FIRST KNESSET 1949-1951
Armistice Agreement with Syria
Sittings 58, 62 -- 20 July, 1 August 1949
Negotiations with Syria concerning an armistice agreement were long and drawn-out. It was vital for Israel to attain the withdrawal of Syrian troops from territory captured by Syria, above all the Mishmar Hayarden salient, but there was no obvious diplomatic or political lever at hand. It was only after several months of negotiations, patiently chaired by Dr. Ralph Bunche, that an agreement was achieved. Some of its formulations--concerning U.N. responsibilities and the return to normal life--were deliberately vague. At the time they seemed the only possible solution, but gave rise to serious controversies and incidents in years to come.
The Israel-Syria General Armistice Agreement was discussed by the Knesset on the day it was signed.
Sitting 58 of the First Knesset
20 July 1949 (23 Tammuz 5709)
Knesset Building, Tel Aviv, 4:15 p.m.
The Foreign Minister, M. Sharett: Distinguished Knesset, the armistice agreement between Israel and Syria was signed an hour ago. The cabinet thought that the Knesset would be interested in hearing a brief explanation of its content and character as soon as it was signed. This agreement concludes the armistice negotiations between Israel and all the Arab countries which sent their armies against us, invaded the country and attacked the State of Israel. This activity, which ended today, continued for six months and one week. The armistic negotiations with Egypt began at Rhodes on 13 January, and the agreement with Syria regarding the northern border of our country was signed today, 20 July.
This period of six months is divided into two parts which are unequal as regards both the time involved and the results attained. The first three segments of this affair--the negotiations and agreements with Egypt, Transjordan and Lebanon--took two months and ten days altogether. The fourth and final segment--the negotiations with Syria--took three and a half months, during which time we held more than 20 meetings, some of them after long intervals. This fact alone should indicate how difficult this matter was....The main problem derived from the military and geopolitical background against which the negotiations with Syria were held. The Syrian army was the only invading force which conquered and retained a large part of the area which we regard as part of Israel today. The area is not large in terms of territory but is of some considerable strategic and economic importance. In geopolitical terms it is a strip of territory--albeit not continuous--which extends not only along the northern border which has always been particularly sensitive, but also along the watershed in the northeastern corner of Israel.
The history of the formation of the border in that part of the country is a long and complex one. After the country was conquered from the Ottoman Empire by the Allies in the final stages of the First World War, there was a debate between France and England regarding the line dividing the two mandates there. At that stage neither France nor Britain received all they wanted, the principle being that the entire area of the water, together with a strip of land to the east of it, was to be included within the British Mandate. This principle was not maintained when the British government decided in 1922, with the approval of the League of Nations, to detach the eastern part of Palestine and make it a separate Arab state...and the border was fixed in the middle of the water-line separating the two countries, namely, in the middle of the River Jordan and the Dead Sea.
The northern border was not fixed in accordance with that principle. The entire Jordan River bed and the lake area around Lake Tiberias, with their eastern banks and the strip beyond it, were included within Palestine, and the border between it and Syria in that part of the country, along the Jordan and the lakes, did not touch the river banks and those lakes anywhere, but was some way away from them, though parallel to them.
At the start of the negotiations between us and Syria we found ourselves in sharp disagreement. The main aim of the other side was to hold on to the positions it had conquered in that part of the country. I want to remind you that not only had they conquered the strip to the east of the water-line, reaching the Jordan River, and even Lake Tiberias in some spots, but they had also managed to cross the Jordan and establish themselves to the west of the water-line. Their principle objective was to hold on to these achievements, although during the negotiations they showed some readiness to compromise, being prepared to withdraw from the areas they had conquered on the western side of the Jordan on condition they maintained a strip to the east of it. This would mean that the armistice line would not be identical with the border, and that the strip between the border and the water-line would remain in their hands.
Although, as in every armistice agreement we have signed to date, the armistice line would be declared not to determine the future border...in this case we did not think that this would provide any guarantee as long as the other side actually retained a strip which was so essential for us, thereby creating facts which could have long-term results. Thus, our main aim in these negotiations was to get the other side out of the area it had conquered....
This was our precondition for the armistice agreement with Syria. We repeated this constantly, so that there should be no doubt as to our position, both among the Syrians and among the U.N. institutions...who had undertaken to mediate between us and under whose auspices the negotiations were conducted. In order to understand the particular difficulty of this agreement I should point out that...when we started negotiating with Lebanon our forces were on Lebanese soil and had occupied a considerable area within the Lebanese border, while Lebanon had gained a corner of our territory. The principle which was laid down during the negotiations was...that each side would vacate the other's territory which had been conquered during the fighting. We presented this principle as governing the agreement between us and Syria. One of the responses we received was that we had conquered the Lebanese territory after the ceasefire. We claimed that we had been justified in starting to fight again at that stage, but that that had been the formal situation, while the Syrians had conquered the area they wanted to retain before the ceasefire.
An additional problem associated with these negotiations was due to certain international influences, which tried to support this claim of the new regime in Syria, justifying its position and its refusal to leave the area east of the Jordan. They tried to present Syria's agreement to withdraw from Mishmar Hayarden and other areas west of the Jordan as a far-reaching concession which should satisfy us, claiming that it was unfair of us to demand more.
As a result of this deadlock between the Syrian and Israeli attitudes the negotiations reached a virtual standstill...until the U.N. mediator, Dr. Bunche, proposed a solution, realizing that we would be unable to sign an agreement unless the Syrians withdrew from our land....Consequently, he insisted that the Syrian army leave the area it had conquered west of the border, and made no distinction between the border and the water-line. His compromise plan focused on his demand that the Syrians abandon the water-line and move across the border. His demands of us were that once the Syrian army had withdrawn from this area our army would not advance into it, and it should remain demilitarized. In other words, in those areas where the ceasefire lines between us and Syria which were fixed during the fighting are identified as the international border, the international border is the armistice line. While in those areas where the international border is not identical with or does not coincide with the ceasefire line there is a demilitarized zone between the international border and the ceasefire line, i.e., the Syrian army must leave it and the Israeli army may not enter it.
He also asked us to include two areas which were not controlled by the Syrian army in the demilitarized zone. These were Ein Gev, east of Lake Tiberias, and the far smaller area of Dardara, east of the Mei Merom Lake. He saw fit to insist on this condition simply in order to compensate the Syrian army and government for the concession he had wrested from them....
He also determined that in the...demilitarized zone civilian life should continue normally...and that people who had been forced to leave their homes upon the entry of the Syrian army could now return to them. This means that farming can be renewed in these areas...and all the former security arrangements in force there are to be restored, with the police replacing the army.
...The basis of this proposal is the complete withdrawal by the invading army from this part of the country, not as the result of a battle but solely as the result of negotiations and international considerations....The other side was doubtless aware of other possible solutions to the problem, namely, the use of force on our part....At any rate, we hope that they withdrew not because they were beaten but because they accepted the principle of international compromise. We hope that they withdrew because their long-term intention is to have stable and peaceful relations with Israel...on the basis of the previous border.
I will add in explanation that when we accepted the U.N. resolution of 16 November 1948...whose main section was passed unanimously by the Security Council...and we agreed to enter upon armistice negotiations with each of the countries which had invaded our land and fought against us, it could be assumed that the agreements which would be hammered out would stabilize existing positions. Although we demanded the withdrawal of the invading armies, the general spirit of the Security Council Resolution was directed towards stabilizing the existing situation. And in this armistice agreement with Syria we managed to change this basis. The agreement does not stabilize the existing situation but changes it fundamentally, although not to the extent we had hoped. Because our army does not enter the area from which the Syrian army is withdrawing, and even has to leave an area the Syrians never conquered. We found it necessary to agree under protest to this principle of the demilitarization of Ein Gev and Dardara...on the assumption that we would be able to maintain a police force there which would be able to preserve security and embody Israel's rule of these areas. We regarded this as the price we had to pay for the basic achievement of the agreement--the withdrawal of the invading army.
This withdrawal will not occur overnight; it will take place in stages, continuing over 12 weeks....This is because of the Syrian army's undertaking to destroy the permanent fortifications it had built in this strip. To the best of my knowledge, our forces had not built fortifications in their section....The fact that it will take so long to dismantle all these fortifications indicates how extensive they were and how much money had been invested in them. Throughout that area we inflicted serious losses on the Syrian army, which had invested a great deal in terms of human life and finances in order to hold onto and fortify the places they had conquered. In view of these facts, Syria's concession and its contribution to the armistice is admirable, and we hope it will also contribute to peace.
The renewal of civilian life...means replacing the army with the police....In the demilitarized zone there are four centers of Jewish settlement: east of Tzemah, around Ein Gev, in and around Mishmar Hayarden and at Dardara. The renewal of civilian life also involves reviving the land link between Ein Gev and Dardara....Throughout this period Ein Gev was cut off from the land to the north and the south, its only contact with Israel being by sea....The agreement also enables us to return to Mishmar Hayarden, when the time comes to withdraw from this area. This veteran settlement, which suffered for many years from malaria and attacks from its neighbors, and whose inhabitants were forced to abandon the site in the last war, some of them being taken captive, has been occupied by the enemy for the last 13 months. It will now be restored to Israel and the Jewish people, and these and other prisoners will be released.
On the other hand, just as Jewish inhabitants may return to their homes, the agreement also enables Arabs who fled to the eastern side because of the fighting to come back. This affects fourteen Arab points of settlement, encompassing a fairly small population. The agreement stipulates that there will be a local Arab police force, not Syrian police. There is a precedent for this arrangement in the villages of the Triangle which passed into our hands following the armistice with Transjordan....
At the final stages of the negotiations the Syrian delegation tried to raise difficulties...demanding the return of the refugees from Tzemah, and this was even supported at some stage by the U.N. Our position was that as long as we are not discussing a peace treaty there is no cause to discuss the return of the refugees. Incidentally, when we signed the agreement we proposed to Syria what we had proposed to other neighboring countries, namely, that there should be a border station for the reuniting of families, on the basis of the principle that the wives and children of inhabitants who had remained in Israel should be restored to them. But we did not agree to the general return of refugees to Tzemah. Another demand raised by the Syrians, and supported by the U.N., concerned the civil rights of Syrian subjects with the State of Israel, whereby Syrians who had had the right to work land across the border and fish in our waters during the Mandate could continue to do so. After a discussion the Syrians abandoned this demand.
...The agreement with Syria naturally contains all the elements found in the other agreements, one of them being the reduction of the military forces on both sides of the armistice lines and the demilitarized zones, and placing only defensive forces in these areas. This is intended to minimize any possibility of a clash occurring between the forces, and to protect the inhabitants of the areas from attacks by the opposing army....
At the conclusion of this chapter...I would like to thank the U.N. representatives on behalf of the government. They did not spare themselves...and made every effort to bring these difficult negotiations to a successful conclusion. First and foremost we thank Dr. Ralph Bunche, as well as his aides....I would also like to praise the patience and fortitude displayed by the members of the Israeli delegation, as well as...the remarkable coordination between the military representatives and those of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
With the signing of the armistice agreement between us and Syria the armistice arrangements under which we live today are completed, though we do not know how long they will continue until peace finally comes. I would like to take this opportunity of saying in public that in my view the armistice agreements can be regarded as crucial achievements of the IDF, on a par with the victories on the battlefield. Moreover, without the armistice agreements our military triumphs and the changes we made in the map of Israel would always depend on the changing balance of forces of both sides. By means of the armistice agreements the facts created by force of arms have become permanent arrangements, upheld by mutual agreements and with the international imprimatur of the U.N. I do not need to repeat that we did not achieve everything we wanted or deserved through these agreements, but I do not know of any negotiations and agreement which ended with 100 percent satisfaction on one side, without taking note of the standpoint of the other side. For what we achieved through these agreements, particularly the one with Syria, we had to pay a price. These agreements have to be discussed in general, not taking each one individually, balancing the positive against the negative and examining which side tips the scales. It is the cabinet's view that the advantages of the armistice agreement with Syria offset the disadvantages, and I propose that the Knesset evaluate it similarly.
Sitting 62 of the First Knesset
1 August 1949 (6 Av 5709)
Knesset Building, Tel Aviv
The Foreign Minister, M. Sharett: Distinguished Knesset, the debate on the Armistice Agreement with Syria has been postponed twice, and meanwhile there has been a certain development in the course of the talks at Lausanne, as they reach the second stage. This development, which makes it necessary to make a statement to the Knes-set...concerns the Arab refugees.
The Knesset is well aware of the Government's basic stand on the refugee problem, namely, that the solution lies primarily not in returning them to Israel but in settling them in other countries. There has been no change in this basic attitude. The Government has announced on several occasions, however, that within the framework of a comprehensive peace it would be ready to make its contribution to settling the refugees by taking a certain number of them back. Israel's permanent representative at the U.N. made this announcement at the meeting of the Assembly's parallel political committee on 5 May 1949. It was affirmed in the statements made by the head of Israel's delegation to the Conciliation Commission at Lausanne in May and June. It was reiterated in the Foreign Minister's address to the Knesset on 15 June. There has been no change in this position either.
With the revival of the Lausanne Conference the Government decided to take a step forward, in accordance with its position. It reached the conclusion that, should the appropriate background be created, it would be prepared henceforth to define its future contribution to resolving the refugee problem as part of the overall peace settlement between the Arab nations and Israel, and as part of a comprehensive plan to attain the eventual solution of the refugee problem. Accordingly, the Israeli delegation at Lausanne was instructed to inform the Conciliation Commission that if the Arab delegations were prepared to embark on peace negotiations our delegation would be ready to discuss the refugee problem first and, at a later stage, if regarded as part of comprehensive peace negotiations, to define Israel's contribution to solving the problem by resettling the refugees, on the explicit condition that this would be contingent on the attainment of peace and would constitute part of the overall solution of the refugee problem.
Israel's contribution, which would be defined as such, would include those refugees who have already returned and have been resettled in Israel and who number approximately twenty-five thousand persons. The defined contribution would also include the thousands who will have presumably returned to Israel meanwhile, within the framework of the reunification of Arab families, which was interrupted by the war.
With this statement, the delegation was instructed to stress once again that the State of Israel does not regard itself as being responsible for the refugee problem in any way. The State of Israel places full responsibility for this problem and for the terrible hardships it involves on those who rejected the U.N. resolution for resolving the Palestine problem and sought to negate it by force of arms, whether by rebellion within the country in order to prevent the establishment of the State of Israel or by invasion from the outside, in order to nip it in the bud. However, although it is not responsible for the problem, the State of Israel cannot be insensitive to the suffering and distress caused by it. It is very interested in solving the problem and regards it as its humanitarian duty to do its best to help.
The dimensions of Israel's aid cannot be determined by the extent of the problem, but must be based solely on the state's capacity, in relation to its security and economic considerations. Bitter experience has taught us that the return of any number of refugees involves serious dangers. We are also aware of the fact that any new settlement involving Arab refugees will create serious economic difficulties. Nevertheless, the Government feels that the state should take the risk and accept the difficulty, if this opens the path to negotiations, and if the implementation of the contribution is contingent upon the establishment of a stable peace and the participation of the Arab countries in the complete solution of the refugee problem. For our precondition is that if peace is not attained, if the Arab countries do not undertake to absorb most of the refugees, if an overall solution to the problem is not found, Israel's contribution will not be binding. It is proposed as a link in a chain, it does not exist on its own....That is Israel's position at Lausanne, and we are waiting to hear the response of the Arabs....
I. Ben Aharon (Mapam): ...I think the Government is expecting too much of the Knesset by asking it to understand its thinking and policy...regarding the refugee problem. It is not very long since chauvinistic slogans echoed through the country on this very issue, and anyone who tried to tell the Government, and especially the majority party, Mapai, not to mention the right-wing parties, that the issue of five or six hundred thousand Arab refugees who had left the country would not simply disappear, and that the state would have to find a political...solution to the problem, was attacked incessantly...and dismissed as an opponent of national interests. Certain persons, such as the poet Greenberg, used the term "fifth column."...But even the members of the Government, especially during the elections, thought that for internal purposes they could make use of this problem to benefit from the nationalist mood which swept away sections of the public, and mocked every idea...which aspired to a constructive solution. We have discovered that this unpopular view was the only serious political approach. Our grief and sorrow...for the Government today derives from the fact that it finds it so difficult to learn from Jews and Zionist Jewish socialist parties, and is so quick to learn from the pressure of foreign powers....
We demanded that the return of the refugees should be part of our overall policy....But if we implement it today it will be the Western Powers which will be regarded as saviors by the Arab world....The Government is constantly increasing the number of Arabs in Israel. Within a few months their number rose from 70,000 to 170,000...and tens of thousands were added to them without any connection with peace or with the negotiations at Lausanne. After that we heard about the Government's new decision. We heard about the number not in the Knesset or the Israeli press but from American press agencies, to which we are grateful for the information about our Government's decisions....It is obvious that this mysterious number about which we read in the papers...will represent a minimum on which further extortion will be based. We are still negotiating about the Gaza Strip. This demand was raised in the past--in my view quite rightly--by Israel's representatives, who demanded that the Strip be attached to the State of Israel. This also involves considerable numbers of refugees, and now we see where a course without courage, political vision...or political realism leads us. The course the Government took ignored the country's basic needs, namely, building a bridge to the democratic Arab world....There is a price we have paid for our independence, and it also includes the price of responsibility for the situation and property of its citizens, even when they belong to another nation....
It is evident that the Armistice Agreement with Syria is the worst of the various armistice agreements. Even the Foreign Minister hinted at this in his address here. If one looks at the agreement and compares it with those which preceded it--which we also criticized at the time--one will see how much worse it is....In this matter, as in many other political acts which are of crucial importance, we are presented with a fait accompli....I say this, knowing it will appear in the record, because I wish to lodge my protest....
...This agreement gives unprecedented authority to the Chairman of the Armistice Commission, who is a representative of the U.N....He may determine who may return to the demilitarized zones and when...what is to be the structure of the police force there and how it may act...which permanent fortifications are to be destroyed...and what kind of rule will be in effect there....The agreements with Transjordan and Egypt stated explicitly what the nature of the civil rule in the demilitarized zones such as the Triangle should be....This time the issue is left open, but it is...left to the Chairman of the Commission to decide which police forces should be permitted in both the Jewish and the Arab areas. What is unclear is what will happen in the areas in between. Who will take care of them? The Chairman will decide who is to return....There are also rumors that he can freeze settlement in that area...and can therefore prevent the Jewish population from growing....In brief, the U.N. representative is the deciding civil authority regarding the demilitarized zone.
The entire northern and eastern border with Syria is open and undefended. Henceforth we will have to defend the border area within Israeli territory. Anyone can see that neither the Jewish nor the Arab police forces in the...settlements will be able to prevent infiltration and attacks by gangs within the demilitarized zone....
What is most grave, however, are the territorial concessions. In return for the liberation and return of the inhabitants to Mishmar Hayarden and for opening a land route which is still doubtful as regards our security, we handed over Israeli land which was in our possession and turned it into a demilitarized zone, I am referring to Ein Gev and Dardara. In places to the east of Tzemah we have been told which points may be used as bases by our army, because they are outside the demilitarized zone. In the Tzemah region the army is permitted at only three points: the Tzemah police station, Sha'ar Hagolan and Massada. The agreement makes no mention of restricting the Syrian army in its territory to similar points.
