At this opening of
our parliamentary session, I wish to survey the security and
political conjuncture. In recent months, and in the past weeks
especially, the security situation has worsened seriously on the
southern front in particular, and the harmful effect of that is
felt on the other fronts also.
The main feature of this escalation and tension is an advanced
and dangerous stage of Soviet involvement in Egypt, at the beck
and call of Egyptian aggression and infractions of the
cease-fire. There is no precedent for this involvement in the
history of Soviet penetration into the Middle East, and it is
encouraging Egypt in its plan to renew the war of attrition and
so move further along the path of its vaulting ambition to
To understand the background, we must recall Nasser's declared
decision, in the spring of 1969, to abrogate the cease-fire and
ignore the cease-fire lines. It is typical of Egyptian policy
all along its war-mongering way. It reflects a basic doctrine-
that Israel is an exception in the family of nations: the rules
that civilized countries accept do not apply to Israel; an
international obligation towards Israel is to be undertaken only
if there is no other option, no possible alternative, and it may
be renounced at the first chance. Routed on the battlefield, you
acquiesce in international proposals and arrangements that
enable you to rescue your regime. But should it appear that your
military strength has been restored enough to let you attack,
you may treat your undertaking or your signature as though it
had never been. That was the end of Egypt's cease-fire
undertaking of 9 June 1967, entered into at the instance of the
Security Council. That was the end of Egypt's earlier regional
and international undertaking on matters concerning Egypt and
Israel. It is behaviour that illuminates the intentions and
credibility of Cairo in all that governs its attitude to peace
Armistice Torn to Shreds
Egypt did not do otherwise in respect of its signature of the
Armistice Agreement of 1949. In the eyes of its rulers, that was
no more than a temporary device to save Egypt from total
collapse after its abortive aggression and afford it a
breathing-space to prepare for a new campaign. Within a few
years, Egypt- characteristically disavowing its international
pledges- had flouted the Security Council and jettisoned the
principle of freedom of navigation. With Nasser's accession to
power, the Egyptians emptied the Armistice Agreement of its
content altogether by despatching bands of murderers from the
Gaza strip into Israel.
Nasser next started to subvert the regimes in those Arab States
of which he did not approve and which would not bow to his
authority. He opened up the region to Soviet penetration, he
launched a plan to form a unified military command of the Arab
States bordering Israel, and pressed forward with feverish
preparations for a renewed assault upon us.
In 1956, his second armed threat to our existence was flung
back. Once more, he evinced an interest in mediation and
international settlement, for he needed them to engineer a
withdrawal of Israel's forces from Sinai and, after that, from
Sharm e-Sheikh and the Gaza Strip. With his knowledge and
concurrence, the United Nations' Emergency Force was deployed to
ensure freedom of navigation in the Gulf of Aqaba and as a
guarantee that the Strip would serve no longer as a base for
death-dealing incursions into Israel.
For ten years, no plaint was heard from Cairo about the
Emergency Force and its functions. But Nasser was engaged all
that time- with Soviet help- in building up his army anew and in
subversive and adventurous activity throughout the region,
culminating in the bloody war that he fought, unsuccessfully,
against the Yemenite people for five years on end.
Cease-Fire: Temporary Expedient
In 1967, convinced, it seems, that he had the strength to
overcome Israel in battle, he disavowed his international
commitments wholesale, expelled the Emergency Force,
concentrated most of his troops in eastern Sinai, re-instated
his blockade of the Straits of Tiran, and prepared for a war of
annihilation against Israel- a war which, in his own words,
would turn back the clock to before 1948.
Up to 5 June 1967, he was entirely deaf to universal appeal to
refrain from plunging the Middle East into a third maelstrom of
blood and suffering. Four days later, his army undone, he was
not slow to answer the Security Council's call for a cease-fire,
and so, again, avert calamity for Egypt. The Council's
cease-fire Resolution was not limited in time or condition.
Neither did Nasser attach any limitation of time or other term
to his assent.
Proof of his real designs is abundant in his subsequent
declarations and deeds. The Khartoum doctrine is unchanged: no
peace, no recognition, no negotiation. Israel must withdraw to
the borders of 4 June 1967 and thereafter surrender its
sovereignty to the "Palestinian people". Only with that twofold
stipulation would the cease-fire be observed by Egypt. The logic
is sound: if the stipulations are kept, Nasser's aim is won, and
there will be no further cause for him to pursue aggression.
Nasser will not admit the concept of peace in its literal,
humane and Jewish sense. By our definition, and in international
consciousness and morality, peace means good neighbourliness and
co-operation between nations. According to his thinking, to
invite Egypt to make peace with Israel is to invite Egypt to
accept capitulation and indignity.
That is the fount of the vortex of blood, destruction and
anguish in which the peoples of the Middle East have been
drowning, decade after decade.
Quiet Must Be Reciprocal
On 17 March 1969, when Egyptian artillery began to bombard our
soldiers in the Canal zone, I announced, in this House, that-
The Arab States must realize that there can be quiet on the
cease-fire line only if there is quiet on both sides of it, and
not just on one. We want quiet, we want the cease-fire upheld.
But this depends on the Arab States. The maintenance of quiet
must be reciprocal.
Egypt did not hearken to my words. Its aggressiveness was
redoubled. At the beginning of May, Nasser told his people that
his forces had destroyed sixty per cent of the line of
fortifications which Israel had built along the Canal, and would
keep on until they had demolished what was left. In the ensuing
years, not only have our entrenchments been reinforced, but we
have hit hard at the Egyptian emplacements and foiled more than
one attempt to raid across the Canal.
