Statement to the Knesset by Prime Minister Rabin, (June 3, 1974)
Mrs. Meir's Government resigned in April, following the publication of a judicial committee report dealing with the Yom Kippur War. On 3 June, Yitzhak Rabin presented his new Government to the Knesset. Following are excerpts from his statement dealing with security and foreign affairs:
Mr. Speaker, Members of the Knesset,
At the beginning of my statement, I should like to express my feelings of oneness with the families of our wounded soldiers in their great joy at the reunion with their dear ones who have returned from Syrian captivity. I send wishes for a speedy recovery to each of the wounded soldiers and hope that it will not be long before they will all return to a life of work and creativity.
On 31 May 1974 the agreement for the separation of forces between Syria and Israel was signed at Geneva, Immediately after the signature, the shooting stopped on the Syrian front. An Israel Defence Forces delegation is now discussing with a Syrian military delegation the implementation of the plan for the separation of forces. I hope and trust that the Israeli and Syrian military delegations will complete their work by next Friday.
Before the implementation of the agreement begins, all our prisoners of war will come back from Syria.
The separation-of-forces. agreement is a further stage in the transition from war to pacification in our region. The separation-of-forces agreement with Egypt has been carried out so far to the complete satisfaction of Israel. We all hope that the separation-of-forces agreement with Syria will be carried out in a similar fashion.
The achievement of this agreement and the beginning of its implementation also mark the end of the period in office of the outgoing Government headed by Mrs. Golda Meir.
Members of the Knesset,
Before I present the main principles of the Government, I regard it as a privilege to say a few heartfelt words to Golda Meir and the members of the outgoing Government. The Government - or to be exact, the Governments - headed by Golda Meir have recorded glorious chapters in the history of our people: the bold and determined stand against our enemies during the war of attrition and, in particular, during the Yom Kippur War; the precious privilege and effort of absorbing tens of thousands of Jews from the Soviet Union and the distressed Jewish communities in Arab lands; dynamic economic and social development: these are only a few of the landmarks in the activities and achievements of the Governments headed by Golda Meir.
The figure of Golda Meir will remain engraved in the heart of the nation as a courageous Jewess, a leader of the nation who stood firm as a rock during difficult political struggles and cruel military campaigns. Her extraordinary personality, her qualities of character and her great love for the Jewish people at home and abroad have made her one of the greatest leaders that Israel has produced.
Other Ministers who also leave their posts of their own will together with the Prime Minister are: Mr. Pinhas Sapir, who has made a tremendous contribution to the building of Israel's society and economy; Mr. Moshe Dayan, who has done so much for the consolidation of Israel's security and the building and strengthening of the IDF; and Mr. Hayim Gvati, a man of the labour settlements, who has so many achievements to his credit in the development and consolidation of agriculture in Israel. Mr. Abba Eban, who in the circumstances that were created did not find it possible to take part in the new Government, also leaves his post. Mr. Eban has contributed much to Israel's international standing and represented it successfully and honourably in the world at large for many years.
I am certain that all the Ministers from whom we take our leave today will continue - each in his own way - to serve our country, for whose establishment, upbuilding and leadership they have done so much.
Members of the Knesset,
The separation-of-forces agreements between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and Syria are not peace agreements. They must be seen not only against the background of the results of the Yom Kippur War, but from a more all-embracing point of view. Over 26 years have passed since we were privileged to achieve our independence, for the third time in the long history of our people. We must look upon these agreements from the viewpoint of the historic struggle of the Jewish people for the establishment and consolidation of the State of Israel.
For over 26 years we have been engaged in one long and continuous war. At the beginning it was the war for the establishment of the State, and since then the battles for its survival as a State capable of independent existence have never ceased. At times, this has been an all-out war with one or more Arab States; sometimes it was limited to border incidents; and at all times we had to confront acts of brutal terrorism in Israel and abroad. Occasionally, there have been periods of quiet, but throughout this entire period we have not known one day of peace.
The Zionist vision of establishing a sovereign Jewish State which will live in peace with its neighbours is still in the process of realization, a process which has not yet reached fulfilment. The struggle for the realization of the Zionist vision has had two facets: one - the establishment of an independent state and the defence of its very existence and the existence of the people living in it, and, secondly, - the building of a Jewish nation and society rooted in the historic values and traditions of our people, including the vision of the ingathering of the Jewish Diaspora - a strong and creative society, being built as a modern, just, egalitarian and developing society.
We cannot realize the hopes which were the reason for the creation of the framework of the State if we do not fill it with the specific values of our people and our national revival movement. It is not enough to create a large and powerful defence establishment. The aim of our military might is to protect the continuity of our efforts to build our society, culture and economy, to unify the immigrants from various countries and cultures into one nation, in the fullest sense of the word. Hence, while the strengthening of the IDF and the defence establishment is a prerequisite in order to ensure our very existence, we must at the same time allocate material resources and intellectual effort to do whatever is necessary to shape our society, in practice and not only in theory, into a humane, progressive and unified national entity. Moreover, the maintenance of the living link with world Jewry, and the transformation of Israel into a spiritual and tangible centre for the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora have become more and more essential to the existence of the State and the Jewish national survival of our people in the lands of exile. It is perhaps not unnecessary to add that these fundamental goals will in no way affect the full right and ability of the Arab and Druze minority to live a full and complete life as Israeli citizens and to maintain friendly and amicable relations with their Jewish brothers.
The following tasks, therefore, will occupy a central place in our lives:
a) To safeguard Israel's security, to foster the strength and power of the IDF and to strive constantly and persistently for a true peace.
b) To build a modern, just, free and independent society living a dynamic and culturally rich life in a stable democratic system, with every effort to involve the younger generation in decisions and responsibility.
c) To ensure social welfare through the application of a special effort by the community for the advancement of those strata still in distress.
d) To increase immigration and improve absorption methods in the effort to stimulate tens of thousands of Jews from all countries of the Diaspora to settle in Israel; a constant endeavour to forge closer ties with world Jewry.
e) To make incessant efforts to consolidate and develop the economy.
f) To strengthen our international position and the establishment of closer relationships with the nations of the world, first and foremost with the United States.
The maintenance of the strength and power of the IDF is the guarantee of our security. Even when we did not succeed in deterring our enemies from war - the IDF showed the strength to defeat the aggressors on the battlefield. The IDF was and is an army of the people, expressing and reflecting, more than anything else, the Jewish will and capacity for independent existence in our country. In the Yom Kippur War the IDF faced one of the most difficult trials in its history. Despite the difficult initial conditions, it halted the surprise Egyptian and Syrian attack, while mobilizing the reserves, and brought the war into enemy territory. The IDF did not fully complete its victory only because of the intervention of political forces from outside our area.
The war did not end on 24 October 1973. Wars of attrition continued in the south and the north, and they have ended only with the attainment of the separation-of-forces agreements. Since the end of the war, the IDF has begun learning the lessons, increasing its strength with new and modern equipment, the best it has ever had, as well as new types of equipment. The IDF is prepared to confront the new military reality.
The State and the nation are proud of the IDF and confident of its strength. The new Government will do all in its power to foster the army and increase the quantity and the quality of its armaments, with new types of equipment, so that it may be ready for any test and may continue to serve as a shining example to Jewish youth in Israel and abroad.
The aspiration for peace has guided, and will continue to guide, the policy of the Government. Twenty-six years of war have not in any way altered our view of peace with our neighbours as a central goal of our policy. In the future we will continue to strive to reveal every hope and every spark of hope for the advancement of peace. Our policy is clear. We prefer peace to new military victories, a stable peace, a just peace, an honourable peace, but not peace at any price.
The Six-Day War gave the State of Israel the greatest military victory in Jewish history. However, even this victory did not bring in its wake the peace we hoped for. With that victory, Israel attained lines of defence among the best ever known by the Jewish State. But we were not intoxicated by victory. The Government of Israel was ready to attain a peace agreement with our neighbours, being prepared for territorial compromise. But this readiness met with no response. Under no circumstances will the Government of Israel agree that threats of war, international pressure and terrorist activity shall compel us to return to the situation and the conditions which existed before the Six-Day War. All our efforts - from the end of the Six-Day War to the Yom Kippur War - to advance towards peace came to nought.
Two obstacles were raised by the Arab States on the road to peace:
(a) The demand for an Israeli commitment to total withdrawal to the lines of 4 June 1967 as a pre-condition for any dialogue,
(b) Opposition to any direct negotiations between the parties, at every state of negotiations.
The Yom Kippur War has brought about a change in this attitude of our neighbours, and only this change has made it possible to achieve the separation-of-forces agreements.
Israel will continue to strive for true peace. True peace is not merely a peace between diplomatic representatives, but peace between the peoples, a peace which finds expression daily in open borders, across which contact can be established in all spheres of life.
The question arises whether such a peace can be achieved by a sudden transition from war to peace. I should like to hope and believe that this goal can be obtained. Israel will spare no effort to fulfil this aspiration. At the same time we must soberly view the harsh reality as it is. Therefore, we shall simultaneously seek a way to advance towards peace by stages, to advance towards peace through partial arrangements, which will ensure pacification on the battlefield by means of a cease-fire and thinning-out of forces, reducing the dangers of a flare-up or surprise attack. We must strive for arrangements which will create conditions under which we shall be able to test the intentions of each Arab State, whether it is really bound for peace or not.
The Government of Israel decided as far back as 1971 to examine the possibility of a partial settlement with Egypt, involving limited withdrawal. And pursuant to this trend - the separation-of-forces agreements with Egypt and Syria now attained should be viewed, from a certain aspect, as part of a comprehensive concept, calling for progress towards peace by stages. Indeed, each of the agreements on the separation of forces contains an explicit statement to the effect that this agreement is a stage towards the attainment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
Now that the agreements have been signed the question arises: What next? Where do we go from here? The policy of the new Government will be, in the first place, to watch the fulfilment of the agreements. First of all we must examine the implementation of the military part of the agreements, which involves scrupulous observance of the cease-fire on land, at sea and in the air, as well as the thinning-out of forces on the Syrian side, as was done in the Egyptian sector. But we must examine no less to what degree Egypt will fulfil its intentions regarding the rehabilitation of the towns along the Suez Canal and the opening of the Canal to international navigation. We must watch and examine Syria's actions: will she bring back the population of the villages in the salient and in Kuneitra in order that they may become peaceful civilian settlements, living in peace alongside our settlements on the Golan Heights. Only when we are really convinced that Egypt and Syria are intent on full observance of the separation of forces agreements will the chances for continued dialogue toward peace increase.
Throughout the years of the State of Israel's existence, it has been proven that the key to proceeding towards war or advancing towards peace lies in the policy of the Arab States towards Israel. First and foremost, the issue depends on the attitude of Egypt, as the foremost country in the Arab world. There has been no war between the Arab States and Israel in which Egypt was not directly involved. There has been no termination of a war without Egypt being the one to decide on its cessation. Thus was it in the War of Independence, in the Sinai campaign, in the Six-Day War, and this is what happened during and after the Yom Kippur War.
Had Egypt not agreed to a cease-fire, had she not signed the six-point agreement, sent her representatives to the Geneva conference and signed the separation-of-forces agreement, we would not have had an agreement on separation of forces with Syria. It follows that the next stage on the road to peace must be between Egypt and Israel.
Israel's agreement to participate in the Geneva peace conference was based on the assumption that at this conference the foundation would be laid for arrangements between Israel and each of her neighbours. The issues in dispute between Israel and each of her neighbours are different. Each arrangement must be on a bilateral basis. Each arrangement must be founded on the undertaking of explicit mutual commitments between Egypt and Israel, between Syria and Israel, between Jordan and Israel and between Lebanon and Israel. There is no place for any further element constituting a party to the negotiations for peace.
