FIRST KNESSET 1949-1951
Annexation of the West Bank by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Sitting 135 -- 3 May 1950
In December 1948, at a conference which took place in Jericho, a group of hand-picked leaders of Palestinian Arabs resolved to ask King Abdullah of Transjordan to incorporate the Arab parts of Palestine into his kingdom. The General Armistice Agreement of 3 April 1949 constituted de facto recognition of that incorporation; however, it was specifically designed as a military agreement which did not prejudice the political positions of the contracting parties.
On 25 April 1949 the king officially changed the name of his kingdom, henceforth to be known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Almost one year later, having secured the support of Great Britain (albeit qualified--Great Britain did not recognize the incorporation of East Jerusalem, maintaining that it ought to be part of a corpus separatum, an international enclave), King Abdullah went one step further. On 24 April 1950 the Jordan House of Deputies and House of Notables, in a joint session, adopted a resolution declaring "complete unity between the two sides of the Jordan and their union in one state...at whose head reigns King Abdullah Ibn al Hussain, on a basis of constitutional representative government and equality of the rights and duties of all citizens."
Almost a week later the Knesset devoted a sitting to a debate of the subject.
Sitting 135 of the First Knesset
3 May 1950 (16 Iyar 5710)
I. Bar-Yehuda (Mapam): Distinguished Knesset, I would like to draw your attention to the strange and unprecedented way in which this debate has been called. Despite the various differences of opinion, I think that there is no one here among us who does not regard this issue as being of the utmost political significance, both internally and externally. The Government refuses to open the debate with a statement, and this goes against precedent....We, the Opposition parties, are opening the debate because we do not wish to delay the matter further, and I presume that...the Government will make a closing statement, when we will be unable to make any remarks.
...The king of the country which calls itself "Jordania" has announced that he has annexed part of Palestine to his country. Furthermore, the British Empire has announced that its armed forces are returning to Palestine. The State of Israel has not reacted to this. Is the Knesset entitled not to react either?...We cannot discuss the events of our lives without stressing their international background, particularly in our immediate vicinity....
I would like to remind you that when one wants to gain control of a large area one does not start with the main, principal enemy. One prepares the ground by taking action against the weaker forces. This is what Hitler did when he started his scheme to destroy the entire free world....First he attacked the Jews and the socialists, and the world kept quiet, thinking that the threat was not directed at it.
The preparations for the third world war are being made in the same way. Although the intention is to rule the world and attack the U.S.S.R., the forces in our immediate neighborhood are being prepared first. Those forces tried to attack us recently, and were defeated. Someone still doubts the military capacity and potential of those forces, that is why they are being prepared for a future war by fighting against us.
Before and during this annexation and Britain's announcement of its return to Palestine we also heard about other activities. I presume that there is no one here in this House who does not know about this. All the weapons which have been and will be given to Abdullah and to others are intended to be used in the third world war, but meanwhile can be directed against us....Is it not obvious that the announcement of the annexation was also a way of preparing Britain's return to Palestine? That is also part of the grand design.
There was a great debate among us about partition, and the Foreign Minister reminds us from time to time that that discussion has been settled. But I want to warn you that this is not the case....Some bodies did not recognize even what we were given for the State of Israel then. This does not apply only to the so-called independent Arab countries, it also applies to those who support and arm them....The war against us has not ended. The cold war continues, interspersed from time to time with fighting and the danger of the outbreak of war.
...Our party has always said that peace was necessary for Israel, in order to build and develop the country....We wanted peace with the Arab people, and thought that we should conduct a dynamic policy towards it, seeking those elements within it which could be true allies in the search for peace, which both nations need.
A. Almaliah (Sephardim): Who speaks for them?
I. Bar-Yehuda (Mapam): I'm talking about what you and I--as well as they--need....But our Government adopted a different line: it did not seek someone who "did not exist," as the Foreign Minister has said several times, but "what there was." We are currently surrounded by reactionary, feudal governments--the sworn enemies of our country--which you recognize as the representatives of the peoples around us. But even while adhering to that policy, which was the worst mistake the Government made in this period...within those Arab countries there are varying degrees of dependence on world imperialist forces. Our Government's policy, however, was always to court the country which was gripped most securely by the vise of British imperialism....
The Prime Minister has praised the wisdom of the Transjordanian ruler. He has not praised our political wisdom, and quite rightly....Our words and actions encouraged the annexation of the West Bank and the return of the British army.
...The treaty between Britain and Abdullah gives the former the right to bring its army back not only in time of war but also if either side thinks it is threatened in any way. Need I remind you that not long ago, when the British Empire wanted to send a large military force to this part of the world, it announced that it was doing so...at the request of Abdullah, who feared that his country was threatened?...
We propose that the House resolve...not to recognize the annexation and forbid negotiations with Abdullah until it is annulled....
The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister have informed us on various occasions that we belong to the U.N. not only because of the practical convenience of the thing but also because we believe in the U.N.'s role in preserving world peace. If this is true, we propose that you decide to submit an official complaint to the U.N. about the annexation and the announcement of the British Empire's return to Palestine, which negate every international decision and threaten world peace....
I know that all our complaints and appeals have been to no avail in the past, and will be in the future too. I know that our cause will be furthered primarily by increasing our own strength, expanding our population and establishing a regime in Israel which will enable us to utilize every ounce of public power and create the kind of relations with the Arabs of Palestine which will cause them to influence and attract other Arabs too....I know that in the future, too, the creation of "faits accomplis" will have greater weight than anything else. But while increasing our strength in order to achieve this, we must instruct our Government to refuse to recognize the annexation or continue the secret negotiations until it is annulled, and to complain to the U.N. about those who wish to threaten our region with violence and war.
The Foreign Minister, M. Sharett: Mr. Speaker, I have asked for the floor now not in order to address the issue, but solely to clarify the parliamentary status of the debate, which has been described as strange and unprecedented.
It is strange to condemn an institution as young as this Knesset for departing from precedent....I would like to point out that as far as other parliaments are concerned it is quite customary that when the Opposition demands a debate on a specific topic its leaders open the debate, and the Government steps in only when it sees fit to do so. This Government subscribes to that view, and will continue to do so in the future....
If, however, it is claimed, as MK Bar-Yehuda has done, that the Government has not reacted and has said nothing about the recent event, I must point out that this is not so....The Government Spokesman issued the following statement, in the Government's name: "The decision to annex the Arab areas west of the River Jordan to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a unilateral step to which Israel is not a party in any way. We are connected with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan through the Armistice Agreement, which we will uphold rigorously. This agreement does not include any final political settlement, however, and no such settlement is possible without negotiations and a peace treaty between the sides. It must be evident, therefore, that the question of the status of the Arab areas west of the River Jordan remains open as far as we are concerned." A few days later, when the associated British announcement was made, the Government stated: "With regard to the annexation of the Arab areas west of the River Jordan by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Government has already announced that it regards the status of these areas as being open. The Government notes the fact that the British government does not intend to establish military bases in the areas west of the River Jordan during peacetime. The content of the treaty between Britain and Transjordan regarding these areas is surprising, and the Government of Israel maintains its reservations about the status of these areas." At present the Government has nothing to add to these statements. It is interested in hearing the views of the Opposition and of the House, reserving the right to react to what is said at any stage of the debate.
M. Begin (Herut): Distinguished Speaker, we accuse Mr. Sharett and the Government...of having given Abdullah and the Bevin government...the green light to go ahead and turn an act of conquest and plunder into a recognized political act. Last year the first agreement with the British protectorate in the eastern part of the Land of Israel, called "the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan" by the conquerors and our Govern-ment, was submitted to us. We warned the Government then that by signing that agreement it was granting threefold recognition to the enemy: first--recognizing the separation of the eastern part of Transjordan; second--openly recognizing the annexation of parts of the western Land of Israel by the "Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan"; third--implicitly recognizing the validity of the enslaving treaty which Bri-tain ordered its vassal Abdullah to sign, enabling it to establish military bases in the territory he had conquered.
The Government took no heed of our warning, assuring the nation that the agreement was merely a first step and would eventually be followed by a peace agreement....It must be admitted that since then the Government has done its best, or its worst, to obtain a peace agreement with King Abdullah, and its failure is not its fault....We ask what benefit would we derive from an agreement of this kind?...Our institutions tried in the past to win Abdullah's heart by offering him a bribe...but for more than fifty years this has not succeeded....The Cabinet Secretary has revealed...that prior to the invasion by the Arab armies Mrs. Golda Meyerson (Meir), disguised as an Arab woman, was sent on a dangerous...mission to Transjordan. I must congratulate the lady on her courage and her expertise in conspiracy, but the fact is that she did not succeed. (From the floor: How do you know?) Jerusalem is the proof.
When the invasion began Mr. Ben-Gurion made a supreme effort to guarantee King Abdullah's friendship, praising him in public and saying: "I believe in the peacable intentions of the wise ruler who seeks the welfare of his people and his country."...But it was to no avail. As ordered by Glubb Pasha and Clayton, Abdullah sent his Legion against us, destroying the Etzion Bloc, attacking Jerusalem...and attempting to join up with the other Arab armies on the coastal plain, thereby destroying our national endeavor and enabling Bevin to..."rescue" those of us who remained and enclose us in a ghetto.
...Today Abdullah has no more than 15,000 soldiers, albeit welltrained and armed, and no reserves....Even now the IDF could defeat them in a head-on clash, so the possibility of a war on that front represents no threat to us....But Abdullah may become stronger in the future...and may try once again to destroy us. Would a slip of paper called a peace treaty stop him?...Recent experience indicates that it would not....
Because of our past experience, the present situation and future possibilities, we are all amazed by this headlong pursuit of a peace treaty with a vassal state which controls part of our homeland....Even if this peace treaty were to bring us some benefit, this would not justify our signing it....
...But the peace treaty accords official recognition by us to the severing of Transjordan. The eastern part of it was taken away from us at the famous Cairo Conference of 1922, in which Churchill, who was Colonial Secretary, Herbert Samuel, Viceroy of India, and Intelligence Officer Lawrence, participated. Since then a great deal of water has flowed in our Jordan River. Despite my searches, I have not found any document issued by a Jewish or Zionist body recognizing the severing of Transjordan from our homeland. That area was recognized as being part of our territory by more than forty nations, as well as by you, when Britain agreed to it. We ask: does a nation exist by the charity of others?
Until 1937 Mr. Ben-Gurion opposed the establishment of a Jewish state, maintaining that it involved our ruling another nation. In 1937...Lord Peel, Copeland and two other British Gentiles said that Palestine should be partitioned and a Jewish state established in the smaller part. From then on Ben-Gurion was an ardent supporter of a Jewish state....When Britain changed its mind about the Jewish homeland on both banks of the Jordan...when one old desert king was driven out by another, and one of his sons had to be compensated and another base built, and the control of Transjordan with its 250,000 Beduin and Circassians was handed over to a foreign ruler who had no connection with them, our institutions were prepared to accept that too....Our entire future depends on the territorial integrity of our historic homeland...and you are prepared to legitimize the annexation of part of it, of Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem and Shechem, by a British-controlled, foreign ruler.
...The mutual defense clause in the British-Transjordanian friendship treaty of 15 March 1948...means that if the King of England is at war in Hong Kong or Malaya he will ask King Abdullah to come and rescue him....And vice versa....That is what your recognition of Britain's right to establish bases in the western part of the Land of Israel means....
Why are you so eager to sign a peace treaty with Abdullah?...Are you afraid of him and his 15,000 soldiers?...Or is one of the ministers, who promised the people "peace" in the election campaign, eager to keep his word? Do not worry, it would not be the first time you failed to keep an election promise. In the past you asked us what right we had to act as we did in order to drive out the British oppressor, and we answered "we were chosen."...It was at a time when our people were being slaughtered in Europe, and the oppressor closed our gates and would not allow Jews in....Revolutions do not take place after orderly resolutions have been passed. The Declaration of the Rights of Man was written after the Bastille was stormed; the American Declaration of Independence was drawn up after the Boston Tea Party. A revolution always erupts from the depths.
But today we will ask you that question. You have acknowledged the legitimacy of handing over Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, the Cave of Machpela, Rachel's Tomb, Hebron, Bethlehem, Shechem, Gilead and Bashan to a foreigner, an enemy, an oppressor. Who gave you this right? You were elected to conduct the affairs of the country. The nation may reelect you or not....But when were you authorized to hand over sites which have been historically hallowed for 120 generations, and for which the blood of millions has been shed?...
I would like to ask the religious Ministers and Knesset Members if they have read the unfortunate memorandum which Mr. Sharett submitted to the Conciliation Commission stating that Israel had no claim to the areas under the control (not the illegal conquest, heaven forfend) of any Arab country. We were told that not even the Government's statement on Independence Day was submitted for your approval. I assume that you were unaware of this document too. But does that mean that you should grant it your approval now?...You must choose between the eternity of our attachment to the Land of Israel and your temporary membership in a coalition government....
That is the situation in which the Government has placed us. And then it is surprised that we are isolated....Does it think that the world is blind? That it fails to see that we are willing to accept the annexation of four-fifths of our homeland by Abdullah...and the reestablishment of British bases?...You are going towards bondage...and further isolation....
You should read the article in the Times agreeing with the "de jure" recognition of Israel, but warning that "Israel's territorial ambitions" should not be tolerated. You will yet be asked to abandon not only what you have relinquished but the territory we hold....Mr. Sharett, you have received a letter from the State Department demanding that compensation be paid for the areas we liberated and which were not included in Israel as defined by the U.N. resolution of November 29. You replied that there is no one to give compensation to since there are only invading armies in Palestine. Now there is someone to give it to....You have recognized the annexation....That kingdom has been recognized by Britain and America, and other countries will follow; then the demands will start, whether for Haifa, the southern Negev or other areas.
I would like to announce, on behalf of my party, that I do not think that this problem can be resolved anymore by a show of hands. I wish to state that...we do not accept the Israel Government's recognition of what has happened in the eastern and western parts of Transjordan. In civilized countries what one government decides is generally binding on others....But this signature is not binding upon us, it is the signature of this Government alone....The entire Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people, and we will not recognize the right of Abdullah or Britain to govern one inch of our homeland.
Joseph Sapir (General Zionists): Mr. Speaker, distinguished Knesset, despite the unconvincing statement made by the Foreign Minister...I wish to express our regret at the fact that he has not given this House any report on the events prior to and following the annexation....
The Government should have told us about what was happening at its own initiative, not as a result of the Opposition's intervention. Any public debate of our foreign policy is of necessity limited....Because of the limited information conveyed to the Opposition parties...we can only base ourselves on certain inferences.
We have been confronted with the fact that the remaining part of our country, the West Bank and the Old City of Jerusalem, now constitute part of another country, on both banks of the Jordan. We have always preferred--and still do so today--the establishment of an independent Arab state in the rest of our country to its annexation by one of the neighboring countries...but the fact of the matter is that the initiative is no longer ours to take....Are we to understand that both before and after the annexation the Foreign Ministry agreed to it?...We maintain that the Government is ignoring the Knesset on this subject. Do we have to constantly point to the grave mistake the Foreign Ministry made before the U.N. decision to internationalize Jerusalem?...We are forced to conclude once again that it has erred in its evaluation of the political forces operating in the area....
As you know, negotiations were held with a Transjordanian representative some time ago, but ended as the result of pressure exerted on the other side by the other Arab countries. Today we find ourselves in a vacuum...the sole salient fact being the annexation. There may be differences of opinion regarding how justified it is for us to relinquish one area or another on the border with Transjordan. But on one painful point--the Old City of Jerusalem--there are no differences of opinion. Here the pain is acute. Here our public stands firm. It is difficult, nay, impossible, to pass lightly over the fact that the Old City of Jerusalem is...part of another country. What does the Government have to say about this split in the nation's soul?
The Prime Minister, D. Ben-Gurion: What is your position?
J. Sapir (General Zionists): I'm coming to that. The Government's announcement of its refusal to recognize the annexation, being accompanied by no other reaction, indicates that it is merely a formality.
...Mapam's approach to our foreign policy is a direct function of its attitude to the regime inside the country...as well as deriving from its identification with the regimes of Eastern Europe....Some people might say that our orientation should consequently be to the West, but my party does not determine its views on foreign policy in accordance with its aspirations in the sphere of domestic policy. It bases them, rather, on overall national considerations of the good of the entire country....Thus, we do not think that the time has come for Israel to make a hasty decision on the great issue of identifying with one side or another. I would like to point out that most of our nation is to be found in the western democracies, and any identification with the East severs us from the rest of our people....
Our relations with Transjordan are undoubtedly affected by our relations with Britain, and vice versa. In principle, we have no basis for opposing the renewal of relations with Britain, despite its anti-Zionist attitude in the last years of its rule here, following the White Paper of 1939, and its stubborn and consistent application by the Labor government. But if we assume that the Government's policy of establishing contact and agreement with one of the Arab countries, as a start towards attaining a series of peace treaties with the other Arab countries and possibly with Britain too...is wise, and if we try to ignore the security problem...we still have to ask ourselves: what has the Government gained...by tacitly assenting to the annexation? In our view it has gained nothing.
In effect, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has fulfilled for itself our dream of "both banks of the Jordan."...The Government has no guarantee that the negotiations with the neighboring country will ever end...in genuine peace. Does the Government put such great trust in the goodwill of our neighbor that it can allow itself to make it such a generous advance payment...? The Government has relinquished what little bargaining power it had for nothing.
We oppose the annexation and demand that our country act against it in the U.N. (that is our reply, Mr. Ben-Gurion)....The annexation of part of our country and the Old City of Jerusalem puts an end for an undefined period of time to the possibility of reaching an understanding with the Arabs who live in this part of our country and of stabilizing our borders at least along the Jordan Valley....In the history of our nation we will unfortunately have to record the Government's position on the annexation as one of the moments causing the gravest concern for the future.
M. Wilner (Maki): Distinguished Speaker and Knesset, the subject of today's debate is a crucial one as regards the long-term solution of the problem of Palestine....The British Government initiated the annexation, and in recent months the American government has joined it in recognizing the annexation of the other half of Palestine by the British-Jordanian kingdom. These facts merely illustrate once again how the British and American governments...trample...on the independence of nations in accordance with imperialist agreements regarding the division of areas of influence, in preparation for a third world war, and how lightly those empires disregard the rights of nations to independence and self-determination, as they do those of the Palestinian Arabs in this case....
The results of the annexation are grave for both Israel's security and peace in the Middle East....The British army is now supposedly legally deployed along our borders, within Jerusalem, near Petah Tikva, and elsewhere in the country. The annexation will increase British intervention in Israel's internal affairs...and make Israel more susceptible to British and American pressure. Today, as in the past, an independent, democratic, peace-loving Arab country in the other part of Palestine...is in the interests not only of the Arab people, but also...of Israel.
...It should be clear that...peace in the Middle East will not be attained through a policy which in effect encourages invasion by foreign armies...and encourages...cooperation with feudalism and everything that is rotten in the Middle East....We favor peace treaties with the Arab countries even if those governments do not, to our regret, represent the true interests of the people. The question is, however, under what conditions will peace be made.
...Because we oppose war and aggression, we dissociate ourselves completely...from the statement...made by the Herut representative.... But...a peace treaty with Transjordan based on recognizing its annexation of the rest of the country...would be like the peace obtained at Mun-ich in 1938...when an attempt was made to secure peace by acceding to the aggressor's supposedly final demand....Events have proved that this does not bring peace, and only hastens war....
The Government said that it regards the annexation issue as being open, but...in its statement we read that it is a unilateral step. This means that the Government agrees to the annexation if it is made within the framework of a bilateral agreement....Moreover, the Government has done everything it could to encourage annexation. Over the last two years it has worked against the establishment of an independent Arab state, acting systematically and actively...and thereby hastening the next round of bloodshed in the Middle East and aiding the grand designs of England and America.
We propose: a. that the Knesset resolve not to recognize the annexation of the Arab areas of Palestine to the Abdullah-Bevin kingdom; b. that the Knesset charge the Government with requesting that the U.N. Security Council take steps against the annexation; and c. that the Knesset express its support for and approbation of the struggle of the Arab masses in the other part of Palestine to establish their independent state and drive out the Transjordanian and British invaders.
Z. Aharonowitz (Mapai): Distinguished Knesset, in the two major debates we have had on political issues...the entire Opposition...announced that it opposed the Armistice Agreement with Transjordan. There have recently been three debates in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, in which the Foreign Minister participated, regarding a possible peace treaty with Transjordan.
...The Knesset has in the past given its approval to the line adopted by the Government and the Foreign Ministry, namely, of aiming for peace with all the Arab countries, including Transjordan....The renewed negotiations with Transjordan did not involve any recognition of the annexation or the British-Transjordanian treaty on our part. Quite the contrary, the Government's foreign policy till now has brought us peace and is a precondition for the widescale ingathering of the exiles....This issue cannot be discussed without clarifying the Opposition's position, as well as the Government's. But in this debate I speak only in my own name.
Four possibilities were open to us in our relations with Transjordan: the status quo on the basis of the Armistice Agreement; establishing an independent Arab state in the eastern part of western Palestine; a war of conquest on our part; annexation.
Personally, I would prefer the status quo in our relations with Transjordan on the basis of the borders determined in the Armistice Agreement--if the situation were stable. But it began to waver, not only because of Transjordan's annexation of territory and not only because of the various tendencies of certain powers, but also because of the influence of Egypt, the Mufti and the entire Arab League. Their objective was clearly to establish an independent Arab state within the borders delineated by the U.N. in November 1947. This was accelerated to some extent by the decision to internationalize Jerusalem.
In those circumstances our foreign policy could not be one of inaction, and hence our endeavor to attain a peace treaty with Transjordan. Two Opposition parties in the Knesset deplore the failure to establish an independent Arab state, namely, Mapam and Maki. The latter quite openly advocates the establishment of such a state on the basis of the borders set out by the U.N. in November 1947.
M. Wilner (Maki): I didn't say that!
Z. Aharonowitz (Mapai): I have read it, and I advise you, MK Wilner, to beware of committing yourself to anything.
Mapam favors the establishment of an independent Arab state on the basis of the borders set out in the Armistice Agreement, while demanding that the whole of Jerusalem be within Israel. Both parties pin their hopes on the progressive forces in the Triangle and beyond it, justifying their stand by maintaining that the annexation will increase the British threat against the U.S.S.R. and Israel.
...In the political debate held in the Knesset a year ago I said that the choice that confronted us was between an independent Arab state and annexation, both of them having points in their favor and neither of them being very attractive. I also said that there was no reason for us to rush into a decision. The political situation has changed meanwhile, and a decision has been imposed upon us, tending towards the establishment of an independent Arab state.
I completely and absolutely oppose the establishment of such a state because...it would not be economically viable...and would be able to survive only as a parasite of Israel. It would have no socio-political basis, and would almost certainly be controlled by the Mufti. Those who talk about the progressive forces are referring to the Arab communists, whom I regard as the enemies of Israel.
Tewfik Toubi (Maki): On what basis? The facts prove otherwise.
Z. Abrahamowitz (Mapai): If an independent Arab state were to be established now we would be facing the front of the Arab League and its pressure in the U.N. to push us back to the borders of November 1947, against which we would have fought....But even a purely political dispute would have caused a rift between us and the U.N. If an Arab state were established I believe that this would temporarily strengthen the Arab League, which is generally regarded as being anti-Soviet and anti-Israel. The U.S.S.R.'s retreat from the demand to internationalize Jerusalem may be partly due to the fact that it has realized this.
But we must take the longer view. We are interested in the stability of the Middle East....At the moment Iraq wants to take over Syria, Syria wants to take over Lebanon, Transjordan wants to take over Syria, and Egypt apparently wants to take them all over....If another "independent" Arab state were to arise and wish to take over Israel, and all the Arab countries wanted to take the new state over, would that add to peace and stability in the Middle East?
Distinguished Knesset, if the status quo no longer exists, if we must oppose a new Arab state, only the third possibility--war--remains....In Tel Aviv, where he spoke with less restraint than here, MK Begin referred not only to the Triangle but also to the Bashan and Amman. His concern for security is shared by all the Opposition parties when it comes to the application of the British-Transjordanian treaty to the annexed territory. We are all anxious, and have been for some time, because that treaty has existed for some time....But I claim that there is something new in it now, namely, that it strengthens the tendency for British military participation in the annexed area, and also that England has announced that the treaty will be held in abeyance during peacetime.
M. Begin (Herut): Do you believe that assurance?
Z. Aharonowitz (Mapai): I cannot guarantee that any assurance will be kept, the debate is not about who trusts England more or less, however, but about how we should act in the circumstances.
Mr. Begin said what he did relying on historical reasons, which I do not accept. During the course of the history of the Jewish people in Israel the borders have changed....We do not have to achieve in two years what the Jewish nation was unable to do for two thousand.
M. Begin (Herut): Do we have to give it up?
Z. Aharonowitz (Mapai): Two and a half years ago the public in Israel and the Zionist Organization held different views about partition. Some people opposed an Arab state on principle, some wanted a Jewish state...in all western Palestine, and some wanted a Jewish state on both banks of the Jordan. But the World Zionist Organization...decided, taking the historical circumstances into account, to accept a Jewish state in western Palestine. The Government of Israel and the IDF also decided, expanding Israel's borders through conquest....What representative body has authorized you to speak about your political borders, Mr. Begin...?
E. Raziel-Na'or (Herut): They shouldn't be blocked!
Z. Aharonowitz (Mapai): In his speech in Tel Aviv Mr. Begin also made use of sentimental reasons, claiming "Rachel weeps for her sons," and mentioning Rachel's Tomb. I draw your attention to the thousands of graves of the nation's best sons who fell in Israel's war and the mothers who weep for them. Who wants a war of expansion? The workers? The landlords? Mothers and fathers? The youngsters? The IDF? On no account!
N. Yellin-Mor (Fighters): You are mocking the IDF.
Z. Aharonowitz (Mapai): A war of expansion now would also endanger our national existence. You should say quite clearly: "We oppose x and y, and propose war." And if you do not say that to us in the Knesset, how can you appear in Israel's public squares and incite the nation to war?
E. Raziel-Na'or (Herut): There we said that we don't want war.
Z. Aharonowitz (Mapai): There you said: "The Hashemite kingdom shall be destroyed by the sword."
Y. Bader (Herut): You'll have war when they want it.
Z. Aharonowitz (Mapai): We do not ignore the fact that the annexation was a unilateral step...that the British-Transjordanian treaty has been extended to the annexed territory and that Britain's statement contains reservations about Israel's borders. All that is worrying. Those points are included in the Government's statement. The Knesset must authorize the Government to deal with the situation on the basis of two clear elements: rejection of the alternative of an independent Arab state, and adherence to the aspiration for peace.
Y. Harari (Progressives): Every now and again, when this debate is held in the Knesset, one gets the impression that there are ardent patriots on one side and stubborn defeatists on the other. This debate has been conducted, in my view, for the last thirteen years, since 1937, when Zionist policy was obliged to decide whether to agree to an independent Jewish state in part of Palestine.
MK Begin has told us of the qualms of conscience he and his friends experienced when they did what they did. I can say that my conscience bothered me...when I decided in favor of partition....It is far easier to address meetings, or even this Knesset, about Israel's historic borders than to explain to the nation that we should set our sights lower and accept imperfect borders....
I doubt whether it has often happened...that a political plan has been as successful...as that of those who advocated partition. We would never have achieved the decision of November 29 had we not agreed, unwillingly but perceptively, to a Jewish state in part of Palestine. None of the facts and operations by which MK Begin and his associates think they brought about the state would have helped had it not been for the official Zionist plan, authorized by the Zionist Congress.
M. Begin (Herut): The last Congress rejected that plan utterly. It forbade you to go to London.
The Foreign Minister, M. Sharett: It did not reject it, that is not true!
Y. Harari (Progressives): We all want a great many things, but one has to know how and when to accept facts, and not to miss opportunities. The fact that Israel agreed to the partition borders does not mean that Rachel's Tomb has ceased to be a national monument for us, the Cave of Machpelah will always be the site where our forefathers are buried, Jericho will still be the town whose walls fell at the sound of the trumpets and the historical borders in the Bible will never change. But this did not prevent us agreeing to the possible borders at the appropriate moment. Did we fight less for the areas which were not within the partition borders of 29 November 1947? Did we not do everything possible at the right moment, in the war, to conquer them?
H. Landau (Herut): Of course you didn't.
Y. Harari (Progressives): Only you did!
H. Landau (Herut): The Gentiles stopped and our Government surrendered.
Y. Harari (Progressives): One also has to know when to stop during a ceasefire.
Y. Bader (Herut): One also has to know when not to stop.
Y. Harari (Progressives): Correct, and that's what we did, at the right moments. Are our borders today those we fixed of our own free will, or are they the outcome of various conditions and circumstances, both military and political, as well as of political resolutions passed in an international forum?
Those areas are not in our possession as the result of circumstances which were beyond our control. One does not choose one's enemies, or even the regimes in hostile countries, nor does one sign armistice agreements with allies....We cannot prevent Lebanon giving bases to America if the Christians there prevail over the Moslems. We could not prevent any Arab country giving bases to the devil himself unless we conquered those areas. If that's what you want, then say so in the Knesset. Only MK Yellin-Mor has consistently demanded that we fight for those areas....
The complaint Mapam proposes we submit to the Security Council is not clear to me either. The Hashemite kingdom of Jordan is not a member of the U.N....Should we complain against England for making an agreement with the Hashemite kingdom; for recognizing us "de jure"; or because it has announced that it will not establish bases in peacetime?...And whence this sudden, exaggerated trust in the decisions of the Security Council?
Because time is pressing...I will merely add...that the U.S.S.R.'s announcement is surprising. I never know when to take what the Maki MKs say seriously and when they are merely following the dictates of opportunism. Out of compassion for dumb animals I will drop the subject. But I would like to ask Mapam, which has often said that any contact with the government of Transjordan makes the U.S.S.R. our enemy--
I. Ben-Aharon (Mapam): We never said that....That's not true.
Y. Harari (Progressives): You have said it not only from this podium but also in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
You...are always asking why we should negotiate with a vassal of England and of imperialism and thereby arouse the enmity of the U.S.S.R.
I. Ben-Aharon (Mapam): I repeat that that is untrue.
Y. Harari (Progressives): Those things are in the record, in black on white, and can be found there. I would like to recommend that this Knesset resolve that Israel and its Government should continue with its foreign policy of attempting to protect our interests...without being concerned with what impression this makes on either East or West. Only by being consistent will we gain the support of both East and West and become a strong state which is generally respected.
J. Burg (Religious Front): Distinguished Knesset...these debates make it easy for the Opposition to bring the imponderables before the House and neglect the "ponderables," namely, those things which can be calculated...while bandying about slogans and unfounded historical accusations....It is easy for MK Wilner to speak in accordance with the instructions he has received for this month...and send Israel's representatives to talk to the progressive Arab state which does not exist and which we have no intention of establishing, as MK Bar-Yehuda proposes.
...In terms of economic and social development, we are in a backwater...because the civilizing effect of social development has passed it by. In geopolitical terms, however...we are at one of the most central points in the world. If the third world war casts a shadow, it certainly falls on this country...and that being so, we must do our utmost to prevent further conflict in our time...and attempt to gain the approval of Britain, the U.S. and, eventually, the U.S.S.R....
As a believing Jew, I must confess that I cannot grasp the great sacrifice of six million Jews which our nation lost in the war. I find some small consolation in the fact that this tiny corner is left to us, and we can build it....I think that the task of our generation is to build, and refrain from doing anything--as long as there is no provocation--which could impede this task.
I very much regret the fact that we are obliged to discuss annexation here rather than the agreed basis for a political settlement in the region, at least as regards our closest neighbor. But if the Arab world that opposes us is divided, and if some understanding can be reached, even if only temporary, with part of that Arab world, it should be done. Because it is our duty to preserve every drop of Jewish blood that remains.
The previous speaker said that a decision in principle was made in the past about partition, not only in the Knesset but even before the establishment of the state, and without it neither the Knesset nor the state would have come into existence....Consequently, I maintain, we may have to take a course which is not pleasant for us....We have also heard MK Begin talk about the religious parties, and I do not know whether he was praising or condemning us. He claimed that we have abandoned the concept of the Divine promise. We have not relinquished the view that God will keep His promise.
I. Ben-Aharon (Mapam): To what do you adhere meanwhile?
J. Burg (Religious Front): We adhere to the commandments which you wish to neglect.
E. Preminger (Mapam): And force others to adhere to them!
J. Burg (Religious Front): ...There is really no point answering such remarks. Our scriptures tell us what will happen to the generation before the Messiah. They mention suffering--which we have undergone in large quantities....They mention poverty--towards which our Minister of Finance is helping us. They also state that we must build in Israel. We must live according to moral precepts--which we are trying to do. That is why I disagree with the argument that we have abandoned the concept of the Divine promise. He who attempts to live in accordance with God's holy law will, I hope, deserve to see the Divine promise fulfilled.
...The Jews who still believe in God and His promises continued to believe in all of Jerusalem, Rachel's Tomb, Hebron and the whole country when they were in the...diaspora, and still do so today, living in those parts of Israel which are ours.
...I think that the Government's representative spoke clearly. The annexation is a unilateral act...to which we do not agree. I think it is harmful if the Opposition in this House pretends that we did agree to it.
E. Preminger (Mapam): Do you want bilateral annexation?
J. Burg (Religious Front): I oppose barren argumentativeness!...Jewish history did not begin yesterday and does not end today. The history of Israel depends not on unilateral declarations, but on Divine decrees. I think that it is our task, in our situation, to find the path which is not always readily apparent but leads from the Divine intention to the exigencies of the moment. I think that the entire House should take care in posing questions and in weakening the position of the Government on an issue which is vital for us.
The Foreign Minister, M. Sharett: The genuine excitement expressed here regarding the annexation is worthy of attention....It is shared by the general population, and I hope that those involved will take it into account. The State of Israel cannot be indifferent to the fate of an area with whose history it is so closely bound up and whose regime and military status is likely to have so direct an influence on its security. The Government has declared...that as far as it is concerned the issue remains open, because without our assent and cooperation, which have not yet been given, no regime can regard itself as being stable and sure there. We seek stability, security and peace, both for ourselves and for the entire region, but these will be attained only through cooperating with us.
...Not all the excitement expressed here can be regarded as genuine, however. When MK Begin deliberately distorts the Government's position, representing it as having agreed to the annexation, he ignores the fact that he is thereby destroying the building which he is supposedly seeking to erect. But he does not really want to build anything; all he seeks is to destroy the Government's standing, and he has failed in that too....He has merely reiterated his bombastic and empty phrases about both banks of the Jordan, the Bashan and the Golan Heights.
M. Begin (Herut): There was a time when the Jewish state was a bombastic phrase too, as far as you were concerned.
The Foreign Minister, M. Sharett: In fact, if one listens to him...he has made his own words meaningless. His contention is that we decided matters long ago...by signing an Armistice Agreement with Jordan. If that is the case, what is the point of this very much overdue debate? It has already been said that this policy, which led to our signing armistice agreements with all the neighboring Arab countries...has gained the support of the entire nation. In accordance with his party's tradition of distorting facts, MK Begin also twisted what I said in the election campaign which preceded the establishment of this Knesset. I never took it upon myself...to guarantee the voters peace, but I said...that if my party were elected to office we would aspire towards peace....I do not know what MK Begin promised in that election campaign. I must confess that I did not interest myself in his speeches. But whether he called for war or merely negated peace, the election results indicated something. The party which I have the honor of representing and which is a partner in the Government has 48 representatives in the Knesset, being 3.5 as many as Mr. Begin's party. This policy is no mere party matter, it is agreed by all the participants in the Government....There are historical reasons for the fact that this alliance of parties received the majority of votes in the elections...and is united in adhering to a certain policy.
This policy led to the establishment of the state, and sustains it still today, despite the immense difficulties. If we have been asked from this podium: "Who authorized you?" Our reply is: The nation! First and foremost, the Jewish nation, which approved the path its representatives had taken in attaining a Jewish state in our time, if not in the whole country then at least in part of it, in as large a part as possible, and as quickly as possible....
