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Statement to the Knesset by Prime Minister Ben-Gurion on the situation along the Israel-Syria frontier

(April 10, 1962)

In the first months of 1962, the situation along the length of the Israel-Syria border deteriorated, with intensified Syrian attacks on Israeli frontier settlements and on Israeli fishermen in Lake Kinnereth. On 16 March 1962, Israeli troops demolished a number of Syrian positions near the eastern shores of Lake Kinnereth. On 9 April 1962, the Security Council censured Israel for this operation. In session the next day, the Knesset resolved to reject the censure. Text of the speech by the Prime Minister reviewing events along the Syrian border.

This is not the first time that Israel has been compelled, not through any initiative of its own, to face a bitter controversy with world factors which Israel esteems no less than any other nation - the United Nations Organisation and the Government of the United States. The first occasion was immediately after the renewal of our independence fourteen years ago, which was sanctioned by the United Nations, with the support of the two leading Powers - the United States and the Soviet Union.

In deliberate defiance of the UN Resolution and in violation of the main principles of the United Nations, five Arab States, four of them already members of the Organisation, invaded the young State of Israel with the aim of destroying its people, and the United Nations did not lift a finger to prevent this attack; it did not even demand of the Arab armies that they withdraw to their own countries. Had it not been for the heroism of the Israel Defence Forces, the young Jewish State would have been wiped off the face of the earth.

Israel bore no enmity to the Arab States. It willingly accepted the Security Council's demand of 16 November 1948, and signed armistice agreements with Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, the main aim of which was to bring about permanent peace in Palestine.

Thirteen years have passed since the signing of the armistice agreements - but the Arab Governments which signed them refuse to fulfil the first, and from the point of view of UN principles the main, clause in the agreements, namely - the restoration of permanent peace in Palestine. Moreover, they publicly declare that their aim is to destroy Israel - and the United Nations has done nothing all these years to demand that these States comply with their obligations and cease to violate the principles of the Charter.

For years, these nations have violated another of the main obligations and clauses of the armistice agreements - which is that "no aggressive action by the armed forces land, sea or air - of either party shall be undertaken, planned or threatened against the people or the armed forces of the other."

Once again, if Israel had not been able to defend itself with its own forces in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter, the lives of every citizen and resident of Israel would have remained in jeopardy from the incessant attacks of the Arab States which signed the armistice agreements.

At the Third Session of the Third Knesset on 2 January 1956, I gave full details of the acts of sabotage and murder committed by regular and irregular military gangs, which within a period of five years inflicted on us casualties of 884 killed and wounded. As I stated then, this guerrilla warfare on the part of the Arab States did not attract sufficient world attention since the attacks and the murders were not carried out all at once, and the murder of a solitary Israeli citizen two or three times a week was not regarded as a sensation by the world press and did not reach the headlines of daily papers.

But it was the duty of the United Nations Organisation to prevent even isolated attacks -and it did not do so. Only our defensive action in the Sinai campaign assured us of relative peace on the Egyptian and Jordanian borders.

But Egypt continues to this day to violate the Security Council's Resolution on free passage through the Suez Canal, which was adopted unanimously in l951 and again in 1956, and neither the Soviet Union, which preaches peace and loyalty to the United Nations, nor Great Britain, which advises Israel to trust in the United Nations to preserve it, nor the United States, which yesterday persuaded ten members of the United Nations to censure Israel for defending its rights to Lake Kinnereth, has ever tried to censure Egypt for flagrant and continuous violation of a Security Council Resolution. They have thus displayed - and not on one occasion alone - an attitude of double standards which destroys the moral basis on which the United Nations Organisation is founded.

The United Nations Organisation - as laid down in Article 2 of the UN Charter is founded on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members. The Resolution adopted yesterday in the Security Council violates this principle. The Representative of Egypt, which all along has scorned and violated Security Council decisions, set himself up as a judge over Israel. The Resolution adopted yesterday by the Council was phrased in a manner insulting to Israel, ignoring the truth about the events of the past few weeks on Lake Kinnereth - perhaps so as to meet with Egypt's approval and ensure that Egypt vote for it.

Israel regards such a Resolution, and the denial of the sovereign equality of all member-States displayed in yesterday's Security Council decision, as gravely endangering the basic aim for Which the United Nations was established, and all the small nations which belong to it, whose honour and vital interests will be sacrificed to the needs of the Cold War.

In the statement and replies of the Chief of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation, who was summoned to the Security Council, the traces of the Syrian attacks on 8, 15, 16 and 20 March on Israeli patrol boats on Lake Kinnereth were covered up.

And I must emphasise that the Syrian attacks did not begin in March of this year. Throughout the past six years Syrian regular and irregular forces on Israel's north-eastern border have opened fire in four hundred and thirty-one cases on Israeli patrols moving within our borders and Israeli settlements along the Syrian border: in the last two months of 1956 - on eleven occasions; in 1957 on 125 occasions; in 1958 on 100 occasions; in 1959 on 50 occasions; in 1960 on 67 occasions; in 1961 on 52 occasions; and in the first three months of 1962 on 26 occasions.

In these six years, these attacks have caused 122 Israeli casualties in dead and wounded.

The Chairman of the Israel-Syria Mixed Armistice Commission has been sitting all this time in Damascus, and it is hard to believe that his Syrian hosts informed him about these attacks. Nor did the head of the UNTSO, General von Horn, see fit to report a single case in which the Syrians opened fire on Israel - whether it was firing at and shelling Israeli settlements, or shots fired at Israeli fishermen and police patrol boats on Lake Kinnereth.

The chief United States Representative at the United Nations, Mr. Adlai Stevenson, spoke in his speech of 28 March at the Security Council of provocation and retaliation, but he did not find it necessary to point out where and from whom the "provocation" came. Nor did he feel obliged to designate Syrian attacks with machine-guns and recoilless artillery on Israeli patrol boats on Lake Kinnereth, which is in Israel's sovereign territory, as a violation of the armistice agreement; he was content to refer to them as anonymous provocation.

Israel cannot under any circumstances submit to Syrian violations of its sovereignty in Lake Kinnereth, or to Syrian army attacks on Israeli fishermen or patrol-boats in the Lake, which is entirely in Israel's sovereign territory, nor will it permit, under any conditions, any sabotage of its vital irrigation plans, connected with Lake Kinnereth.

Syria makes no, attempt to hide its designs against Israel's territorial integrity and its very existence. The Syrian Premier, Mr. Dawalibi, declared on 8 January, in his speech to the Constituent Assembly on the basic policy of his Government:

"Syria's main problem is Palestine. So long as Palestine has not been restored to the Arabs as part of- the free Arab life, so long as the Zionist spectre has not been exorcised, so long as the parasitic State of Israel has not been annihilated, Syria regards itself as suffering a severe injury, which endangers its existence and that of the Arab nation.

Zahr e-Din, Commander-in-Chief of the Syrian army, who a week or two ago overthrew the Syrian Parliament, Dawalibi and his Government, by military force, declared at the graduation ceremony of an officers' course at Latakia on 13 January:

"The Mediterranean Sea is Israel's nautical front with the Arabs. To strangle and destroy Israel, the Arabs must pluck out Israel's sea lung by means of a naval combat force, which will constitute a wall of steel in the sea and keep the air from this monstrous State."

These words were repeated over Damascus Radio the same day.

The then Syrian Premier, Izzat el-Nous, in an interview with a representative of the Arabic Department of the BBC, said, as reported by the BBC in its Arabic broadcast on 2 November 1961:

"The Government of Syria, like every other Arab Government, will continue to believe that its first sacred duty is to liberate Palestine from Zionism. If Israel tries to divert the Jordan, the entire Syrian army and every Syrian citizen will take up arms against it."

The Syrian leaders have no fear that the Security Council will censure them for violating Article 2 of the UN Charter - which states:

"All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State."

since they can rely on the veto of one of the five members of the Security Council, which has the power of veto, and utilises it from time to time.

The United States Government, which is not in the habit of using its right of veto, decided this time to draft a Resolution censuring Israel that should meet with the support of Egypt - which is now a member of the Security Council - and it therefore amended its original draft to meet the Egyptian Government's taste.

