Chairman: We have invited haver Moshe Sharett to address the gathering. Moshe Sharett has the floor.
M. Sharett: [- - -] Our economic and political problems are inextricably linked. Our enemies are conducting their campaign against us not only on the defense front, and they hope that their victory over us will not be a solely military one. They are doing everything in their power to hold back our development in order to undermine our economy and thus cause our collapse from within. [- - -]
[- - - Egypt] has, to a great extent and thanks to the Czech arms deal and Nasser’s preparations for war, achieved some major successes in this direction. If we add the almost total standstill in tourism, dwindling investment capital, diminishing confidence in the State of Israel on the part of the banks, to the vital need to divert vast funds for arms procurement, thereby harming our development, immigration and other efforts, then Nasser does not really need to go to war. All he needs to do is to continue rearming and drag us after him into an arms race which would bring us to the brink of total economic collapse.
But there are also factors which are dependent on ourselves: how we organize our lives, how we prepare ourselves, how we all grab from the state (actually from one another), how we fight with one another for all kinds of delusionary benefits. All this contributes to the devaluation of our currency, the drop in our purchasing power, the reduction of productivity due to strikes; it teaches the people to believe in the most dangerous illusions which will bring us to the brink of economic suicide. From a political standpoint, and if the situation I have described aggravates even further, it means handing a great victory to our enemies. Even if we were concerned solely with the political front, we would still be faced with all of the efforts and changes of direction that are incumbent upon us to make as a result of our economic situation and the dangers inherent in that situation.
Yet another political question arises. I do not wish to go into the depth of this matter as it is extremely complex, but the question is: can we hold out in a long-term arms race? We are diverting huge sums to arms procurement. These are not one-time payments. Arms procurement does not stop after one payment. This means an ever-increasing burden on the budget, current expenditure on unlimited training, spare parts, replacing weapons and maintenance. The question of whether we can continue in this manner for an unlimited period of time must be asked. [- - -]
I want my words to be precise. We are speaking about two dangers which do not bear comparison, dangers to our security and dangers to our economy. If there is a danger to our security, it is the danger of destruction, total annihilation. Economic danger spells, in the worst case, shortages, hunger, riots, and a lowering of our stature in the eyes of the world, but that does not mean that the State of Israel will be wiped off the face of the earth.
Therefore, if the choice is between strengthening our defense capability or doing something else, then defense clearly comes first. No one is sure that there will be a war. There are serious fears that there might be. It involves a high percentage of risk. But on the other hand, any observer of our deteriorating economic situation must be aware of the high risk of economic collapse. I would go so far as to say that the second danger outweighs the first simply because the danger of economic collapse is not less than the danger of a serious military conflagration. That does not mean that we should not purchase arms, but somewhere along the line there must be a balance between our military and economic thinking.
[- - -]
If a disagreement has occurred between BG and myself, it is not simply because “A” stopped liking “B” or vice versa, but because they came to differ on a series of matters and subjects and then one of them reached whatever conclusions he did. At another time, the other reached the same conclusions. The question is: should these differences of opinion be discussed and clarified just between the two of them?
By our accepted norms, this concept is probably somewhat outdated and should be re-discussed in the party. But what kind of a discussion are we talking about? Someone said earlier that it is impossible to discuss economic problems at a conference with 1,100 delegates. I agree. And I add, by the same token, it is immeasurably more impossible to discuss matters of policy at a conference of that size.
Let us assume that someone proposes that we should break the blockade on Eilat. Someone else will then stand up and explain what such an operation entails so that the haverim will have all the facts at their fingertips in order to make up their minds. Would anyone say such things in public? [- - -] Could the question of our military response be discussed with the eyes of the world, not to mention the eyes of the Arab states, upon us? In other words, any debate conducted at our Party Convention would mean doing just that! Does that make it impossible to discuss matters of policy? [- - -] From the moment that the membership of the party Political Committee ballooned in size to 40, it became impossible to discuss certain matters there. [- - -] It seems to me that the party has no choice but to establish a smaller body, not composed by proportion according to party institutions, groups, or factions. It should, in my view, be established on a personal basis and comprise five members whose distinction lies in the fact that the general party membership trust their credibility and – as a rule – their judgement. If not, there will be no discussion and clarification, or if there is, it will be conducted between two people, or at best between three or four, probably our representatives in the Cabinet. [- - -]
[- - -] My remarks will not be so orderly. Also, I am incapable of being simplistic and unequivocal, or expressing myself in a wholesale manner as some of those who spoke earlier. I do not possess their confidence. I also think that the confidence expressed, which stated that matters would have to take this course and not another, has no scientific foundations. This is soothsaying, but politics is not a matter of prophetic vision. Politics has to do with looking soberly at the facts, and each fact is liable to develop in various directions.
I am not a Marxist. That does not mean that I think that everything that Marx ever said is nonsense. As far as I am concerned, Marx was a man who lived in the middle of the 19th century and who wrote an important book, possibly a few important books; and just like other books, they too contain certain truths. I make no pledge to live according to the dictates of The Bible. But one of Marx’s most important attributes was his analytical style and his concept of dialectics. That is to say, that every regime carries within itself the seed of opposition, and every tendency towards one extreme causes a reaction towards the other; this leads to a struggle from which springs something new, and this in its turn leads towards one specific direction and creates an antithesis. This is usually what happens in historical process.
I feel [- - -] that we possibly have not yet fully exhausted all the possibilities of rearmament, and that Nasser, too, has not yet fully realized all of his military potential and that he may yet go from strength to strength; that is to say, that he will receive further arms and exercise additional influence on his neighboring countries. It is possible. But even then I am unable to say that I am convinced that such a situation will be permanent, while on the other hand I can see a possibility of this being only a short-term situation. And I can already see the beginnings of the antithesis. We know that Egypt’s economy is in distress; we know that there is widespread dissatisfaction in Egypt; there is a deep sense of disappointment, we know that this gang [Nasser’s junta] is sorely in need of strong means of control, and we have read of how they elected their president and what kind of authority he was given – the right to hand down a sentence of ten years’ imprisonment without the benefit of a trial. And Egypt has its own diaspora which is not entirely passive. True, while the Great Powers compete for Nasser’s favors, he will continue to gain power and any possible opposition will lose confidence in its own abilities. Yet the positions of the Great Powers can change and there are already some signs of this happening, both inside and outside Egypt.
We know that in a country like Syria, instability is endemic, and we know that Nasser’s efforts to extend his control over the Arab world have caused some anxiety, even among those who see no choice but to accept that control. There are, however, active opposition forces inside Syria and also opposition factions active outside the country. We still do not know what turns events will take there.
We are even witnessing a struggle inside a weak country like Jordan, which on the face of things, should have fallen into Nasser’s jaws like a ripe apple from a tree. [- - -]
[- - -] Baghdad is not putting itself into Nasser’s pocket just yet, and while such a fate is entirely possible, things could turn out differently. I am not at all sure that we cannot play a certain role here and I am not at all sure that we are even trying to play it, but I am, of course, uncertain about the possible consequences. I would therefore steer clear of sweeping generalizations.
This also applies to any arbitrary statement which says that military conflict is unavoidable. I do not subscribe to this view, neither can it be proven. An unavoidable military conflict is not an incontrovertible fact. I also see no practical purpose in subscribing to this assumption. In any case, whatever my part was in making demands for arms and in its procurement, I never felt that my efforts were diminished because I did not hold this view. My efforts were possibly not fully exhausted, but it was not due to this. What is clear is that in the given situation, a military conflict is possible. What is clear is that in the given situation there are factors in play which bring the possibility of armed conflict closer, and those that push it farther. We do not know what will happen. To say that it is unavoidable at the outset? I would advise caution in the face of such dogmatism in our policies.
It could well be that Nasser’s aspirations are such that he would like to extend his hegemony from Gibraltar to the Persian Gulf. Morocco has gained independence and could, in the very near future, join the Arab League, but I am not at all sure that she would easily accept Nasser’s hegemony. She has her own aspirations and self-esteem to think of as well as her particular assessment of Egypt’s role and destiny. Enlarging the Arab League does not necessarily mean either its unification and internal reinforcement or the advancement of Arab unity.
Haverim! There is no denying the fact that it is not a very good thing that there is only one state of Israel while there are many Arab states. There is also no disagreement on this point. It is also not very fortuitous that we are stuck here, right in the middle of the Arab world. So, where do we go from here? Start looking for another country?
[- - -] It seems to me that when we view any development taking place in the world, our thinking is afflicted by simplification and an artificial and arbitrary isolation of the problem. This also applies to our thinking regarding our own problems. We have not yet achieved a sufficient and essential level of political thinking to realistically comprehend that there is a balance between depending upon our own strength and understanding our dependence on international factors from which we are unable to escape. These may not be part of our consciousness but they are certainly a part of our reality. And there are always crises. Just as crises occur in anyone’s personal life, so it is with a people, a country and a party – when this balance is not achieved, when suddenly it becomes apparent that there was not even an awareness of the existence of this dependence.
I would like to give you a small example. Let’s take the subject of the possibilities of obtaining arms. There are some people who think that we should approach the USSR. I would not like to discuss the question at present, but the reasons behind the approach trigger my interest. I do not think that all the people who made such a proposal did so because they assumed that the USSR would reject our request and we could thus fulfill our political obligations towards Mapam. I do believe that there are those among us who genuinely think that it is possible to obtain arms from Russia. They do not think that Russia will supply us for free. Even Egypt did not receive Russian weapons for free, but supplied cotton in return. We have no cotton. If you say “we shall pay with citrus fruit,” what, then, shall we use to pay for our oil? Even after the discovery of oil at Heletz [in the northern Negev], we still have to purchase a large amount of oil which is paid for in both citrus fruit and dollars.
Those supporters of approaching Russia assume that we will be able to find the necessary dollars but they do not grasp the fact that those dollars come from America, through the United Jewish Appeal and the [State of Israel] Bonds. Even when the American treasury gives us a grant, we use the money to buy arms and the Americans are fully aware of that fact. It is one thing to use American dollars to buy French arms, for France is our current European supplier, but a completely different thing if America knows that her dollars are finding their way to Russia.
Without going into details, my words in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to the effect that the UJA or the Development Loan would not be able to exist for a single day without the goodwill of the American administration – in other words, the State Department – might come as a surprise. That is not to say that the State Department goes out of its way in its efforts to help the UJA and the Loan, but it tolerates these organizations with all their idiosyncrasies. But the moment they, or their idiosyncrasies, become intolerable, the State Department can stifle them. This kind of dependency is part of reality, but it is not part of the [Israeli] public’s consciousness. People bring up ideas without any awareness of the possible consequences. And then, when someone tries to apprize them of those consequences, he is told that he is “not dynamic.” What has dynamism got to do with it? The only thing that has to with it is total and criminal ignorance. It is criminal because it takes its revenge on us.
When we say that Egypt’s aggressive initiative is unavoidable, we are assuming that she is making her plans without taking her international dependence into account and without realizing that she could find herself facing some opposition. I believe that the USSR is currently exerting her influence against war, but that does not mean that she guarantees us that war will not break out. I am talking against rigid thinking. Heaven protect us against any rigidity of thought! I am not saying that the USSR is a protective wall around us and will prevent war, but I do say this: her influence is being exerted in that direction. But to think that Nasser views himself as a completely free agent is not, in my opinion, realistic.
I said that I am convinced that Russian influence is being exerted in that direction. I will say something about which I am not completely certain, but I can see the possibility of talks between us and the USSR in this sphere, especially in the wake of Shepilov’s tour of the Middle East. I do not know whether or not the Foreign Ministry will do it, but it seems to me that putting out feelers in that direction would be worthwhile.
We are faced, my friends, with a very simple choice: if we believe that we are facing the Arab world and can only rely upon our own strength, then this brings us to one conclusion: we must respond to each and every [terrorist] incident, for not reacting would be interpreted by the Arab world as weakness and we would then be done for. That means that there is only a two-way accounting between us and the Arabs and nothing else. So what do you envisage as a future? How many millions will we be here? Russian Jewry is currently locked up. American Jewry does not want to emigrate here. Moroccan Jewry is also possibly not allowed free emigration to Israel and public meetings will not open it. Do we embark upon a plan for illegal immigration from Morocco? We certainly will, if there is no alternative. We will have to wait and see, the situation is still unclear. But assuming that we manage to bring the whole of Moroccan Jewry to Israel, how many will we be then? We live in the belief that we have returned to this land for the third time not to be uprooted again and not for history to repeat itself again. And we are surrounded by an Arab world of tens of millions.
M.Avizohar: We have stood up to them.
M. Sharett: But we are saying that they are rearming and that their hatred of us is increasing. We defeated them in a particular situation, but we know what has happened since then. We know that they have tremendous potential, and I am talking about the more distant future, not five years’ time, but ten, twenty, and thirty years from now.
If that is the situation, once we have exhausted all the possibilities of strengthening our forces and explored every avenue in our policies – and for the moment I accept that responding to each and every incident is an unbreakable and sacred commandment – we will still be blind if we do not explore every possibility of reliance upon allies all over the world.
What do I mean by allies? If reliance upon world powers is an asset, then nurturing that asset is mandatory; nurturing, not hampering. Upon what does that depend? First of all, on world attitudes towards the State of Israel, how the world views Israel. Does it view us as a negative or a positive force, as a moral or immoral factor? Does it view us as a place which generates creative endeavors or as just another mini-state whose existence is irrelevant, whose existence will leave no mark on history? This must be the permanent, unwavering objective of Israel’s foreign policy. That is not to say that every decision made should be made in its light, but it should never be completely ignored.
I would like to stress that I am convinced that Nasser, with his intelligence, his course, his cunning and stratagems, does not forget that he is part of the world and that there are all kinds of factors in this world, some of which might have restraining effect [on him]. This must weaken our prophetic one-mindedness when we try to forecast future events. Nasser’s forging of relations with Nehru and Tito are also a deterrent to his lust for adventure [Italicized sentence was added to the protocol in Sharett’s handwriting].
[- - -] We must fortify ourselves with patience. We have no other choice, and this can lead us to conclusions which will not be easy. The Jordan [diversion] channel and [free passage to] Eilat, for example. There is no comparison between the two, just as there is, in my view, no comparison between [digging] the Jordan channel and draining Lake Hula, not because there was some opposition in one case and none in the other, but because in one case there was UN intervention and in the other there was none. It could be that had [former UNTSO Chief William] Riley and not [Gen. Vagn] Bennike dealt with the matter, the channel issue might have turned out differently. I am not prepared to say so categorically, because I made the Hula arrangement with Riley and I did not make the channel arrangement with Bennike. In the meantime, things have changed. While Russia did not cast a veto at the time of the Hula project, she has done so regarding the [Jordan] channel project, thus intensifying the sensitivity of the Great Powers.
My opinion on the matter of Eilat can either be accepted or rejected. In my view, breaking the Egyptian blockade on the Gulf of Eilat means war. That is not just a possibility; this Eilat [operation] will be a war initiated by us. True, I once said that we have every right to break the blockade, but I qualified my remarks with “after we have exhausted all other possibilities.” The London Times, which compared this statement of mine with another made on the same day, stressed those words. I said, “after we have exhausted all other possibilities,” but I did not determine a time-frame or enumerate the possibilities. I have never said that we must restart work on the channel, but rather that we were within our rights to do so.
When I said what I said about Eilat, I assumed that breaking the blockade would be an air operation, no more. That assumption has since been rejected by the other school, the decision-makers, not by me. The issue is currently based upon other assumptions which mean war. So the debate on breaking the blockade of Eilat is not just a question in itself, but a question of war or no war. If we decide to go to war, we can decide that our best opening move would be breaking [the blockade on] Eilat.
Regarding the Jordan channel, I accept that it [i.e., resuming work] is only a possibility. But we would be doing ourselves a disservice by closing our eyes and putting our backs to the wall. In the matter of the channel, our eyes should remain open, and if there is a wall, then we should do our utmost to topple it. Restarting work on the channel would immediately arouse the Security Council against us, and then the question would be whether we could withstand such an onslaught. Maybe or maybe not, but questions would still have to be answered. For example, under the threat of restarting work, would we be able to obtain massive assistance for such an ambitious development project at present? What if it were possible to funnel funds to Israel for the project, but the situation, from a technical point of view, was not urgent? I am convinced that a dictatorship would take this route as it would not have to concern itself with public opinion. The question is: should we commit unrewarding acts, from which we might even incur losses, simply because we fear adverse [domestic] public opinion? A further question is: does a democracy have to act foolishly, or can it not explain its actions wisely, making an effort to have it understood? I am unable to go into this matter any further.
[- - -] One comment on Meir’s remarks: you said that there is an ongoing offensive which supports a preemptive strike. True, but the people are against war, of that I am certain. The people are against war. The people want peace. That is not to say that the people will not go to war and give their all if war breaks out. But the people, the masses, are against war. They want peace and are possibly too much against war and too much in favor of peace. That, perhaps, complicates matters a little. Perhaps we should cool their enthusiasm for peace, for it is not always attainable.
M.Avizohar: There have been times when a preemptive war was very much justified.
M. Sharett: No. There were some young men who grasped at that idea, not the people. The people did not. Deep down, the people know in what kind of a war their strength lies, and they do not want to lose their moral underpinning. The ethos of the nation guards us against that.
Now to the question of reprisal. I would like to present two or three hypotheses. There is no earthly reason for us to adopt the principle of a reprisal for every single incident without examining the incident, without studying the current world situation, and without examining our other objectives. It has no foundation. Take, for example, the most recent shelling of Gaza. In my opinion, that was a criminal act, and once the man responsible became aware of what was happening, he stopped it immediately. The first thing it caused was the cancellation of French Foreign Minister Christian Pineau’s visit. Our “non-dynamic” foreign policy had brought the visit about, everything had been prepared, and the shelling of Gaza canceled it. We had things to discuss with Pineau, and they did not concern French art or cultural cooperation. Though that, too, is of importance. One talk with Prime Minister Edgar Faure [in October 1955] upgraded our air force from the Mystère-II to the Mystère-IV; one single talk. France is prepared to sell us the Mystère-II at present, and we were hesitating about buying. France does not mind selling them since they are outdated; but the move from the Mystère-II to the Mystère-IV was revolutionary. It was a political decision of the highest order.
That does not mean that there were no problems later, and we had to bring all our contacts into play, including some sterling work by the Ministry of Defense people in order to clinch the deal. But the cornerstone of the effort was a specific decision made by the French Prime Minister. That is an undeniable fact. He said “yes,” and today we have 24 Mystères. On what basis could we know whether an in-depth talk here, between the FM, the PM and the CoS, would not have produced results? We can estimate what opportunities we missed, maybe we did not miss any, but we might have missed a great deal. From a political standpoint too. I listen to the radio. It has become somewhat discomfiting. Leaders visit their opposite numbers and vice versa. No one comes to visit us. Once we did enjoy a visit by [Burmese president] U Nu. For how long can we live off that visit? Pineau could have come here for a visit, but because we killed 50 men, women, and children in Gaza, he cancelled his visit. What good did that do us?
Another thing. The French decision to supply us with Mystères did not automatically ensure their actual delivery at the time they were sent. If it had not been for another operation – a purely political one – not a single Mystère would have been sent. Yet today we have twenty-four of them. There is a vast difference between 24 and none at all, especially when, in the hands of our men, the aircraft in question are superlative defensive weapons and not for the conquest of Egypt. This increases their value immeasurably. Had we not received a single aircraft, France could not have been accused of going back on her word, because we had to release her from her commitment to the United States. Her production capability is limited. She can produce a certain number of Mystères a month and she was committed to first supply a certain number to NATO, in other words, to the US. She had to be released from that commitment. That was an operation in which the State Department, Dulles there and Lawson here, were all involved, and it resulted in the release of first 12 aircraft, and later an additional 12. Without that operation, not a single Mystère would have moved.
There is a difference of opinion which has resulted in a draw, and I would not like to express my opinion on it. What would have happened, from the standpoint of arms supply, if Operation Kinneret had not taken place? The result is a draw. I shall say no more. In private conversation I’ll have plenty to say. But from a completely objective point of view, I am prepared to compromise on the result of the tie. I would like to tell you from the depth of my conviction and with all my power of persuasion that had Operation Kinneret been undertaken at the time we sweated blood to secure the early release of the Mystères by a few months, it would have been a lost case for that time.
Is consideration of such a matter vital or not? Is it possible to act blindly according to rigid principles? This is a political decision, not a standing order. I shall not go into the question of who has the power of decision. Let us assume the existence of a hierarchy. But should the man who has to make the decision be allowed to fit blinkers to his eyes and see only the decision and ignore the whole picture? Or should he see it all? I say this: blindness is unthinkable and so, by the same token, is adherence to a rigid principle. Dreadful things may occur, but at the same time we must be in the midst of a much more serious campaign.
I am not sitting in judgement. I only point out what considerations should guide our thinking. And so I say: a reprisal for each and every event is out of the question. I am not sure, and I am taking a great risk in saying so, but there was a time when there were a few rays of hope in our contacts with Nasser, hints of possibilities. I do not know, it might have been a deception from the outset, or not. Anything is possible. But it is a fact that we did see those rays of hope and they were extinguished after the attack on Gaza. They would still be flickering had only 10 people been killed; they were extinguished because more than 40 died. You said that “there was no reprisal against the fedayeen.” [There was no reprisal] because the fedayeen attacks were a response to IDF operations, not just because of Hammarskjöld[’s visit]. That, too, was a consideration, but not the only one.
Your line of thinking regarding the necessity of military reprisals truly astonishes me. When we are hit by a terrorist act and blood is spilt, there is at first a very strong emotional shock. Then there is a political consideration arguing that we cannot sit still and not respond, lest this be interpreted as a sign of weakness. And there is of course also a military consideration demanding an eye for an eye. But at the same time we seem to be forgetting completely that there are men and women living on the other side of the border, and they are, too, endowed with brains, and they too react to our raids in a similar way. I really cannot fathom the way some of us, Israelis, grasp the situation. It seems I cannot expect all of you here to have had the same experience I had when I lived surrounded by Arabs in an all-Arab village in order to become aware that Arabs are human beings, that they have brains, rational thinking, self-esteem and human emotions, and are capable of feelings of outrage just like us.
I do not wish to go into the chain of events which led up to the shelling of Gaza, although I have volumes to say on the subject. The shelling of Gaza took place. And in Gaza, like a bolt from the blue, 50 people were killed and a further 50, among them women and old people, were wounded. The [Egyptian] man responsible for Gaza has to show that he has killed people. He does not do so in a military manner but in a way that is alien to us. He thinks that it is more effective. That is his way. He is, as they say in English, “taking off” [i.e., subtracting] from an account he has to settle. His account stands at 50. Today, five Jews are killed – he subtracts 5 and has 45 to go. Tomorrow three Jews are killed – 42 are left. He is prepared to go on until the end. Hammarskjöld’s visit possibly stopped it. I am sure it did, for I know what transpired between him and Hammarskjöld before the latter came for his visit to Cairo. I know that Hammarskjöld said that he would not come to Cairo unless certain obligations were undertaken, and he received them.
Here I reach a second conclusion. I have never proposed the principle of “no reprisals under any circumstances.” That amounts to the same absurd rigid thinking I mentioned earlier. I say this: consideration of each event in the light of the circumstances, and I say further that the considerations must also be applied to the scope of the reprisal. In the history of the Hagana and the Palmach, and even in the War of Independence, there were some magnificent instances of operations which, from a theoretical military standpoint, were guerrilla-like actions. Today, suddenly, we seem to have only one option, direct military action, which means aggression. This in turn means many casualties, and if we are going to hit them, then we must hit them hard. There are, perhaps, cases where force is necessary, but I totally reject its use in each and every case, with no exceptions. I am not a military man, and the fact that I once was makes no difference at all. However, my intelligence does not allow me to compromise with the view that there is no alternative. I have heard recently that such a possibility might exist. Perhaps I am mistaken. I hope that I am not.
The scope of the operations is most important. If you had been in New York and had seen the headlines about Operation Kinneret, you could not be but exasperated. It is not just a question of my having weak nerves, that I become horrified all too quickly, that I should have nerves of steel and not lose my equanimity. This is a political issue. Are we dependent upon the United States or not? Are we dependent upon American Jewry or not? Perhaps one of the most serious things that occurred was when the trust of American Jewry in the good judgment of the Government of Israel was shaken, for they were incapable of understanding why the operation had been undertaken on the very day that a meeting had been planned, a meeting on which high hopes had been pinned. As far as they were concerned, nothing out of the ordinary had happened: shots had been fired in the Kinneret area, we had suffered no casualties, and then out of the blue came this operation, with dozens of people killed. And the headline, “Israeli Offensive Against Syria,” at a time that we were involved in a world-wide effort to explain our position, to prove that we were a country under siege; a country with its back to the wall, whose enemies were planning its annihilation – and then came [Operation] Kinneret. The words said one thing, the facts another.
I say that we must consider when to retaliate and when not to. The retaliation and its scope must be considered, and the impact that it leaves cannot be ignored, for the impact left is a political fact, with all of the concomitant consequences. In the case of [Operation] Kinneret, the consequences were the Security Council resolution which censured us as the aggressor. In another case [i.e., Gaza], it was the cancellation of Pineau’s visit. In yet another, the cancellation of arms supplies or the justification of the cancellation. All that has happened and damage was caused. I do not say that we should always make our decisions in light [of outside factors], but they cannot be ignored. And the Army must not be allowed to ignore them. To say nothing of the fact that reprisals ignite a sea of hatred, flames of animosity all around us, and result in contributions of military assistance being channeled from one Arab state to another.
What Ben-Gurion said in the Knesset about Hammarskjöld’s claims being refuted is quite true. He was proven that there are situations in which restraint is impossible. But another thing is also true. When he [Hammarskjöld] countered by saying: “Yes, but the facts prove that this does not solve the problem,” I received the impression that it had been our claims which had been refuted. In any event, he was not given a rebuttal.