With regard to relations between Egypt and Israel, two possibilities are discernible: The first - transition from a state of separation of forces to a contractual peace for the elimination, once and for all, of the war and the conclusion of true peace between our peoples and countries.
The second - proceeding to a further stage on the road towards peace, whereby Egypt will forgo maintenance of the state of belligerency.
As for Syria, after attainment of the separation-of-forces agreement and its implementation to the letter, there is no place for an interim stage. Once we achieve further progress in a settlement with Egypt, the question will arise whether Syria is indeed ready to sign a peace treaty with Israel. And it is essential that the leaders of the neighbouring countries realise that Israel is entitled to defensible borders. Israel will not return - even within the context of a peace treaty - to the 4 June 1967 lines. These lines are not defensible borders, and they constitute a temptation for aggression against us, as has been proven in the past.
We shall be prepared to discuss with the Government of Jordan the problems between us. We are interested in conducting peace negotiations with Jordan. We aim at a peace treaty with Jordan which will be founded on the existence of two independent States: Israel with united Jerusalem as its capital and an Arab State to the east of Israel. In the neighbouring Jordanian-Palestinian State, the independent identity of the Palestinian and Jordanian Arabs can find expression in peace and good-neighbourliness with Israel. Israel rejects the establishment of a further separate Arab State west of the Jordan.
During the discussions on the establishment of the outgoing government, the question arose how the Government should act if, after negotiations with Jordan, the hour of decision should arrive. The answer to this question was clear: the Government would conduct negotiations with Jordan and take decisions at each stage of the negotiations, but no peace treaty would be concluded with Jordan if it involved territorial concessions involving parts of Judea and Samaria before the people was consulted in new elections. This undertaking is also given by the new Government.
In this connection I must note that the new Government will maintain the policy of the outgoing Government regarding the Geneva Conference and those participating in it. This Conference was arranged for the holding of negotiations between the States directly involved in the question of peace in the Middle East - Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon - which border on Israel. Should it be proposed to invite any other body, such a proposal, like any other raised within the framework of the Conference, would require the prior approval of all the States which have agreed to participate in the Conference. Israel rejects the invitation of representatives from the sabotage and terror organizations as participants or observers. The Government of Israel will not conduct negotiations with terrorist organizations whose declared goal is the destruction of the State of Israel.
Regarding Lebanon, there is no territorial dispute between us and it is easy to reach peace with her. Unfortunately, however, the Government of Lebanon is not yet ready to make peace with us. Moreover, Lebanon has become a central base for the operations of the sabotage and terror organizations, which carry out despicable acts of murder. The Government of Lebanon bears full responsibility to prevent hostile acts planned and carried out from her territory; for if it does not do so, the Lebanese Government will bear all the responsibility arising out of the terrorist activities originating in its territory.
Recently the Palestinian terrorist organizations have intensified their activities infiltration, attacks, attempts to take hostages and vile acts of murder. The declared aim of these organizations is to destroy the State of Israel, to undermine the good relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel. They are trying to create an atmosphere of fear and panic. Let the terrorists and their leaders know that this goal will not be attained, that the IDF has the strength and vigour to take bold and systematic measures against the terrorist organizations at any time or place that may be required.
I am confident that the residents on the northern border, despite attacks and difficult struggles, will continue to produce, to build and to develop their settlements. The tragic events in Kiryat Shmona and Ma'alot emphasized the fact that the people of these settlements bear, more than others, not only the burden of their security problems, but also of social and economic problems. We shall take urgent action to solve the social and economic problems of these areas in order to strengthen their endurance, for in spite of their geographical remoteness from the centre of the country they are close to each and every one of us.
These measures will be taken today in order to strengthen and develop these settlements, but they must be an integral part of a comprehensive social and economic plan and not a post facto reaction. The Government also calls on the public to volunteer for the sake of these settlements and to go out to help them. The voluntary acts of individuals and groups are no less important than the organized activities of the Government in the alleviation of social distress.
Recent events in the north and attempted attacks by the terrorists require the Government to continue to foster good-neighbourly relations among Jews, Arabs and Druzes. The Arab and Druze population of Israel has proved its loyalty, even in difficult times, throughout the 26 years of the existence of the State, and this deserves proper appreciation. The Government of Israel will do everything in its power to prevent the deterioration of these relations and will continue to develop a relationship of mutual trust and honour between the Jewish people and the Arabs and Druzes in Israel.
The Yom Kippur War, the energy crisis and the severance of formal relations with a number of States have created in Israel a feeling of political isolation. We must work for the resumption of impaired friendships and the entrenchment of our relations with our allies; we must renew the search for friends and allies. The cease-fire in the region and the separation-of-forces agreements also increase the prospects for buttressing Israel's system of relationships in the international arena.
Over the last few years the friendly relations between Israel and the United States, its Presidents, leaders and people have grown firmer and stronger. The ties between us are based not only on the American ideal of justice and the ideals of peace and democracy that both our nations adhere to, but also on common interests. The friendly relations have had very real results in the military, economic and political strengthening of Israel. An outstanding manifestation of these relations was the U.S.A.'s readiness to help Israel at the time of the Yom Kippur War.
Now, after attainment of the separation-of-forces agreements with Egypt and Syria, there are grounds for believing that the United States will increase its substantive aid to Israel. The friendly relations between us and the U.S. and the interests common to both our countries have not prevented us in the past, nor will they prevent us in future, from meticulous insistence on positions vital to Israel's survival and development, even if our positions are not acceptable to the United States.
Members of the Knesset,
In the previous two wars, the Soviet Union played a negative role in the maintenance of peace through its contribution to the arming of our enemies, in the quantity, quality and composition of the weapons. Soviet military aid provided our enemies with great military power. We are in the midst of the era of détente and if it is indeed the wish of the powers to introduce the thaw into the Middle East as well, this requires that the Soviet Union change its policy towards Israel, stop encouraging the hostility of the most extreme Arab States, avoid any move making for military escalation, and recognize Israel's right to defensible borders.
In a number of European countries political changes are currently taking place. Let us hope that these changes will open up prospects for the improvement of our relations with them. Our economic ties with Europe are of great importance and hold out promise of mutual benefit. Increased cooperation between us and the European countries in general, and the Common Market in particular, will now be one of the central objectives of the new Government.
The Yom Kippur War and the energy crisis also had a deleterious effect on the attitude of the African States towards us. Africa needs vast resources in order to cope with its problems and this need created the illusion that Arab wealth would solve its problems. Let us not give way to feelings of disappointment and isolationist tendencies. We live in a world of rapidly changing developments and the African, Asian and Latin American States will yet recognize the valuable contribution that Israel can make to the development of their countries. There is a firm foundation for our friendship: the mutual interest of our peoples and countries to safeguard the right of small nations to exist in the world without exploitation or subjugation, on a basis of freedom and reciprocity.
The right of every Jew to settle in Israel is fundamental to the existence of the State of Israel. This right is inscribed in the Proclamation of Independence and has been given legal force in the Law of Return. Immigration to Israel is the right of every Jew and it is the supreme duty of the State of Israel to encourage and absorb every Jew who enters our gates. We shall not weaken in the struggle for the liberation of those imprisoned for love of Zion and for the right of the Jews in the Soviet Union to come and settle in Israel. We will call upon the nations of' the world to support our brethren in the Soviet Union in their struggle for the right to leave. We shall act to ensure the welfare and survival of our Jewish brothers in Syria.
The Jewish people in the Diaspora have been and will always be the State of Israel's truest ally. The Government will work to strengthen the ties between the Diaspora and Israel. We shall try to encourage Jews abroad to be involved in the experience of Israel; we shall seek ways to have them share in our thinking about the momentous problems which need to be resolved, and to facilitate their investment of spiritual and not only material resources in Israel.