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Eshkol's Statement to the Knesset following the Murder of Two Israeli Farmers by Syria

(August 26, 1963)

On 19 August 1963, Syrian aggression against Israeli settlements in Galilee climaxed in the murder of two Israeli farmers at Almagor. On 20 August, the Government of Israel decided to ask for an urgent meeting of the Security Council to discuss Syria's acts. The reasons for that decision, as well as the situation along the Syrian border, were the main features of the Prime Minister's statement to the Knesset. Text:

In recent months we have witnessed a long series of Syrian acts of aggression on the northern border. Since December 1962, 104 acts of aggression have been perpetrated by Syria, disturbing the peace of our people in the northern area and endangering the lives of quiet and peaceful citizens going about their labours. A complaint was submitted to the Mixed Armistice Committee about each of these incidents and the situation is therefore well known to the UN authorities concerned. A further worsening of the situation took place on 13 July, when the Syrians seized from Israeli territory six people whose boat was caught by a storm while they were on a pleasure trip on Lake Kinnereth. Three of them, who are Belgian nationals, were released after a short time, while the other three, who are Israeli citizens - two young women and one man - are still being held in a Damascus prison. All the UN efforts to have them freed have been fruitless, and UN representatives have not even been allowed to visit them in prison to examine their situation.

The Syrian acts of aggression reached a climax on the 19th of this month, when a group of some ten Syrian soldiers penetrated into Israeli territory, set an ambush on the soil of Almagor, and murdered in cold blood two Israeli youngsters, members of the settlement, who were returning at dusk from work in their vineyards.

No words of sympathy can restore to their families these two young men, who were struck down in the flower of their youth while engaged in pioneering work in the service of the nation.

From this rostrum I wish to offer my condolences and those of the entire Government to the bereaved mothers and fathers, and to the members of their families and the settlement.

On this occasion, I also wish to offer our condolences to the family of the nco who fell at his post, in defence of the Capital, early on Sunday morning. I wish to express the hope that the Jordanian authorities will do their duty in order to punish the guilty persons and restore the peace in this sector.

Members of the Knesset,

The crime that was perpetrated in Almagor, on the sovereign soil of the State of Israel, put the Government's patience to a most severe test. In recent weeks UN officials have tried to put a stop to the Syrian provocations and bring to an end the open violations of the armistice agreement and the UN Charter. I am sorry to say that the efforts of the UN authorities have not been successful, though the Government of Israel, on its part, has done its best to aid and assist the UN authorities in their work. Despite all the Syrian provocations we have restrained ourselves, in the desire to prevent bloodshed, and refrained from using our strength to ensure quiet and security in the area.

On 20 August, the Government decided to call for an urgent meeting of the Security Council to discuss the Syrian acts of aggression with a view to censuring them and bringing them to an end. The Foreign Minister invited the representatives of the States that are members of the Council to see her, to inform them of Israel's concern at the deterioration of the security situation on the Syrian border. Our representatives in the various capitals were instructed to explain our attitude.

Members of the Knesset are aware that the Security Council met on Friday and that our Representative informed it of the chain of aggressive acts recently perpetrated by Syria and demanded that Syria be censured. The next meeting of the Council will take place tomorrow, after it receives the report of the Chief of Staff of the UN Observers. We are entitled to hope that the Security Council will do its duty by treating the subject with the seriousness that it deserves and adopting an unequivocal Resolution condemning the murders at Almagor, which were preceded by a chain of Syrian acts of provocation. I would like to emphasize that any attempt to obscure the obvious facts and to be content with a routine appeal for calm to both sides, without clearly exposing the aggressor, will cause bitter disappointment and undermine our faith in the UN's ability to safeguard the peace in this sector.

The responsibility for defending the territorial integrity of the State and the lives and property of its citizens rests upon the Government of Israel. Though we have the power to defend ourselves, and justice is on our side, it is right that we should exploit every possibility of ensuring border quiet and security by peaceful means. If, in spite of all our efforts, peace is not established on the border, the Government of Israel will be in duty bound and entitled, like any other Government, to take steps to defend itself, under Article 51 of the UN Charter, in order to safeguard its sovereign rights and to meet its responsibilities for the peace of the State and the security of its citizens.

Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs