an extension of the scope of the armistice negotiations; and the Conciliation Commission has the same powers in relation to the peace talks as the Mediator had in respect of the armistice negotiations. The Armistice Agreements are not peace treaties. They do not prejudice the final territorial settlements. On the other hand, the provisional settlement established by the Armistice Agreements is unchangeable until a new process of negotiation and agreement has been successfully consummated.

Israel has repeatedly announced its readiness for this new process of negotiation. While we should be prepared to negotiate the transition from armistice to peace at any time, if others are hesitant or if other problems such as that of refugees appear for the moment more urgent, we shall take our stand for as long as necessary on the precise and meticulous observance of the Agreements already reached. These Agreements not only regulate the day-to-day relations of Israel with the neighbouring Arab States; they also contain what Mr. Bunche in his report describes as "a non-aggression pact".

My Government, for its part, supports the Mediator's conclusion that the military phase of this problem has been terminated. We go further and say that the military phase should never have begun. We should, however, prefer to contemplate the future; and I wonder if we can be assured that all Arab States officially share our view in regarding these Agreements, not as an interlude or as a prelude to some second round, but as a final and irrevocable end of hostilities and a starting point in the further advance toward peace....

The Security Council may justly record the four-fold armistice as a milestone in its efforts to contribute to the pacification of the Near East. The methods and principles followed in this enterprise may be significant not only for the future conciliation effort between Israel and the Arab States, but also as a general guide to the United Nations in its task of pacific settlement under the Charter. For the moral of Mr. Bunche's report does not concern Israel and the Arab States alone. If a dispute so deep-seated and passionate can yet respond to the process of conciliation and be terminated by mutual agreement, surely there can be few issues of international conflict that will not respond to the same process. All who have helped to achieve this result have thus deepened the confidence which the United Nations inspires in the peoples of the world and have exalted the Credit of international institutions.

Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs