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Statement to the Knesset by Prime Minister Eshkol (January 12, 1966)

Elections to the Fifth Knesset were held on 2 November 1965. On 12 January 1966, Levi Eshkol presented his new Government and used the opportunity to call upon Syria, Lebanon and Jordan not to abet the growing infiltration of members of Al-Fatah into Israel. He also detailed the foreign policy which his Cabinet would follow. Text:

Mr. Speaker, Members of the Knesset,

On 28 November 1965 the President of the State entrusted me with the task of forming the Government. On 24 December 1965 and 7 January 1966 I reported to the President on the progress of the negotiations on the establishment of the Government. The President was good enough to extend the time limit for the completion of the task with which he had entrusted me.

On 10 January, I informed the President and the Speaker of the Knesset of the composition of the new Government, which comprises the following parties: the Alignment for the Unity of Israel's Workers, the National Religious Party, the United Workers' Party and the Independent Liberal Party.

The work of the new Government will be founded on basic principles which are mainly the basic principles followed by the previous Governments and partially those decided in the negotiations of the parties composing the Coalition. These basic principles have been placed before you and I ask for them to be inserted in the Knesset records.

Permit me to explain in brief some of the main problems facing us which are covered in the basic principles. I will begin with foreign and defence policy.

Foreign Affairs and Security

The atmosphere of international affairs is tense. In various parts of the world there are grave disputes and foci of danger - some arising out of the major international confrontation and others reflecting the birth-pangs of nations striving to abolish social backwardness, the heritage of colonial domination. As a member-State in the family of nations, we share in the general international anxiety arising out of the fact that the nations are discarding neither their hatreds nor their weapons.

We watch with hope and sympathy the efforts now being made on the international scale to restore peace to Vietnam. I may be permitted to note with satisfaction the positive results of the Tashkent conference in which India and Pakistan, through the mediation of the Soviet Union, have issued a joint statement whose main features are the abandonment of the use of force to solve disputes and the restoration of normal diplomatic relations.

On this occasion, I should like to express from the rostrum of the Knesset our profound sympathy with the Government and people of India on the sudden death of the Indian Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, in the midst of his efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement with Pakistan by direct talks.

Israel's aspirations and efforts on the international scene will continue to be directed towards the extirpation of aggression and belligerency; the eradication of racial and religious discrimination; the completion of the liberation of peoples from colonial regimes and the speeding up of their development. We shall do our utmost for international and regional agreements for the limitation and abolition of armaments, including nuclear arms, with agreed mutual super-vision.

It is only right and proper to say on this occasion that we, as sons of the Jewish people, which was the victim of the Nazi holocaust in Europe - the most appalling disaster that has ever visited any people in the annals of mankind, understand the apprehensions of other nations which have endured the tribulations of the Nazi era. We share the aspirations of these nations to prevent a renewal of the danger that inflicted upon them such infinite suffering. Those who are responsible for planning the security of Europe, when consulting together and preparing plans affecting security in Central Europe, ought to see to it that any arrangements made in this sphere should contribute to the lessening of suspicions and the lifting of the grave anxiety that is felt by the peoples of the world lest mankind should again be visited by a similar disaster.

The Situation in the Near East. It is only natural that the attention of the Government in the spheres of security and foreign affairs during the coming years should be directed chiefly towards the situation in the Near East.

Israel's central aim in the Near East is the advancement of peace. We aspire towards relations founded on respect for the independence and integrity of all the States in the area. The time has come for Arab statesmen to show a wise sense of reality and abandon their declared purpose of changing the map of the Middle East in the delusion that Israel's existence in the area may be ignored.

There appear, it is true, some indications of a tendency which recognizes the need for co-existence and the senselessness and impossibility of solving disputes by means of war. An outstanding expression of this tendency has been given by Mr. Habib Bourguiba, President of Tunisia, who repeatedly and rightly claims that he is not the only Arab leader who is of this opinion.

At the same time, Mr. Bourguiba's statements in favour of peaceful co-existence have been accompanied by proposals for territorial and other concessions by Israel. In rejecting these proposals, which are not compatible with the independence and sovereignty of every State in the world, we do not belittle the importance of the principle of peaceful co-existence itself, which constitutes the positive element in these declarations.

Nor is it accurate to say that both Egypt and Israel have rejected President Bourguiba's initiative. President Nasser has rejected the idea, root and branch, by saying a few weeks ago: "It is our aim to restore the rights of the Palestinian people, namely, to liquidate Israel." He has rejected the very idea of peace, while Israel welcomes the desire for peace. But it is absolutely determined that peace should change, not the States in the area, but the relations between them.

Israel and its people constitute an inseparable part of this area. This is no nation that has intruded all of a sudden into the life of the Middle East. It is one of the nations that moulded the character of the region and determined its place in human history. It is both capable and ready to make its contribution - in the future as in the past - to the progress and prosperity of the Middle East.

