Friday, July 22, 2016

84 - Excerpts of FM Sharett Closing Address to the Knesset, January 9, 1956

            I would like to say that MK Hazan’s words touched me deeply. I believe, as he does, that with all our readiness to repel any aggression [- - -] it is our duty to do everything we can to preserve peace. Naturally, this does not depend solely, or even primarily, upon us.
            I note with satisfaction my agreement with MK Hazan both as regards the content of the peace plan and the value of publicizing it now. [- - -] As regards returning the refugees, I must make it clear that we reject any return as a solution or contribution to a solution of the refugee problem. It is true that we discuss granting permits in special cases and family circumstances. That policy will continue and may even be expanded. [- - -] But there is all the difference in the world between permitting a refugee to return in order to be united with his family [- - -] and returning whole families so that the Government of Israel can accept responsibility for their settlement and economic integration [- - -] as well as for solving the security problem their presence must create. The Government of Israel does not take the responsibility for settling new Arab families in Israel.
            MK Hazan mentioned the Johnston Plan. [- - -] I would like to set his mind at rest and say that we have not made any commitment to the US government to accept any plan. [- - -] I was glad to hear that MK Hazan also accepts the plan for settling the international irrigation question in principle. [- - -] The situation is, however, that the entire plan hangs by a thread, and I am using this opportunity to inform the House that the Arabs are probably about to refuse to cooperate in this. [- - -] There have been lengthy negotiations, and there was even some progress [- - -] but after two years it transpired that the Arab countries concerned are not prepared to accept any kind of agreement [- - -] with Israel. [- - -] We have never prevented ourselves from implementing schemes which it is our right to implement [- - -] but we felt ourselves duty bound to try to solve the problem by agreement first.
            Whereas MK Hazan’s concept of peace [- - -] was clear, MK Begin’s concept of war was vague and indistinct. He demanded a path without proposing practical steps. [- - -] The debate is not about whether a war should be termed “initiated” or “preventive.” [- - -] There is, after all, a vast difference between our situation in 1947 and 1948 [- - -] and during the last seven years [- - -] just as there is between war and peace, and between peace and non-peace. The responsibility for moving from a situation of—albeit malignant—non-peace to that of war is very grave. [- - -]
            In his estimable maiden speech, MK Yigal Allon made several assumptions which seem to me to be absolutely correct [- - -] although I do not think that all his historical analyses of the past, and the conclusions he draws from them regarding the future, are correct. [- - -] It is, after all, very easy to be wise after the event. It is true, as he c1aims, that we won the war but lost the peace, i.e., the Armistice Agreements, but there were reasons why we made the decisions we did. [- - -] We had to evade the dangers that threatened us, [- - -] hold onto our gains, [- - -] avoid clashing with the UN. [- - -] and the whole world [- - -] and do all we could to enable the work of building the country and facilitating mass immigration to begin. [- - -]
            [- - -] The conclusions he drew regarding the future are also beyond my comprehension. [- - -] Must we declare that the Armistice Agreements are null and void [- - -]? If that was the intention, it should have been spelled out more clearly. [- - -] I believe that we should still adhere to the Armistice Agreements, both as a shield and as a weapon in our political campaign against war and for peace. [- - -]
            [- - -] I will not go into the question of a security guarantee or treaty, because that is not the subject on the agenda. [- - -] This does not mean that it is not being dealt with, but we have our priorities. When I was in America [- - -] I focused on our pressing need for arms, and if the defense treaty was mentioned, as it was [- - -] I made it clear that it could be no substitute for effective defense on our part. [- - -]
            [- - -] It would seem that in their policy considerations [- - -] the Powers take into account immediate factors such as [- - -] territory, population, armies, oil and strategic vantage points [- - -] rather than the ethical, qualitative and long-term benefits which Israel has to offer. [- - -] And when all is said and done, we are not the focal point of world attention. [- - -] We have not created the rift between the [Western and Communist] Powers [- - -] and it is not up to us to end it. [- - -]
            [- - -] We disagree with certain attitudes of the US and England, and certainly of the USSR. We repeat: we will not be carved up, [- - -] we will not let our state be exploded from within. We are ready for peace, if it is possible, if there is a genuine desire for it. But this must be peace with Israel as it is, not with a battered, broken and dismembered Israel.
            Members of the Knesset, let us not frighten ourselves. [- - -] First, we are not like other countries. [- - -] we will fight as few other countries have fought [- - -] because we will be fighting for an ancient heritage and a vision which will light our path until the end of days. Secondly, we have the Jewish diaspora [- - -] which will back us fiercely, capably and devotedly. Thirdly, the world has a special attitude to Israel, to the miracle of its establishment and to the vision to which it adheres.
            The doubts raised here are legitimate [- - -] but in a situation of this kind we must reach agreement on what has to be done today, tomorrow and the day after, at this stage, in the coming months. [- - -] I believe that there are three things we must do: we must work to increase our strength, and above all to obtain arms [- - -] and fortify ourselves from within; we must tighten our links with the diaspora; and we must maintain and cultivate the support and aid of the world.

SOURCE: Major Knesset Debates, 1948-1981, ed. Netanel Lorch (Lanham / New York / London: University Press of America / Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1993), III: 905-07.