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Statement to the Knesset by Prime Minister Eshkol

(June 24, 1963)

Prime Minister Ben-Gurion resigned his office on 16 June 1963, on personal grounds. His successor was Levi Eshkol, who presented his Cabinet to the Knesset on 24 June. He emphasized that it would maintain policies already approved by the Knesset on a number of occasions. Text:

This Government, which I have the honour to present to you and which I have the heavy responsibility of heading, will persevere in the path that has been followed by the previous Governments, in consonance with the changing circumstances. We shall fix our eyes on the same goals: the building of the State and the people of Israel, striving for peace, the consolidation of Israel's security, the strengthening of her international standing, the absorption of the immigrants, the stabilization of the economy, the fostering of our culture, the closing of cultural gaps, and the moulding of a democratic and just social order. We shall continue to build a society in which every individual shall be able to develop his capacities to the full and make his contribution to the community, a society of which every citizen will be proud, with which every Jew will want to identify himself, which every man will respect.

From its infancy the Zionist enterprise in this country has been imbued with the faith that peace and true cooperation between the peoples of our area are possible and express the true interests and aspirations of its peoples. This faith still inspires us today. The Government will strive by all possible means for such a peace, which will be based on mutual respect and the preservation of the independence and territorial integrity of all States in the area.

To our regret, it does not seem that this peace is near. Even while the Arab Governments are involved in virulent disputes with each other, they do not cease to regard hostility to Israel as a principle common to them all. Instead of a concerted effort by all the peoples in the area to attain peace and development, we see a movement for "unity" which means the domination of one state over others. And in defining the objectives of this "unity" the aspiration to destroy Israel is clearly expressed.

We cannot foresee at this moment how the internal struggles in the Arab world will develop. But in view of the aggressive policy followed by the leaders of the Arab countries today, and their actions in acquiring and developing the most modem types of offensive armaments - which are designed for the destruction of Israel - we must maintain a state of constant security preparedness.

A strong State of Israel is a guarantee for the prevention of war in the Middle East and also, ultimately, for the achievement of peace in the area. Those who are plotting hostilities against us will not try to carry out their designs unless they believe that they will be successful. The strengthening of Israel must therefore be a vital goal, not only for Israel, but also for all Governments and international institutions that are anxious for peace in the area and the entire world.

We shall therefore continue to demand that all the peace-loving countries in the world should endeavour to the limit of their capacity and influence to dissuade the Arab rulers from following the path of aggression and military adventure, which bear the seeds of destruction and disaster, and to bring them to the realization that direct negotiations between Israel and the Arab countries are the only way to achieve peace or progress towards it.

The conference of the African States at Addis Ababa showed that the recognition of the need to solve the problems of the Middle East by peaceful means is growing steadily stronger. The expression at other international forums - the United Nations and regional organizations - of vigorous and outspoken opposition to Arab belligerency and hostility could make the rulers of Egypt and the other Arab countries realize that the whole world is disgusted at their policy of belligerency against Israel, and that the time has come to seek constructive methods of solving the region's problems.

So long as this aim has not been realized, we must regard the maintenance of Israel's deterrent force as the decisive guarantee for the preservation of peace in the area. A special duty rests upon the powers to ensure that an arms imbalance should not be created to Israel's detriment and the advantage of those who threaten to attack her. It is our ardent wish to achieve general disarmament in Israel and the Arab States, with agreed mutual inspection, so that these countries may direct their limited resources to the improvement of their peoples' standard of living.

The Government will continue to foster closer political and economic ties with all those countries, in East and West, in all the continents, that sincerely desire to cooperate with Israel.... We shall raise our voice and give our support, in the UN institutions and on every international occasion at which we are present, for true peace, economic progress, equality, and the defence of human rights against unfairness and racial or religious discrimination.

We do not exaggerate the capacity of the State of Israel to advance the solution of general international problems, but a new Government, which is being established in Jerusalem, the City of Peace, cannot completely ignore the dangers and the prospects that are the common lot of all mankind ...

All States that have controversies between them are confronted with a simple alternative: co-existence of non-existence. This applies to the clash between the great blocs, and it also applies, in the ultimate analysis, to the peoples of our region. The yearnings for world peace, which were given primal and striking expression in ancient Israel, are not merely an abstract vision for Messianic times. Peace has become an essential condition for the very survival of mankind, and the endeavour to achieve it is the primary imperative of the world's governments. We believe that it will come, and we on our part will do all in our power to bring it nearer.

In a sincere desire for peace in the world and in our own area, and in order to preserve it, the Government will give first priority to the strengthening of security. It will endeavour to acquire and develop the most modem equipment required for the security of the State and its people. It will maintain our ties with friendly countries that assist us. We shall work for the constant improvement of the skill, the pioneering spirit and the morale of the Israel Defence Forces - the people's army . . .

Israel's security is the concern of the entire nation, and the Government will endeavour to strengthen the consciousness of security needs among the entire public. We are happy to note that almost all parties have shown that they cherish the good of the country above every other consideration, and they examine security problems with a sense of national responsibility and according to the merits of the question. We shall maintain and foster this national responsibility.

Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs