Saturday, November 14, 2015

5 - Excerpts from Sharett’s Knesset Speech, March 8 1954

    I see the contrast between might and right, which was made here [by M. Begin, who accused the Israeli government of ignoring Israel’s basic right to East Jerusalem and to Palestine as a whole, and of basing its claims to hold parts of Israel on occupation by force] as an artificial and empty contrast. We stand for both right and might. But relying on might does not mean pursuing adventurism, and standing for right does not mean totally ignoring of reality. In recent weeks a slogan was advanced around the country, accusing the government of “missing an opportunity.”  It was advanced here too [by M. Begin]. I would like to say with all responsibility and clarity that, if we missed something during the last weeks, it was the opportunity of becoming entangled in an utterly superfluous imbroglio, one whose dire consequences nobody can foresee.
[- - -]
    If we are witnessing all around us countries afflicted by shocks and upheavals, we can boast about our own stable situation. [- - -] We do not relish seeing the regimes around us bathing in havoc. We are not striving to remain the only island of democracy in this sea of upheaval and scheming. [- - -] It is in our interest to live in a peaceful, stable and progressive area, where human dignity and national rights are hallowed principles; where the needs of the masses are preferable to whims of individual rulers. It is against this background that we do not at all regret our past calls for peace, our dozens of initiatives for peace, or at least for bringing it nearer. I daresay that, in our seeking of solutions in this direction, in our willingness to try here and there to extend our hand over and beyond the wall of enmity and alienation – even in our daring act of casting our vote for the independence of Libya [at the UN in 1949], and in our unfulfilled hopes we had in some individual rulers and in certain regimes – there was more responsibility and more Zionism than in the vociferous and vain proclamations about our “foreign policy failures.” [- - -]
    While the decisive consideration in choosing our present political position is the reality of constant Arab warfare against us, when every Arab state gaining independence automatically joins the front of enmity against us, we still should not, in spite the state of war, shut our eyes from looking towards the distant horizon of our future and from the vision of peace to come. This must govern the essence of our actions and of the positions we to take.
[- - -]
    We should be fully aware of the limits of our ability, of where to draw the boundary between wise and effective policy and the area of destructive adventure – even if it’s only in words, such as those proclamations regarding the tearing off parts of a neighboring country [Lebanon], even if not by ourselves but by other [i.e., Maronite] hands. These words were of sheer folly, but, if accepted literally, they could tear down not the in area in question but the fabric of future relations between us and our neighbor with no repair, relations without which it is very difficult to picture life of peace and stability for us and for our future generations. Such raw suggestions are immediately gulped by agile news agencies, then spread over countries near and far as representing the way of thinking of our public as a whole - they are distorting our image and ruin our good name as well as the attitude of respect and admiration towards us as balanced political factor; they are inciting against us and intensify hatred towards us for no reason at all.

SOURCE: Divrei ha-Knesset, vol.15, pp.1084-86.