Toward 'Rivers of Blood and Fire'
What Nasser describes as "a war of attrition" began in March
1969. On 30 March, he could say:
The time has passed when we required any soldier at the front
who opened fire on the enemy to account for his action, because
we wanted to avoid complications. Now the picture is different:
if a soldier at the front sees the enemy and does not open fire,
he must answer for it.
In December 1969, he confirmed his preparedness for war or, in
his own phrase, "the advance of the Egyptian army through rivers
of blood and fire".
The Israel Defence Forces have punished this vainglorious
aggression. I shall not retell the tale of their courage and
resource: the digging in, the daring operations of the Air
Force, the power of the armour. Aggression has been repelled,
the enemy's timetable upset and the pressure on our front-line
eased by our striking at vital enemy military targets along the
Canal and far behind it and confounding his plans for all-out
war. True, to our great sorrow, we have suffered losses in
killed and wounded, but our vigorous self-defence has thwarted
Egypt's scheming and stultified its endeavours to wear us down
and shake our southern front.
British Out- Soviets in
Thus bankrupt, the Cairo regime had only the choice between
accepting Israel's constant call to return to reciprocal
observance of the cease-fire, as a stepping-stone to peace, or
leaning more heavily still on the Soviet Union to the point of
asking it to become operationally involved, so that Egypt might
carry on the war of attrition, notwithstanding the unpleasant
repercussions of that involvement.
Egypt chose the second course.
In many of his speeches, Nasser claims the credit for ending
British power and Egypt's subjugation to it. But the same leader
who promised his people full independence of any foreign Power
has preferred to renew its dependence and subservience rather
than make peace with Israel, rather than honour the cease-fire.
In his plight, he elects to conceal from his people the truth
that, in place of the British, the Soviets are invading the
area. This is the pass to which blindness and hatred have
brought the Egyptian revolution.
Soviet penetration did not start yesterday or the day before.
Its beginning could be seen in the mid-fifties, in a
strengthening of influence by the provision of economic aid and
weaponry on the easiest terms.
In May 1967, the Soviet Union provocatively spawned baseless
rumours of Israeli concentrations on the Syrian border. This was
a major link in the chain of developments that led to the
Six-Day War. When the fighting was over, Moscow displayed no
readiness to counsel the Arabs to close the chapter of violence
and open one of regional cooperation- although, to extricate
Nasser, it had voted for the unconditional cease-fire
In his speech of 1 May 1970, Nasser confessed that, only three
days after Egypt had submitted to that Resolution, the Soviets
agreed to re-arm his forces.
On 12 June - and now I can reveal it - I received a Note from
Brezhnev, Kosygin and Podgorny, in which they promised to
support the Arab nation and restore Egypt's armed forces,
without any payment, to their pre-war level.
Thus we were able to withstand and overcome our plight and
rehabilitate our armed forces anew.
The Wherewithal for War
Within the past three years, the Soviet Union has supplied
Egypt, Syria and Iraq with two thousand tanks and eight hundred
fighter aircraft, besides other military equipment, to an
overall value of some 3.5 billion dollars, two-thirds to Egypt
alone. This armament was purveyed with practically no monetary
requital. Thousands of Soviet specialists are engaged in
training the Egyptian forces. Soviet advisers are guiding and
instructing the Egyptian forces within units and bases even
It is hard to believe that Nasser would have dared to resume
aggression in March 1969 on a large scale without Russian
authorization. It is harder to believe that, in May-June 1969,
he would have abrogated the cease-fire without it. Not only did
the Soviet Union not use its capacity to move him to comply
again with the cease-fire; it even encouraged him to step up his
belligerency. A conspicuous example of this disinclination to
make its contribution to the restoration of quiet is Moscow's
rejection of the American proposal, in mid-February 1970, for a
joint appeal by the Four Powers to the parties in the region to
respect the cease-fire.
It is widely assumed that the Soviet Union is not anxious for an
all-out war, in which its protege, Egypt, would be worsted in
battle again, but that, at the same time, it eschews a
cease-fire as being a stage in progress towards peace. So it
would prefer the contribution of something in-between: frontier
clashes, indecisive engagements, ongoing tensions, which would
allow it to exploit Egyptian dependence to the hilt, and so
further its regional penetration and aims. And, by exerting
military and political pressure on Israel, it seeks to satisfy
Egypt's needs in a manner that will not entail the danger of
another Egyptian reverse or of a "needless" peace.
Not content with bolstering Nasser's policy of aggression and
war, the Soviet Union has embarked upon a campaign of
anti-Semitic propaganda within its own borders and of venomous
vilification of Israel through all its communication media and
in international forums. The Soviets have gone so far in slander
as to label us Nazis: without shame or compunction, they charge
the Jews with taking part in pogroms organized by the Czarist
regime, of collaborating with the Nazis. They represent Trotsky
as a Zionist. They conduct "scientific" research which has
"discovered" that there is no such thing as a Jewish people.
The purpose is twofold: to intimidate Soviet Jewry and to
prepare the psychological ground for any and every mischief
Soviet Involvement Deepens
The failure of the war of attrition, the insistence of Nasser's
pleas, have persuaded the Soviets to extend their involvement.
