Friday, April 29, 2016

9 - Summary of Remarks by the Foreign Minister during a Consultation at the MFA, April 12 1954

The views heard here represent my thinking which I have expressed not once in internal debates, but they were limited to a one-sided consideration of dealing with the situation from an international point of view rather than from a national one. I am not talking about hot-heads and people thirsty for blood, who demand retaliations, but about those who are very much restrained, but are not willing to give up retaliation as one among several weapons used in this battlefield. For inasmuch there are decisive considerations against retaliating, there also exist practical considerations for it.
What are the main considerations?
1. If we desist from retaliation operations, does this repair the situation? Does this stop infiltrations and thefts?
2. If not retaliations, what are we suggesting instead?
One cannot ignore morale. I differentiate between two: The Army’s morale and the morale of the settlers [in border areas vulnerable to attack]. I think we should ignore the element of the Army's morale; it is unacceptable to let the Army carry out operations just for the sake of lifting its spirits. The Army must be disciplined so as not to lose awareness of its importance even when it is not carrying out actions.
However, I cannot ignore the element of morale among the settlers. An Army is controlled by the government of the state, but there is no power in the world that can control the settlers’ spirit. If we take into account what is said in London, Washington and New York, we must first take into account what is said by this or that settler of a village he was sent to by us. As far as these people are concerned, it is a fact that night after night infiltrators come in, steal and murder. The next day it becomes necessary to add two more guardsmen, while the number of settlers is not growing. If such incidents continue with no response, then the settlers feel that the Army and the government are indifferent, and this undermines their morale, while if the see that the Army is fighting, their morale is boosted.
Let us assume there are 100 settlers in a village, and 20 of them leave. The burden of guarding during the nights becomes heavier. There is also a danger in houses being empty, for sometimes an infiltrating gang can hide in an empty house in daytime and attack again on the second night. In some cases the number of settlers leaving a border village grows to a point that threatens a break up of the village.
You are taking into account the mode of thinking of New York Jews and of the Western Powers. You must take into account the morale of Israel's population. There is a wave of public opinion here that just cannot be overcome, and a government cannot ignore it if it wishes to govern and not lose the ground under its feet. After the Ma’aleh Akrabim incident there was no retaliation, and its absence created a strong anti-government sentiment in the country.
There is also a second element of frustration because of no retaliation, one which should be denigrated. It is a fact that when the retaliation operation after the Nahhalin incident became known, a wave of satisfaction and release of pent-up tension spread throughout the whole country. People breathed freely.
It is incumbent on us to lessen and restrain retaliation operations, to maintain lulls in between retaliations, and to avoid retaliations whenever it is possible. But there is no chance that we would stop retaliations altogether. There are enough reasons to believe that retaliation operations prompt both the Arabs and the Powers to seek a general solution to the situation along the borders. Without retaliations, it would be easier for them both to do nothing. At the same time it is clear to us that a retaliation which goes beyond a direct hit at the nest of the attackers (as in the Qibya case) is counterproductive. We must be careful to avoid such operations. This whole matter is complicated and demands pursuing a delicate balance, but it is impossible to only obstruct, prevent or forbid retaliations altogether.

Source: ISA, FM 130.02 file 2448/15.