Prime Minister of Israel

Speech made to the Assembly

Monday, 1 October 1973

Mr President, members of the Council, I thank you most sincerely for what you have said this morning and also for your having extended to me the invitation to speak to the Council of Europe. We are not in Europe – I almost said “to my sorrow” – but our not being in Europe dates so far back that nothing can change that geographical fact; and because we have not yet achieved our ideal to have a council similar to this in our area, a council of all the countries and peoples in the area, we are still very closely connected with Europe, with each country in Europe and with this Council generally.

We have felt it a privilege to have had our observers in the Council for many years, and we have appreciated the close co-operation and the opportunities given to them to participate in various ways. We have appreciated all along the full understanding of our problems that was expressed by this Council. Maybe it should not be surprising that this is so. The history of Europe and the history of the Jewish people are intertwined. We have together known many hours of sorrow and distress and we, the Jewish people, will never forget that it was on this continent that we first enjoyed equality, freedom and possibilities of normal, free existence.

In the memory of most of us – I look around and maybe there are some who are too young to have experienced it – in the last and greatest of all horrors that descended upon Europe in which my people were the greatest sufferers, all of the people in all of your countries suffered likewise. We try in the education of our young generation to keep a balance on both sides. We do not wish our young generation to grow up with a feeling that at any time in our rather tragic history everybody was against us. We always try to point out to them that at every dark period in the life of the Jewish people, no matter how terrible, there were always some – at various period few, at various periods many – who were with us to the very sacrifice of their lives.

“If there is such a thing as a family of nations, then every member of the family has an equal right to live, to exist, to be free to move around the world, to welcome anybody he wants to welcome into his country.”

As normal procedure requires, I suppose, I too have tried to follow in the steps of those who appear before such a forum as this and have written a speech. I think you have it. But I decided at the last moment not to place between me and you the paper on which the speech is written, especially in the context of what happened in the past two or three days, and why.

You were kind enough, Mr President, to mention what happened in Vienna a few days ago. I decided that what has happened in Vienna a few days ago is the entire problem that I wanted to bring before you. It highlights everything, and I thought there was no sense in trying paragraph by paragraph to say what the actions in Vienna have already said.

What is it? The state of Israel is 25 years old. The state of Israel for 25 years has not had one consecutive year of absolute peace. The countries in Europe have known war. Some have known war more than once. It is almost inconceivable that any country in Europe should think that one of its neighbours that maybe has attacked it in the past will do it again. Somehow we believe, you believe, that all of us have learnt the lesson that war solves no problems, that it has the same results for both sides, to a smaller or greater extent. Nobody who has ever won a war has won it without suffering, without the loss of lives, without destruction. There is a price for winning a war, too. There is a price for losing one, but everybody who has won a war has paid the price as well.

We have won all our wars. We have paid the price. Many thousands of our young sons and daughters could have been alive today, should have been alive today, and participated in the constructive activities of building their country. Many thousands on the other side, in the Arab countries, should have been alive today to participate in the constructive activities in their countries, so that their people would be better off today than they are.

Maybe it is a dream to hope that the time will come when our area will duplicate what Europe has done. But many dreams of ours have come true. Anyway, only to the extent that they have the courage to dream do individuals or countries have the courage also to execute their hopes and dreams. We dream and we hope that the time will come when our area will duplicate what Europe has done, that together we shall discuss problems, and, what is even more important, that together we shall build our area in real cooperation, knowing that not one single people in our area can be happier if any other people is destroyed. The happiness of all the people in the entire area depends upon our all living there in peace and in co-operation.

I said that the state of Israel is 25 years old. What is probably the most characteristic difference of Israel from other countries is that somehow we still owe an explanation to the world, to individual countries with which we are connected and to the world in general. If we look on the United Nation» as the family of nations, in this family to which we belong, year after year for 25 years we have been accused and have had to explain ourselves.

What has happened in Vienna highlights the problem of the Jewish people and highlights the position of Israel among its neighbours. We lost in the holocaust one third of our people. Of those that remain there are three large centres – the United States, the Soviet Union and Israel. Israel has grown from a population of 650 000 in 1948 to close on 3 million.

The state of Israel was built and makes sense only if it can do one thing: become the country to which every Jew, whether he has to or wants to, can come as of right. One of the first laws we passed was the law of the return: that Israel was not the property of the 650 000 nor is it now of the close to 3 million. It belongs to every Jew in the world who wants to come to it and live in it; it belongs to every Jew in the world who has to come to it and wants to live in it, old and young and sick.

Jews have come to us from various parts of the world, from very under-developed countries and from highly developed countries. We have tried to integrate ourselves into one people – with some success, I believe.

Jews from the Western world can come whenever they like. But there is the problem of close to 3 million Jews in the Soviet Union. Some say that there are 3.5 million and others that there are 4 million. The official census in Russia says that there are over 2.5 million Jews, and it is well known that many Jews are not registered as Jews in Russia because they thought that would make their life easier.

We believe that many of those Jews want to come to Israel. They do not even say that they want to leave the Soviet Union because of its regime, because of its ideology. Over and over again they say one thing: “We are Jews. Every people has a country of its own. We want to go to the country of our people. We want to help in the creation of this country. We want to be with our people in the Jewish state.”

I do not have to relate to you in detail how difficult it is for them to do it. If more are coming out, I am happy to say it is probably due to a large extent to the attitude this Council has taken on the subject.

We do not have a common border with the Soviet Union. Most Jews have to go through other countries. We thought, and still think, that every country which believes in freedom, whose people believe in freedom and the dignity of the individual, believes that every people, without exception, has the right to live. The right to live exists only if every people has the right to defend itself, hoping that it will not need to exercise that right. But if it is faced by danger then it must have the right to self-defence. That must apply to all peoples, the Jews included.

I understand very well that there is a problem for every country which allows Jews through its territory on the way to Israel. But the Jews do not create the problem. It is created by those who want to destroy them, to kill them. The person who threatens with a gun and the person who defends himself in order to ensure that the gun is not fired at him are not the same. There is a very convenient saying: “A plague on both your houses”. It probably embodies the greatest injustice which can be done. At best, it saves the person who says it from the difficulty and anxiety of having to make a decision. It means that he does not have to decide which of the two should be plagued and which should not. It is so easy for him to say “It is not my business. This one has a gun and the other one has a gun. A plague on both your houses. Both of you get out.” But even that situation is not true in reality because one of the persons says “I will not even get out unless you do as I ask you to do against the other person.” So often, his conditions are accepted and the other one is put out.

In referring to what has happened in Vienna I am not bringing to this forum the question of what the Austrian Government have done. I am speaking of the problem itself. What has it highlighted? What is the danger if this situation should be accepted?

The 1967 war was the third in the area. I call the Assembly’s attention to the fact that we – those inflexible, stubborn people – accepted the 1947 United Nations resolution. It was destroyed by our neighbours. We agreed to live within the lines of the armistice agreement. The borders were violated over and over again. It is true that Israel was condemned by the Security Council many times – but we were condemned for acts of reprisal. That means that something had happened and we reacted to it.

I am not speaking in the name of a nation of angels. We try to be decent human beings. We cannot promise the world to seek an agreement that they will accept us if we are angels. We are more or less the same as other people.

After the war of 1967 we honestly and sincerely believed that this was the last war. My predecessor, the late Mr Eshkol, on behalf of the Israeli Government, immediately told the Arab countries, “Let us sit down together and negotiate as equals – not as winners and losers. Let us come to a peace treaty once and for all. Let us work together.” We got the answer: no negotiation, no recognition, no peace.

Following failure on the battlefield, terrorist activities began in Israel proper, in the occupied areas and across the borders. They failed in that as well. I remind you that we have an Israeli Arab community in Israel of about 400 000, including Moslems and Christians and those of the Jewish faith. They enjoy equality with all Israeli citizens. I am happy to say that they are enjoying prosperity and development. An Arab village in Israel today has no counterpart in any Arab country. I am happy to say that the terrorist acts in the occupied territories, on the western bank and in the Gaza strip have stopped. Doors and bridges are open. The people come and go from one part of Israel to another. They go to Jordan and other countries for study and vacation. Thousands of them do so. There is a constant flow of Arabs from enemy countries.

Having failed in Israel itself, the Arab organisations, helped by Arab governments and provided by them with arms and with training for terrorist acts, have taken terror into Europe and all parts of the world.

I well understand the feelings of the Prime Minister and other members of the government of a country who say “We have nothing to do with this. Why has our territory been chosen for activities of this kind?” I do understand those feelings. I understand that they may reach the conclusion that the only way to free themselves of this headache is to make their country out of bounds either for Jews – and certainly for Israelis – or for terrorists. Such a choice has to be taken by every government.

I understand what it is like when a plane is hijacked. I have had experience of dealing with such situations. I have had to face the grim problem while Israeli men and women in Thailand were kept on the floor bound hand and foot for over 20 hours. We had then to say over and over again that we would not do the terrorists’ bidding. I hope I do not have to explain that in saying that I had no easy heart. Yet the parents of one of the young men and one of the young women involved called me to say “Do not give in”. Perhaps I may digress here a moment to tell you that that young man and young woman are now married. Why did we and those parents say “Do not give in”? Was it because we have no hearts? Have the parents no heart? Have the Prime Minister and the government no hearts?

My friends, we have learnt the bitter lesson. One may save a life immediately only to endanger more lives. Terrorism has to be wiped out. There can be no deals with terrorists. What about this terrible thing which has happened at Vienna? Is that a deal? Otherwise, I do not know what happened. Let us say it was an agreement, an understanding. I am prepared to use the kindest words if it will only change the situation. An understanding has been made that the terrorists will let these three Jews and one Austrian go while in return Russian Jews who want to go to Israel will not be helped through Austria after all they have gone through in their struggle. Or, as it has been modified since, they will not be helped to the same extent, and there is a great victory throughout the terrorist organisations and the radios of the Arab states – and rightly so from their point of view. This is the first time that a government has come to an agreement of this kind. Until now the most that has been done, something we have criticised, is that terrorists who have committed terrorist acts, as in Munich at the Olympic Games, finally find themselves free again to go through or try to go through the same operation all over again. Now they have got much more than that. A very basic important principle of freedom of movement of people has been put under a question mark, at any rate for Jews, and there is a great victory.

I know, I am convinced, that the question of the lives of the four people is very dear. The four are free now, they are alive, but I am convinced – certainly with no intention whatsoever on the part of the Austrian Government or its Prime Minister – that what has happened in Vienna is the greatest encouragement to terror throughout the world.

My friends, the first plane that was hijacked was an El A1 plane to Algeria, and Algeria accepted the plane full of passengers, and since the world remained silent – yes, there was an article here and there, a speech here and there – look what happened to the question of air passage throughout the world. Nobody who gets on a plane is really convinced that he will safely reach his destination. Especially if, God forbid, there should be an Israeli on the plane, then you are really in danger. Then is the solution to have no Israelis on planes of any kind? The difference between an Israeli and a Jew is very difficult to distinguish. We are speaking in the world of the seventies of the twentieth century. Does the “nobody” from the Soviet Union to be allowed to go through Austria refer to Jews only?

Believe me, we are extremely grateful for all that the Austrian Government have done for the tens of thousands of Jews who have gone through Austria from Poland, from Romania, from the Soviet Union. We are extremely grateful for the manpower that the Austrian Government have put at the disposal of these Jews coming from the Soviet Union who have to stay in Czemau, sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for 24 hours. We are not anxious to let them remain in Austria. Our planes take them out as quickly as they can get there. We know that it has required a lot of manpower from the Austrian security to safeguard Czernau, not because the Jews are there but because the Arabs decided more than once – we know it, the Austrian Government know it – to blow up Czernau. Therefore, of course, there will be no Jews and there is nothing to blow up.

Then again, if the decision is not to do away with terrorists and to set terrorists free when they have committed an act of terrorism or when you get them with the arms that they have in their hands and they admit that this is exactly what they wanted to do, to blow up Czemau, and they are sent away because they have not yet done it, what do they do? They go back to Beirut, to Libya, to Egypt, to reorganise and try again. The solution is no Czemau, and therefore there will be no terrorists.

Just to prove to you that this is not a new dilemma since the state of Israel was established, let me say that way back in the days of Czarist Russia there was a Jewish poet. You know we have a certain holiday which is coming very soon when we put up some kind of temporary hut or tabernacle in the yard so that you can see the sky. One of the rules in building this little temporary thing is that it must not be on the ground directly: there must be a certain space between it and the ground. The Jewish poet once wrote that a certain animal made his way in and overthrew this tabernacle. The big question is, who is to blame, this animal? The decision is, of course, if there were no such observance there would be no tabernacle, he would have nothing to overthrow, so he is not responsible. This was in Czarist Russia. This was a regime against which all that was decent and good in the world stood up in arms.

This is 1973. The state of Israel was created after the holocaust. The 6 million Jews in Eastern and Central Europe were a centre of culture and religion, of the Hebrew language, of loyalty to the Jewish traditions. They have gone, and among them a million children. Not only 6 million were killed – future generations are already dead before they were bom.

The state of Israel was accepted because the family of nations in 1947, including the Soviet Union, including Poland, decided that pure justice demanded that the Jews, too, should have sovereignty where they belong, in that little part of the world.

We have done something these 25 years; we have enjoyed a lot of friendship and understanding from peoples throughout the world and a lot of misunderstanding.

Mr President, thank you for inviting me to appear here and thank you, friends, for listening. I bring to you a problem. If you wish, you can say “It is not ours”. If you will forgive me, I say that no longer in this world is a problem of one people exclusively the problem of that people. If there is such a thing as a family of nations, then every member of the family has an equal right to live, to exist, to be free to move around the world, to receive anybody he wants to receive into his country.

These terrorists, two of them at the point of a gun, have at least raised the question whether any country should be involved in allowing Jews, and Jews only, to use its soil for transit.

I sincerely and honestly hope that this is not the final decision of the Austrian Government. I honestly and sincerely hope that there was some misunderstanding somewhere; that there was misinterpretation. We are not looking for a victory over any government. We are anxious to have these things clarified. It is only by a mere chance that I appear here just after this weekend, and I think that it would have been dishonest on my part, since I am here today, if I had not brought to your attention how we, the people of Israel, the Government of Israel, view what has happened. If it is said that in order to safeguard the welfare of Soviet citizens on their way to Israel they must not be given facilities, then why only Austria? Why should not other countries say “The same holds good for our territory”?

I want to end with only one bitter memory. It is no secret to you people, I suppose, that I am pictured in the world as an old woman who has many complexes and many memories. In the long memory of my people there has been the Diaspora, there were the pogroms in Czarist Russia as my first memory, there was the holocaust, and there is terrorism. I remember all this. I am not the only one. I also remember that in 1938 one of the greatest Presidents that the United States has had called a conference in Evian. From many countries represented there were some fine and most sincere speeches, expressing sympathy for the Jewish refugees who were running around the world then, fleeing from Germany and from every country to which the Nazis gained entrance. Everyone condemned fascism and expressed the greatest sympathy with the Jewish people and the refrain from all of them was: “But my country cannot accept them”. The representatives of one country said “There was never a Jewish problem in my country. Therefore we do not want to create a Jewish problem by allowing these Jews to come in.”