The British Representative, who advised Israel to trust in the United Nations, and not in the Israel Defence Forces, to preserve it, has apparently forgotten how his own Government behaved fourteen years ago, when an overwhelming majority at the United Nations, including the United States and the Soviet Union, decided on the abolition of the British Mandate and the establishment of a Jewish State in part of Palestine. At that time his Government refused to comply with the decisions of the United Nations and co-operate with it, and British officers commanded one of the Arab armies that invaded the State of Israel and mercilessly shelled Jerusalem, the Holy City of three of the world's great religions.

Five years ago, when we were engaged in the political effort that followed the Sinai campaign, the President of the United States broadcast a statement on the Israeli-Egyptian dispute on 20 February 1957. He stressed, among other things, the obligation of the United Nations from then onwards to make greater efforts to ensure justice than it had done in the past. He was hinting at the double standard that was in force at the United Nations in considering disputes between Israel and its neighbours regarding violations of the armistice agreements and the principles of the Charter.

To our profound regret, we cannot say that this double standard has been abandoned in the treatment of such disputes by the United Nations. This situation has been clearly expressed not only in the speeches of the Soviet Representative, but also in those of the United States Representative and in the terms of the Anglo-American Resolution.

Israel remains loyal to the armistice agreements not only because of its obligations to the United Nations, and in obedience to moral considerations that constitute the essence of the concept of Judaism, but also because of its vital needs, on which depends the possibility of carrying out its historic aims: the ingathering of the exiles and the cultivation of the desert, which call for all Israel's physical and spiritual resources.

But the armistice agreements are bilateral agreements; they are equally binding on both Israel and its neighbours. Israel has not played any part, and will not play any part, in the Cold War and its tactics; but it will not submit to the double standard followed by the Security Council throughout the years in its deliberations on disputes between Israel and its neighbours.

Like all other members of the United Nations Organisation, it will exercise its rights, in accordance with Article 51 of the Charter, to self-defence in any case of armed attack by one of its neighbours, so long as the Security Council does not take appropriate measures to maintain international peace and security.

Israel will not tolerate any attacks on Lake Kinnereth fishermen or on Israeli patrol-boats on the lake, which is entirely in Israel's sovereign territory. Israel will not tolerate any attack on settlements and citizens inside its territory, and it will defend itself with all the means at its disposal if any of its neighbours should violate the armistice agreements and endanger the peace and the lives of Israel's citizens or encroach on its territorial integrity. So long as there is any danger of aggression by our neighbours Israel will continue to rely on the Israel Defence Forces, and our people knows that it can rely on them.

Israel will co-operate with United Nations Representatives when they act in accordance with the UN Charter and the armistice agreements. Israel will continue to comply with the principles of the Charter, including the provision that safeguards the sovereign equality of all member-States, and it will respect the sovereignty of its neighbours - on condition of reciprocity.

Lake Kinnereth is an inalienable part of the area of the sovereign State of Israel, and any encroachment on this sovereignty is an attack on Israel's very life.

We regard the Resolution adopted yesterday by the Security Council as being based on a double standard, and an encouragement to our neighbours - even if not so meant by those who drafted the Resolution - to continue their attacks on Israel's citizens and its sovereign territory. This appeasement of Syrian aggression has not redounded to the honour of the UN or strengthened peace in our area.

I should like to note with profound appreciation the one country - France which abstained from voting for this dubious Resolution.

Finally, Israel will abstain from any violation of the armistice agreements and will comply strictly with their terms, but it will under no condition submit to violation of the agreements by its neighbours, nor will it on any account waive its right to self-defence, which is reserved to every nation and safeguarded by the UN Charter.

Text of Knesset Resolution

The Knesset categorically rejects the Security Council Resolution of 9 April 1962, a Resolution that displays one-sidedness, completely ignores the frequent attacks on Israel by the armed forces of Syria, and constitutes an injustice which encourages aggression and endangers peace.

The State of Israel is surrounded by hostile States which maintain a constant state of belligerency with it. The Knesset declares that Israel's right to self-defence is an unchallengeable sovereign right which is assured to every people by the Charter of the United Nations.

Israel is loyal to the principles of the United Nations and it will carry out all the obligations involved towards every State on a basis of reciprocity. It will not submit to aggression.

Israel will preserve its sovereignty in principle and in practice, under all conditions, in all its territories and waters.


Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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