In so far as there exist in the Arab world tendencies - even if weak and hesitant towards moderate and positive thinking about Israel-Arab relations, we shall try to encourage and foster them to the best of our ability.

But the tendency that is proclaimed in the Arab world today is opposed to peace and co-existence. It finds expression in the accumulation of strength with a view to a clash at the appropriate time. The Heads of the Arab States are fostering in the Arab world the idea of preparation for war. They are intensifying the arms race in the Middle East; they are maintaining and stimulating to further activity the "Palestine Liberation" and "al-Fatah" organizations. At times, it is true, for reasons of their own, they adopt a posture of restraint, and even succeed in presenting themselves as moderate. The disguise is too transparent; it cannot deceive any sensible and wide-awake person.

We shall, therefore, continue to consolidate Israel's military strength. A strong State of Israel is a guarantee of the first importance for the maintenance of peace in our area. Israel's aim is not war; nor is preventive war its purpose. Its aim is the prevention of war. This aim, which is supported by every peace-loving nation in the world, dictates the enhancement of Israel's strength in all spheres: manpower, the economy, culture, technology and science.

Influence of the Powers. Countries outside our area have their influence, for better or worse, on the fate of peace within it. If it is their desire to advance and stimulate positive measures, they should contribute to the strengthening of Israel's economy and security and help to convince the Arab world that the State of Israel is a permanent fact in the international fabric; they should expressly and openly oppose any policy, any advocacy, of aggression, belligerence, hostility and boycott.

The Arab States, which openly threaten - seventeen years after the signature of the armistice agreements - acts of sabotage and war against a member-State of the United Nations, receive copious supplies of arms from the Soviet Union, on easy and convenient terms of payment, to strengthen their forces at sea, on land and in the air. Recently, the Western Powers, too, have started selling arms in considerable quantities to States that threaten to attack a neighbouring State.

We demand that the peace-loving States should put an end to the arms race in our area. But so long as no effective agreement has been achieved in this direction, Israel ought to be supplied with the means of security and defence according to its needs, as it evaluates them, on conditions in keeping with its economic capacity.

The strengthening of the prospects of peace and the prevention of the upsetting of the arms balance - these are two central subjects in the dialogue that Israel will maintain with the nations of the world, in addition to the fostering of bilateral ties with each of them, in political and commercial affairs, in development, science and culture.

Israel esteems the friendship and understanding which many countries, in Europe, North and South America, Africa and Asia, show it. There are States that openly proclaim their support for Israel's independence and integrity, and assist it, in some measure, to reinforce its defensive and economic strength. There are States whose policies vis-à-vis Israel and the Arab world are far from being balanced. There is no doubt that the prospects of peace and stability would be strengthened if the Western Powers and the Soviet Union arrived at an agreed policy, founded on support in theory and practice, for the independence and integrity of all the existing States in the Middle East.

Relations with the Soviet Union. It was this prospect that I had in mind when I expressed the hope two years ago that, parallel with the improvement of our ties with the United States, France and Britain, there should also be more understanding between the Soviet Union and Israel. True, there has not been much progress in this direction, but we should not despair of the aim itself. The adherence of the United States and the Soviet Union to one policy in 1947 heralded a revolutionary moment when our people in this country broke through political beleaguerment, cast off the foreign yoke and set out on the road to national freedom. Support by the Soviet Union and the Western Powers for a positive, logical and united policy now might herald a turning point whose chief result would be the advancement of peace in our area.

And, indeed, reason dictates that there should be better understanding between Moscow and Jerusalem:

(a) Israel plays no part in what is called "the Cold War": on the contrary, it aspires to see it ended.

(b) Israel supports the principle of abstention from the use of force for the solution of territorial disputes, as defined by the Soviet Union at the beginning of 1964. Representatives of the Soviet Union have stated that this principle is of universal application. This means that it also applies to the existing territorial situation in our area.

(c) On many occasions we have expressly emphasized that this principle should apply not only in the area of the Near East but also to the existing boundaries in Central and Eastern Europe, and in the whole world.

We are entitled, therefore, to look forward to a better atmosphere in the relations between the two countries, in addition to the partial development that has taken place in certain areas - which also need expansion.

Israel and the Developing Nations. I cannot refrain from expressing satisfaction at the place of respect and esteem that Israel has won among the developing nations. The refusal of the Heads of the African States, at their recent meetings in Accra and at their two previous conferences, to discuss proposals directed against Israel is an example to other organizations and gatherings.

India recognized us as far back as 1950, and we hoped that our relations with it would grow steadily closer. We cannot yet note considerable progress in our official relations. We hope that the sympathy which has been expressed by Indian public opinion will also be reflected in the near future in the official policy of the Government of India.

The State visits that the President will pay to Asian and Latin-American countries will be an expression of Israel's friendship with those countries.

Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs