Statement to the Knesset by the Prime Minister, (July 25, 1973)
In the last debate held in the Seventh Knesset, the Prime Minister reviewed the political situation. This was her last statement to the Knesset before the Yom Kippur War. The political section follows:
As I stated in the Knesset two weeks ago, I shall devote the main part of my remarks today to several aspects of social questions, but I feel it my duty to deal, if only in brief, with political affairs, as this is my last appearance in the Seventh Knesset.
With the conclusion of the work of the Seventh Knesset, we can note with a considerable degree of satisfaction that Israel in 1973 is stronger and more developed than it was in 1969. It is now better prepared for the fulfilment of its national and social aims than it was four years ago - than it ever was in its history. This fact should be a source of joy for the citizens of Israel, for Jews in the Diaspora, and also for those individuals and nations who wish well to Israel and the Jewish people.
And yet, if there is one fact that overshadows our joy more than anything else, it is the fact that until this very day -twenty-five years after the establishment of the State, six years and more since the Six-Day War - we have not yet achieved peace with our neighbours.
Peace has been the central objective of all Israel Governments - those that preceded the Six-Day War as well as the present one, which was awarded the confidence of the Knesset after the war. The aspiration for peace with defensible borders is the foundation-stone of our policy. We have been and still are prepared, of course, to achieve peace in a single leap: a peace that will replace the temporary arrangements of armistice and cease-fire, a peace that will be founded on permanent and agreed frontiers instead of armistice and cease-fire lines, a peace that will put an end once and for all to belligerance and conflict - to all temporary situations.
In the absence of peace, we have adopted a policy of maintaining the cease-fire on a basis of reciprocity. This policy has been our guide in both the military and political spheres. As long as the cease-fire violations continued, sometimes in one sector and sometimes in another, we did all that was needed to prevent any attempt to breach the cease-fire lines and took effective military measures to convince our neighbours that it was more to their advantage to maintain the cease-fire than to risk a war that would end in a new defeat. I shall not reconstruct on this occasion the events on the cease-fire lines, especially in the Canal area, but I must emphasize that the fact that the lines were not breached was due, not to our neighbours' love of peace, but to the capacity and resourcefulness of the Israel Defence Forces. I have no hesitation in saying that our policy has played a decisive part in securing the equipment that has enabled the Israel Defence Forces to carry out their tasks.
I said that we maintained a policy of cease-fire on a basis of reciprocity. We did not recoil from that policy despite losses and perils, and we did not deviate from it despite dangerous provocations. We maintained it at a time when Soviet involvement in Egypt was at its peak, when the missiles were advanced to the Canal, when there was a danger of active Soviet participation in the war.
It may be said that the cease-fire in August 1970 was achieved thanks to: (a) the strength of the Israel Defence Forces, (b) the policy of the Government of Israel, and (c) the aid of the United States Government.
Egypt's failure in the War of Attrition prepared the ground for the US Government's initiative. In August 1970, we responded to the US Government's peace initiative and agreed to appoint, in due course, a representative for talks, without prior conditions, under the auspices of Ambassador Jarring, in the framework of Security Council Resolution 242, with the aim of arriving at a contractual and binding peace agreement between the parties. I said in the Knesset at the time that, in reliance on the clarifications given by the US Government, we responded to its initiative. We agreed to the American proposal for a cease-fire, to last at least three months, on the Egyptian front. The cease-fire became effective on 7 August 1970.
Developments confirmed our political evaluation. The Government's decision, which was confirmed by the Knesset, was among the main factors that brought about an important positive change of direction in the developments that ensued in the region. Gahal left the Government at the time, uttering dark prophecies about the results of the Government's decision. This resignation imposed a heavy responsibility upon us, but I am glad to be able to state again today that we were fully justified in the policy we chose. There will be further opportunities to explain this belief more fully and demonstrate its soundness. Today I shall be content with noting a few major points.
The Government of Israel's decision in August 1970 has given us: (a) a cease-fire that has continued until this day; (b) the strengthening of our friendly ties with the Government of the United States; (c) supplies of armaments and equipment vital for our self-defence; (d) the continued reinforcement of our economy; (e) the defeat of unfavourable political moves and dangerous plans for the imposition of solutions incompatible with Israel's interests.
Our policy was one of the factors that reinforced such welcome developments as the collapse of the Eastern Command, and the weakening of the power and activities of the terrorist organizations in Jordan. The cease-fire also had a positive effect on the Egyptian internal front, and contributed to Egypt's abstention from a renewal of hostilities. Our policy and our moves helped to halt the trend towards military escalation in the region.
The basic principles of the Government's programme stated: "Israel's efforts on the international scene will be devoted to the advancement of world peace, the ending of aggression and belligerency and the relaxation of tensions between States and blocs." This statement is no mere lip service; it expresses Israel's interests and its policy. We therefore give wholehearted support to every effort to relax tension in the relationships between the Great Powers, a policy now being followed by the leaders of the Powers at summit conferences. It is an utter falsehood to accuse Israel of having an interest in the maintenance of tension between the Powers. With all our hearts, Israel and the Jewish people want to see peace reinforced and fraternal relations fostered between peoples and States for the benefit of all nations devoted to liberty and independence.
It has been our concern that in the course of the rapprochement and agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union, Israel's vital interests should not be affected as a result of the Soviet Government's efforts to help its allies in the Arab States. We were - and still are - conscious of this danger, which arises afresh from time to time, and we must always be on the alert. We have done all in our power, not without success, to prevent injury to Israel. We have made it clear to the US Government that the needs of peace in the region are perfectly compatible with a strong and independent Israel in defensible frontiers. I hope that the United States Government in the future, as in the past - will not deviate from its policy, will show understanding for Israel's vital interests, and will not lend a hand to imposed solutions.
It appears that the results of last month's summit meeting show that both Powers, the USA and the USSR, will try to avoid becoming involved in a confrontation as a consequence of the Arab-Israeli dispute. This, at any rate, is how President Nixon's adviser on national security, Professor Henry Kissinger, summed up the matter.
As I have noted, we did not neglect the opportunity of achieving and maintaining the cease-fire, so that there should be no killing, that the havoc should not be renewed, that peace efforts should not be sabotaged. Here I must add, with all possible emphasis: Throughout the entire period in which this Government has been in office, we have not neglected or rejected any possibility of serious contacts between ourselves and our neighbours on the subject of peace and the way to achieve it. We have made proposals and approaches for open contacts, as well as secret contacts of which I cannot, for obvious reasons, give any details in public. From time to time, statements appear about initiatives and approaches to us, which, it is claimed, are designed to achieve a leap forward to peace. These approaches are varied - and sometimes peculiar - in character. I can assure the Knesset that we have responded to every reasonably serious proposal, even if it seemed of minor importance. I shall not enumerate all the proposals to which we responded until it transpired that they were mushroom growths, like lights that are kindled and then die out, leaving disappointment behind.
As long as this Government is in office, it will initiate and respond to any contacts, open or covert, that are guided by the aim of advancing peace. In so acting, we shall give no prior undertakings on matters which are among the subjects for peace negotiations. And if we are fortunate enough to achieve negotiations - whether for a comprehensive settlement or a partial settlement - we shall not deviate from the limits of the authority given us by the nation and the Knesset.
One-sided Security Council resolutions cannot possibly have a positive effect on the promotion of peace in our region. Nothing testifies more to a lack of realism than the current attempt on the part of various elements serving the interests of Egypt to give a distorted interpretation to Security Council Resolution 242 - instead of influencing Eygpt to negotiate with Israel for peace without preconditions. In an era in which it has been proved that only a dialogue between the rival parties can lead to a settlement, these exercises in giving new and distorted interpretations to a resolution adopted six years ago are totally fruitless.
It is our hope that the processes of dialogue, which have proved their effectiveness in other situations of tension in the world, will also be put into operation in this region.
In Ahe basic principles of the Government's programme, we were not satisfied with defining our aspiration for peace. We also assured the Knesset that in the absence of peace Israel will continue to maintain in its entirety the situation as determined at the cease-fire, and will fortify its position in keeping with the vital needs of its security and development. We have carried out this commitment to the full - in the military, political and settlement spheres.
With the approval of the Knesset, we have stated that we will not return to the lines of June 1967, but the status quo remains in force in all sectors not because that is what we want, but because of the obdurate refusal of the Arab rulers to discuss peace with us.
With the Knesset's approval, we decided to announce that we were ready to agree to some movement of the Israel Defence Forces from the Canal even before a peace treaty, if we could reach some kind of partial agreement with Egypt for a cessation of hostilities and the opening of the Suez Canal. We expressed this readiness in order not to extinguish the hope which arose in February 1971. We declared our readiness in principle within the framework of a set of conditions which would guarantee that moving from the water line would not present crucial advantages to the aggressor if war were renewed. It was not we who were responsible for this subject being put into cold storage, and we are prepared to reconsider it at any time.
We have strengthened our position in keeping with the vital needs of the country's security and development. During these four years, a network of outposts and settlements has been established in the Golan Heights, the Jordan Rift Valley, the Etzion Bloc, the Gaza region, the Rafah Approaches, the Ophira region and Kiryat Arba. These outposts and settlements are seeds which will develop in the future, growing in population and becoming more firmly rooted. This activity involves the development of water resources, the redemption of waste lands, the building of roads and the laying of electricity cables. In the overwhelming majority of cases, these settlements were established on uncultivated land. This settlement activity has deepened our roots in the land and strengthened the foundations of the State. Preparations and plans are underway for the continuation of this important activity, whether rural or urban settlement - and our best wishes go out to all those, youth and adults, who have volunteered and will volunteer to carry it out.
In order to impede the processes of peace and to frustrate its prospects, the "Palestinian" question and the plan for a "Palestinian State" have recently been raised again. Some people have taken up this subject in all innocence or out of misunderstanding, but for the most part it is publicized by those who wish Israel ill and seek its destruction. It appears that there will be systematic attempts in the near future to trouble us with this matter on the political and ideological levels, with or without connection to the terrorist activities of the sabotage organizations.
I see no reason for a new Israeli definition regarding the Arabs of the Administered Areas. It is not for us to determine how they shall define themselves or by what name they shall call themselves. I reject the argument that there are "two and a half million Palestinian Arabs without a homeland who are wandering about in the world." It is a total distortion to draw a comparison between Jews dispersed in the Diaspora, in exile, not in their homeland, and the Palestinians. The Palestinian Arabs live among their brethren who share the same religion, culture and language, concentrated in their independent States. The Arabs themselves declare that they are a single Arab nation, even though it extends over eighteen States, but this piece of land in which we have reestablished our State is the only place in the entire world in which the Jewish people can live in Jewish independence. This being the situation, all this talk in terms of balance and analogy between the Jewish problem on the one hand and the Palestinian problem on the other is basically untenable.
A non-Israeli who is convinced of the justice of this oversimplified and distorted comparison is only a step away from acknowledging the concept of "the stolen land", with all its consequences.
We have not ignored and we do not ignore the existence of the problem of the Palestinian refugees. There is only one reason why this problem has not been solved so far: because the Arab countries have obstructed and continue to obstruct the solution of the problem. They held onto and exploited this subject, without a solution, as a tool against us. A shocking demonstration of this fact is the situation in which we found the refugee camps in 1967 when we entered the Gaza Strip. The Government of Egypt did not even grant Egyptian citizenship to the residents of the Strip and it kept them in humiliating conditions of repression and distress for nineteen years.
As opposed to the callous behaviour of other Arab countries, the Government of Jordan granted Jordanian citizenship to all Arabs of Palestinian origin within its borders, as well as to the residents of Samaria and Judaea. Even Jordan, however, was remiss in its efforts to rehabilitate the refugees within its borders. I do not boast that we have solved the problem of the refugees who have been under our rule since the Six-Day War, but we have started to improve their conditions as a step towards their rehabilitation. Any comparison between their present condition and their situation before the Six-Day War will show the tremendous change for the better which has taken place in recent years. We have acted and will continue to act in this matter to the best of our capacity and insofar as we can obtain the means for this important purpose from international sources.
All of the territorial, national, human and political problems involved in our relations with the neighbouring countries, including the Arab residents of the territories, can and must be solved in the framework of peace between us and the Arab States. Peace is being delayed by various excuses which are used to camouflage the refusal to recognize the existence of Israel. Recently - for the same reason - they have been waving principles of justice and basic rights. The Palestinian Arabs are entirely capable of attaining national expression in Jordan. They need Jordan, just as Jordan cannot exist without them. Jordan contains wide areas with possibilities of development in which the Palestinians can be rehabilitated. On the east bank of the Jordan there are 600,000 citizens of Palestinian origin, if not more. For many years, half the members of the Jordanian parliament have been Palestinians, and so are more than half of the members of the present Jordanian Government.
Between the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern desert, there is room for only two States: a Jewish State and an Arab State - Israel and Jordan. We reject the creation of an additional Arab State.
The ties between this community and the Arabs of Judaea and Samaria are ties of family and origin. Therefore, I am happy that the policy of open bridges, which facilitates communication between the Arabs in the territories and their brothers in Jordan and with Arabs in the neighbouring countries, is continuing. It is easy to describe the distress and the suffering of this population if the bridges were closed and the possibility of maintaining these family ties, including extensive commercial intercourse between Judaea and Samaria and the East Bank, were to disappear. In the last two years approximately half a million people have crossed over the bridges. This figure includes some 210,000 residents of the territories who crossed for visits to Jordan and the other Arab countries and some 290,000 residents of the Arab countries who have visited Israel and the territories - 260,000 of them within the framework of the summer visits programme. The number of Arabs crossing the bridges in both directions is constantly increasing. This situation is unprecedented in the relations between two states involved in a state of war.
In responding in the Knesset to King Hussein's speech of 16 March 1972, I stated: 'We have never interfered in the internal structure or the form of regime of any country whatsoever. If the King of Jordan saw fit to change the designation of the Kingdom of Jordan and to call it by the name of Palestine, the United Kingdom, or any other name, if he saw fit to introduce changes in the internal structure of his kingdom in order to give expression in his kingdom to those Arabs who designate themselves as Palestinians, if, after negotiations between us, we were to reach agreement on all questions, including the territorial issue - then it would not be our concern to take a stand on internal matters which are within the sovereign competence of the Arab State which borders Israel on the east." I see no reason to change the content of these remarks.
The peace agreements will include expressions of our willingness, which has remained steadfast throughout the years, to pay compensation for abandoned Arab property as well as our willingness to provide technical aid for the rehabilitation of the refugees in the Arab countries. We ourselves will rehabilitate the refugees within the boundaries of the State of Israel. We will demand that the signing of the peace agreements bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict and it will be agreed that the Arabs will have no further claims against Israel.
Even in advance of peace, while an Israeli Military Government still governs the territories, we have been working for the betterment of the residents of the territories. The signs of Israeli "conquest and repression" may be clearly seen in the significant increase in the standard of living of the population of the territories, both residents and refugees. The improvement in living conditions is the result of employment within the State of Israel and of the activities of Government ministries in the territories, which are carried out in accordance with the Government's policy and which takes into consideration the needs of the residents of the territories. In the future we shall continue to act in accordance with this policy.
The terrorist organizations pretend to represent the Arabs of Judaea and Samaria and the Palestinian Arabs in other countries. These pretensions are utterly baseless. It is inconceivable that we should conduct negotiations with the organizations of murderers and their leaders who seek to destroy the State of Israel and to establish in its stead, on the "stolen land", a Palestinian State.
The continued talk, in the United Nations and by diplomats, of the "legitimate interests" of the Palestinian people or the rights of the Palestinian people does not contribute towards the advancement of peace. These statements, whether they are only empty words or are spoken with evil intent, or even if they are uttered in all innocence, give ideological encouragement to the terrorist organizations and - more dangerously still - they awaken false hopes and stimulate the activities of the terrorist organizations. And all this while the terrorist organizations proclaim their goal of destroying the State of Israel as the sacred objective of all the terrorist atrocities.
I shall not describe once more the acts of terrorism that have been perpetrated during these last four years. Following the Munich atrocity, I announced in the Knesset that we would do all we could to strike at the terrorist organizations and their bases wherever we could reach them. We have succeeded, on not a few occasions, in preventing the terrorist acts which were planned, at times on the very eve of their implementation. This will be our policy in the future as well. We have no doubts that accommodation with terror against Israel, for whatever reasons, leads to the spread of this curse. The nightmarish impressions left by the hijacking of the Japanese plane and the indignities suffered by the Japanese passengers and crew are still fresh in our memory. We still remember the atrocities of Swissair, Zarka and Khartoum. We shall call upon every State which values the law and the rights of man to cooperate with us in our efforts to frustrate acts of terrorism. We shall call upon every State in its own land, and upon the international community, to deny the terrorist organizations conditions conducive to their activity and the chance to obtain political remuneration for terrorist atrocities.