...The Foreign Minister said that certain international forces were interested in reinforcing the new regime in Syria. But did Israel stand to gain from this...? Two weeks before the agreement was signed the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister repeated their promise that Ein Gev and Dardara would not be demilitarized. Today all we can do is express our sorrow and anger at what the Government has done. From this podium I would like to congratulate those two settlements, which stood firm under attack, fought heroically and recorded a glorious page in the annals of the defense of Israel's labor settlements. Despite the bitter disappointment the Government's action has caused them...I am sure that they will put their trust in the constructive and redeeming power of the Jewish pioneer, and will continue to build and develop their farms and the surrounding areas, despite the fact that they are demilitarized.
I would like to remind the Government of its particular obligation to help those settlements, which have sacrificed so much, to rehabilitate themselves rapidly, so that they can cope with the special and serious situation in which the Government has placed them. I propose that the Knesset express its regret at the fact that the Government signed an agreement such as the one before us without consulting the Knesset's Foreign Affairs Committee fairly and appropriately.
J. Sapir (General Zionists): ...In his address, the Foreign Minister repeatedly mentioned the military situation which, he claimed, constituted the basis or background for the Armistice Agreement with Syria....I would like to know why he stressed our inability to dislodge the Syrians from the points they had occupied in Israel....I would like to know why this has to be emphasized in explaining the importance of a political armistice agreement. It seems to me that every statement made by the Government in this connection contains something which says that this Armistice Agreement differs from the previous ones, and the demilitarization here is not like the demilitarization elsewhere. The agreement with Egypt concerned areas where there was and is no Jewish settlement. Here we are dealing with Jewish areas, and the Foreign Minister stressed the importance of this, afterwards correcting himself and referring to the relative importance of this area. But in this area there are Jewish settlements, and we wish to establish more...and especially to rehabilitate...Mishmar Hayarden, which guarded this pass for many years.
The question is...can our settlements in this demilitarized zone be defended, since according to the agreement our army is not allowed to guard them, and only police forces, about whose control we are not so sure, will be permitted there? In view of the precise and explicit phrasing of the Armistice Agreement, I maintain--not on the basis of the first impression we received from the information given us--that administrative and police matters will suffer the same fate as the area which was transferred to us in the Triangle....
...It has been stated explicitly that the Armistice Commission will have the supreme authority to determine matters. This means that it will not be the Government of Israel which decides how many policemen may be there, or who and how many people may return; nor will it determine in what way this will assure the rehabilitation of the existing settlements and those which we must quickly establish in that area. One can regard the Armistice Agreement as a preliminary stage towards peace, and one can assume that it is better to make some kind of concession if this brings permanent peace. But there is a suspicion that these conditions are serving as an undesirable basis for a permanent peace agreement, at least in that area.
It is possible to find other defects, which will be revealed once this Armistice Agreement is implemented...though it is difficult to foresee what will happen in another two weeks or months....But the Armistice Agreement takes on greater significance when we see it within the larger framework of...our relations with the neighboring countries, and the refugee problem, which was mentioned by the Foreign Minister, and whose details, whether correct or not, were made known to us by the press.
...When the negotiations began at Lausanne...the tremendous pressure which was exerted by the U.S. was rejected by all the parties in this House....But now...as an opening gambit, we make a proposal, whether mentioning a figure or not, and the question is, what did we achieve by that...? The sequence of events--the Armistice Agreement, the affair of Gaza-Rafah, and now the announcement of our readiness to make a contribution, whether mentioning a specific number or not--indicate that we are very eager to reach a quick solution to the problem. Even if we make all kinds of conditions, they might push us down the slope of concessions, causing us to give up more than we are prepared to today.
I believe that our Government was hasty in its proposal. We know how to withstand pressure....None of us, including the Government, has ignored the gravity of the return of the refugees...which, in addition to the existing number of Arab citizens in the State of Israel, in the conditions under which they will return...could considerably undermine what little internal stability we have achieved in the last few months. The social, political, administrative, cultural and security situation will become extremely complicated....
This is not a problem of progress, but one of survival, which we have to consider very carefully, weighing up the common interests of all the citizens of this state and its future. We have always declared that we are not responsible for the refugee situation. It is, therefore, a grave mistake, in my view, to take the initiative in this affair. I fear that we will not attain that important goal of foreign policy--the approval of the world. I fear that we will achieve the opposite--increased demands on us....
Thus, the conclusion is that the Government has made a very serious mistake at this stage....I demand that the Knesset ensures that this does not recur in the future, and that such issues be debated before they are decided, either by the plenum or by the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee....
Rabbi M. Nurock (Religious Front): First of all, I regard it as my duty to note that debating foreign policy at this moment, when our representatives are discussing and arguing with various countries in several places, cannot be of any help in solving the grave problems of our young state, and may even cause harm. A detailed discussion should take place in the Foreign Affairs Committee, not in the plenum....We must take into consideration the great difficulties the Government has to overcome, and the weighty responsibility imposed upon us. The members of Mizrachi support the Government in this historic struggle.
It is our duty, however, to express our doubts and apprehensions regarding various steps taken in the sphere of foreign policy, of which we were informed only post factum. Thus, all we can say is that, to our regret, in the negotiations with Syria and the other Arab countries regarding the armistice, refugees, borders and our holy city, Jerusalem, we have not always witnessed a firm will and a steadfast attitude. Those who waged the bloody war in this country must bear the responsibility for the refugees. They must take the blame for the trouble and suffering they have caused their brethren. We have already gone beyond the uttermost limit in concessions, on both the security and economic levels, by permitting the entry of relatives.
Out of philanthropic motives we have done more than all the other countries and nations did when a third of our people were murdered, and when those who remained sought refuge. There is no cause to discuss restoring property, because the war damage they caused us outweighs it all. We are burdened with the effort to absorb Jewish refugees. We say: so far and no further!
We have no cause to fear the pressure of outside bodies. There is no legal or moral basis for the Powers to impose their will upon us by force. We have learned through many instances, including that of Palestine, that the U.N. has no power other than that of words....We ask: what sanctions did the U.N. employ against those who infringed the November resolution? Everyone knows that the U.N. has only ethical, ornamental strength, and nothing more than that....
The November resolution is not binding upon us in any way. Its basis has been stripped from it because the other countries did not implement what they were supposed to....If we agree to compromises, if we are influenced by threats, our overt and covert enemies will increase their onslaught and demand even more concessions. If we had given in to threats there would be no state, and may God strengthen our hearts to withstand this unprecedented and historic trial.
S. Mikunis (Maki): Distinguished Knesset, Ever since the establishment of our state, and ever since Anglo-American imperialism, through its mercenaries, the reactionary Arab rulers, imposed war on us, the debate about war and peace has not ceased in the Provisional Council of State, the Knesset and the public. The debate centers on the question: what should be the guidelines and principles upon which Israel's policy is based in order to assure the state's independence and sovereignty?
At various opportunities we have made our position clear, namely, that the guiding principle of Israel's policy should be our state's national interest, requiring us to be independent of imperialist foreign powers, and to rely on the strength of our people and our friends abroad....
As we know, the Jewish people did not want war, and even when we were fighting to defend ourselves we desired peace. We approve every step which brings us nearer to permanent peace, secure borders and good relations with the nations around us, because this is in our interests, the interests of construction, economic development and social progress. The question is, however, does this agreement, with its apparent and concealed conditions, and everything around it, bring us nearer the goal of peace and security, for which the nation yearns...? The answer is that this agreement and the Foreign Ministry's policy of the last few weeks merely emphasize the feeling prevalent among the public, namely that the...Government is succumbing increasingly to the pressure of American imperialism, thereby endangering the sovereignty and security of our state.
The House will recall that the Foreign Minister announced in the Knesset that the negotiations with Syria were more complicated and difficult than with any other Arab country. The Foreign Minister also tried to convince us that...this was due to the "military and geopolitical background" to the negotiations with Syria. To the best of our knowledge, Syria did not shine in battle...and cannot be compared with Egypt or Transjordan, for example. The real problem derived from a decisive fact which the Foreign Minister was forced to reveal in part, employing evasive language.
At the end of the list of problems associated with this agreement he mentioned..."an additional difficulty...due to certain international influences, which sought to support the new regime in Syria."...In plain words, American intervention on behalf of the Truman-protected dictatorship of Colonel Hosni Zaim in Syria tipped the scales!...Not only has the Government agreed to American control of an additional area on the border between Syria and Israel, it has also conceded sovereign Israeli territory--Ein Gev and Dardara--to American supervision.
...That section in the agreement which has been discussed in the press recently, namely, that if peace is not attained within a year the Syrian army is entitled to return to the demilitarized zone, embodies great dangers. It is known who is preventing a permanent peace settlement between Israel and the Arab countries--those American "friends."...The agreement with Syria and the talks at Lausanne make it evident to everyone that the Foreign Minister and the entire Cabinet are increasingly dependent on their masters in Washington, and are evincing weakness in the face of the pressure and maneuvering of the U.S. representatives.
In these circumstances the agreement with Syria does not bring us nearer a permanent peace, because it does not reflect an agreement between two independent sides....I would like to stress my party group's rejection of the opposition to the Armistice Agreement with Syria which was expressed here by certain Opposition speakers to whom peace is alien and who regard war as an ideal for Israel. Although we oppose "peace at any price," we regard any attempt to renew the war as extremely damaging to our interests....
We believe that the time has also come to make peace with the Arabs who are citizens of our state. There is no political, military or economic point in continuing the military rule of the Arab areas. We hold that military rule harms good relations and cooperation between all the citizens of Israel, and if we hear frequent statements from members of the Government about their desire for peace and friendship with the neighboring Arab countries, this policy...should begin at home....Jewish-Arab relations within Israel should be based first of all on democratic foundations.
...The problem of the refugees is one of the most delicate since the establishment of the state, and it will be recalled that anyone who raised the issue of bringing them back...was regarded as a traitor to Israel's national interests. We continue to support the rights of the peace-loving Arab refugees, who did not participate in the war against us, to return to Israel, to their houses and their homeland. It is not their fault that they are at present in the neighboring countries, it is the fault of British and American imperialism, of Arab feudal reaction and of thirty years of repressive British rule in this country. We maintain...that this is a question not merely of doing justice to the Arabs, but also of defending Israel's security and future in the Middle East. We must not let British and American imperialism exploit the refugee problem, and use the refugees themselves as an aggressive force against Israel; we must not let them make use of this problem for the purpose of constant incitement against Jews and Israel in Arab countries.
...We are all aware of the fact that things have changed over time. Even others have begun to understand that the refugee problem is not so simple, and cannot be "resolved" by declaring that "not one refugee will return," or by frightening people with talk of a "fifth column."...The Government is giving in to the pressure to allow refugees back, and we ask why, even in this delicate issue, the Government allowed the initiative to be taken by American imperialism?...The Government...has given in to American pressure, and has given additional weapons against us to Arab reaction, and from all this we have achieved nothing, neither politically, nationally nor as regards Jewish-Arab relations.
We contend that it is the right of the peace-loving Arab refugees to return to Israel. This is in Israel's true interests. It is in the interests of all of us to deprive the Americans of any basis which helps them entrench themselves in Israel and the Middle East, because all America's maneuvers are directed towards one aim--establishing itself in the Middle East and turning it into a base for making war on the U.S.S.R. and the People's Democratic Republics. Our policy must prevent this possibility and these destructive, war-like plans.
A. Ben-Eliezer (Herut): Distinguished Knesset..."The return of the refugees without peace with the neighboring countries would be suicide for Israel; it would be tantamount to stabbing ourselves! No other country in our position would consider doing this."...This was said by the Foreign Minister in this House one and a half months ago. What stirring words, what a grave warning! The state was on the verge of being destroyed if we did what America was demanding of us, if we allowed a fifth column in! How seriously this man spoke, nearly convincing part of this House. And now this same man, the man who conducted the Jewish Agency's dilettantist policy, comes and tells us today that we should agree to let the refugees back, if that is part of the peace agreement, of course....Where is the guarantee that this will in fact be part of a peace agreement?...Do you expect us to take you seriously? Do you expect the world to take us seriously? What has happened? After generations of dreaming, a nation has fought a war of independence, made immense sacrifices and succeeded in attaining part of its homeland, wherein Israeli citizens may live with a modicum of security....Why has American public opinion, which favored our enterprise...suddenly turned against us on this issue? It is because our leaders continue to tread the path they took for dozens of years in the Jewish Agency as regards their political activities in America--internal intrigues and dissension among Jews, without any desire to educate the Jewish and non-Jewish masses in America to continue supporting our struggle for independence.
...And so, in discussing the refugee problem, we must ask, assuming...that we aspire to peace, where will the refugees return to? To Jaffa, Lod, Ramle...? And with whose money, sir, will we resettle them? With the money of the nation which faces the danger that the gates will be closed to its brethren, to the thousands still in camps in Europe and Israel?...Neither the Government nor the Knesset can decide on the refugee question. There is a nation which lives in this country, and every family in this country has made a sacrifice, has lost one of its members at the hands of those Arabs who fled and those Arabs who invaded. We must ask the members of this House if they want those Arabs back. Are they prepared to make more sacrifices, shed more blood, lose more sons, because of Mr. Sharett's mistakes? Let us ask the people!...There should be a referendum. Our population numbers no more than a million people. It is not difficult....We must ask the nation...if it is prepared to create a situation which, as the Foreign Minister said on 15 June, could destroy the state. Because bringing the Arabs back is like bringing in a fifth column....
We realize that there is a problem of refugees who left their homes. But where are those people today? Most of them are still in the Land of Israel, in the Old City of Jerusalem, in Ramallah and the Triangle, in all those areas which are part of our homeland, which the nation has not given up, and which even the Government has not given up.
The answer to the refugee question can be clear and simple: the withdrawal of the invading armies, which have no place here; the return of those areas which are not yet under Israel's control, together with the Arabs, who will be assured of every right, as are the Arabs living in the State of Israel today. None of us disregards the refugee problem. But we have been through a war, invading armies attacked us. Are we demanding compensation...? Why does the Foreign Minister not raise this issue in America?...At the time, the President mentioned the figure of one hundred thousand refugees in the U.S., and no mention was made of the precondition of peace. And as usual, the Government Denial Office denied this. We know that the refugee problem did not begin today....When the Zionist enterprise began...we declared that there was room for all the peoples of the region within the Greater Land of Israel....
Finally, in view of the political and...practical pressure exerted by certain powers on Israel to allow the Arabs back unconditionally...and in view of the negotiations being conducted in Lausanne on this issue, I propose that the Knesset instruct the Cabinet not to undertake to bring the refugees back as long as the nation has not expressed its view...through a referendum. ...
The Prime Minister, D. Ben-Gurion: Distinguished Knesset, the Opposition is to be congratulated for having demanded the debate on the occasion of the signing of the Armistice Agreement with Syria. This may be a good moment to clarify our foreign policy....This marks the end of a chapter, though we have not yet attained our goal as regards our relations with our neighbors, our international standing and many other important issues. Nevertheless, signing agreements with all the neighboring Arab countries is an important historical point, which should be appreciated....I am not one of those pessimists who dismiss Knesset debates since it is known in advance what the Opposition will say on every issue, what the Coalition will reply, and how both sides will vote, and that in this House neither side can influence the other. Even if this is true, these debates are educational, because I am sure the nation listens to them and studies them, and it is a good thing for the nation to hear both criticism and information regarding how we have reached our present position. We must all leave it to the nation to decide.
It is not always possible to prove the benefits of something at the time action is taken, and especially not in the field of politics. Any system, whether military or political, contains negative as well as positive elements. It is necessary to pay a price for everything, and sometimes the price comes a little or a lot before the achievement, just as plowing and sowing come before reaping. Someone who sees only the price can claim that it is pure loss, or that it is too high, because nothing is given gratis in history. And the greater the goal, the higher the price.
Someone might calculate what the war--for something which should be ours without having to make sacrifices, our existence and our independence--has cost us, and this could shock us to our very foundations. And as one of those who know this calculation well, I am constantly shocked. I am one of the few people in the country who, even at times of great victories and conquests...did not have one day of joy. Not when the U.N. resolution aroused general admiration, not when the nation rejoiced at the declaration of our state and not when everyone celebrated our military victories, because I knew well what they cost, and I could not distract myself for one moment from the high price we had to pay. I always saw before me those who had paid the price with their blood. I did not know each one of them, but I knew many. Some of them I will never see again, because they gave everything. But many who are still with us gave no less, and those are first and foremost the fathers and mothers whose children fell in the war. I know that in their heart of hearts they know that it was worthwhile. And if we could ask the boys and girls who fell, I know what their answer would be. But that does not reduce our grief and sorrow; on the contrary, the more loyal and courageous those youngsters were, the greater is the loss. I am not even mentioning the great losses in property. And if one only sees that side of the war, the cost was undoubtedly great. But every one of us will admit that this is a misleading and one-sided calculation, harming above all those whose sacrifice was greatest.
This applies to every campaign. There can be a genuine appraisal only if both the advantages and the disadvantages, the loss and the profit, are weighed in the balance.
I do not blame the Opposition for not doing this. It does not regard this as its obligation. Our Opposition sees it as its task to describe the Government's activities in gloomy terms, whatever the truth may be....And anyone who looks for the black side of things will easily find what he seeks. Our history, including the most recent chapter, is far from being a bed of roses. The question is only if this way of looking at things is correct, and if these descriptions fit the truth.
I cannot prove whether the latest step on this path--the agreement with Syria--will be beneficial, and when. I am no prophet, and in the sphere of prophecy it is difficult to compete with the Opposition It is possible, however...to check predictions made in the past by the Opposition....The broadsides fired at the Government by the Opposition have been heard with greater ferocity and vehemence on previous occasions. We heard about submission, abandonment of our independence, succumbing to American pressure, wasting our military conquests...etc. not only when we signed the agreement with Syria, but also when we signed the agreements with Egypt and Transjordan, as well as following our response to the U.N. resolution....
We should clarify which of the Opposition's predictions have come true, and whether the actions of the Government, the settlement institutions and the Zionist movement, which later comprised the Government, really have led to decline, submission and bondage in the last two years, or to revival, fortification and progress.
...It has been claimed here by the Opposition that the army conquered and was victorious, while the Government wasted the conquests and surrendered. This separation between the army and the Government doubtless reflects the desires of totalitarian parties, which would like the army to be an independent body....There was someone in this country who tried to establish an "army" of that nature, but the Israel Defense Force is not a "national" military organization. The IDF is the military arm of the state, and is subject to the Government of Israel....Everything the army does and has done...is on the Government's instructions....In a democratic country--and I believe that the State of Israel will always be democratic--it is not the army which decides but the people and the people's elected representatives....I have at least as much admiration for the army and its achievements as Mr. Ben-Eliezer and his colleagues...but the army never acts of its own accord....