At the moment when, in New York and Washington, their
representatives were meeting representatives of the Western
Powers to discuss a renewal of the Jarring mission and a peace
settlement, Soviet ships were sailing to Egypt, laden with SA-3
ground-to-air missiles, and thousands of Soviet experts were
arriving to install, man and operate the batteries. In December
1969, signs of the entrenched bases of ground-to-air missiles
could be discerned in the Canal and other zones. We estimate
that there are already about twenty such bases in the heart of
In mid-April, Soviet involvement went one step further- and the
gravest so far. Soviet pilots, from bases at their disposal on
Egyptian soil, began to carry out operational missions over wide
areas. With that defensive coverage of their rear, the Egyptians
could mount their artillery bombardment in the Canal zone on a
scale unparalleled since it was started in March 1969.
Speaking on 1 May on the intensification of the war against
Israel, Nasser told his audience:
In the last fifteen days a change has taken place. As we can
see, our forces are taking the initiative in operations.
And in the same speech:
All this is due to the aid which the Soviet Union has furnished,
and it is clear that you have heard many rumours and are
destined to hear many more.
On 20 May, Nasser admitted for the first time, in an interview
for the German newspaper Die Welt, that Soviet pilots were
flying jet planes of the Egyptian air force and might clash with
Thus the Middle East is plumbing a new depth of unease. The
Soviet Union has forged an explosive link in a chain of acts
that is dragging the region into an escalation of deadly warfare
and foredooms any hope of peace-making.
We have informed Governments of the ominous significance of this
new phase in Soviet involvement. We have explained that a
situation has developed which ought to perturb not only Israel,
but every state in the free world. The lesson of Czechoslovakia
must not be forgotten. If the free world- and particularly the
United States, its leader- can pass on to the next item on its
agenda without any effort to deter the Soviet Union from
selfishly involving itself so largely in a quarrel with which it
has no concern, then it is not Israel alone that is imperilled,
but no small nation, no minor nation, can any longer dwell in
safety within its frontiers.
The Government of Israel has made it plain, as part of its basic
policy to defend the State's being and sovereignty whatever
betide, that the Israel Defence Forces will continue to hold the
cease-fire line on the southern as on other fronts, and not
permit it to be sapped or breached.
For that purpose, it is essential to stop the deployment of the
ground-to-air missile pads which the Egyptians are trying to set
up adjacent to the cease-fire line; the protection of our forces
entrenched there to prevent the breaching of the front depends
on that. No serious person will suspect Israel of wanting to
provoke, or being interested in provoking, Soviet pilots
integrated into the Egyptian apparatus of war, but neither will
anyone in his senses expect us to allow the Egyptian army to
carry through its aggressive plans without the Israel Defence
Forces using all their strength and skill to defeat them, even
if outside factors are helping to carry them through.
Arms Balance Must Be Restored
All this means that our search for the arms indispensable for
our defence has become more urgent, more vital. When we asked to
be allowed to buy more aircraft from the United States, we based
ourselves on the reality that the balance of power had been
shaken by the enormous arsenals flowing from the Soviet Union to
Egypt free of charge. Since the President of the United States
announced deferment of his decision on that critical point, it
has, as I have said, become known that SA-3 batteries, with
Soviet crews, have been set up in Egypt and Soviet pilots
activated in operational flights. This adds a new and portentous
dimension of imbalance, and the need to redress the equilibrium
becomes more pressing and crucial.
We have emphasized to peace-loving Governments the necessity to
bring their influence to bear and make their protests heard
against a Soviet involvement which so dangerously aggravates
tension in the Middle East. I have heard what the President of
the United States said in his press conference on 8 May about
the alarming situation, in the light of reports that Soviet
pilots had been integrated into Egypt's air force. He went on to
say that the United States was watching the situation, and, if
it became clear that the reports were true and the escalation
continued, this would drastically shift the balance of power and
make it necessary for the United States to re-appraise its
decision as to the supply of jets to Israel. He also said that
the United States had already made it perfectly plain that it
was in the interests of peace in the Middle East that no change
be permitted in the balance of forces, and that the United
States would abide by that obligation.
On 24 March of this year, the Secretary of State, in the
President's name, declared that the United States would not
allow the security of Israel to be jeopardised, and that, if
steps were taken that might shake the present balance of power
or if, in his view, international developments justified it, the
President would not hesitate to reconsider the matter.
I do not have to tell you that I attach great importance to
these statements. But, I must say, with the utmost gravity, that
delay in granting our wish hardly rectifies the change for the
worse in the balance of power that the new phase in Soviet
involvement, with all its attendant perils, has entailed.
There is close and continuous contact between ourselves and the
US authorities in the matter. Last week, the Foreign Minister
had talks with the President and the Secretary of State: he was
told that the urgent and detailed survey mentioned by the
President four weeks ago is not yet complete, but was assured
that the official United States declarations of 24 March and 8
May on the balance of power held entirely good.
In all our contacts, we have stressed how important the time
factor is, for any lag in meeting our requirements can harm our
interests and is likely to be interpreted by our enemies as
encouraging their aggression and by the Soviet Union as
condoning its intensified involvement. I find it inconceivable
that the United States will not carry out its declared
Other Fronts: Rampant Terrorism
Of late, there has been a rise in aggressive activity on the
other fronts as well. Nasser is trying to step up the
effectiveness of the eastern front, and Egypt's military policy
has undoubtedly affected the situation on the other fronts. This
destructive consequence is visible not only in terrorist
operations against Israel from Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, but
also in the strategy of neighbouring Governments and in domestic
upheavals in Jordan and Lebanon.
The terrorist organization in Syria is a section of the Syrian
army, acting under Government directives. In Jordan and Lebanon,
terrorist domination has so expanded as to become a threat to
the existence and authority of the Governments. In both
countries, the Governments have vainly sought to reconcile
opposites: their own authority and the presence and activity of
the terrorist organizations. Such attempts could meet with no
more than a semblance of success. More than once, the
Governments seemed about to confront the organizations but each
time recoiled from the encounter.
In Jordan as in Lebanon, the terrorists have taken heart from
Nasser. Through his support, direct and indirect, they have
strengthened their position. The authorities have compromised
with them at Israel's expense, allowing them no little latitude-
against Israel. They have been accorded a recognized status,
which guarantees them freedom of action. The entire world knows
of "the Cairo Agreement" between the terrorists and the Lebanese
Government, achieved through the mediation and under the
auspices of Egypt: It allows them to pursue their activities
openly, in areas allotted to them, in coordination with the
Lebanese authorities and army, as well as elsewhere along the
Between the beginning of January and 20 May, there were eleven
hundred enemy operations along the Jordanian front. The Fatah
and other organizations dug themselves in along the length of
the Israel-Lebanon frontier, and it has become a focus of murder
and sabotage: terrorists were responsible for a hundred and
forty inroads along that frontier.
After a series of such acts, among them Katyusha fire on
inoffensive civilians in Kiryat Shmona and other places,
terrorism reached a climax on 22 May in the calculated murder,
from ambush, of schoolchildren, teachers and other passengers in
There is no viler example of the vicious mentality and lethal
policy of the terrorist organizations and their instructors in
the Arab capitals than the development along the Lebanese front.
Until the Six-Day War, it had been the most tranquil of all the
frontiers. Even afterwards, the tension which marked the
cease-fire lines and borders with Egypt and Jordan was absent
there, until the Fatah and their backers entrenched themselves
and decided that the Lebanese border, too, must be set aflame.
And there is another aim- common to Cairo and Damascus for a
number of years - which has not been wanting in terrorist
policy: to prejudice Lebanon's independence and disturb the
delicate equipoise between its two communities. By accepting the
Cairo Agreement in November 1969, and allowing the establishment
of terrorist bases in its territory, Lebanon has been
progressively endangering its independence, as Jordan did
Endlessly provoked by terrorists from Lebanon, we retaliated a
number of times against Fatah bases. The ever closer cooperation
between Beirut and the terrorist organizations makes more and
more evident the responsibility of the Lebanese Government. It
cannot be shrugged off. We shall keep on demanding that Beirut
use its power to halt aggression from its territory and do its
bounden duty in restoring tranquillity.
Israel is interested in the stability of democracy in Lebanon,
in its progress, integrity and peace. On 22 May, radio Beirut
announced that "Lebanon has often stated that it is not prepared
on any account to act as a policeman guarding Israel". So long
as Lebanon evades its answerability and allows the terrorists to
indulge in aggression and murder, the Government of Israel will
do its bounden duty and, by all necessary measures, defend the
welfare of Israel's citizens, its highways, towns and villages.
The Aspiration to Peace
We must view recent happenings against the whole background of
our struggle, since the Six-Day War, to realize Israel's highest
aspiration, the aspiration to peace.
To our intense disappointment, we learnt on the morrow of the
Six-Day War that the rulers of the Arab States and the Soviet
Union were not prepared to put an end to the conflict. Witness
authoritative fulminations by the Arab Governments, the
resolutions of Khartoum, the Soviet Union's identification with
that policy, its assiduous efforts to rehabilitate the Arab
armies with lavish and unstinted aid. We learnt that our
struggle for peace would be prolonged, full of pain and
sacrifice. We decided - and the nation was with us, to a man -
resolutely to defend the cease-fire lines against all aggression
and simultaneously press on with our strivings to attain peace.
It is our way not to glorify ourselves but to render a sober and
restrained account of our policy, not hiding the hard truth from
the people, even if it be grievous. The people and the world
know that there is no word of truth in Egypt's fabrication of
resounding victories. The main efforts of the Egyptian army have
been repelled by the Israel Defence Forces. All claims of
success in breaking our line are false. Most attempted sorties
by Egyptian planes into our air-space have been undone, and the
Egyptians are paying a heavy price for every venture to clash
with our Air Force. We control the area all along the Canal
cease-fire line more firmly and strongly than ever.
Soviet involvement has not deterred, and will not deter, Israel
from exercising its recognized right to defend the cease-fire
lines until secure boundaries are agreed upon within the compass
of the peace we so much desire.
Had its aggression gained the political objectives set, Egypt
could by now have celebrated victory. But Nasser and the Soviets
have not realized those aims.
Three years after the Six-Day War, we can affirm that two
fundamental principles have become a permanent part of the
international consciousness: Israel's right to stand fast on the
cease-fire lines, not budging until the conclusion of peace that
will fix secure and recognized boundaries; and its right to
self-defence and to acquire the equipment essential to defence
I have, on several occasions, explained the differences in
appraisal and approach between ourselves and friendly States and
Powers. I have no intention of claiming that they have entirely
disappeared. Nevertheless, we cannot allow them to overshadow
the recognition of those twin principles, any more than we may
overlook the systematic plotting of our enemies to weaken that
international consciousness and isolate Israel.
The Economic Front
Another front that will test our power to hold out is the
economic. How we hold out militarily and politically is
contingent on the degree of our success in surmounting economic
Our victories in three wars, our robust military stance in the
interim periods of what, by comparison, has been tranquillity,
as well as through these present difficult days, could never
have been won without a solidly-based economy, a high
educational standard of soldier and civilian, a high
technological level of worker in every branch. We owe it to an
unprecedented rapid economic development and expansion that the
national income of tiny Israel almost equals that of Egypt, with
a population tenfold ours and more. We must, by all necessary
measures, maintain that advantage.
The central problem of the moment arises from an unfavourable
balance of payments and the resultant shortage of foreign
currency. The deficit in our balance of payments may be
attributed, primarily, to the vastly greater defence imports: if
those has stayed at their pre-Six-Day-War level, we would by now
be nearing economic independence.
Until 1968, capital imports, which pay for any excess of imports
over exports, had sufficed not only to cover the deficit but
also to amass considerable reserves of foreign currency. Since
then, they are no longer enough. There is a risk of a drop in
foreign currency reserves which might prevent our sustaining the
level of imports imperative for the smooth working of the
economy under conditions of full employment and meeting at the
same time our defence requirements.
We must, therefore, in the national interest, make every
endeavour and be prepared for every sacrifice demanded for the
solving of this problem. Which means that we must also restrict
the growth of imports, especially of imports destined for
private and public consumption and not for security. The
standard of living has risen in the last three years by more
than twenty-five per cent: in this period of emergency, our
efforts to economize must be mirrored in pegging a standard of
living that may have climbed too steeply.
One of the "unavoidables" is to cut down the State Budget and
saddle the public with taxes, charges and compulsory loans on no
small scale. This action was taken only in the last few weeks,
and we hope that it will have the desired and sufficient effect.
If it does not, if we find that imports have not been curbed
enough or exports have not risen enough, that consumption keeps
expanding and the deficit swelling, we will not shrink from
Let me add that this implies no change in our determination,
even in an emergency that tightens all belts, not to neglect the
advancement of the lower-income strata; this year, too, we have
adopted a number of significant measures to better their lot,
and we shall continue to do so.
The policy is no easy one for those who have to discharge it,
nor is it a light burden that it places on the public's
shoulders. The understanding and maturity with which the
man-in-the-street has accepted these stern dispositions are most
commendable: only a negligible minority has tried to circumvent
Our economic targets are far from simple of attainment. The
ongoing development of the economy, the absorption of newcomers
and enormous defence expenditure present a challenge greater
than we could face alone. We are deeply grateful, therefore, for
the staunch cooperation of world Jewry and the assistance of
friendly nations. I believe that we can continue to rely on that
help, but, for moral and practical reasons alike, we cannot make
demands on others if we do not first do our own share. So we
must adjust our way of life, in everything that concerns wages,
incomes, consumption, savings, productivity, personal effort and
outlay, each of us playing his full part, to what the overriding
national purpose dictates.
Pursuit of an Elusive Peace
The aspiration to peace is not only the central plank in our
platform, it is the cornerstone of our pioneering life and
labour. Ever since renewal of independence, we have based all
our undertakings of settlement and creativity on the fundamental
credo that we did not come to dispossess the Arabs of the Land
but to work together with them in peace and prosperity, for the
good of all.
It is worth remembering, in Israel and beyond, that at the
solemn proclamation of statehood, under savage onslaught still,
we called upon the Arabs dwelling in Israel - To keep the peace
and to play their part in building the State on the basis of
full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its
institutions, provisional and permanent.
We extended "the hand of peace and good-neighbourliness to all
the States around us and to their peoples", and we appealed to
them "to cooperate in mutual helpfulness with the independent
Jewish nation in its Land and in a concerted effort for the
advancement of the entire Middle East".
On 23 July 1952, when King Farouk was deposed and the young
officers, led by General Naguib, seized power in Egypt, hope
sprang up in Israel that a new leaf had been turned in the
neighbourly relations between Egypt and ourselves, that we were
entering an age of peace and cooperation. Prime Minister David
Ben-Gurion, addressing the Knesset on 18 August 1952, said:
The State of Israel would like to see a free, independent and
progressive Egypt, and we bear Egypt no grudge for what it did
to our forefathers in Pharoah's days, or even for what it did to
us four years ago. Our goodwill towards Egypt - despite the
Farouk Government's foolish behaviour towards us- has been
demonstrated throughout the months of Egypt's involvement in a
difficult conflict with a world Power. And it never occurred to
us to exploit those difficulties and to attack Egypt or take
revenge, as Egypt did to us upon the establishment of the State.
And insofar as Egypt's present rulers are trying to uproot
internal corruption and move their country forward to cultural
and social progress, we extend to them our sincerest wishes for
the success of their venture.
The answer came soon. Asked about Ben-Gurion's call for peace,
Egypt's Prime Minister evaded the question, claiming that he
knew no more than what he had read in the newspapers. Azzam,
Secretary-General of the Arab League, said: "Ben-Gurion gave
free flight to his imagination, which saw the invisible" [Al-Misri,
20 August 1952]. On 23 August 1952, Al-Ahram explained that
Israel had been forced to seek peace by a tottering economy, and
In the past, on a number of occasions, Israel tried, at sessions
of the Conciliation Commission, to sit with the Arabs around the
table, so as to settle existing problems. The Arabs refused,
because they did not recognize the existence of the Jews, which
is based on extortion.
We have never wearied of offering our neighbours an end to the
bloody conflict and the opening of a chapter of peace and
cooperation. All our calls have gone unheeded. Our proposals
have been rejected in mockery and hatred. The policy of warring
against us has persisted, with brief pauses, and thrice in a
single generation forced hostilities upon us.
On 1 March 1957, in the name of the Government of Israel, I
announced in the United Nations the withdrawal of our forces
from the territories occupied in the Sinai Campaign. I concluded
with these words:
Can we, from now on- all of us- turn over a new leaf, and,
instead of fighting with each other, can we all, united, fight
poverty and disease and illiteracy? Is it possible for us to put
all our efforts and all our energy into one single purpose, the
betterment and progress and development of all our lands and all
our peoples? I can here pledge the Government and the people of
Israel to do their part in this united effort. There is no limit
to what we are prepared to contribute so that all of us,
together, can live to see a day of happiness for our peoples and
see again a great contribution from our region to peace and
happiness for all humanity.
Ten years went by, of fedayun activity, and once again we were
confronted with the hazard of a surprise attack by Egypt, which
had assembled powerful columns in eastern Sinai. The Six-Day War
was fought, but, when its battles ended, we did not behave as
men drunk with victory, we did not call for vengeance, we did
not demand the humiliation of the conquered. We knew that our
real celebration would be on the day that peace comes.
Instantly, we turned to our neighbours, saying:
Our region is now at a crossroads: let us sit down together, not
as victors and conquered, but as equals; let us negotiate, let
us determine secure and agreed boundaries, let us write a new
page of peace, good-neighbourliness and cooperation for the
profit of all the nations of the Middle East.
The call was sounded over and again in Government statements, in
declarations by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister,
the Foreign Minister, the Minister of Defence and other
Ministers - in the Knesset and in the United Nations, through
all communication media. It was borne by emissaries, statesmen,
authors, journalists, educators and by every means - public or
covert- which seemed likely to bring it to our neighbours'
The Knesset will not expect me to review the manifold efforts
and attempts to establish any kind of contact with statesmen and
competent authorities in the Arab countries. The people with
whom we have tried, and shall again try, to open a dialogue do
not want publicity. In this sensitive field, a hint of
publication can be enough to extinguish a spark of hope.
Imagination and a broad outlook are required, but imagination
must not be allowed to become blindness. Patience and close
attention are needed if seeds that have yet to germinate are to
yield fruit in the course of time and not be sterilized by the
glare of publicity.
At all events, the Government of Israel will neglect no
opportunity to develop and foster soundings and contacts that
may be of value in blazing a trail, always with scrupulous
regard for the secrecy of the contacts, if our interlocutors so
But what have been the reactions of Arab leaders, so far, to our
public proposals for peace? Here are some outstanding examples:
On 26 July 1967, Hussein declared: "The battle which began on 5
June is only one battle in what will become a long war."
On 1 November 1967, the Prime Minister of Israel, the late Levi
Eshkol, enumerated five principles of peace, and Nasser's reply
on 23 November was: "The Arabs hold steadfastly to the Khartoum
decision- no peace, no recognition and no negotiation with
From November 1967 until July 1968, Israel sent forth its calls
for peace again and again, and on 16 July the Egyptian Foreign
With regard to Arab policy, I have always reiterated what was
agreed upon at Khartoum, that we are not prepared to recognize
Israel, to negotiate with it or to sign a peace with it.
On 8 November 1968, Foreign Minister Abba Eban presented to the
General Assembly of the United Nations a detailed peace
programme in nine clauses:
- The establishment of a just and lasting peace;
- The determination of secure and recognized borders;
- Security agreements, including non-aggression pacts;
- Borders open to travel and trade;
- Freedom of navigation in international waterways;
A solution to the refugee problem through a conference of
representatives of the countries of the Middle East, the
countries contributing to refugee upkeep, and the United Nations
Specialized Agencies to draw up a five-year plan; the conference
could be convened even before general peace negotiations began;
The Holy Places of Christianity and Islam in Jerusalem to be
placed under the responsibility of the respective faiths, with
the aim of formulating agreements which will give force to their
Mutual recognition of sovereignty;
Regional cooperation in development projects for the good of the
The Arab leaders disregarded the programme and did not even
favour it with reply or comment.
On 17 March 1969- the day on which I assumed my present office-
I re-emphasized the principles of peace, saying:
We are prepared to discuss peace with our neighbours any day and
on all matters.
Nasser's reply, three days later, was:
There is no voice transcending the sounds of war, and there must
not be such a voice- nor is there any call holier than the call
In the Knesset - on 5 May 1969, on 8 May and on 30 June- I
re-enunciated our readiness-
To enter immediately into negotiations, without prior
conditions, with every one of our neighbours, to reach a peace
The retort of the Arab States was swift. The commentators of
Damascus, Amman and Cairo stigmatised peace as "surrender" and
heaped scorn on Israel's proposals. Take, for example, this from
Al-Destour, a leading Jordanian newspaper, of 15 June 1969:
Mrs. Meir is prepared to go to Cairo to hold discussions with
President Abdul Nasser but, to her sorrow, has not been invited.
She believes that one fine day a world without guns will emerge
in the Middle East. Golda Meir is behaving like a grandmother
telling bedtime stories to her grandchildren.
And that was the moment for Nasser to announce abrogation of the
cease-fire agreements and non-recognition of the cease-fire
On 19 September 1969, the Foreign Minister of Israel appealed in
the United Nations to the Arab States-
To declare their intention to establish a lasting peace, to
eliminate the twenty-one-year-old conflict, to hold negotiations
for detailed agreement on all the problems with which we are
He referred to Israel's affirmation to Ambassador Jarring on 2
Israel accepts the Security Council Resolution (242) calling for
the promotion of agreement for the establishment of a just and
lasting peace, reached through negotiation and agreement between
the Governments concerned. Implementation of the agreement will
commence when accord has been reached on all its provisions.
On 24 September 1969, during my visit to the United States, I
was happy to hear that a statement had been made on behalf of
the Egyptian Foreign Minister, then in New York, that Egypt was
prepared to enter into Rhodes-style peace talks with Israel. I
responded forthwith that Israel was willing and, as previously
recorded, was prepared to discuss the establishment of a true
peace with Egypt at any time and without prior conditions.
Within a few hours, an authoritative dementi came from Cairo.
Any Egyptian readiness to enter into Rhodes-style talks was
officially denied. The spokesman of the Egyptian Government
termed the statement to that effect an "imperialist lie."
On 18 December 1969, the Knesset approved the present
Government's basic principles. I quote the following passages:
The Government will steadfastly strive to achieve a durable
peace with Israel's neighbours, founded on peace treaties
achieved by direct negotiations between the parties. Agreed,
secure and recognized borders will be laid down in the treaties.
The treaties will assure cooperation and mutual aid, the
solution of any problem that may be a stumbling-block on the
path to peace, and the avoidance of all aggression, direct and
indirect. Israel will continue to be willing to negotiate-
without prior conditions from either side- with any of the
neighbouring States for the conclusion of such a treaty ... The
Government will be alert for any expression of willingness
amongst the Arab nations for peace with Israel and will welcome
and respond to any readiness for peace from the Arab States.
Israel will persevere in manifesting its peaceful intentions and
in explaining the clear advantages to all the peoples of the
area of peaceful co-existence, without aggression or subversion,
without territorial expansion or intervention in the freedom and
internal regimes of the States in the area.
In my address to the Knesset on 26 December 1969, in the Foreign
Minister's address to the Knesset on 7 April 1970, and in a
series of local press interviews on the eve of Passover and on
the eve of Independence Day, that resolve was reaffirmed:
Day or night, if any sign whatever were to be seen, we would
have responded to it.
Ambassador Jarring came and asked what Israel's response would
be if he were to invite the Foreign Ministers to Cyprus or
Geneva- and there was no hesitation on our part. He asked about
Rhodes, and we said- let it be Rhodes.
In an interview published in Ma'ariv on 20 April I said:
We have no direct contacts with Egypt, but there are friends who
travel around the world, to this place or that, statesmen who
hate neither Israel nor Egypt. They tried to find a bridge, but
On the contrary, there have been echoes of Nasser's speech of 1
May 1970, making even the resumption of the cease-fire
conditional on our total withdrawal and the return of the
Palestinians to Israel.
Stop the Killing!
These are but a few of our recurring solicitations for peace. We
have not retracted one of them: we have not wearied of
reiterating, day in, day out, our preparedness for peace: we
have not abandoned hopes of finding a way into the hearts of our
neighbours, though they yet dismiss our appeals with open
Today again, as the guns thunder, I address myself to our
neighbours: Stop the killing, end the fire and bloodshed which
bring tribulation and torment to all the peoples of the region!
End rejection of the cease-fire, end bombardment and raids, end
terror and sabotage!
Even Russian pilots will not contrive to destroy the cease-fire
lines, and certainly they will not bring peace. The only way to
permanent peace and the establishment of secure and recognized
boundaries is through negotiations between the Arab States and
ourselves, as all sovereign States treat one another, as is the
manner of States which recognize each other's right to existence
and equality, as is the manner of free peoples, not
protectorates enslaved to foreign Powers or in thrall to the
dark instincts of war, destruction and ruin.
To attain peace, I am ready to go at any hour to any place, to
meet any authorized leader of any Arab State- to conduct
negotiations with mutual respect, in parity and without
pre-conditions, and with a clear recognition that the problems
under controversy can be solved. For there is room to fulfill
the national aspirations of all the Arab States and of Israel as
well in the Middle East, and progress, development and
cooperation can be hastened among all its nations, in place of
barren bloodshed and war without end.
If peace does not yet reign, it is from no lack of willingness
on our part: it is the inevitable outcome of the refusal of the
Arab leadership to make peace with us. That refusal is still a
projection of reluctance to be reconciled to the living presence
of Israel within secure and recognized boundaries, still a
product of the hope, which flickers on in their hearts, that
they will accomplish its destruction. And this has been the
state of things since 1948, long before the issue of the
territories arose in the aftermath of the Six-Day War.
Moreover, if peace does not yet reign, it is equally not because
of any lack of "flexibility" on our part, or because of the
so-called "rigidity" of our position.
That position is: cease-fire, agreement and peace. The Arab
Governments preach and practise no cease-fire, no negotiation,
no agreement and no peace. Which of the two attitudes is
stubborn and unyielding? The Arab Governments' or ours?
The November 1967 UN Resolution
There are some, the Arabs included, who claim that we have not
accepted the United Nations Resolution of 22 November 1967, and
that the Arabs have. In truth, the Arabs only accepted it in a
distorted and mutilated interpretation of their own, as meaning
an instant and absolute withdrawal of our forces, with no
commitment to peace. They were ready to agree to an absolute
Israeli withdrawal, but the Resolution stipulates nothing of the
kind. According to its text and the exegesis of its compilers,
the Resolution is not self-implementing. The operative clause
calls for the appointment of an envoy, acting on behalf of the
Secretary-General, whose task would be to "establish and
maintain contact with the States concerned in order to promote
agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted
settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles in
this Resolution." On 1 May 1968, Israel's Ambassador at the
United Nations announced as follows:
In declarations and statements made publicly and to Ambassador
Jarring, the Government of Israel has indicated its acceptance
of the Security Council's Resolution for the promotion of an
agreement to establish a just and durable peace. I am authorised
to reaffirm that we are willing to seek an agreement with each
Arab State, on all the matters included in that Resolution. More
recently, we accepted Ambassador Jarring's proposal to arrange
meetings between Israel and each of its neighbours, under his
auspices, and in fulfilment of his mandate under the guide-lines
of the Resolution to advance a peace agreement. No Arab State
has yet accepted that proposal.
This announcement of our Ambassador was reported to the House by
the Foreign Minister on 29 May 1968 and to the General Assembly
in September 1969. It opened the way for Ambassador Jarring to
invite the parties to discuss any topic which any of them saw
fit to raise, including issues mentioned in the Resolution. The
Arabs and those others who assert that we are preventing
progress towards peace in terms of the Resolution have no
factual basis for so asserting. They seek merely to throw dust
in the world's eyes, to cover up their guilt and deceive the
world into thinking that we are the ones who are retarding
Talks Without Pre-Conditions
It is also argued that, by creating facts on the ground, we are
laying down irrevocable conditions which render negotiations
superfluous or make it more difficult to enter into them. This
contention, too, is wholly mistaken and unfounded. The refusal
of the Arab States to enter into negotiations with us is simply
an extension of their long-drawn-out intransigence. It goes back
to before the Six-Day War, before there were any settlements in
the administered territories.
After that fighting, we said- and we left no room for doubt -
that we were willing to enter into negotiations with our
neighbours with no pre-conditions on either side. This
willingness does not signify that we have no opinions, thoughts
or demands, or that we shall not exercise our right to
articulate them in the discussions, as our neighbours are
entitled to no less.
Nasser and Hussein, for example, in their official replies to
Dr. Jarring, said that they saw the partition borders of 1947 as
constituting definitive frontiers. I do not have to explain our
attitude to that answer, but we do not insist that, in
negotiating with us, the Arab States forfeit their equal right
to make any proposal that they think fit, just as they cannot
annul from the outset our right to express, in the discussions,
any ideas or proposals which we may form. And there assuredly is
no moral or political ground for demanding that we refrain from
any constructive act in the territories, even though the Arab
Governments reject the call for peace and make ready for war.
There is yet another argument touching on our insistence on
direct negotiations: it is as devoid as are the others of any
least foundation in the annals of international relations or of
those between our neighbours and ourselves. For we did sit down
face-to-face with the representatives of the Arab States at the
time of the negotiations in Rhodes, and no one dare profess that
Arab honour was thereby affronted.
There is no precedent of a conflict between nations being
brought to finality without direct negotiations. In the conflict
between the Arabs and Israel, the issue of direct negotiations
goes to the very crux of the matter. For the objective is to
achieve peace and co-existence, and how will our neighbours ever
be able to live with us in peace if they refuse to speak with us
From the start of the conversations with Ambassador Jarring, we
agreed that the face-to-face discussions should take place under
the auspices of the Secretary-General's envoy. During 1968, Dr.
Jarring sought to bring the parties together under his
chairmanship in a neutral place. In March 1968, he proposed that
we meet Egypt and Jordan in Nicosia. We agreed, but the Arabs
did not. In the same year, and again in September 1969, we
expressed our consent to his proposal that the meetings be held
in the manner of the Rhodes talks, which comprised both
face-to-face and indirect talks; a number of times it seemed
that the Arabs and the Soviets would also fall in with that
proposal, but, in the end, they went back on it.
Only those who deny the right of another State to exist, or who
want to avoid recognizing the fact of its sovereignty, can
develop the refusal to talk to it into an inculcated philosophy
of life which the pupil swears to adhere to as to a political,
national principle. The refusal to talk to us directly is
damning evidence that the unwillingness of the Arab leaders to
be reconciled with the very being of Israel is the basic reason
why peace is still to seek.
I am convinced that it is unreal and utopian to think that using
the word "withdrawal" will pave the way to peace. True, those
among us who do believe that the magic of that word is likely to
bring us nearer to peace only mean withdrawal after peace is
achieved and then only to secure and agreed boundaries
demarcated in a peace treaty. On the other hand, when Arab and
Soviet leaders talk of "withdrawal", they mean complete and
outright retreat from all the administered territories, and from
Jerusalem, without the making of a genuine peace and without any
agreement on new permanent borders, but with an addendum calling
for Israel's consent to the return of all the refugees.
Israel's policy is clear, and we shall continue to clarify it at
every suitable opportunity, as we have done in the United
Nations and elsewhere. No person dedicated to truth could
misinterpret our policy: when we speak of secure and recognized
boundaries, we do not mean that, after peace is made, the Israel
Defence Forces should be deployed beyond the boundaries.