My friends, again I thank you very much for listening. Forgive me if I have brought to you again some of the problems facing Israel.

(Applause. Several Representatives rose to their feet.)

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Mrs Prime Minister, in our conversation this morning you said that if one was serving what one believed to be a just cause one had no right to be tired. In your address, which to judge by the applause commanded the full support of the Assembly, you showed once more that you remain faithful to that concept. Since then you feel you have no right to be tired, I venture to ask if you will agree to answer some questions.

Ms Meir, Prime Minister of Israel

Of course, Mr President.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

I am now going to call two representatives of Austria who wish to make a statement. I call Mr Czernetz.

Mr CZERNETZ (Austria) (translation)

Mr President, thank you for allowing me to make a few observations on the terrible events in Austria. Perhaps I may say that never before have I felt so distressed in addressing this Assembly.

We have experienced days of great stress, particularly we who are Austrian, during which we trembled for the life of three Jewish hostages and an Austrian customs officer, and finally also for the freedom and lives of two Austrian pilots.

We are still deeply distressed. The conclusion of this affair has left us with mixed feelings: relief that no lives were lost, but concern about future developments. The question that has to be answered is whether there will be any substantial change.

It is not surprising that there were confused reports in many papers and in the mass media. Here in Strasbourg, we Austrians were only able to piece the picture together bit by bit from Austrian broadcasts, papers, telephone conversations with Vienna and television news. The Arab terrorists demanded a complete embargo on all transit travel by Jewish citizens from the Soviet Union to Israel. This demand was categorically rejected by the Austrian Federal Government, as stated in the news broadcasts of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation. I have the relevant texts before me, but I do not wish to bother you with quotations. The declaration made by the Austrian Government states, inter alia, that only the facilities hitherto granted, such as accommodation in Schonau, are being discontinued. I say here openly that I was and am very upset by this. But the fact remains that individual visas are being given and individual travel from the Soviet Union to and through Austria to Israel remains possible. The Austrian Federal Chancellor, Dr Kreisky, made an unequivocal statement to that effect over Austrian radio. Transit is still possible. But those that travel in transit will have to leave Austria more quickly for reasons of security, or insecurity.

Since the Prime Minister of Israel said a few minutes ago that she hoped that this was not the final decision of the Austrian Government, and that things would be clarified, let me say that I too hope that during negotiations between the Government of Israel and the Government of Austria, matters will shortly be clarified.

Mr President, the Austrian security service is subject to very strict rules. Fire-arms may be used in Austria only in self-defence. After our experiences in the past this constituted a protection for democracy. But this provision complicates the struggle against the terrorists. Not infrequently the police are up before the courts for having exceeded their powers. And I would ask the Assembly, and also the Prime Minister and those here with her, to note that neutral Austria cannot and must not permit foreign security services and terrorists – and I wish to make a clear difference between the state security organs of Israel and the terrorists – to fight pitched battles on Austrian territory.

Let me emphasise particularly that the two Arab terrorists armed with machine guns and hand grenades crossed the frontier from Czechoslovakia on the same train as the emigrants. The Czechoslovak security service considers itself threatened by unarmed Austrians flying sports planes who stray a few kilometres over the frontier. Within a matter of weeks, two such aircraft were brought down and four people were killed. Curiously enough, the Czechoslovak frontier officials did not discover the heavily armed Arab terrorists in the train. Was that mere chance?

In the circumstances, the Austrian Government took the point of view that it was necessary to save the hostages. Was that correct? What would world opinion have said if there had been four or possibly even more deaths in Vienna? What would they have said if the same thing had happened as in Fiirstenfeldbruck?

Of course the question arises whether a political price was paid. Was the price too high for the life of the hostages? The government in Vienna stated in this connection that Austria has not deviated a jot from its obligations, which were to provide asylum for refugees, and that moreover, let me repeat this, transit through Austria will continue to be possible in future for Soviet citizens of the Jewish persuasion.

I must confess that here in Strasbourg I am unable to judge whether it would have been possible for the Austrian Federal Government to act differently. Was the decision a decision of principle or will it be possible to negotiate, as statements from Vienna known to the Prime Minister have confirmed? It will be possible to negotiate. But to me there was no alternative course open. Vienna sought and pursued a humanitarian solution, yet I am anything but happy and satisfied with the result. I say this quite openly. Every successful act of blackmail by the terrorists provides encouragement for further terrorist acts. Every one! The only government which has hitherto made no concessions to the terrorists is the Government of Israel.

The Prime Minister will remember that I was in Israel in May and that I discussed with her personally and said: is there any democratic government that dares to say, in peacetime and publicly, that lives of hostages must be sacrified for the sake of principles? The situation is different in Israel, which is in a state of continuous war, where there is not even a definite cease-fire.

This new terrorist attack has certainly proved how right the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe was when it called for regional co-operation in the struggle against terrorism in April of this year. Only a few days ago we debated the question whether the Committee of Ministers should convene the Ministers for Security and discuss matters with them, with the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers and the Austrian Foreign Minister, Mr Kirchschlâger, and a few hours later with the German Minister for the Interior, Mr Genscher.

But, Mr President, other states and stronger ones than Austria were not able to deal with terrorism on their own and had to make concessions to the blackmailers. The Federal Republic of Germany and Sweden have had to release terrorists sentenced to prison as criminals, and only a short while ago the French security service in Paris proved unable to prevent the taking of Arab diplomats as hostages. For the future we must make it clear jointly, at European and international level, that no guarantees given to terrorists are legally binding. This applies in every case. Here there are hardly likely to be differences of opinion about the fact that the terrorists are neither freedom fighters nor heroes, but common criminals according to the 1949 Geneva Convention. This was made unequivocally clear during the spring session. The battle against international terrorists and hijackers must be pursued jointly by all of us in Europe.

Mr President, Austria is a neutral state from the military point of view, but politically it has always opposed any dictatorship and has professed itself a democracy. We are not enemies of the Arabs. But many of my fellow countrymen are, like myself, admirers and friends of the democratic state of Israel and of its courageous and capable people.

The Prime Minister, Mrs Golda Meir, knows how many of my Austrian friends, like myself, admire and sympathise with the Prime Minister, and are bound to her, her country and her people by ties of solidarity and friendship.

Mr KARASEK (Austria) (translation)

Mr President, Mrs Meir, Ladies and Gentlemen, no one in this Assembly could have heard the news at midday on Friday about the events in Austria without feelings of deep distress. Terrorism, which has so often been discussed in this Assembly, had again struck with brutal force.

We all breathed again when we heard that loss of life had been prevented. I would like, however, to say to the Prime Minister that we were all deeply concerned as long as we had to assume, on the basis of the first press and radio news which was still circulating yesterday, that the hostages could only be liberated at the high cost of our relinquishing humanitarian aid. We have since gathered from the statement made by the Austrian Federal Government that, as my colleague, Mr Czernetz, has said, individual transit by Jewish emigrants from the Soviet Union will continue to be guaranteed and that the demand made by the terrorists that every kind of transit be stopped was rejected. But the other consequences, the other results about which the Prime Minister spoke in such moving words, do not satisfy me. And I think I may say that the last word has not yet been said in this matter.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the members of the Austrian delegation do not at the moment have all the information here in Strasbourg which would allow them to make a balanced legal and political assessment of events. But I can assure you that after thorough examination we shall have questions to raise and discuss in the Austrian Parliament.

I would like to make the following short personal declaration.

We condemn terrorists who attack innocent individuals and commit utterly inhuman atrocities.

We consider it dangerous if concessions are made which are indefensible on humanitarian grounds, and which may, moreover, be considered as an invitation to the terrorists to continue their activities.

It is also dangerous for governments to feel legally bound by pledges extorted in a completely unethical manner.

Moreover, we also consider it dangerous for future governments to decide, under pressure of terrorist acts, to change their basic policy on any given question.

We are of the opinion, and I am now speaking as an Austrian, that to offer asylum to human beings who are being persecuted for political, racial, or religious reasons and to give them help and support, are among the noblest tasks and rights of a neutral state. We shall insist in the Austrian Parliament that our government and parliament reach agreement that in future this right, the principles, shall, even under pressure of terrorism, be considered indispensable and inalienable.

In conclusion I would like to ensure the Prime Minister of my deepest sympathy.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

I call Mr Blumenfeld, Chairman of the Political Affairs Committee.

Mr BLUMENFELD (Federal Republic of Germany) (translation)

Mr President, before I introduce the question of which I have given notice, I would like to make two points.

One: the Prime Minister of Israel has accepted our invitation to speak to the Political Committee tomorrow in closed session, and I would like to thank her on behalf of all my colleagues. I hope we shall have the possibility of discussing certain special questions with her there.

Here and now I would like to say to the Prime Minister that I was deeply impressed and moved by her address to the Assembly. At the same time I would like to assure her, as have my colleagues from the Austrian delegation, Mr Czernetz and Mr Karasek, that the Political Affairs Committee of which I have the honour to be Chairman, and also, I believe, the entire Consultative Assembly, will stand by what this Assembly has repeatedly made clear, namely that it will oppose all terrorism and that it will not only make every effort to ensure freedom for all who wish to move about freely in Europe, but also for all those, and particularly for Soviet citizens of the Jewish faith, who wish to emigrate to Israel. We confirmed this repeatedly in a number of resolutions during the past year.

Two: to this end I and others have submitted a resolution which I hope will be accepted for a debate under urgent procedure, so that it will be possible to vote on it tomorrow. I introduced this resolution to this Assembly with the clear and specific object of introducing the major political problem mentioned by the Prime Minister, and I would ask her to take this as an earnest that we in this Council of Europe Assembly are well aware that it must be brought to the notice of our member governments, at least in the form of a resolution. It is our hope as parliamentarians that the governments in Europe will finally draw the necessary conclusions.

I have a question to ask the Prime Minister which I hope she will be able to answer and will not consider indiscreet. I refer to what Mrs Meir said in her speech when she mentioned that her predecessor, Mr Eshkol, and also she herself, had requested the Arab governments and peoples to enter into negotiations immediately after 1967. We know now that the Arab peoples, or should I rather say governments, are not ready to negotiate with the Government of Israel, either directly or indirectly – although only negotiations can lead to peace – unless the Government of Israel declares its readiness beforehand to evacuate the areas under Israel’s administration. I would like to ask the Prime Minister whether she or members of her government have attempted or are intending to attempt to have direct contact with politicians and members of the Arab governments or some of these governments, while carefully avoiding publicity.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

As Mr Blumenfeld has just said, he and others have tabled a motion for a resolution, with a request for urgent procedure, on the responsibility of the member states of the Council of Europe regarding free movement of people in Europe.

I shall call a meeting of the Bureau for 3 p.m., as required by the Rules of Procedure, to discuss this matter, and I invite the Chairmen of the political groups to take part in this meeting, which will be held in Room B 501. If the Assembly agrees, as I am sure it will, this afternoon’s sitting will begin at 3.30 instead of 3 o’clock. Are there any objections?... That is agreed.

Mrs Meir, you were kind enough to say you would answer questions by members of the Assembly. I call you now to reply to the first question, which was put by Mr Blumenfeld.

Ms Meir, Prime Minister of Israel

Thank you very much for what you have said, and I am very glad to answer the two questions. We have said, and the policy has remained up to this moment, and I am sure it will not change after the elections – at least, this will not change after the elections – that we are prepared at any time, at any place, to negotiate with our Arab neighbours on the possibility of a peace treaty which, naturally, will include the question of borders, without any preconditions.

I know it is sometimes said to us, “But you put down conditions when you say” – and the government has said, and parliament has said – “We will not go back to the 1967 borders. Those borders that were destroyed by war.” But we do not ask any one of our neighbours to accept this stand of ours before negotiations.

For instance, President Sadat says that not one inch of the Sinai Desert can remain with Israel. We do not say “Since this is your decision, there is no sense in negotiation; we will not negotiate with you”. He asks us to accept that before negotiation. Therefore, we certainly will not accept his demands, nor do we demand of him that he should accept any one of our positions.

We want to meet. Each side is absolutely free to put all its demands and all its views on the table. That is why there must be negotiation. If we all agreed beforehand to one point of view, there would be no need for negotiations.

There are very serious differences between us and our Arab neighbours. We believe that with a sincere desire for real peace we can overcome the differences. Compromises will have to be made. We believe that after a period of negotiations we can come to a peace agreement.

We do not see any possibility of evacuating any part of the occupied territories without negotiation and without a peace agreement. On the other hand, there is no doubt in my mind that, through negotiations, some territories at any rate will not be kept by Israel. We are dealing also with territories that were never assigned by the League of Nations. The Western Bank was never assigned to Jordan and part of the old city of Jerusalem was not assigned to Jordan. Perhaps the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by force should be applied equally to all sides. At any rate, the Western Bank has very close and dear historic memories for our people, yet I am convinced that through negotiations we can reach agreement; but not evacuation and then letting the Arab armies again come to the same borders on which we were attacked in 1967.

As to efforts, I make this statement without any reservation: we have lost no chance to ask people who have travelled to Egypt or Syria and back to deliver the message that we are prepared, if President Sadat or President Assad is not prepared to meet us immediately in public negotiations, to meet at any level in any way to try to begin to talk. Maybe tomorrow at the Council I shall have something particular to say, at least about one case of this kind. To my sorrow, we have never received a positive answer that in any way, somewhere, somebody can meet somebody just to talk. Even that was not accepted. But we hope for the future.

Mr AHLMARK (Sweden)

May I return to the problem of terrorism, because two issues in which the Council of Europe has taken great interest have now merged into one.

We have for years demanded the right for Soviet Jews to leave their country if they wish. As Rapporteur for the Council of Europe on Soviet Jewry, I had hearings in Israel this summer, and found that the campaign against the Jews in the Soviet Union has intensified. Thousands of them are fired from their jobs when they apply for exit visas, children are expelled from universities, show trials and anti-Semitic pamphlets try to deter Jews from expressing their sympathy with Israel, families are split and conditions for Jewish prisoners are very bad.

That is one barrier for Soviet Jews wishing to leave for the Jewish state. But we have now seen that a terrorist act might create a second barrier. Prime Minister Kreisky seems to have promised two Arab terrorists that Austria will not continue to be a transit country for Jews from the Soviet Union. We hope that this concession to political blackmail will not last and will not threaten Jewish emigration.

In the Council of Europe we have often demanded that our governments “work out a joint European front to combat terrorism”, as the Assembly says in Recommendation 703. Could you imagine, Mrs Prime Minister, that if the European countries had created such a united front it would have been possible for one of these countries to be led astray by the tragic temptation to surrender to terrorist threats?

Ms Meir, Prime Minister of Israel

Thank you very much, Mr Ahlmark. We appreciate greatly what this Council has done, and its attitude towards the possibility of Soviet Jews exercising the elementary freedom to leave their country if they wish and go wherever they want.

All the dangers that Mr Ahlmark mentioned exist. I do not know whether members of the Council ever see any of the close to eighty anti-Semitic books that have been published in the Soviet Union since 1967. As we all know, there are not many private publishing houses in the Soviet Union; every book that is published is from a government publishing house. Those books consist of real anti-Semitism, the like of which we have not read about or heard about for many years. They are quite in the open. Nobody should be led astray when they speak about “Zionists”. Zionists, Jews, Israelis are all of the same kind.

There is no doubt in my mind that a united front of all the countries fighting terrorism would, first, strengthen each one of the countries to hold its own and, secondly, more than anything else discourage terrorist acts. If terrorists are not allowed to work in one country they may find it possible to operate in another, even if only temporarily. Please do not misunderstand me. No governments have given permission for terrorist acts. But the question is of reaction, of making it impossible for terrorists to act.

The fight against terrorism would be helped if all Europe were to be, for that purpose at any rate, one territory where such acts are not permissible and no government will give in to pressure. Sometimes it requires a terrible decision, perhaps endangering somebody’s life at that moment. But please always have in mind how many you will endanger at the moment you give in to terrorist blackmail.


I can be extremely brief in my comment, because I completely share the opinion expressed by the Prime Minister.

In my hearings in Israel this summer, a theme never vanished: do not believe that the awakening of Soviet Jews to national consciousness can be crushed or will disappear. What has happened is the re-emergence of a pride in their Jewishness among hundreds of thousands, a strengthened link with the state of Israel, and an increased determination not quietly to accept persecution in the name of anti-Zionism.

However fierce the attacks against Israel, they will not discourage Soviet Jews from expressing their solidarity with the Jewish state. Show trials against Jews who have applied for visas may become still more disgusting, but they will not prevent other Jews from applying for exit visas. Even if the harassment against Jewish families who want to leave the Soviet Union grows in intensity, it will not silence them or their friends. The so-called “Jews of silence” are no more. They will continue to demand the right to confess their creed and express their convictions.

Therefore, it remains a democratic and humanitarian duty to help these people to reach the country they long for. In doing so, we try to fulfil one of the basic rights in the European Convention on Human Rights. When oppressed Jews in the Soviet Union are not deterred by the campaign against them, it would be a shame if we were deterred from supporting them because of terrorist blackmail.

As Rapporteur on Soviet Jewry, I find it necessary to express these feelings in the presence of the Prime Minister of Israel.

Mr OSBORN (United Kingdom)

I, too, welcome Mrs Meir. I welcome her as an ordinary member of this Assembly. I am grateful to her for her moving contribution not only about current issues but about the state of Israel itself. I thank her for so lucidly reminding us that governments, members of parliament and peoples in a free democracy – I include members of the Council of Europe – must be firm and resolute if they are to stop hijacking and terrorism.

I want to put to Mrs Meir a technical question and I hope she will not regard it as irrelevant. Too often, purely economic, commercial and industrial issues now have urgent political undertones. These undertones concern countries which are Members of this Council of Europe. Bearing in mind, therefore, that various committees of the Council of Europe, including the Committee on Science and Technology and the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development, of which I am a member, as well as the European Economic Commission, OECD and other organisations, are reviewing energy policies, what, in Mrs Meir’s opinion, are the courses of action open to Israel independently and the Western powers to ensure, at reasonable prices, the continued supplies of crude oil and petroleum products from the oil-producing countries of the world?

Ms Meir, Prime Minister of Israel

I am sorry to say that the oil wells of Israel cannot produce much more than they are doing, which is practically none. We are not an oil-producing country. We had never felt the necessity to be an oil country until the recent period. But I am afraid we cannot help it.

Perhaps I can introduce here a lighter note. We say among ourselves that it is difficult to forgive Moses for dragging us for forty years through the desert to bring us to the one part of the Middle East where there is no oil. But this is something that we cannot change.

I think it may be wishful thinking, but some people who have made a thorough study of the problem have concluded that even if there were no Israel the problem of Arab oil and the price would still exist. The fact that the Western world – Europe and the United States – have allowed themselves to become so greatly dependent upon this oil naturally encourages Arab governments to use the oil for various purposes, certainly for at least one purpose. It may be unpleasant but it is legitimate: they want to get a higher price for the product, upon which the world depends so much.

It is not that I am for the breaking of contracts or nationalising against contracts, and so on, but this problem does exist and we are convinced that it has little to do with Israel. But, to the extent that it has to do with Israel, we are not the only ones in the world who simply refuse to believe that Arab oil-producing countries will give up the production of oil in order to force other countries to adopt political positions. To the extent that this problem exists, with Arab countries saying that other governments should change their attitude to Israel in exchange for oil, it is merely a continuation of what we are discussing today. Either one uses the gun or economic blackmail – that is the attitude. “Either you do what we say or we do not give you oil.” What then must one do? Is one, politically or any other way, to help the Arabs to destroy Israel?

I do not believe that the world that we live in is a world which can allow something like that and that it will succeed. If they are not encouraged, if all countries in the world say, “It is true that we want your oil but we also have a price, and that price is the liberty of our governments to make our own political decisions as we believe right. You cannot wash away with your oil – something which is very precious to our lives and modem civilisation – our conscience, discretion and liberty to decide what we believe is right.”

Of course, all this brings the world – the United States and, I imagine, also Europe – to the absolute necessity to look about for all resources possible, even if they are not available in the immediate future, so that if a situation like that develops it can be rectified by recourse to other sources.

I do not believe what one gentleman once said to me. He said, “If you ask my people whether they want air conditioners or whether they are worried about the state of Israel, they will choose air conditioners.” I am too old to be as cynical as that. I do not believe that decent people all over the world would give up the life of Israel for air conditioners. I do not believe that the situation is as bad as that. Even if you have to give up some oil, it has not come to that. If the world takes the stand of saying, “We need your oil and are prepared to negotiate a price but our conscience and our freedom of decision is not a commodity to bargain with”, then there will be plenty of oil in the world.

Mr LEU (Switzerland) (translation)

May I ask the Prime Minister whether there is still a prisoner-or-war problem between Israel and its Arab neighbours, and if so what prevents that problem being settled by an exchange of prisoners?

Ms Meir, Prime Minister of Israel

We have a question of prisoners-of-war. After the 1967 war there was a complete exchange of prisoners. The prisoners now on both sides are a result of the war of attrition and sometimes of border incidents which still take place. The last three men who were held by the Syrian Government for quite a while were returned for over thirty Syrians held by us.

We have a very difficult situation with Egypt.

Egypt has ten of our men from during the war of attrition; three or four of them are pilots, the others were people who came with service wagons of food and so on who were taken by force across the Canal. One of them, from the reports of the Red Cross, is very seriously ill. We have close to seventy Egyptian prisoners-or-war. We said without any hesitation, “You can have your seventy, give us back our ten.” By the way, of the one who is so seriously ill that his life really is in extreme danger, as you friends probably know, it is against the Geneva Convention which says that if a man who is taken prisoner-or-war is ill or seriously wounded he should be sent back.

We have during this period received three or four men for whom we have returned many tens of Egyptian prisoners, but we do that without heartache: believe me, we have no joy in keeping prisoners-of-war. Some of them have come in such a condition that when the Egyptian physicians who treated them and who had given them up found them living, they tried to get information of what our doctors had done to make them go on living, because those physicians thought that they were sending them only to die in Israel. Maybe this is one way of co-operation, between medical men at least.

We are very anxious that all ten of them, especially this one who is dangerously ill, should come back to us. We have, every once in a while, sent someone. Sometimes a good friend will suggest sending one or two across and maybe that gesture will be answered. We have done that, we do not feel sorry for that, but this has been to no avail. But the problem of these ten men is very serious. We have had the co-operation of almost everybody who went to Egypt – United Nations people, men of government whom we have asked to intervene. They have done so, but to my sorrow to no avail up to the present time.

Mr MINNOCCI (Italy) (translation)

May I ask the Prime Minister of Israel whether this would not be a good opportunity for her to explain here once more the position of her government with regard to the Palestinian refugees and the possibility of setting up a state of CisJordan.

Ms Meir, Prime Minister of Israel

This is no doubt a problem. Everyone who has any familiarity with our area knows this problem exists. May I take a very few minutes to say the original Arab refugee problem was of course created as a result of the 1948 war. It was the result of the attack of the Arab countries, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon on the little state of Israel that was twelve hours old.

On the other hand, there was also a Jewish refugee problem. At the time the state of Israel was established there were 350 000 Jews still in camps in Germany. There were over 50 000 Jews who came from these camps to the shores of Israel who were not allowed to enter – this was before the establishment of the state of Israel – and who were sent to Cyprus, and we had over 300 000 Jews who were immediately admitted into Israel. Here we had people with nowhere to live and nothing to live upon. They were poor refugees, they came shattered. They were the remnants of the holocaust, shattered in spirit and in body. Many of us were very doubtful whether they could recuperate or do anything. To my great joy, these men and women with numbers on their arms – you see them wherever you go in Israel – have become normal healthy people who have contributed greatly to the development of Israel.

An additional source of Jewish refugees was the more than one million men, women and children who came to us from Arab countries, from Iraq, Egypt, Syria, North African countries, Libya, from the Yemen. When sometimes someone says the Palestinian refugees must have a country of their own because they cannot mix with other Arab countries, I only want to draw to your attention, believe me, that the gap between a Jew who came from the caves of Libya and a Jew who came from Western Europe or the United States or was born an Israeli was much, much greater than anything there could be between an Arab who lived in Jaffa, Nablus or Amman.

So we have this problem of integrating these Jewish tribes that are sometimes centuries apart in culture and way of living, integrating them into a modem people in a modern civilisation. We are greatly thankful to these men and women who came to us in 1949, 1950 and 1951, illiterate, with no skill of any kind: they were never farmers. You will know that some of the vegetables and fruit and poultry products – and in this city especially one should remember that – that you people enjoy at various times in your countries have been produced by these men and women who until they came to Israel never knew how to plant a seed or cultivate anything. They have become excellent farmers. They have revived the desert. They have done something to the hills of Israel and have become different people. The second generation, of course, is fantastic.

There is no reason whatever why the same thing could not have been done with the Arab refugees. They are smaller in numbers, they had no problems with language. With us, you can get twenty people in one room and have to speak five or six languages to be able to communicate with them directly. Now, less than twenty years after, they have learned Hebrew. With the Palestinian refugees there is no question of a language problem, no question of way-of-living, and no reason why that refugee problem could not have been solved years and years ago. There was international money. We were helped by Jewish communities, by governments. I suggest, since we spoke about oil a little while ago, that we know at least one, two or three Arab governments whose incomes are not so bad. Maybe a constructive use for some of that money would have been to help resettle these refugees. We in Israel have from the very first moment to this day said we are prepared and anxious to pay compensation for all that was left behind in Israel by these Arab refugees.

Now we think there is one solution and one solution only. Between the Mediterranean and the Iraqui borders – the eastern desert – there are two countries, one Jewish, one Arab, Israel and then the Arab country which should include the Palestinian refugees. This is where the boundary will be.

It is a question of negotiation between us and Jordan. When the boundary is established all that will be Jordanian. Part of the Western Bank will be the country of Jordanians and Arab refugees – Palestinians. What they call that country, whether they call it Jordanian or Palestinian or have a combination of the two names, is none of our business. Whether they will decide to have a federated country, as King Hussein has suggested, is also not our affair. That is something they should do themselves.

There are two things that we do not accept. These refugees have for 25 years been poisoned against us. We have found arithmetic books in Gaza saying: “There were five Israelis. Three were killed. How many left?” This is a mathematical problem for youngsters of 6 of 7 years of age. We cannot accept these refugees in Israel, for that would mean the destruction of Israel. Another thing we cannot accept is that between Israel and Jordan there should be another little Arab state, Palestine, in addition to the eighteen or nineteen they already have, without any possibility of existence whatsoever. This kind of state would serve one purpose and one only, and that is as a spearhead against Israel. It is not necessary for them. We would be in a very difficult position if they had no other solution. They have. Jordan needs the population. Jordan actually is a Palestinian state. It has Bedouins, that is true, but 50 % of the government are Palestinians, 50 % of the parliament are Palestinians. They have had Palestinian Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers. Jordan needs the people. The people can make out of Jordan a very modern and developed country.

This is bur proposition for the constructive solution of the Palestinian problem. We are extremely anxious, one, to pay compensation and, two, to co-operate in any way that they wish, for we have experience of how these things are done. With joy we would cross the border, not with tanks or with planes but with knowledge and with a real and sincere desire to help them find their place in a normal way of living.

Mr STINUS (Denmark)

I have listened with great interest, Madam Prime Minister, to your speech and to your answers to my colleagues. I would like to ask you whether you agree with Mr Arie Eliav, who was once an observer to this Assembly, in his views on the new settlement and investment plans which have just been adopted by your party. Mr Eliav has called it a creeping annexation which will lead to a situation in which Israel will have one million Arabs in limbo; one million people without rights. If you do not agree with Mr Eliav, I would like you to explain how else such a step can be understood by the rest of the world, including the Arabs and including the people of my own country, Denmark. I would also like to ask you whether you think such a policy of annexation brings closer the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

Ms Meir, Prime Minister of Israel

Thank you very much, Eliav is a member of my party. I do not know what happens in other parties but in my party there are differences of opinion. We try very hard to solve these differences by many, many long drawn-out arguments and debates, and finally find a way of living together. Despite our differences of opinion, Eliav and I are very good friends. We argue sometimes with a lot of emotion one against the other, but the fact is that we are going to the elections, which will take place on 30 October, on one list. My party, which is the largest in the country and always has been, has never expected and never demanded of our members that they should be uniform in their thinking. By this means we have avoided having many splinter parties, with each one thinking in a particular way and having differences with the other parties. We have kept it all inside. Not only that, but since 1967 the two groups which broke away from my party have come back and rejoined us, and with another group which was never in my party we have an alliance. We shall be going to the elections together and will solve our problems together. So it would not be natural if there were not differences of opinion, and I disagree firmly with Eliav on this issue.

When we speak of secure borders it must be realised that borders cannot be drawn in the air. Eliav agrees with me completely – when I say “with me” I mean with those who think as I do, or with me thinking as they do – that it cannot be the 1967 borders, because these 1967 borders were attacked, and we do not want to go back to the same borders on which we were attacked before.

By the way, we did that once. In 1957, under the pressure of the United Nations, we went back. We left Sharm-el-Sheikh, where we are today, we left the Gaza Strip, where we are today, and we left the Sinai Desert because all the good people in the world said “Go back this time and we will have not only UN observers but a UN emergency force”. I will not take up your time and patience by saying what happened. In 1967 the United Nations personnel were asked by the late President Nasser to leave, and they evaporated – they just did not exist any more.

They were not in Sharm-el-Sheikh, they were not in the Gaza Strip and they were not in the Sinai Desert.

Why were they asked to leave? Because the tanks had to come in. They came in not to pay us a friendly, neighbourly visit – there were 100 000 people, 1 000 tanks, aeroplanes etc. Now are we to be asked to go back again? It is true that we won the war in 1956 and in 1967, but, as I said in my remarks before, some people are dead because of that. Nobody can guarantee us that we will never have to go to war again, but we want on our part to do everything possible so that it may be avoided.

When we speak of a defensible border there must be two qualities present. It must be a border of such a kind that any Arab leader thinking of attacking us will know in his mind or heart that he has no hope of crossing it. The best example is the Syrian border. When the border was on the Golan Heights and we were down below that was easy. There was no need even to declare war. For 19 years there were Syrian guns there shooting at every one of the houses in our kibbutzim. But if we are somewhere on the plateau I think that any Syrian President will think many times before he attacks again. So the main thing is that it must in itself be a deterrent.

Secondly, if despite that we are attacked, is it too much of a luxury to ask that we should be able to defend ourselves with as small a number of casualties as possible? If the Syrian President attacks us on the plateau there will be fewer casualties than if we are below and have to do as we did in 1967 – crawling up in daylight with our tanks.

Since lines cannot be drawn in the air but must be drawn on the soil and since we will not go back to the 1967 borders, changes have to be made. So Eliav is not against all that we do across the borders. He has his opinions. He may be right. He may be wrong. But that is the view of the vast majority of my party, on that one point, and the point about the 1967 borders may result in more than a 90 % majority at the elections. On all else the parties are divided. There are about twenty-four lists. I am not proud of it and I am not happy about it. But the elections are to take place on 30 October and there is no doubt that Eliav himself agrees about the 1967 borders.

So here we are in a democracy and in a democratic socialist party. Ideas are permissible. My ideas are as permissible as Eliav’s. His ideas are as permissible as mine. So we live together in one party.

Mr DESTREMAU (France) (translation)

In view of the President’s admonition and of the lateness of the hour, I hope the Prime Minister will excuse me if I come straight to the point and put the fallowing question: will the United Nations resolution of 22 November 1967 be taken into account in any negotiations which may take place either directly or through intermediaries between the state of Israel and Egypt or other Middle East states?

Ms Meir, Prime Minister of Israel

We are dealing with what has now become the famous Resolution 242 of 1967. Israel has accepted it, but accepted it as it was passed and not in the Arab interpretation. To my sorrow some other countries in the world have now improved it or spoiled, it, according to their different points of view.

Resolution 242 included several elements. One involved leaving occupied territories. It did not say withdrawal from all occupied territories. Nor did it say withdrawal from the occupied territories.

It was not a matter of chance. It was not that someone did not know the word “all” or the word “the”. I do not always agree with members of the Security Council, but I am absolutely sure that every one of them knows these two little words. As a matter of fact, there were some members of the Security Council who suggested that they be included in Resolution 242. They were not included. They were not included by those who sponsored the resolution, nor by those who voted for it. Certainly they were not included by us when we consented to it. Neither the American delegate nor the British, who claim sponsorship or fatherhood for the resolution, said that they were included. George Brown, Lord Caradon and Mr Attlee in the English Parliament said over and over again that the resolution did not say the occupied territories, and they said that it was very carefully worded so that all the parties could accept it.

I do not know whether it is possible to say it in this way in all languages. There are some in which it is impossible to get along without the word “the”. But if it is a matter of difficulty in language as opposed to what we consider to be the security of a state, then the language should give way in favour of the safety of a state.

Another point is that the resolution does not call for withdrawal. It calls for negotiations between the parties in order to reach a peace agreement. That is exactly what we are asking for. To my sorrow, the Arabs have interpreted Resolution 242 in one way only, insisting on withdrawal from all territories without negotiations and without any peace agreement. That is contrary to Resolution 242.

We are prepared and always have been to begin negotiations with any of our Arab neighbours on the basis of that resolution, without any preconditions. That does not mean that they will not be allowed to come to the table saying, “Never mind Resolution 242. We want you to withdraw from all territories.” That is perfectly all right. But this is a matter for discussion and negotiation. We are not prepared to go along with that misinterpretation of the resolution. We are not prepared to accept a situation where we say, “We will not withdraw from all territories”, and they say, “You are not acting in accordance with Resolution 242”. Anyone objectively reading the resolution and the minutes of the Security 'Council when it was dealt with and accepted will have no doubt that there is only one interpretation. It talks about withdrawal from occupied territories. It does not mean all the territories. It also talks about negotiations between the parties in order to come to a peace settlement.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Mrs Meir, in view of the lateness of the hour and the fact that the Bureau has to meet, may I suggest that all who wish to put questions to you should do so, and that you should answer them together?

(Mrs Meir signified assent.)

Thank you. I call Mr Schwencke, Federal Republic of Germany, Socialist.

Mr SCHWENCKE (Federal Republic of Germany) (translation)

Mr President, Mrs Meir did not read us her prepared speech on general policy. She spoke instead about events in Vienna. I wish to tell her how much I admired her speech. I can well understand that, as is said in the Bible – and I must congratulate her on that – “Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaketh”. In view of her answer and of what has so far been said, I shall withdraw my question which has already been put.

Mr WALL (United Kingdom)

Although terrorism is the most immediate problem, there are equally important long-term problems facing Israel. Does Mrs Meir agree that these problems, which are basic to the Middle East, can be solved only by the governments of the Middle East and not by the United Nations or by the major powers? If that is the position, what can we do to get the governments of the Middle East sitting round a conference table?

Mrs von BOTHMER (Federal Republic of Germany) (translation)

Perhaps the Prime Minister will allow me to ask her two questions.

I believe the question put by a previous speaker about Palestinian refugees was not answered very precisely by the Prime Minister. In the case of the Palestinian refugees it is not merely a question of inability to integrate with the people in the Arab countries in which they live, but if we are to take seriously what the

Prime Minister said this morning, the question we are concerned with is that these refugees wish to have the same rights as other people to return to their own country, to which they belong and in which they wish to live. This seems to me to be a basic problem. I would like to ask the Prime Minister how she regards the situation in view of what she has said.

The next question is as follows: as Mrs Meir has heard, we all believe that hijacking needs to be jointly combated. What should our attitude be to the fact that Israel also took refuge in such action? This is something we need to understand if we are to be able to judge correctly the conflict in the Middle East, which is of such deep concern to us.

Mr HOFER (Switzerland) (translation)

Mr President, Mrs Meir, during my visit to Israel this summer I had an opportunity to note from numerous talks that there was a general feeling that the Jarring mission would be hardly likely to contribute constructively to a solution of the Middle East question. I would like to ask the Prime Minister whether this interpretation is correct and whether this is also the view of her government. If this is so, I would like to know whether Israel would welcome or prefer new or different negotiations.

Let me add that I shall quite understand it if Mrs Meir prefers not to answer this rather delicate question in public session. In that case I shall take the liberty of putting it again tomorrow in closed session.

Mr GESSNER (Federal Republic of Germany) (translation)

Mr President, we have for years noted with monotonous regularity that in the Arab camp success has lain with those Arab leaders who have refused to negotiate. At the end of her speech, the Prime Minister spoke of her hopes for the future in connection with negotiations. I would like to ask her whether she considers that there is a real basis for these hopes?

Mr NESSLER (France) (translation)

I have two different questions to put to the Prime Minister, and if the President will allow me, I would like to preface them with one or two brief remarks.

Because of present circumstances and the hijacking in Vienna, the Prime Minister naturally devoted most of her speech to terrorism. Terrorism, in this context, is an epiphenomenon, a historical anomaly – a war, won or lost, according to which side you are on, that does not end in negotiations or a peace treaty.

My question is this: would the Prime Minister not agree that in time the Arab countries, because of their population, their armaments, the fact that they encircle Israel, and their financial wealth, which they did not always enjoy, may hope, if they wait, to solve the problem militarily by turning the tables?

My second question is about the refugees.

I am rather interested in history, and I know that before 1918 there was only one country in that part of the world, Syria, which had a vilayet in Damascus, another in Beirut, and a sanjak in Jerusalem. This meant that any people moving about always found themselves in a land where there were other people who spoke the same language, who belonged to the same race, to the same religion, and therefore there was no problem.

But as things now stand, the situation has become an emotional one; it is illogical and irrational. To rationalise it, does the Prime Minister not think Israel would be well advised – since an emotional situation always courts publicity – to publish some definite and concrete proposals on the problem, and not leave it to a clash of principles, which always involves explanations, interpretations and arguments.

Mr PÉRONNET (France) (translation)

Mr President, with your permission, I will with draw my question, as I am quite satisfied with the reply given by the Prime Minister to our Italian colleague.

At the same time, I want to say to her that I would like to see some confirmation of the freedom of religious practice in Jerusalem, which has so often been proclaimed.

Ms Meir, Prime Minister of Israel

Thank you very much. The Palestine refugee problem is naturally a very serious one. It concerns human beings. But the war in 1948 was launched by Arab states with the very active participation of the Arab community then in Palestine – also on the side of what was supposed to be Israel. The United Nations in 1947 decided on the partitioning of Palestine. This was the second partitioning. When the United Kingdom got the mandate for Palestine from the League of Nations, Palestine extended geographically from the Mediterranean Sea to the western border of Iraq, the eastern desert.

In 1922 Mr Winston Churchill, on behalf of the Government of the United Kingdom, partitioned Palestine, and Palestine remained west of the Jordan – it was then called Transjordan – until 1948, with one High Commissioner and the same laws on both sides. In 1947 the West Bank of the Jordan River was again partitioned. The Arabs claimed all of it. We claimed all of it. The United Nations partitioned it into a Jewish state and an Arab state, with terrible boundaries on the map with an internationalised Jerusalem and with an economic union between the two states.

We accepted it. We immediately busied ourselves to lay the foundation for the Jewish state. The Arabs immediately busied themselves with doing everything possible to destroy us. Many fled. Nothing happened to those who remained. Those who fled did so because they were promised by the Mufti and Arab leaders and Arab states, “Leave Palestine. We will bomb Palestine and you can come back soon, when it is all over.”

Since then we have received, for the reunion of families, about 70 000. They have the same rights as the rights of my own people, of which I have spoken, but with one difference. There are 18 Arab independent countries occupying 8 % of the earth’s surface. We have a tiny spot in the Middle East. There is no other Jewish state; there never will be one more Jewish state.

If the so-called refugees – they are now Palestinian warriors – come back, what will happen? Arafat speaks in very nice terms, saying “Let us have a democratic state, with Jews, Christians and Moslems all living together.” Sometimes he says the entire truth and says that only those Jews that came to Palestine before 1917 will be allowed to remain. But let me accept a very liberal Arafat. He has never said it, but I will say it instead: “Never mind all those that remain. We will come back, and this will be a Jewish, Moslem and Christian state. No more Jews will be able to come in.” Then I ask “Is there justice in it, that having been for 2 000 years a minority in every country in the world that accepted us at all we must now become again a minority in a so-called democratic Moslem state?” There would then be only one people in the world for whom sovereignty was simply not considered as a primary right, because others want a nineteenth state.

It is not so much that they want that state as that they want us out. They believe, they say, that the Jews have no right to be in that area. They refuse to accept the fact that we have been there. They say that there is no Jewish people. Whom the pogroms were held against, I do not know. We are a people only when there is anti-Semitism. For other purposes we are not a people at all. I cannot accept that it is not exactly the same thing.

As for terrorism, I understand that the United Nations decided a year ago to try to work out a policy against terrorism. What the committee has done instead is to study very thoroughly – one year is evidently not sufficient – to find out the reasons for terrorism. It has not yet come to a conclusion, and terrorism flourishes. Similarly, the only thing that was quickly decided concerned the Lebanese plane, but on the other hijackings there is no decision by ICAO. I am sure that most of the people at the United Nations are of good intention, but no decision has been taken on action against terrorism.

I am sure that Dr Jarring has done his best. He was up against a brick wall. With all due respect to him, I think he made some mistakes. But we accepted the mediation of Dr Jarring, and we would accept the mediation of anybody as long as he saw his task primarily as bringing the parties together. The minute a mediator also becomes one who puts out plans of his own he destroys his mission.

To my sorrow, we have met the Arabs on the battlefield over and over again. If they really want to live in peace with us, which is what we want, we have to be able to meet at a table where we lay the plans for peace. This nobody can do for them, and nobody can do it for us. It is something we must handle by ourselves, no matter how drawn out and how painful it is. Both sides that are directly concerned with the matter will have to meet and discuss it and fight over it, not on the battlefield but at the conference table, and try to reach a solution. They will have to live with the result.

I turn to the question of hopes for the future. I belong to a people that would not be around today if it had allowed itself to be without hope at any moment of its history. Maybe it would be a little easier for the world if we were no longer around, because we create so many problems. Anyway, we have never given up hope.

If I thought that peace was essential for Israel but that the Arab countries could live without it, I might not be so optimistic. But I am convinced that the masses in the Arab countries need peace even more than Israel does – and Israel needs it. I am not ashamed to say that. The Arab states seem to think for some reason that it is a sign of weakness to say that one wants peace. We want peace. We have more important things to do than to watch, and to have more arms and to train more men. Our men can do more important things, and more things with joy, than winning wars.

I am convinced that the Arab countries need peace. Egypt has had an addition of about four million people since 1967. Nobody, no Egyptian, will say that there are no problems there of poverty, disease and lack of education. I have said over and over again that the heartache of an Egyptian mother who loses her son in battle is no less than that of a Jewish mother and vice versa. A mother who gives birth to a child wants that child to live and develop, and not to die through lack of food or to die on the battleground. That is something that we have in common.

The difference with Israel is that the government have no differences on that scale with their own people. The day must come when there will be peace between us and the Arabs. It is a pity that days should pass and nothing is done, when there could be concrete progress.

Since 1967 hundreds and thousands of Arabs from Kuwait and Egypt and all kinds of Arab countries have come to Israel and have not only gone through the occupied territories but have visited Arab villages and have seen how we in Jerusalem live together with the Arabs. I know many capitals of the world, whose names I will not mention, where it is much more dangerous to walk the streets at night than it is in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem there is no danger; nothing happens. Maybe those Arabs have learned something from their experience. Maybe they have learned that we can live together in peace and that not every Israeli has horns.

As to what may happen, what has been said about demography and the wealth of the Arab countries is all true. But what does it mean? Does it mean that we say we give up? We do not want to repeat that we cannot give up. We want to live, and we hope that in time there will be no war.

Certainly nobody is foolish enough not to take numbers into consideration. But there is something else, and it is not mysticism. It is the purpose that a pilot feels he has been sent up in the air for. Has he been sent up to take something away from somebody or to defend what he and his people have? Maybe that is one of the main reasons why our pilots do better than the others. One day each pilot going up will ask himself “What for? Is it to kill somebody else or to defend people; to prevent them being killed?” The motivation is extremely important. But we do not lose sight of what may happen.

I was also asked about the problem of religious places in Jerusalem. Before 1967, despite the armistice agreement, we were not allowed to go to our religious places in the old city. Now everyone goes where he wants. Immediately after 1967 we said that we would be not only prepared but happy to come to an arrangement with representatives of the Christian sects whereby they could administer their religious holy places. We have no interest or desire to administer the holy places of any other religions. I hope that that will be accepted. When negotiations begin, this should be a very easy problem to solve.

The same, of course, applies to Moslem holy places. If someone can present himself as representing the Moslem religious places, we will be more than anxious to make it possible that only Moslems administer them. Indeed, that is the situation today. Jews do not, in the old city of Jerusalem, administer either the Christian or the Moslem holy places. But the situation should be finalised and agreements and arrangements made. There would be no problem whatever about the religious places or free access for everyone to any place he wants to go. That situation exists today and will exist in the future.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

I want to express the warmest thanks of the Assembly to you, Mrs Meir, not only for your speech, but for the very satisfactory answers you have given to the questions put to you.