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Statement to the Knesset by Prime Minister Ben-Gurion

(December 5, 1949)

In November 1949, the General Assembly's Political Committee began to discuss the problem of Jerusalem. It soon became apparent that prospects were mounting that a Resolution reiterating the need to internationalise Jerusalem would be adopted. On the eve of the final round of speeches and voting, Israel's Prime Minister addressed the Knesset and warned of the consequences of the establishment of all international regime for Jerusalem. His address was unanimously endorsed by the Knesset.

As you know, the UN General Assembly is now discussing the problem of Jerusalem and its Holy Places.

Israel is a member of the United Nations, not for reasons of political convenience, but because of deep and traditional regard for the ideals of universal peace and the brotherhood of Mankind which the Prophets of Israel have bequeathed to us, and which the organisation of the United Nations has emblazoned on its standard.

The fact that we are members makes it imperative for us to state from here, from the platform of the first Knesset of Israel, to all the nations gathered together in the General Assembly, and to all those to whom peace and justice in the world are close to their hearts, that which has been dearest to the soul of the people of Israel from the time it first became a nation under the sceptre of King David, 3,000 years ago, about Jerusalem, its Holy City, and about its attitude to the Holy Places of all religions.

In our proclamation of 14 May 1948, of the reborn State of Israel, we declared and undertook before history and before the world that "the State of Israel will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture, will protect the Holy Places of all religions, and will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations." In accordance with this, our delegation to the United Nations has announced that Israel undertakes to respect all existing rights regarding the Holy Places and religious buildings in Jerusalem, promises freedom of worship and free access without discrimination to all the Holy Places and religious buildings under its control, recognises the right of pilgrims of all nations and religions to visit the Holy Places in the State, as well as freedom of movement to religious priests, and furthermore, that it agrees that there should be established on "the part of the United Nations adequate supervision of the Holy Places and of these existing rights in accordance with an agreement which should be reached between the United Nations and Israel."

At the same time, we see it our duty to declare that Jewish Jerusalem is an organic and inseparable part of the State of Israel, as it is an inseparable part of the history and religion of Israel and of the soul of our people. Jerusalem is the very heart of the State of Israel. We feel pride in that Jerusalem is sanctified - also in the eyes of adherents of other faiths, and we freely and willingly are ready to make all the necessary arrangements to enable the adherents of the other faiths to enjoy their religious -needs in Jerusalem. Moreover, we will give to the United Nations all our assistance to assure this.

But we cannot conceive that the United Nations will try to tear Jerusalem from Israel or to impair the sovereignty of Israel in its Eternal Capital.

Twice in our history we have been exiled from Jerusalem - but only after we were defeated in cruel wars by armies more numerous and stronger than ours, the armies of Babylon and Rome. Our ties today with Jerusalem are no less deep than those which existed in the days of Nebuchadnezzar and Titus Flavius; and when Jerusalem was attacked after 14 May 1948, our fighting youth knew how to sacrifice itself for our holy capital no less than did our forefathers in the days of the First and Second Temples.

We do not admit for one minute that the United Nations will try to take Jerusalem by force from Israel. We declare that Israel will not give up Jerusalem of its own free will just as throughout thousands of years it has not surrendered its faith, its national identity, and its hope to return to Jerusalem and Zion despite persecutions which have no parallel in history.

The people which has faithfully honoured for 2,500 years the oath sworn by the first exiles by the Rivers of Babylon not to forget Jerusalem - this people will never reconcile itself with separation from Jerusalem. Jewish Jerusalem will never accept foreign rule - after thousands of its sons and daughters have freed the historic homeland and spared Jerusalem from complete destruction.

We are not setting ourselves up as judges of the United Nations, which did not lift a finger when other States, members of the United Nations, openly made war on the decision adopted by the General Assembly on 29 November 1947, and tried by armed force to prevent the establishment of the State of Israel, to blot out the Jews living in the Holy Land and to destroy Jerusalem, the Holy City. But for our successful stand against aggressors acting in defiance of the United Nations, Jewish Jerusalem would have been wiped off the face of the earth. The whole Jewish population would have been annihilated and the State of Israel would never have arisen. We cannot today regard the decision of 29 November 1947 as being possessed of any further moral force since the United Nations did not succeed in implementing its own decisions. In our view, the decision of 29 November about Jerusalem is null and void.

The attempt to exclude Jewish Jerusalem from Israel is not calculated to establish peace in the Near East, and least of all in Jerusalem itself. Jews will sacrifice themselves for Jerusalem no less than Englishmen for London, Russians for Moscow, or Americans for Washington.

This is the first time in the history of this land that the State governing in Jerusalem has voluntarily accepted the principle of international supervision of the Holy Places in the city. It is perhaps no coincidence that this has been done by the very people which made Jerusalem a religious centre for the world and by the very first Government ever to have been elected by the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

We hope that those religions which respect the sanctity of Jerusalem and those nations which, like us, believe in the principles of peace and justice will respect the rights of Israel in Jerusalem just as Israel respects the rights of all religions in its holy capital and in its sovereign State.

Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs