Saturday, November 14, 2015

3 - Excerpts from Sharett’s Speeches, Cabinet Meeting, October 18, 1953

From the opening remarks:

I was let down by misleading information given to me by the people responsible for the [dredging] work [on the northern Jordan waters] regarding the Arab plots. Had I known the facts, I would not have authorized the starting of the work. I would have first found out the facts. I think it was possible not to touch any Arab plots.
    In my argument with Bennike I said it was written, black on white, in the Armistice Agreement that civil life should be returned to normalcy, which means a constant process of change. Moreover, at the time [of the armistice negotiations] we received a letter from [UN mediator Ralph S.] Bunche in which he stated clearly that civilian life includes development. I emphasized that this letter had a decisive influence on the Cabinet’s willingness to sign the Agreement. [- - -] By ordering the stoppage of work the UN becomes a tool in the economic warfare of the Arab League against Israel.
    I received a message from an important [American] Zionist, who related to me a conversation he had with Byroade. Byroade had told him: “They [i.e., the Israelis] are clearly decided to provoke a war; this is their policy. Every move they make must be understood in this context. They are attempting to do this once in the north, once in the south, and now at the center [Qibya], in order to provoke the other side to a response which would ignite a war. And they have the naivete, or hutspa, to come to us and ask for financial aid. I summoned Russell and during our conversation I told him that I knew Byroade well as an honest man, and I could not understand how such filth could enter his clean mind. Russell should be aware that we are decided to foil the Arab intention to paralyze our life. We shall do everything towards the country’s development. It so happens that we had to agree to the existence of demilitarized zones, but we cannot give up the use of them which is vital for the development of the country. Russell did not mention Qibya, and I said: “I have the right to demand that you understand what happened there. This was an outburst which resulted when all had failed.

From the concluding remarks:
    I am aware I am making a last, desperate attempt to convince the Cabinet members [on the issue of the work stoppage on the Jordan canal]. [- - -] As I see it, there is a crying contradiction between our objective, definite, unavoidable dependence on the outside world, a dependence on its assistance, 0n its sympathy, [on the one hand] and our self-seclusion, a psychological seclusion and a complete disconnection from the outside world [on the other]. [- - -] I am doing it not because there is a chance that I will succeed, but because I must make you face a certain reality, a certain was of seeing it, so that the Cabinet decision is not taken on the basis of ignoring reality. [- - -] I didn’t notice here any willingness to be open-eyed. We are all rigid, and the rigidity is extreme. [- - -] I would have liked to see among us an all-encompassing, comprehensive consideration. I didn’t find it. I interpret the very fact that I have not succeeded in convincing the Cabinet members as my personal failure. I think that on an issue such as this one, the Foreign Minister should resign. I am aware of the meaning of such a resignation at this juncture, in view of its repercussions abroad, so in practical terms this move is impossible. But morally this is how feel. I feel that my failure to convince you is a failure that morally obliges me to resign.
    Now, to the second subject [of Qibya]. I was asked here directly by the Minister Shapiro if I had known about the reprisal or not. [- - -]. On Tuesday’s evening I was informed about the killing of the woman and her two children [at Kfar Yehud] and about the reprisal plan. The information did not reach me directly, but this is another question. I did not see any reason to oppose it then. But the next morning, when I was informed of the decision of the IJMAC to reprimand Jordan and to take all steps [against the perpetrators], I approached the Minister of Defense and told him of my opposition. He said he would consider it. In the afternoon I received additional information. Glubb thanked CoS Makleff for letting Jordan use our dogs to follow the murderers inside Jordan and informed him he was doing everything possible to find the murderers and punish them. I then strengthened my opposition, but was told that the operation must be executed since the wheels were already set in motion. [- - -] Had I an inkling of the dimensions of the operation, I would have summoned the Cabinet members from their night beds. Whether we like it or not, we are judged by different moral standards than others are. I am appalled when I hear people say they are shocked especially by the killing of women and children [in Qibya]. As I see it, this incident is different from others not because of the killing of women and children, but because of the scale of the killing, because we appear as a people capable of spilling blood, of executing mass killings. It will take years of effort to live it down, to  overcome this blot, in the same way that we have not yet overcome the hanging of the two [British] sergeants [by the Irgun in July 1947] – and these were soldiers, not civilians. This is the picture [people have of Israel]: that we are capable of spilling much blood.
[- - -] The impression abroad is of our political hooliganism and complete moral blindness. Never mind clashing with the UN on all fronts, raising against us world public opinion. We are doing our job and that’s that; we do not care what others think.

NOTE: Other excerpts from Sharett's speeches at this Cabinet meeting are given in Moshe Sharett: Rosh Hamemshala Hasheni: Mivhar Te'udot Meperkei Hayyav (Hebrew - Moshe Sharett: The Second Prime Minister - Selected Documents) eds. Yemima Rosenthal & Louise Fischer (Jerusalem: Israel State Archives, 2007), doc.125.