...There is something else which we should clarify for ourselves...and that is, that we have been engaged--and still are--in a unique and complex battle, which is unlike any other anywhere else in the world, and no comparison with the wars of independence fought by other nations is appropriate. Our problems and needs, and our struggle, should be seen in their uniqueness, in their special circumstances, in their unprecedented historical and geographical constellations, and this is the line which distinguishes us and our approach from the Opposition....I know...that there are varied views within the Opposition...both within and between the various parties...but what distinguishes us from them is that we do not regard our national struggle as a copy of any other one....We must seek our own way to independence, within the complex historical circumstances in which we find ourselves....We reject any attempt made by either the left or the right to transfer here the wars fought by other countries, whether in the West or the East, in India or Ireland. If anything has been done till now, it is not because people were bound by theories borrowed from the outside, but because they took their own course and acted according to the conditions and needs of Jewish history. And although we have come quite some way, our struggle has not yet ended, and difficult tests still lie ahead of us.
Our struggle with the Arabs these past two years is only one chapter in our long drawn-out historical struggle with tremendous world forces. For hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years forces in the world have not accepted our existence, and still do not....This applies to Jews all over the world, at every period in history, up to and including the present time....I do not know one country in the world where Jews are really free to live as they please, whether the law of the land restricts them or not. In some countries Jews are not allowed to identify with our redeeming enterprise and liberating struggle, although their Jewish souls struggle within them as ours do within us....I am not particularly impressed when I hear speakers from the fighting "revolutionary" parties in the Knesset heaping fire and brimstone on certain governments for not helping us enough, or for hindering us, because I know that those doughty speakers say nothing when other governments harm our enterprise. I am not prepared to criticize our revolutionaries' colleagues in certain countries for not daring to fight against their government, which prevents them from coming to Israel and suppresses their Jewish and Zionist existence, because I know what their situation is....The Jews in the diaspora do not control the forces around them, and they are unable to do as they want as Jews....Our struggle, which inevitably relies on the help of the Jewish people in the world...cannot ignore that...reality.
The fate of this country is also very different from that of other countries. It has a unique history, and almost every nation in the world...has some kind of link with it; our country stands at the center of a complex of contradictions and conflicts on a worldwide scale. First of all, the tragic contradiction between us and the Arabs. No world event embodied so much good for the Arabs as the return of the Jews to their homeland. By its very nature, the Zionist enterprise is a force for progress and liberation not only in its own land but in all the neighboring countries, and a flourishing, strong and independent State of Israel could, more than any external factor, help the political independence, economic prosperity and social and cultural advance of the Arab peoples. We are not alien invaders here, we are sons returning to their homeland. We were here before the Arabs and before all the other nations...which entered this country at one time or another. But the Arabs regard our return with fear and hatred, as do certain Asian countries. The countries of the East, which were enslaved by Europe for hundreds of years, regard us as the European rulers' agents of bondage and exploitation. We are supposed to be the agents of the repressors and the exploiters, of Europe, which drove us out of its midst and almost destroyed us utterly. The Arab nations have also accepted this view, which is a tragic and ominous distortion, and which we should not dismiss lightly.
I have always believed, and still do, that the dispute between us and the Arabs is a passing one, being based on a misunderstanding rather than on an historical conflict of interests. But this temporary conflict will not be resolved solely by force. The Arab leaders erred in thinking that they would be able to destroy us and thereby solve the "Jewish problem" in Palestine, just as Hitler did in Europe. We will not repeat the Arab mistake by thinking that we can solve the "Arab problem" by arms. The question of our relations with the Arabs is not restricted to the Arabs of the Land of Israel, we are up against the Arab nations, which number tens of millions and occupy the southwestern section of the Middle East and the entire northern coast of Africa from the eastern Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean. (J. Gil: Is this the encouragement the Prime Minister gives the nation?) Yes, the best encouragement is telling the truth and revealing the situation as it is. The people who were aware of this were not deterred from fighting the Arabs, and did not desist until they had won.
For many years we tried to overcome our problems in the world and among the Arabs by information and political activities; we reaped not inconsiderable benefits from this, and we have nothing to be ashamed of or to regret on this score. But as the moment for deciding the fate of the country approached, once the Second World War had ended, it was evident that a political campaign alone would not decide the matter. That was clear even during our great political victories, when a majority of the U.N. Commission recommended establishing a Jewish state, and also afterwards, when the U.N. Assembly itself decided by a majority of 35 against 11 or 13 in favor of a Jewish state, with both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in this majority.
As the House knows, the Arabs declared war, morally on the U.N. and physically on us. And once again we knew that we could not rely on any foreign power....We knew that no country would send its army here to defend us, not even to defend the decisions of the U.N....If we have reached this point, if we exist and are independent, and the State of Israel has been established...it is the IDF which has achieved this....Nevertheless, we know that it is not only by military force that matters are decided, just as we knew before that it is not only by the decision of the U.N. and political victories that matters are determined.
...And although one act has ended, the struggle is not over, and the disputation about us continues, with some people questioning what has been done. We must continue to stand firm...in order to hold on to what we have redeemed....We must acquire friends and understanding and support...both in the East and in the West....I know of no nation in the world which has identified with our existence and our aspirations, or regarded...our struggle as its own. That is not surprising. Thus, we must depend primarily on ourselves, without dismissing the moral and political aid extended by other nations and all mankind....
I envy the ease with which part of the Opposition here fights against "American imperialism." We cannot relinquish America's aid and goodwill, just as we cannot abandon that of the U.S.S.R. And if the Opposition thinks that we have no need of American aid, is it prepared to abandon five million American Jews?
I must admit that I cannot imagine the implementation of our historic vision without the help and participation of those five million. Will we make it easier for American Zionism if we make America our enemy? We can do it easily, if we constantly declare that we oppose America and that America tyrannizes us, as some of the Opposition speakers have done. I am not quite sure if in doing this they have the support of their entire party. Should the loan of one hundred million dollars from the American government to Israel be accepted or rejected? This is not a hypotherical question but a very real one, which was asked in this House, and an important Opposition party...did not have the courage to vote against it or the honesty to vote for it. Do immigration and settlement need this loan or not? And if there is a counter-consideration which rises above the needs of immigration and settlement, why did it not decide the issue?
By making America our enemy--and there is nothing easier--we will lose not only the political and material aid we need, we may also lose the help of the Jews of America. They are not cowards, and they oppose their government when necessary, as free and equal citizens, but I know Jews who are no less brave and yet do not dare oppose their governments, even though those governments do things against us which America is very far from doing. I do not know if the bombastic speeches and articles against America hurt American imperialism, but there is no doubt that they hurt the interests of the State of Israel, and they certainly do not aid the bitter struggle in which we are engaged.
...Israel's policy...must be one of information and persuasion rather than accusation, incitement and aggression. We must not regard anyone...as an implacable enemy...or think that if someone is already our enemy we have nothing more to lose. I know of no other nation whose historical struggle has been as protracted and hard as that of the Jews. Only if we are aware of all the difficulties and dangers will we be able to stand firm. And in order to do this, we must shorten the front as far as possible, reduce our enemies if we can, isolate the...most dangerous of those who hate us, increase the aid from our friends and persuade those who are neutral to support us. That is what we have done, both militarily and politically.
When the attacks by the Mufti's and Kaukji's gangs began, while the British were still ruling the country, we refrained from entering into any conflict with the British army. It was not easy, we needed tremendous moral strength to do it, but we knew that it was essential, so we did. Not only did we avoid clashing with the British army, during the first six months, from the end of November until the invasion by the Arab armies, we tried to reduce the points of conflict to a minimum, so that we could concentrate our forces on the most dangerous point. We also adopted this tack after the invasion as far as we could, having no interest in strengthening the artificial Arab coalition organized by an external Power. Our war and its results owe a great deal to the disintegration of this coalition, which from the outset served only the interests of a foreign Power, and was not directed towards reinforcing Arab independence or benefiting the Arab peoples.
The Arab governments are responsible for this invasion, which was launched in opposition to the U.N. resolution and in contravention of all international law. None of those governments had received a mandate from its people to wage war on Israel. Not all those nations were eager to fight, and we were not interested in creating the impression among them that the State of Israel was a danger to their independence or territorial integrity, quite the contrary.
We knew, however, that political measures alone would not overcome the grave dangers confronting us....The enemy was blatantly infringing the orders of the U.N. observers, who showed no desire or ability to amend the situation, and we had to make use of our army...leading to the demolition of the Bernadotte plan and the fundamental alteration of the situation in the country. The army was not used lightly or hastily, nor because we did not consider the opinions of others, and certainly not because we belittled the U.N. and world public opinion....But in all our military activities we were not distracted from the final objective of the war--fortifying the independence of our state and establishing peace with the Arab world.
Before the state was founded, before the beginning of the war, and even before the U.N. resolution of November 29, we decided that there were three main planks to our political plan, and upon them our entire future rested: security, a Jewish state and a Jewish-Arab alli-ance....And just as neither the state nor the army were built in one day...peace between us and the Arabs will not come suddenly, but we must work for it....We still aspire towards peace...with all the Arab nations...and the Armistice Agreements with Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon and Syria...are the first step towards it, despite the gloomy predictions in the Opposition press....
First, as regards territory, the U.N. resolution of November 29 granted the State of Israel 14,920,000 dunams. Only one-third of this area was genuinely in our hands. In the entire southern area, comprising almost ten million dunams, we barely had a hold of any kind....Now the state consists of over twenty million dunams, all of which area we control. In theory the state has grown by only five million dunams, but in practice it has grown by fifteen million dunams. About five million dunams were conquered by the army in the battles in the Jerusalem corridor, Western and Central Galilee, Southern Judea and the Northern Negev. These conquests expanded our borders beyond what the U.N. had allotted us. About five hundred thousand dunams were added by peaceful means, in the Armistice Agreements with Transjordan and Syria. About nine million dunams came under our control and we managed to retain them without battles and bloodshed because of the Armistice Agreement with Egypt, namely, the line from Ein Gedi to Eilat and the entire land of Edom. In the western part of the Land of Israel only about seven million dunams remain outside the state, most of it retained by Transjordan and some by Egypt. The Opposition's fears that the Negev would be abandoned and the army's conquests wasted have been proven unfounded. Precisely the opposite happened, the army's conquests were reinforced and expanded through the Armistice Agreements.
The U.N. has not yet recognized our expanded borders, and we must not delude ourselves that the battle is over. The countries which recognized our state, and this comprises most of the countries in the world, have not recognized our new borders either. But, lo and behold, the first countries to recognize our state's new borders were the Arabs. That is a fact, albeit a surprising one....Egypt has signed a document recognizing our southern and western border, from the northern Negev to Eilat; Transjordan has signed a document recognizing our eastern border as far as the Yarmuk and Jordan rivers; Syria has signed regarding the eastern border on the other side of Lake Tiberias, and from the Jordan river to Dan; Lebanon has signed regarding the northern border from Metulla to Rosh Hanikra.
I will not go into the pointless argument regarding who gave in to whom. I will admit quite openly and simply that we gave in too. Not because of pressure and bondage, but because of our desire to reach an agreement, as a step towards a stable peace. We gained immensely, on both a political and a territorial level, from all these documents, precisely because we knew when to give in. Every time we gave in...we expanded our borders and strengthened our position....
I never made the statements attributed to me by I. Ben Aharon to the effect that we would never agree to the demilitarization of certain points on the border with Syria. What I did say was that either the Syrians would withdraw across the border of their own free will or we would drive them back, and we are glad that the former took place rather than the latter....
The expansion of our territory, a step towards peace with the Arab countries and the strengthening of our position vis-o(a,`)-vis the U.N. are the results of the Armistice Agreements....We would not have attained these achievements had we not been able to give in. No nation can do just as it pleases....Small nations depend on large ones, and vice versa....
Not all our enemies have accepted us, and bitter struggles still await us. We may yet have to face unjust demands or attacks in crucial matters. If necessary, we will stand firm, though we do not desire war....Our past history and present and future needs...as well as moral precepts...require us to adopt a policy of peace and rapprochement....
Our efforts to attain peace will be fruitful only if we maintain our military strength...while simultaneously seizing every opportunity to strengthen peace in our region and in the world....I do not regret the long months of negotiations with Syria. We could undoubtedly have attained Mishmar Hayarden without any negotiations and in a far shorter time, and we had to display a great deal of self-restraint in order to endure these long and tiring discussions. But it was worth making this effort because of the moral and political victory of gaining Mishmar Hayarden without the use of force. This also raised Israel's prestige in the world without arousing feelings of hostility and revenge in our neighbors--and this is no mere trifle.
That is the course we have taken till now and the one we will continue to take. The State of Israel is faithful to its historical destiny, it has no other way....
(There was an interval of one hour as a result of continuous interruptions.)
A. Ben-Eliezer (Herut): ...I thank the Speaker for allowing me to read my proposal out again, which is as follows: "In view of the political...and practical pressure exerted by certain Powers on Israel to allow the Arabs back unconditionally...and in view of the negotiations in Lausanne on this issue, the Knesset instructs the Cabinet not to undertake to bring the refugees back as long as the nation has not expressed its opinion through a referendum."
(MK Ben-Eliezer's proposal was defeated by 41 votes to 10 and the debate was adjourned without a further vote.)