MK Begin was guilty of another distortion when he said that the last Zionist Congress forbade us to agree to partition. Quite the contrary. An attempt was made by parties and persons to pass such a resolution, but it failed....The Zionist Executive agreed by a large majority to a policy of compromise in order to attain...international assent to the establishment of a Jewish state in part of Palestine. The entire nation endorsed this policy...and worked together to achieve it....The gates of heaven opened and the moment came when we could attain what generations had dreamt of and died for. The entire nation endorsed our achievement unconditionally, celebrating our great victory of 29 November 1947...both those who had supported our policy and those who had opposed it....
...And what would have happened if...the Arab country which was supposed to be established in the rest of Palestine, linked to Israel by economic ties, had been created...and had then allied itself with one of the neighboring Arab states...or with one of the Powers, against Israel's will? We are confronted by a problem of that kind today, but our position is far better, since we have control of 80 percent of our territory, the ports of Haifa and Jaffa, roads, railways and Lod airport, and our sovereign-ty is no longer threatened by the economic alliance with the Arab coun-try...although 20 percent of our territory has been annexed by the neigh-boring Arab country....
We have said that we are ready to make peace with all our neighbors, preferring separate negotiations with each one of them, and that we accept the armistice lines as a basis for peace and a final territorial settlement. We adhere to this policy, always having been ready to consider mutual border adjustments.
MK Begin has asked why we are so hasty in our pursuit of peace, and with Transjordan of all countries. I do not know whether peace with Transjordan will be first, or whether there will be peace at all, or when. We are not competing in prophecy. Our task is to determine policy, i.e., not to guess what will be but to assess what we should do, and what will happen tomorrow and the day after....What I do know is that we are surrounded by enemies today, and that we can bear this situation, and have no need to break out of it at all costs....If we are attacked we will be able to fight back, and our successes in the second round of fighting may even be greater than they were in the first....But our prime concern is to avoid a confrontation of that kind. We are interested in peace and stability, for we have historic tasks to fulfill and we must invest all our efforts in them....Even if peace is attained tomorrow...we will continue to be on our guard, but we will know that there has been a change. If we can only breach the ring of enemies around us we must do so.
Why do you mock the armistice agreements as mere pieces of paper?...Do those signatures have any value or not?
Y. Bader (Herut): Abdullah's signature has no value.
The Foreign Minister, M. Sharett: You don't know what you're talking about. And that is not the only subject on which you talk nonsense....Anyone who says such things is undermining the...security of Israel.
M. Begin (Herut): They're threatening another round despite the signatures...as is the Chief of Staff....
The Foreign Minister, M. Sharett: Am I proposing that we disband the army? We must make every effort to breach the wall surrounding us, but that does not mean that we should disarm ourselves. If this were all pointless would there be such a fuss in the Arab camp about whether to make peace with Israel or not, separately or together?
MK Begin took a sentence out of its context in a Foreign Ministry memorandum, and accused us of relinquishing all territorial claims on Transjordan. We have said that we accept the armistice lines as a basis for a settlement and do not demand territory, but if MK Begin tries to represent this as our abandonment of our rights to our holy places, this is nonsense. We have never abandoned them, and we have said as much, and no side doubts that we adhere to our claim to our share and our rights in the Old City of Jerusalem. If MK Begin wishes to go out into the streets with the demand for the Temple Mount, he is welcome to do so. Many people are strolling through the streets this afternoon, and he can harangue them to his heart's content. I suggest that my colleagues and the other members of the House rely on the man in the street.
Mr. Sapir claimed that the Foreign Ministry failed once again to foresee what would happen.
J. Sapir (General Zionists): I only said that it had erred in assessing the forces involved.
The Foreign Minister, M. Sharett: Well, you said that it had failed to foresee what would happen by erring in its assessment of the forces involved. He said that we failed to envisage the internationalization of Jerusalem, and now we have failed again, and this is a surprise. I don't know if it is a surprise.
E. Raziel-Na'or (Herut): That means that it was agreed in advance.
The Foreign Minister, M. Sharett: I'm coming to that. I said that we had announced our readiness to reach an agreement on the basis of the armistice lines. I also said that as long as there is no agreement the question is open...and the other side must be aware of that....
MK Sapir recommends that we conduct an information campaign on this matter at the U.N. He has presumably thought about what he said and his proposal is undoubtedly based on a perceptive assessment of future developments. MK Bar-Yehuda accused us of...having brought the British Empire back...and MK Begin correctly pointed out that the British-Jordanian treaty includes a clause whereby each side can invite the other into its territory....The treaty was signed on 15 March 1948, namely, two years and two months ago, and we have been living under that threat all this time....The neighboring country could have invited the British forces into its territory, but it did not....We have been informed that it has no intention of doing so. But its right still exists....The British government also issued a statement to the effect that it would not hasten to place troops here....
I do not see why some people have seen fit to treat this matter as if the end of the world were approaching....We are certainly not happy about it....Despite the assurances we have received on the subject from the British government, it requires us to be on our guard, as does that government's policy about the supply of arms to certain Middle Eastern countries and its attitude to...separate peace agreements. Some of our recent contacts with the British government have been of a positive nature. This is the case with the agreement to settle outstanding economic differences...and the "de jure" recognition of Israel....We have drawn the attention of our public and the world to aspects of policy which cause us concern...and which we regard as being detrimental to peace and stability in the Middle East, and to say that we acquiesced willingly is a stupid distortion....
Our policy remains what it was, namely, to do what we can to breach the wall surrounding us and to set the Middle East on a path of peace rather than war. There is no guarantee that this will be attained, nor will we attempt to guess when this will come about. Till then we will have to remain fully on our guard. All our enemies and opponents should be aware of this, but it must be evident what our policy is. We must decide what our aim is and go towards it with open eyes.
N. Yellin-Mor (Fighters): Distinguished Knesset, Those who oppose Abdullah's act of plunder on the basis of the principle of the integrity of the homeland...can be accused by those who acquiesce in it of making a great deal of fuss over...a lost cause.
I admit that there is some logic in that, but I would like to make it clear here...that a new generation is growing up in Israel for which the River Jordan is not the eastern border of the homeland, and for which Abdullah's temporary conquests are meaningless....That generation foresees a future homeland in its expanded, natural borders. There, and there alone, will the millions of scattered Jews be gathered together and enabled to flourish spiritually and materially, culturally and economically. Any fact which opposes this view will not last long.
Thus, this debate is not about whether Abdullah, who was expelled from the Arabian desert by Ibn-Saud, is entitled to rule over more or less of our homeland. There is no place for a debate of that kind on historical grounds or on principle. All Abdullah's territory, on both the east and the west banks of the Jordan, is plundered.
The debate is, essentially, only about the attitude of the Government of Israel to Abdullah's rule...and its refusal to work for the liberation of the homeland....The annexation did not come as a surprise. Everyone knew that Abdullah wanted it...including Israel's leaders, who were suffering from their customary myopia. The function of any foreign policy is to prevent neighbors from expanding territorially...and threatening one's own country.
It could, therefore, have been supposed that the Government of Israel, being aware of Abdullah's intentions, would have issued a warning, or warnings, saying that any attempt at annexation would be regarded as a hostile act....But our Foreign Ministry did nothing!...And it is obvious that Abdullah knew that no reaction would be forthcoming from Israel....
The inaction of our leaders at this time is comparable to that of those who went to Munich....The only possible explanation must lie in the ongoing love affair between the erstwhile, British-protected Emir and the Jewish Agency, even though the adoration of the latter does not seem to be reciprocated....There can be no other reason for the incessant pursuit of Abdullah, since it is known that peace with him of necessity involves foregoing peace with our other neighbors, with whom peace is more valuable, as well as abandoning our claim to most of our homeland....His entire kingdom has been obtained by plunder....
The Foreign Ministry has tried to auction off "peace with Israel," but there are no buyers....I doubt whether those who fell so that the state might be established wanted their blood to be sold thus....
...The Foreign Ministry's response was a shameful one...and constitutes acceptance of daylight robbery...as well as tacit legitimization of the "Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan"...determining as its price negotiations and a peace treaty....The religious parties appear to have subscribed to this too....
The haste to make peace with Abdullah seems to have caused the Government to take leave of its senses...but peace of this kind brings us ever nearer to disaster....Abdullah has said that he intends to use Israel as a means of getting to Damascus....There is no truth in the rumor that Israel's assent to the situation is merely temporary, and that those areas will eventually be redeemed. The Britain-Abdullah treaty enables British military bases to be established there, and they will crush any attempt to liberate our lost territory. Our experience of the past must teach us that Britain's assurance not to establish bases there in peacetime will be abandoned at the appropriate moment....But what is more significant is the implication that bases will be established there in wartime.
...The danger cannot be exaggerated. Our country is at a focal point for British imperialism, constituting a strategic area for delaying the advance of the Soviet army in case of war. Britain would be interested in making it a front then...and the entire country would become a battlefield....Accepting the annexation is a big step in that direction. In these circumstances there can be no alternative for the Government than to tell the Minister of Defense to instruct the General Staff to complete the interrupted War of Independence.
I know that this resolution will not be passed here today, but the situation will oblige us to follow that path eventually, whatever the composition of the government. I pray that it will not be too late....
The Speaker, J. Sprinzak: I will allow resolutions to be submitted.
J. Kusoy (Mapai): I submit the following resolution: "The Knesset notes the Government's statement regarding the annexation, with its attendant reservations."
H. Rubin (Mapam): On behalf of the Mapam faction I submit the following resolution:
A. The Knesset regards the annexation of the territories on the West Bank as detrimental to:
B. The Knesset declares that the state of Israel will not recognize or accept the annexation, and asks the Government to submit a complaint to the Security Council:
- The historical aspiration of the Jewish people to restore the integrity of the country.
The right of the Arab population in that part of the country annexed by Transjordan to political independence within the framework of economic unity with Israel.
The terms of the Armistice Agreement between Israel and Transjordan. It also constitutes a threat to Israel's security and independence by extending the application of the British-Transjordanian treaty to the West Bank.
C. The Knesset approves the Government's refusal to resume the negotiations for a peace treaty with Transjordan if the annexation is not annulled.
- Against the illegal act of annexation.
- Against the arbitrary extension of the British-Transjordanian treaty to part of Palestine.
J. Meridor (Herut): Distinguished Knesset, the faction to which I have the honor of belonging does not think that the subject of this evening's debate, the socalled annexation of part of our homeland by Abdullah, is one on which a vote should be taken. We will not participate in the voting, therefore.
On behalf of the Herut Movement founded by the IZL, I declare:
In aspiring towards a political-territorial agreement with the area indirectly conquered by Britain in eastern Palestine known as the "Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan" the Government has brought about the relinquishing of part of our homeland, the annexation of parts of western Palestine, effective recognition of Britain's right to establish and maintain military bases in our country on both banks of the Jordan and the total isolation of Israel in the international arena.
We do not, and never will, recognize the plunder of part of our homeland by an enemy and an oppressor. The entire Land of Israel is ours. The Government's recognition of the illegal conquest, whe-ther through signing a peace treaty with the conquerors or in any other way, does not and will not commit the Jewish people and its youth.
M. Wilner (Maki): Maki's resolution is as follows:
- The Knesset resolves not to recognize and to oppose the annexation of the Arab parts of Palestine by the Transjordanian kingdom;
- The Knesset resolves to ask the Security Council to take steps against Britain and Transjordan for the illegal annexation of part of Palestine by Transjordan, constituting a British base;
- The Knesset resolves to support the struggle of the Arab masses in the rest of Palestine to establish a democratic, peace-loving, independent state which is friendly to Israel.
Furthermore, I would like this proposal to be put to the vote, while at the same time our faction will vote for Mapam's proposal since it contains two principles we share: opposition to the annexation and agreement in principle to an independent Arab state.
J. Sapir (General Zionists): I would like to state, though not to put to the vote, our refusal to recognize the annexation. We authorize the Government to refrain from recognizing it.
The Speaker, J. Sprinzak: We will now vote on the proposals.
Those in favor of MK J. Kusoy's
Those in favor of MK H. Rubin's
Those in favor of MK M. Wilner's
MK Kusoy's proposal: "The Knesset notes the Government's statement regarding the annexation, with its attendant reservations," is adopted.
The Knesset has heard and placed on record the Herut faction's statement that it will not participate in the vote.