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 with Israel.
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
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
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
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
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 armor. 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 endeavors 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
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
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 Resolution.
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 during combat.
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
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
Not content with bolstering Nasser's policy of aggression and war,
the Soviet Union has embarked upon a campaign of antisemitic
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 against Israel.
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 Egypt.
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 ours.
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
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
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 undertaking.
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 border.
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 a school-bus.
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 before.
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
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
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 and
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 troubles.
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 unprecedentedly 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
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
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 further action.
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 them.
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 goodneighbourliness 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 proceeded:
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
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
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
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, goodneighbourliness 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' ears.
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 prefer.
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 Israel."
* 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
- 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
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 to war.
* 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 settlement.
The retort of the Arab States was swift. The commentators of
Damascus, Amman and Cairo stigmatized 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 lines.
* 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 faced.
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 could
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 animosity.
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
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
fulfillment of his mandate under the guide-lines of the Resolution
to advance a peace agreement. No Arab State has yet accepted that
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 peace.
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
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 at all?
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 agreed upon in negotiations with our
neighbours. No one could be misled--Israel desires secure and
recognized boundaries with its neighbours.
Israel's Defence Forces have never crossed its borders in search of
conquest, but only when the safeguarding of the existence and bounds
of our State demanded it. Nasser's claim that Israel wishes to
maintain the cease-fire only so as to freeze the cease-fire lines is
preposterous. The cease-fire is necessary not to perpetuate the
lines, but to prevent death and destruction, to make progress easier
towards a peace resting upon secure and recognized boundaries. It is
necessary as a step upwards on the ladder to peace. Incessant
gunfire is a step downward on the ladder to war.
The question is crystal-clear, and there is no point in clouding it
with semantics--or in trying to escape from reality. There is not a
single article in Israel's policy which prevents the making of
peace. Nothing is lacking for the making of peace but the Arab
persistence in denying Israel's very right to exist. Arab refusal to
acquiesce in our existence in the Middle East, alongside the Arab
States, abides. The only way to peace is through a change in that
When it changes, there will no longer be any obstacle to peace
negotiations. Otherwise, no formulae, sophistry or definitions will
avail. Those in the world who seek peace would do well to heed this
basic fact and help to bring about a change in the obdurate Arab
approach, which is the real impediment to peace. Any display of
"understanding" and forgiveness, however unwitting, is bound to
harden the Arabs in their obstinacy and hearten them in their
gainsaying of Israel's right to exist, and will, besides, be
exploited by Arab leaders to justify ideologically the continuance
of the war against Israel.
Nothing unites our people more than the desire for peace. There is
no stronger urge in Israel, and on joyful occasions and in hours of
mourning alike it is expressed. Nothing can wrench out of our hearts
or out of our policy this wish for peace, this hope of peace--not
even our indignation over the killing of our loved ones, not even
the enmity of the rulers of the Arab world.
The victories that we have won have never intoxicated us, or filled
us with such complacency as to relinquish the wish and call for
peace--a peace that means goodneighbourly relations, cooperation and
an end to slaughter. Peace and co-existence with the Arab peoples
have been, and are, among the fundamentals of Jewish renaissance.
Generations of the Zionist movement were brought up on them. The
desire for peace has charted the policy of all Israel's Governments,
of whatever membership. No Government of Israel in power, however
constituted, has ever blocked the way to peace.
With all my heart, I am convinced that in Israel, in the future as
in the past, there could be no Government which would not bespeak
the people's cardinal and steadfast aspiration to bring about a true
and enduring peace.