At the end of December, the Prime Minister again reaffirmed Israel's vigorous opposition to the proposals submitted by the United States for an Israel-Egypt and Israel-Jordan settlement. The proposals, she said, dealt with the substance of the settlement and left very little for the parties to negotiate. Excerpts follow:
"Since my address in the Knesset on presenting the new Government, there have been a number of developments which make it necessary to present a statement to the Knesset. I referred in my speech two weeks ago to the statement of the American Secretary of State on 9 December in which he outlined in public a plan for the solution of the Israel-Arab dispute.
"We sincerely appreciate the manifestations of friendship that have characterized the attitude of the US to Israel since the establishment of our State, and especially in the trials we have faced since the War of 1967. The US still gives voice, through its authorized representatives, to its concern for Israel's security and sovereignty and its support for the advancement of peace in our area. But friendship between free countries makes it particularly incumbent on them to be sincere and candid in expressing criticism of measures which they regard as undesirable and dangerous.
"On 28 October, the US submitted to the USSR detailed proposals in regard to a settlement between Israel and Egypt. The proposals were handed to us only about six weeks later. On 18 December, the US submitted, within the framework of the Four Power talks, detailed proposals for a settlement between Israel and Jordan. These proposals were handed to us on the day they were submitted ...
"These documents refer to the principal details in the Israel-Arab dispute. They deal with the nature of the settlement, the fixing of the boundaries, the problem of the refugees, the future of Jerusalem. Under these proposals, the parties will have nothing to do except to conduct negotiations, on the pattern of the Rhodes talks and under the auspices of Ambassador Jarring, on mere technical and marginal matters ...
"The US has repeatedly declared that it supports the principle of negotiation and agreement between the parties. This basic attitude has found expression in various declarations since June 1967, most recently in the speech by the Secretary of State, who said: 'Nations not directly involved could not make a durable peace for the peoples and Governments involved. Peace rests with the parties to the conflict ... an agreement among other Powers cannot be a substitute for agreement among the parties themselves.'
"The American proposals, which deal in detail with each of the subjects, are in direct contradiction to this very principle. The process of erosion is also apparent in other parts of the latest American proposals ...
"It is important to point out that the Arab States bear the responsibility not only for the creation of the refugee problem but also for it's perpetuation. While Israel has absorbed hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, the Arab States have refused to absorb the Arab refugees and have exploited their plight as a political instrument with which to damage Israel ...
"At the height of the continued aggression of the Arab States, Israel's Foreign Minister proposed from the rostrum of the UN, in October 1968, that an international conference of all the countries involved should be convened immediately - even prior to the advent of peace - to work out a solution for the refugee problem. The Arab States disregarded the proposal, just as they disregarded other proposals aimed at putting an end to this human problem.
"Each of the American proposals - concerning borders and the return of the refugees - is prejudicial to Israel's security. The two of them together, if they were carried out, would constitute a grave danger to our very existence. This would be a return to the geography of 1967 and the demography of 1947. In effect, it would give the saboteurs and the terrorist organizations the right of choice to decide whether to shell Israel from the other side of borders convenient for attack, or to attack it from within after returning as refugees.
"It is to such a situation that Nasser aspires ... Obviously, this is not the intention of the US, which sincerely wants peace in the Middle East. But since it is Nasser, and not the US, who will be the party to the settlement, the US must consider how Nasser will exploit the proposed development as a lever to attain his ends.
"As for united Jerusalem, the proposals refer to equal rights for Israel and Jordan in the economic, religious and civil spheres. Jordan, which has never had any rights in Jerusalem, except those it took by force of conquest in 1948 - Jordan, the only State in history to deny Jews access to their holy places, and which attacked the city again in 1967, is now, according to this proposal, to be a partner in the administration of the united city.
"For the past two and a half years, since the city was united under Israeli sovereignty, there has been free access in Jerusalem for adherents of all faiths, without discrimination, to their holy places, and the religious life of all communities is being conducted in orderly fashion without any interference. The Government of Israel has expressed its readiness to make permanent arrangements, together with the heads of the faiths, to safeguard the religious status and the universal character of the Holy Places.
"United Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel ...
"When we discuss the entire picture of our relations with the US, it is our duty to clarify two fundamental principles: There is a profound and basic friendship between Israel and the US. This friendship is founded not only on a long tradition of devotion to common values, of democracy and liberty - values which it would be wrong to underestimate even in the world of today - but also to a sincere aspiration and an unremitting effort for peace. The US has endeavoured to ensure that Israel shall be secure and strong, capable of repelling aggression and maintaining a free and democratic society in this area.
"At the same time, however, we must not ignore the differences of opinion that exist and the implication for Israel's peace and security in the kind of settlement proposed. With all our friendship and all our esteem for this great friendly State, we must clearly declare that we reject in the most categorical manner the course of the talks between the Powers, and certainly the proposals that have been submitted. The Government of Israel, expressing the will of its people, cannot even consider proposals of this kind.
"When the Government of Israel decided on its policy immediately after the Six-Day War, the third war which we have withstood in a generation, it made it clear that it was determined to strive for true and durable peace, and that there is no other way to reach such a peace but through direct negotiations between the parties involved in the conflict. We did not see this as a matter of tactics. There was no element of bargaining in our position. We had no desire to appear as victors wishing to dictate conditions to the vanquished.
"We decided on our policy in the light of a clear and basic conviction that we must strive for a Middle East in which there equal room for the rights and sovereignty of Israel and the rights and sovereignty of every Arab State. We have not endangered the existence of a single Arab State. We wished and still wish to be at peace with them, but we will not lend our hand to any settlement, nor will we accept any proposal, that will enable our neighbours to persist in their aggressive policy."