Prime Minister of Israel

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 22 April 1986

I begin by expressing my very best wishes to you, Mr Jung, following your election to be the honoured President of this important Assembly. You are known to us as an experienced parliamentarian and a good friend of our country. It is with pleasure that I shall speak under your auspices and presidency. I also thank the Assembly for giving us the chance to express some of the views of and some of the topics affecting our own region.

Relations between Europe and the Middle East are charged with historical memories, cultural ties, and current interests. It is a long and varied legacy, which has created an intensive and fascinating web of relations, not without emotions, and punctuated by national interests both immediate and long-term. Europe's relations with the Jewish people – and consequently with the Jewish state – are burdened by the cold dark shadow of the Nazi holocaust. Yet, on their historical horizons we find the shining accomplishments of Jewish scholars and scientists, as well as the occasional ray of light of shelter accorded to Jewish people over a very long period of time. For us Europe is paved with monuments of Jewish culture, and strewn with the gravestones of Jewish victims.

This is not the place nor the time to review the annals of these relations. But one thing is certain: Europe is as committed to peace in the Middle East as it is devoted to seeking peace for itself. I am convinced that Europe is aware of Israel's current, sincere efforts to put an end to hostility and belligerency and to replace the threat of war with the hope of coexistence. And how could we do otherwise when in almost all of our homes there are victims of the holocaust or refugees from persecution? How could we do otherwise when we are a state forced to go to war five times in its short history and to pay with the lives of our best sons in order to triumph and exist – but without the most important victory that brings peace?

Today's agenda, therefore, for all of us is the prospects for peace in the Middle East. Before assessing these chances, we should review the obstacles on the road to peace.

Ladies and gentlemen, just as we can divide the world economically into developing and developed countries, so it can be classified militarily into belligerent and post-belligerent states. Today's Middle East is economically in the development phase and militarily in the belligerent stage. This manifests itself in actual warfare, in the arms race, and in terrorism. Civil war is raging in the Lebanon, Sudan and Yemen. Costly in lives, these upheavals also undermine the chances for economic progress. The bloodiest war this region has known – that being waged over the past six years between Iran and Iraq – is not only a military confrontation but a religious one as well. It has devastated the economies of the two combatants and taken its toll on their neighbours as well. The combined effect of its military, social and economic costs is threatening to undermine stability in the entire region.

Concurrently, the region is witnessing disproportionate investments in arms. Over the past decade alone, over 50 thousand million dollars were spent on arms. While many go hungry, army barracks are bursting with sophisticated and expensive weapon systems.

Belligerency is also manifested in outbursts of terrorism, domestic and international. It represents a strategy of aggression that resorts to criminal methods. It ignores the distinction between armed men and innocent bystanders, between battlefront and civilian life. At times, its object is to exert political pressure; at others, only to win headlines in the press. All too often its aim is continued conflict and the perpetuation of a problem. Its perpetrators seek neither a partner to negotiations nor a solution. There is hardly a leader in the Middle East, whether on the municipal or national level, who is not subject to terrorist threats. Hence, their views, at least as openly expressed, are often distorted by fear.

History has known bursts of religious and political extremism manifested in open warfare as well as terrorism. Their duration was determined largely by the apathy of onlookers. Combating international terrorism should be immediate, comprehensive, constant, and consistent in its application. It must be co-operatively executed. Terrorism is uncompromising in its actions: thus confronting it must also be uncompromising. A firm commitment to such a policy by the free world – the main theatre for their action – and surely by the European countries, can tame the patrons of terrorism and contain the problem.

Coupled with all those difficulties, the Middle East is now faced with the added dramatic threat of economic deterioration. Falling oil prices caused the loss of thousands of millions of dollars to the countries in the Middle East. In addition to that direct loss, others, whose economic stability depends on the prosperity of the oil producers, are affected by the consequences. Revenues in remittances by nationals working in the oil countries are falling; direct assistance has been sharply reduced; import capacities have been significantly lowered; and, recently, tourism has declined as a result of terrorism. All these serve to aggravate economic hardships.

Ladies and gentlemen, the overriding immediate challenge in the Middle East is therefore the alleviation of this looming economic crisis. Its tremors can already be felt under the surface. What should be done under those dire circumstances? Lost income to oil producers is a net gain to consumers. Hence, the industrialised countries are expected to save an estimated $70 thousand million this year alone. If even a small portion of this unexpected saving were channelled to an economic rehabilitation programme for the region, it could make a substantial contribution to peace and stability in the Middle East. The countries affected are faced with a high birth-rate and have limited natural resources. They face a difficult choice: to submit to uncontrolled, bitter forces or to mobilise external support to meet their urgent needs.

There is no hope for a stable peace in the Middle East without a stable economy in the most important countries there. Moreover, involvement in economic development may grow into support for a positive political process. This distinguished Assembly can assume a leadership position in the launching of an imaginative ten-year economic programme, thus promoting stability and peace in the region. A development programme can support two clusters of economic projects: national and regional. National projects can be tailored to alleviate specific hardship in the recipient countries. The regional ones may address regional opportunities. While such a programme may provide a supportive infrastructure for peace, it would be ill-advised to attach political conditions to it. It should not be a substitute for political efforts but a support for them.

As for Israel, we have taken drastic measures on the road to economic recovery with promising results. We feel confident in our economic future. Yet a plan of this nature can benefit countries or areas under real economic and immediate stress. One cannot over-emphasise the importance and timeliness of such a project. Political processes can be slowed down and wars can be deterred but starvation cannot be postponed. Its demanding face is at your doorstep on a daily basis. You cannot, nor should you, escape from that. It is our hope that you will seriously consider this approach, and help to transform it into a promising reality for many countries and peoples.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we address regional problems, we do not neglect our own. To us the most important challenge is the attainment of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace with our Arab neighbours and a solution to the Palestinian problem.

Peace should rekindle hope for all peoples of the region. It is to resolve political differences by peaceful means, thus preventing bloodshed. It will realise the commitment, enshrined in the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, of “no more war”. It will introduce coexistence, co-operation and security for all. It will allow the Palestinian people to participate in determining their future.

We are not in the mood to permit obstacles to paint the air with helplessness. The climate needed is a climate of affirmative mood and deed. In pursuit of a peaceful atmosphere, we reject rhetorical escalation and polemics that feed conflict. We prefer a language of realistic optimism to the lexicon of pessimistic despair.

We harbour no ill-will towards another country, another people, or another religion. Differences are no cause for hostility.

Shortly after the establishment of the National Unity Government in Israel, we decided unilaterally to withdraw from the Lebanon – a country that cannot find peace for itself or offer peace to its neighbours. We took a risk. Yet even the present limited functional security involvement of Israel can be dispensed with once the Lebanese themselves prove capable of governing their country and controlling its borders. On the West Bank and Gaza strip our policies are based on openness and an air of rapprochement and are aimed at promoting progress in all aspects of life. An independent educational system, including five universities, is supported and economic development is encouraged. We have stated that Israeli law does not apply to the territories. We have changed the settlement policy. Easier and simpler interaction between Jordan and the Palestinians in the territories is being constantly facilitated.

Municipal and possibly higher-level management by residents of the territories is sought, and we stand ready to pursue a policy of devolution. Our present efforts are aimed at improving relations with Egypt, and improving the prospects for direct peace negotiations with Jordan and the Palestinians.

Egypt and Israel should join hands in transforming the peace treaty between us into a shining example. We wish to enhance and transform this bilateral experience into a regional reality. Thus, we labour to resolve the remaining differences between us, as is manifested by our willingness to accommodate the Egyptian insistence on submitting the Taba issue to arbitration. I sincerely hope that agreement is within reach in a short while.

We believe that King Hussein is seeking peace. His attempt to reach an agreement with the PLO leadership has failed, yet the process itself is confined neither to an existing organisation, nor to a refusing leadership. We repeat our appeal to the King: let us meet and negotiate. No time is too short, no place too far, no issue too difficult and no form too alien.

The Palestinian people know that we respect their aspiration to a life of dignity and self-expression. The Palestinian cause is harmed by the resort to terrorism rather than diplomacy, to sloganism and rejectionism rather than to a political dialogue. The road of violence is long and bloody, but, worst of all, it leads nowhere.

Threats and acts of terrorism will not win the day. We shall – as we have to – remain unyielding in protecting the lives of our people. However, should Palestinians who reject terrorism and violence take the helm and steer towards a political solution, they will find us just as determined and steadfast in our efforts to reach an honourable solution. They will find a nation equally courageous in peace as it is in war.

Time wasted is wasted opportunities, too. What could have been achieved with relative ease yesterday is already difficult to attain today. The possibilities of today may become the impossibilities of tomorrow.

We call upon our European friends to accept the inner logic that guides those currently seeking a resolution and to support progress along the road that they pave. Offering solutions before negotiations will postpone the negotiations without solving the problem. The only framework that holds promise is direct negotiations between a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation on the one hand, and an Israeli delegation on the other, if necessary within an international context.

The countries of the Middle East are thus confronted with four major challenges: overcoming religious and political extremism that breeds belligerency; combating international terrorism; alleviating a severe economic crisis; and solving the Arab-Israeli conflict. Once we overcome those four challenges we shall be able to bequeath to our children and grandchildren the realisation of the prophecy:

“You shall not see the sword, neither shall you have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place” (Jeremiah XIV.13)

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in two days we shall celebrate Passover – the feast of spring and freedom. It is blossom and liberty that we wish all of you, and our neighbours.


THE PRESIDENT (translation)

Prime Minister, thank you for that message of peace. Our Assembly, which represents the European democracies, is very much alive to this problem and we follow all the efforts you make with great interest. We were happy to note the development in your country, but also to hear your very realistic words in that connection. I hope that together we shall be able to work for peaceful development in these countries which are so sensitive. We hope that your policy will find a favourable response among your neighbours. Rest assured that here there are many friends that will support you.

We now come to parliamentary questions to the Prime Minister of Israel. As more than twenty Representatives have already expressed their intention of putting questions to our guest, I would ask them to be extremely brief and ensure that their question does not exceed one minute. This will allow us to have a more lively and fruitful dialogue before Mr Shimon Peres has to leave us, at the latest by 12.30.

I call Mr Bianco, for the first question.

Mr BIANCO (Italy) (translation)

Prime Minister, we have listened to the message of peace behind your speech with great interest. Although your country is under fierce attack and is in an undoubtedly difficult situation, your speech was both realistic and optimistic. This is very important. I would add that you showed great restraint in refraining from naming certain countries responsible for supporting international terrorism.

I should like to ask you, Prime Minister, what your Government's attitude is towards countries like Libya and Syria, which support terrorism, and whether you do not consider that steps to combat terrorism are one of the main prerequisites for a fair solution to the Palestinian problem.

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

Thank you, Mr Bianco. When we are speaking about Libya and Syria, we must ask ourselves, who is really in the centre of the terrorist acts? In my judgment, Libya is undoubtedly the leading country, financing, arming and training terroriste, using its diplomatie mail, intervening in every troubled area, giving orders to kill, lie and bluff and giving haven to murderers.

If this is the fact, we must ask ourselves whether there is anything that we can do against Libya to stop it. Whoever criticises one method is obliged, in my judgment, to suggest another. The Libyans challenged the United States of America directly and the United States has selected its reaction. Israel is reacting in a measured and controlled way because it is careful not to create a fully-fledged war unnecessarily. I believe that other countries, including Syria, will watch carefully what will happen to Libya and will draw their own conclusions. Therefore, one should attach great importance to the future development of Libya.

I believe that the Libyans have already learnt a lesson. Until now, they have used all their resources and finances to intervene in different parts of the world outside their country. They have now learnt that they must protect and defend their own country, so at least part of their resources and money will have to be devoted to the defence of Libya, which may be a new sensation for them, but which is a timely one.

The best way to defeat terrorism is to confront it in its early stages. Prevention is the most important stage. By gathering information, by international co-operation and by knowing in time and, if possible, ahead of time about intended acts of terror, many innocent lives can be saved and terrorism can be reduced to a new and different level.

Mr KLEJDZINSKI (Federal Republic of Germany) (translation)

Prime Minister, I know that questions of international terrorism worry nobody more than they do you. But what can we as Europeans do, in your opinion, to prevent the possibility of the Middle East becoming a starting point for a war which could have such terrifying dimensions as to be almost unimaginable?

Against this background I have a question to put to you. You made very interesting allusions today to persons with whom it would be possible to negotiate, particularly in the Middle East. With whom would you, as Prime Minister of Israel, be ready to discuss on the Palestinian and Jordanian side? And what contribution could we Europeans make towards calming things in the Middle East region?

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

With Jordan there are no problems. We can negotiate directly with King Hussein, his Government and kingdom. There are pragmatic relations that give hope for a more open relationship in the future. As to the Palestinians, there are many intelligent elected or nominated leaders who reside on the West Bank and in Gaza. The problem of terrorism is not just that of the victims – the innocent people – but that the leaders in the Middle East are being terrorised and frightened. I see no difficulty in composing a delegation of Palestinian leaders with whom we can negotiate, and I hope that this will happen. We can meet in private encounters where we can talk sense and see eye-to-eye. The real problem is to escape from the frightening threat of terrorism.


(spoke in Spanish; as no translation of the speech in one of the official languages or additional working languages has been supplied to the Secretariat by the speaker, the speech is not published here, under the terms of Rules 18 and 22 of the Rules of Procedure).

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

Thank you, Mr de Arespacochaga. I express our satisfaction with the establishment of diplomatic relations between Spain and Israel after an interruption of almost five hundred years. There is still a great deal of Spanish culture in our veins, as I am sure that there is Jewish culture in your veins, and while we were separated diplomatically we remained attached culturally. The cradle of our common culture cannot easily be forgotten.

I am afraid that Libya is active not only on the Iberian peninsula but everywhere. Name any country and you will find the Libyan finger in that pie – from Chad to England. Mr Gaddafi said that he would put the world to flame. It is an exaggerated threat – there are limits to Libya as well. It has tried its best until now, and will now meet with more limitations than before. Sooner or later all free countries – terrorism is basically concentrated on democratic countries to discover the weak links in the chain – will unite and try to stop international crime as they are trying to stop domestic crime.

Mr JESSEL (United Kingdom)

My question is about the need to combat terrorism based in Libya. Does the Prime Minister see any effective option other than that taken by the United States of America? What other action could conceivably be effective against terrorism based in Libya, and what more can the governments of Council of Europe countries do to help in the fight against terrorism?

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

Thank you, Mr Jessel. As I understand it, to start with the United States suggested an economic boycott of Libya. Libya has gained about $8 thousand million from oil, most of which was spent on the expansion of terrorism. This year, Libya's income will be cut in half, to only $4 thousand million, and it will have to make a choice about the spending of that money. Economic measures against Libya can be of help until it learns its lesson. I do not think anybody is interested in hurting a Libyan diplomat – we want to stop Libyan policy. An international co-operation which will gather intelligence and inform on time will bring an end to the use of diplomatic immunity for mail being used to ship over arms and bombs. All this can be done quite easily and immediately.

Mr BUTTY (Switzerland) (translation)

Mr President, Prime Minister, I come from a country, Switzerland, which greatly appreciates the efforts made by the people of Israel in their desire for independence and peace, as you so rightly put it. Allow me to ask you a question which differs somewhat from those put to you up to now regarding the status of Jerusalem. This status has always been of the greatest interest not only to Israel, but to the world as a whole. In view of the importance Israel and Jerusalem have for you and for all Christendom, for Islam and for so many other communities, what does the present Government of Israel think of the idea of giving international status to this city which belongs to the cultural, spiritual and religious heritage not only of Israel, but of the whole world? Do 'you not think that a gesture of this kind would be appreciated at its true value throughout the world and would show your attachment to peace? I am sure that very many communities throughout the world would be most grateful to you.

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

One should look upon Jerusalem as a holy city for all religions and as the capital of the state of Israel. Jerusalem, the religious capital of so many religions, is open to ail of them. There is open access, and immunity for their services and sermons. I am not aware of any complaint by the Christians, the Muslims, or any other religious body when it comes to Jerusalem. That is our responsibility and intention.

I do not see why we need Soviet Russia to guarantee the sermons in a Catholic church in Jerusalem. The meaning of internationalism is to bring in the people of the Eastern bloc, the West, the Chinese, the Indochinese – I do not know who the questioner has mind. But the internationalism of Jerusalem politically does not assure the freedom of religion. For example, I wish that the Jewish people in Soviet Russia had the same freedom to pray to their Lord as every Christian has in Jerusalem. Unless the questioner has a particular complaint of which I am unaware, I do not see any need to change the present situation.

Mr CAVALIERE (Italy) (translation)

Prime Minister, you talked of-solving the Palestinian problem and said something about the way in which it should be solved. I should like to come back to the subject and ask for a more detailed, specific reply.

My question is this: what does Israel see as the conditions for a solution to the Palestinian problem and how, in practice, does Israel think it can help to solve the problem – in a way, of course, that is in keeping with its right to security?

Secondly, and very briefly, I should like to ask what you think of the argument that, if the Palestinian problem were settled, terrorism would cease and there would be peace between the Arab countries and Israel.

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

The best condition that we can offer is not to impose any conditions at all. Obviously the Palestinians and ourselves have different views. I do not believe in a military or an imposed solution; I believe only in a negotiated solution. We need to negotiate because we disagree. I do not expect the Palestinians to accept our view before negotiation. I hope they also understand that we shall not accept their view before we start to negotiate. We have to agree to negotiate to settle the disagreements. I do not know of any alternative to that.

It is not for me to suggest a solution on behalf of the Palestinians. However, I can suggest a solution on behalf of Israel: a readiness to approach the negotiating table with an open mind, good will, and an attempt to see their point of view.

The question is whether the Palestinian conflict brought terrorism or whether terrorism and extremism keep the Palestinian problem unsolved. We should not forget that in 1948, when the State of Israel was founded, the Palestinians were offered a state of their own. The United Nations decided on partition of the west part of Israel, and the better part of it is supposed to become the Palestinian state. They had all the opportunities. Instead of accepting the proposal, they rejected it. Instead of a state, they preferred war. Therefore, terrorism came before the solution.

Alas, violence and terrorism have spread all over the Middle East, unconnected with the Israeli problem, think of the conflict in Iraq and Iran, the Lebanon, Sudan, Yemen and Libya. I would not combine the two. On the contrary, I believe that if terrorism can be stopped, the chance for a solution will be reopened for all of us.

Mr STOFFELEN (Netherlands)

First, I thank the Prime Minister for his impressive, courageous and encouraging statement. He spoke briefly about the settlement policy. I should like to hear further clarification. For that reason, I want to put the following question.

If I am well informed, in an interview with the French paper Le Monde on 26 February this year, you stated that your Government was not continuing the settlement policy in the occupied territories carried out by previous Israeli governments. I do not understand, therefore, why your Government allowed the establishment of six new settlements in 1985. Perhaps you could clarify that?

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

As you may have heard, we have a national coalition of a very special character. I am glad that our French friends are also experiencing what they call cohabitation – not that I came here to recommend it. Obviously this was a compromise between the two parties.

On the lighter side, may I say that in our judgment the first cohabitation was established in paradise when Adam and Eve discovered that neither of them had an alternative: Eve could not find another man, and Adam could not find another lady. Therefore, they came to the conclusion that they were in a cohabitative paradise. Then there were other experiences, I believe, of a different nature.

Mr CARVALHAS (Portugal) (translation)

I listened to the Prime Minister's statement with the greatest attention.

I shall put two questions to him which have nothing to do with cohabitation.

Does the Israeli Labour Government intend to continue with its policy of establishing colonies, condemned by public opinion and by the UN or is it considering in a spirit of peace a slight change, thus bringing about peaceful political development?

As you mentioned the Palestinian people and peace, do you agree that the Palestinian people have a right to a country?

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

I have said that the present Government have changed their settlement policy, and new settlements should be a matter of agreement between the two major parties in the government. I do not want to go into too many details, but there is obviously a difference between the two parties as to where, how often and how many settlements to allow on the West Bank and Gaza.

The problem of self-determination would be simple if there were one land and one people. But when there are two peoples, one must allow each side to have a say in determining the future of the land. The moment one concludes that only one of the parties has the right of self-determination, one decides about the future of the land. Self-determination is an opportunity for a democratic country. However, when one puts a pistol at somebody's head and says “Decide on your determination”, it is a vain offer; it is not serious. Only in a free society can one elect, choose and determine. When a society is overshadowed by a foreign power, when a society is overpowered by terror, the offer of self-determination may simply be a bitter joke.

Mr ELMQUIST (Denmark)

Only the week before last, the Legal Affairs Committee of this Assembly visited your country, Prime Minister, and, as Chairman of that committee, I can assure you that we had interesting and relevant discussions with the Committee on Law and Constitution of the Knesset, with the Speaker of the Knesset and with your Minister of Justice. We listened with care to frank criticism of some European countries for paying only lip service to the fight against terrorism. I was asked a question by one of your compatriots, Prime Minister, about how I would define the distinction between a freedom fighter and a terrorist. Will you define that distinction for us, as you see it?

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

Under no circumstances would I call a freedom fighter someone who was ready to kill an innocent person, a child, a woman or an old man just for the sake of creating a sensation or drawing attention. In my judgment, a freedom fighter must remain a human being. After all, the respect for life should be as important as the respect for freedom. Who is to decide that freedom permits someone to kill another person? Here we are dealing with an organisation that is indiscriminate in its killing and assassination, taking the lives of irrelevant, uninvolved and innocent people. I would never give legal status to this sort of terrorism.

Mr GIANOTTI (Italy) (translation)

Prime Minister, Israel cannot enjoy security and stability unless a solution to the Palestinian problem that is acceptable to the Palestinian people is found. Yet war and terrorism are on the increase in the Mediterranean and in Europe.

My question is this. The bombing of the PLO headquarters in Tunis not only sparked off a new period of tension but also undermined Arafat's leadership of the Palestinians. As far as can be gathered, the Palestinians are now more fragmented and less governable, and events seem to indicate that security and stability are an even more remote prospect. What is your view?

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

Terrorism is not necessarily limited to the Palestinian problem. For example, in Italy, you have had the Red Brigades. That has nothing to do with the Palestinian problem. There are many outbursts of terrorism all over the world for different reasons.

I consider Tunisia to be a moderate country, which has committed a mistake by permitting the establishment of a terrorist installation. In my judgment, the Tunisians have violated international law by permitting the building of a communications centre, an operations centre and a prison. Our raid was not against Tunisia, but against a centre which, by the way, ordered the capture of the Achille Lauro. The orders came directly from that centre.

When someone plans to kill your people, why do you not have the right to stop it? That is the basic philosophy of the United Nations Charter; it is natural justice. I believe that the Tunisians have learned a lesson. As a matter of fact, to the best of my knowledge, they want to get rid of the operational part of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in their own land. Nobody should permit that, and whoever does it should not be forgiven.

Secondly, Mr Gianotti, you mentioned the leadership of Arafat. Do you recall one occasion in the past twenty years of his leadership of the PLO when this gentleman has ever made a decision? Some people say that Arafat is a moderate person. There are no moderate persons; there are moderate decisions. I am not aware of any moderate decision that Arafat has made. On the contrary, there have been twenty years of violence, terror and lack of decisions. He has preferred to keep his organisation intact rather than make a political choice. It happens often in history. One has a desire, and builds an organisation to implement it. After a while the organisation becomes more powerful than the dream or the vision and all efforts are made to keep the organisation together, forgetting almost completely the reason for its establishment.

Nobody has done more harm to the Palestinian people than the PLO. Nobody has brought more tragedy on the Palestinian people, who are not our enemies. That evasive and undecided leadership has brought tragedy to them. It has put obstacles on the road to peace.

Until now, many people have said that that is the view of Israel, but they should consider the view of the King of Jordan, who tried seriously and hard to accommodate the PLO, to bring them in line and to bring about their participation in peace negotiations. On the last day he came to the conclusion that this was a waste of time, all the promises were in vain and nothing could be seriously agreed upon with Arafat. He announced that in a detailed speech to his own people and the rest of the world.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

May I remind the public which does us the honour of following our debates that it may not express either approval or disapproval. Thank you.

I call Mr Pini.

Mr PINI (Switzerland) (translation)

Mr President, Prime Minister, I greatly appreciated the balance, the calm constructiveness of your statement. It seems to me to show a readiness for dialogue, and for bilateral and multilateral negotiations in the search for a peaceful solution between your country and the Arab countries with the Palestinians.

Here is my question. It is of a legal and political nature. You have indeed already replied to it indirectly in connection with another question, but I wish to put it to you again.

Is Israel ready, if guaranteed recognition and respect from the Arab countries and the PLO for its state and its frontiers originally laid down by international law, to recognise the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and, by inference, the possible creation of a sovereign state?

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

I am not a trained lawyer. However, if anyone is offered a state and, instead of accepting, goes to war, loses the war and then says “I have lost the war, so give me back the state”, I am not sure that that is the way that matters have been organised in history. At times one has to make a choice.

When the partition plan of the United Nations was initiated in 1948, for Israel it was almost tragic to accept such a small piece of land, remembering that it was a land for the refugees who had just come from Europe. If it had not been for war, I am sure that we would have been satisfied with the very small piece of land that we were offered. But after five wars we had to consider our security. We were on the verge of a catastrophe. We were attacked from all Bides time and again. It cannot be said now that we should forget about security and that we should remember the guarantees offered by Europe and by the Arabs. We must have secure borders. Our security depends upon our own children. We do not have foreign troops, and we are in a region where aggression occurs quite often and there is no one who can make a responsible promise of long duration that this is the last act of aggression.

We forget neither the experience nor the need for secure borders in the future. We have the very simple ambition to remain alive and to defend ourselves.

I do not want to say anything unfair about the Palestinians, but the Arabs have twenty-two states in many of which there are Palestinians. Despite that, at least one political party in Israel, of which I am a member, announced its readiness for a territorial compromise. We have announced our readiness to sit down together and seek a solution. But we cannot ignore all that has happened. We cannot close our eyes to the dangers that we face. A solution must be not only legally and coldly judged but very carefully considered politically.

Mr MILLER (United Kingdom)

I wonder whether the Prime Minister can expand a little on his reply to a question about the steps that Israel is taking to achieve full diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level with Egypt and the steps that could be taken if that developed, with Egypt and Israel co-operating to achieve a solution to the problems in that region.

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

The Arabs claim that they are ready to trade territories peacefully. In the case of Egypt, practically all the territories have been given back. There are many Israelis who ask whether we got full peace in return. It is not a simple question.

The issue at stake is a tiny place called Taba. All told, it is not more than 1 000 square metres. It has neither the space nor even the altitude of the Alps. It is a very small, unimportant piece of land, and we are trying to settle the argument about it. I hope that with the agreement on the compromise concerning the arbitration about Taba, Egyptian-Israeli relations will take a promising course and serve as a model for other people to go into negotiations – to prefer a strategy for peace and to see its advantages.

We should never forget that peace between Egypt and Israel is both a precedent and a model. We hope that the precedent will be continued and that the model will be followed.

Mr Antonio CARRO (Spain)

(spoke in Spanish; as no translation of the speech in one of the official languages or additional working languages has been supplied to the Secretariat by the speaker, the speech is not published here, under the terms of Rules 18 and 22 of the Rules of Procedure).

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

You are very kind, Mr Carro. I do not reject your compliments. It is rare that I have an opportunity to accept them.

I hope that I was specific enough. My basic emphasis is on the need to pay attention to the economic problem. Without that we shall face a very difficult time. That is my main message, and I am not necessarily talking about Israel only. I am talking about other, Arab countries which face a rather dramatic economic challenge. I think that Europe should have a good look at it.

Mr BUCHNER (Federal Republic of Germany)

In a brilliant answer, Mr Peres, you stressed the programme for a coalition government. I wish to add a question about your party convention earlier this month. In the political platform adopted by the convention, the Labour Party expressed its desire for a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, amongst other means by entering discussions with those Palestinians who recognised Israel and refuted terrorism.

Despite your last remarks about the PLO, may I ask whether you are ready to negotiate with the PLO as an equal partner if it accepts these two conditions?

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

I can hardly take your question because it may cause me to give the wrong answer. The question of what will happen if the PLO changes, has been asked time and time again. The question remained a question, the PLO did not change, and our answers were in vain. There is an Arab saying that by embracing a tiger one does not turn it into a cat. If you ask me whether, if one embraces a tiger and it becomes a cat, one will recognise it as a cat, the answer is “Yes”. However, I wonder whether that will happen. I consider it to be a highly theoretical possibility. Because of that, I have reservations about answering the question. I do not believe that, under the present leadership, the PLO will change.

Mr van der WERFF (Netherlands)

Prime Minister, some time ago in The Hague you impressed members of both Houses by your openness, modesty and balanced views. My impression is that you are doing so again, and I am well aware of it. I want to ask, not about terrorism, but about the military balance in the Middle East.

Is it true that Soviet influence and even investment are reaching new heights in Syria and Libya? What is the effect of those Russian investments and subsidies, the most notable of which are sophisticated military equipment and special training by Russian officers, on the military balance in the Middle East, and particularly on Israel's position? What does that Russian influence, fostering unrest, mean for the chances of reaching a lasting peace in the Middle East?

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

The military balance is something that should be updated almost every year, because of the introduction of a new generation of military technology. It is costly and sophisticated, and before it is put to the test nobody can know the results. In spite of all the modern equipment, the human factor remains the most important – its motivation, readiness to sacrifice itself, convictions, organisation and so on.

It is true that the Russians are now adding to and introducing new technology in the Middle East. I am afraid that they will face some problems. A great deal was given for the new Russian ground-to-air missile, the SAM-5, which both Libya and Syria have. However, I wonder how effective that missile was in Libya. That presents a problem to the Russians because when they show their technology occasionally it may show that they do not have the upper hand. That has already happened several times in the Middle East.

I am not so sure that the Russians are looking for war. They are looking for the advantages that they can gain from the existing conflict. They want gains for themselves. I do not think that they are paying particular attention to whether there is war or peace. If they had the choice, I believe they would prefer peace to war. I do not think that they are seeking war for the sake of war.

All of us, as well as you, had great hopes when Gorbachev came to power. We all hoped that there would be a change, not only in the biological age but in the political direction. The change in the age is obvious. Now we must wait to see whether it has an additional meaning politically. I hope that it may, but for the time being it is a change in style, not content. We must continue carefully to watch the Russians' manoeuvres in the Middle East.

Mr SAGER (Switzerland) (translation)

Prime Minister, you referred repeatedly and movingly to the five wars which are a feature of the not-yet-forty-year-old history of your country. Your people feel threatened from outside. We all greatly admire the unanimity of your country in its readiness to defend itself. On the other hand, and this is my question, is it true that significant internal disputes, indeed certain polarisations, are evident in Israel and that a Kulturkampf is taking place which could have serious consequences? May I ask you for your opinion on this?

I would additionally like to ask whether this does not constitute an obstacle to the search for peace?

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

Israel would not be a Jewish state if it did not have arguments and conflicts. It is part of our Jewish character to like to argue and to have different views. Historically, we consider ourselves to be a pluralistic people with a tendency to question rather than to answer. For us, that is not a new experience.

A famous Jewish author in the United States, Arthur Miller, once remarked that Judaism was made up of so many variations that it was almost un-Jewish to marry one of them. We keep our variations, and we are not ashamed of it. I do not believe that that has to do with peace, or that we have a Kulturkampf, as you have said, because differences exist, not only between the religious and non-religious parties, but in each camp separately – among religious and among non-religious people.

In a way, Israel is an in-gathering of many exiles. People come from hundreds of different lands and speak hundreds of different languages – I mean that literally. It takes time to return to one's old homeland and to renew the Biblical language. Israel is the only country in the Middle East to have returned to its original language. In Egypt, they do not speak the Egyptian language; in Greece, they do not speak the ancient Greek language; and in Syria, they do not use the Syrian language. We speak Hebrew like our forefathers. As one of our authors has said, Israel is the country where children are teaching their mothers the mother tongue. It is being introduced by a new generation, and we are trying to create one people, but not of one view. I hope that we shall remain as pluralistic as we have been in history – paying a price for it, but also gathering the fruits of it.

Mr SARTI (Italy) (translation)

Mr Prime Minister, it would take me more than a minute to express my liking and admiration for you and your people. I shall simply ask whether you have already formed an opinion on the results of yesterday's summit meeting of the twelve European countries in Luxembourg, and whether you consider that the Mediterranean countries, and Italy in particular, have a part to play in bringing peace and security to the Middle East.

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

Of course I have taken note of the decision of the foreign ministers of the twelve European countries. I welcome it, because I believe that they have selected an alternative. One cannot criticise one method without offering another. It is a serious attempt to reduce the threat of violence and terrorism by the Libyans. Italy can play an important role in halting violence in the Middle East and in contributing to peace. Recently, I met the Prime Minister of Italy, Mr Craxi, and we talked in great detail about the development of an economic plan for the Middle East. I found him extremely positive and willing to participate in such a constructive initiative. I hope that it will continue.

Sir John OSBORN (United Kingdom)

I, too, welcome Prime Minister Shimon Peres's plea for peace in the Middle East. I asked Mrs Golda Meir a question about oil supplies for Israel when she came here a few days before the Yom Kippur war in 1973. Since then, oil has provided funds for terrorism but, as you have said, those funds have died. You have also talked about economic reconstruction.

In the debates on the American attack on Libya in my country, Edward Heath and others emphasised the need to resolve the Palestinian problem. When I was in the Lebanon in the early 1970s, I regretted the fact that the Palestinian people stayed in their camps and were not absorbed on the farms. On a more recent visit to Israel, the Committee on Science and Technology of this Assembly was impressed by the new technology in agriculture. Could not what Israel has achieved be extended to the entire Middle East, which would undoubtedly create adequate room for all people?

I would ask you to clarify and elaborate on recent answers to what action European governments, whether through the Council of Europe or the EEC, should now take. You spoke favourably of contact with Jordan. The trouble is that contact with the PLO has often implied disloyalty to the state of Israel. How can this problem be overcome in the future, even if the PLO is a tiger? Can we work towards putting this on the summit agenda when President Reagan meets Mr Gorbachev?

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

The Americans, joking about the Middle East, say that it is being divided into two sort of countries – oily ones and holy ones. Some of them even criticise Moses who, after wandering for forty years in the Middle East, found the only corner that is devoid of oil and water – today's Israel. However, when one has a fresh look at his choice, one comes to the conclusion that perhaps he was right. The price of oil may drop suddenly, but the value of holiness remains unchanged for a long time. We do not depend on oil. We depend upon our efforts and our talents, and we shall gladly share with our neighbours and others what we can offer positively in study and technological development.

In my address this morning, I said that on the West Bank, where there are 800 000 Palestinians, we already have five universities and four daily newspapers. There is a real democracy and an elevated agriculture and the standard of living has increased dramatically. Although we do not have a solution to the problem, the people there have an opportunity to enjoy freedom of expression.

Those who tie terror with the Palestinian problem justify terrorism. That is not the solution to the Palestinian problem. If I had to make a choice between the King of Jordan and Arafat, may I say honestly that I would prefer a king to a dictator? At least kings have manners. Jordan is being governed ably. Let us not forget that the majority of the Jordanian people are Palestinians and that all of the Palestinians who reside on the West Bank are, without exception, Jordanians. So why should we topple the King of Jordan? Why should we ignore the fact that the Palestinians who reside on the West Bank are Jordanian citizens, have Jordanian passports and are represented in the Jordanian Parliament? The choice is not for Reagan and Gorbachev; the choice is for all of us. Indeed, as I said, the king has already tried to reach an understanding with the PLO, but in vain.

Realistically, King Hussein must lead the process of peace east of Israel. He must include Palestinians in his delegation, just as he has many Palestinians in his government, cabinet, army and parliament. We shall gladly negotiate with them without any problem. I do not understand why a nation or the world should stand still and prefer Arafat. What is the logic of it? Where will it lead? Who will support it?

The best bet will be a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation headed by King Hussein and manned by Palestinian people, who, in my judgment, are seriously looking for a solution.

Mr GUERRA (Spain)

(spoke in Spanish; as no translation of the speech in one of the official languages or additional working languages has been supplied to the Secretariat by the speaker, the speech is not published here, under the terms of Rules 18 and 22 of the Rules of Procedure).

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

I think that I have already answered your question, but if you want me to repeat now a proposal that was made back in 1948, I am afraid that you have missed the boat. It is unfortunate, but as you know, you can make eggs into omelettes but you cannot make omelettes back into eggs. Not all the eggs were broken by us, but facts are facts and life is life. This is the experience of each country, including Spain. You cannot stop the watch and say “Let us go back”. That does not mean that we should not or could not find an honourable solution for the Palestinian people, but we cannot return to a position that no longer exists.

I do not believe that the Palestinians should remain in camps. For example, there were refugee camps in Gaza and, with our involvement, houses were built and now over 8 000 families are living in quite nice permanent houses, working and supporting themselves. There are so many solutions, but time and again a solution will be found only around the negotiating table. I do not know any alternative.

Mr McGUIRE (United Kingdom)

I congratulate the Prime Minister on an able and clever speech. He spoke, and it has been the nub of what has followed, about the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people. I was a little confused by a later statement which I consider to be the perfect recipe for colonialism. Mr Prime Minister, you said that if a state went to war with another state and took its land and had another war and took more land, nobody was allowed to question the right of the former state to hold on to the conquered land.

The history of the world, including that of my country, Great Britain, and of other colonial powers, shows that they did not have the right to conquer and then to dictate to the conquered who should speak for them. Is it not right and proper that the only representative that we know, the PLO, should be the people to negotiate for the Palestinians, unless the Prime Minister can suggest who should be the representative, perhaps in an open vote? Until we solve that, there will be many problems, and Israel will have to face that. She cannot hold on to conquered lands and dictate who will speak for the vanquished.

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

With all due respect to the history of Great Britain, we have never been in India and the place we live is called the land of Israel. We are not foreigners there – we have a historical right, and nobody has the right to take it away from us. Our history of being there goes back over four thousand years. How can that be compared with other colonies? We have never colonised nor exploited the wealth of other people or taken advantage of them. We are fighting hard for our lives and we have paid our price. We were attacked – were the British attacked by the Indians or the Africans? With all due respect, what sort of comparison is that? Let us distinguish and call things by what they are. Our right over Israel is historical, and while we shall never forget the Balfour Declaration and the British mandate, our mandate is our Bible, which was in existence long before the British mandate. Let us each respect our own history and defend it.

Contrary to British experience, three times Israel was in Sinai but gave it back. Were we looking for gold an silver in Sinai, or for its markets and pearls? We were there because we were attacked, and we have had to fight back, but in the end we gave Sinai back after we had conquered her. What sort of a comparison is that with British history?

Some Palestinians are acceptable to us. King Hussein suggested five people to be part of the Jordanian-Palestinian negotiating team, and we immediately agreed to two of them, but we shall not agree to negotiations with people who come to the table with knives and pistols. We have the right to distinguish between a hand extended in peace and one extended to kill. Why should we not have that right?

I ask you, Mr McGuire, to be more careful in making comparisons that do not hold water. You have had your course and I respect your country. We have another course and we have paid for our way, not only morally and historically but because other people have suffered as much as we did. Which lands did we conquer? Which peoples did we dominate? Which negotiations did we refuse? After what happened to us, we have been satisfied with our right to defend the destinies and lives of our children.


I address this question to you, Prime Minister, as a co-citizen of the Mediterranean. You stated that Israel was ready to pursue a policy of devolution. Will you please explain that part of your statement and, what is more important, how you feel that this stance would help to encourage the full acceptance of Israel and so contribute to fostering peace and stability in the Middle East and the Mediterranean?

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

The Palestinian problem is extremely complex. The conflict is complicated. For that reason, we cannot solve it at one time – there must be stages. In the original agreement between Egypt and ourselves, a decision on the stages on the way to solve the Palestinian problem was agreed by the two parties, the first stage being functional rather than geographical – to hand over to the Palestinian people autonomy and self-government. In a way, the announcement of devolution is a sign of our readiness to implement the first stage. Once this is done, perhaps in a different climate – we shall be able to continue with the second stage. That is the logic of it and it is an expression of good will.

Sir Frederic BENNETT (United Kingdom)

I fully agree with the Prime Minister that it is dangerous to tie terrorism solely to one political problem. That can cost more rather than less because, as he rightly said, there are many different causes of terrorism. Nobody knows that better than the British with regard to something closer than India, where we are undergoing terrorism. Equally, the Prime Minister has fairly admitted that the Palestinian problem is one of the root causes of tension, We would be unwise to say anything else.

Over the years since 1976, successive Israeli governments have relied on the argument that Israel's security requires its continued and continuing occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip. More recently, another proposition has found favour in Tel Aviv. It is said that the West Bank and the Gaza strip belong to Israel as a matter of historical sovereignty. Which view does the Prime Minister support? I was not sure whether he meant historical support was for Israel proper in its original form, in which case I would support him, or the historical claim, irrespective of security, over the Gaza strip and the West Bank?

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

Nobody can change the past. The historic right of Israel is a historic fact. When I think about the future, I consider security and finding a solution to the Palestinian problem. So, while remembering the past, we are looking towards a future that will be fair to all parties and guarantee the security of Israel. That is my answer.

Mr BLAAUW (Netherlands)

The Prime Minister in his speech and in answering questions said that the people on the West Bank had Jordanian passports, so in future there may be some hope for improvement. But the peace process can be very long and the people in the Gaza strip have no documents, except refugee documents. On the other hand, they have a very high birth rate, which means that the population is almost bursting out of that small strip. It is a burden for the Israeli economy. When talking about a regional economic plan which could be fostered from Europe, was he saying that we can help to give these people a better life as long as the peace process goes on and there is no final solution for their future?

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

The answer is obviously yes. We would greatly appreciate any economic development or offer to the Gaza strip and the West Bank. I say that without the slightest hesitation. The people in Gaza do not have passports. I do not believe that they seek Israeli passports. The Egyptians did not offer them Egyptian passports when they were under Egyptian control and occupation.

If King Hussein looks upon the people of Gaza as part of his own people – I believe that is the case – then perhaps Jordan can provide those people with passports. I would not exclude that possibility.

Mr BROWN (United Kingdom)

Just after the 1967 war, when I visited Israel, I was asked to make a radio broadcast. During that broadcast, I said that I thought the Israelis had missed a glorious opportunity of getting a peace treaty with King Hussein. All that has happened in the last eighteen years has not changed my mind. I feel that Jordan is probably the most important of all the Arab states with which to get a peace treaty. The Prime Minister has said a fair bit about this already, but will he expand even further and indicate what hopes he has of getting a negotiated settlement with Jordan and within what time scale?

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

One of the interesting points in the negotiations between King Hussein and the PLO was the supposed agreement that there would be not a separate Palestinian state, but a federation or confederation of Jordan and the Palestinian people. I think that a separate Palestinian state may cause as many problems for Jordan as for Israel, because the land is so small and the borders so complicated.

I think that King Hussein's aim is to arrive at a combined solution of peace between Israel and Jordan and settlement of the Palestinian problem. We share the same view. I believe that the solution of the Palestinian problem can be achieved only in a Jordanian-Palestinian framework. Let us not forget that there is a sort of tension between the Jordanians and the Palestinians as to who will run whom. I believe that is the best solution. King Hussein made a supreme effort to implement what he thought was agreed, only to discover at the very last moment, to his great shock and surprise, that the agreement was of no value.

We have an ongoing relationship which carries a promise. It is a unique situation. Officially, we have a declared state of belligerency, but in fact we have open bridges and there is free movement of people, goods and ideas. The prevailing law on the West Bank is Jordanian; Jordanian currency is accepted and schools on the West Bank have a Jordanian curriculum. When one opens a textbook in a school on the West Bank, one finds a picture of King Hussein on the first page.

It is for King Hussein to select the time. We have been ready since yesterday and the day before. We are simply awaiting the readiness of Jordan to overcome its initial shyness, to come into the open light and to negotiate. The Jordanians have tried to deal with the PLO and they have learnt the lessons. If the King will take such a step, I believe that many Palestinians will follow him. Nobody in the Middle East is more anxious to see a solution of this problem than the people on the West Bank and Gaza. They are willing to pay the price. I think that many of them are disillusioned by the PLO. Were it not for the terror, I think that a solution would have been found a long time ago.

Lord KINNOULL (United Kingdom)

I think that I am the last of a long list of questioners. I congratulate you, Prime Minister, on the lucid replies that you have given to previous questions.

I should like to ask two questions. You referred to the Lebanon as a country that could not find peace. What positive peace role do you think the United Nations could play and to what effect?

My second question relates to agriculture. I had the honour to go to Israel last year with a committee of this Assembly. We saw the amazing success of your agriculture. In the light of the present crisis of over-production both in Europe and the United States, how do you see your agriculture facing the future?

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

I small start with Lebanon. The fact is that Lebanon does not have a central government; nor does it have a central army. Every village has its own government, its own army and its own orientation. There is an ongoing war. I believe that you, Lord Kinnoull, are referring to UNIFIL, the United Nations forces in Lebanon. Those forces are important for Lebanon. We may disagree about their deployment – where they should be located – but the United Nations forces can exist there only upon the request of the Lebanese authorities, whoever they may be. I do not believe that we have a particular role in answering that question.

On agriculture, we are asking you to give us the same chance as you give to all other members of the Common Market. I think that we shall reach an agreement with Spanish, Italian and Portuguese farmers. I think that they as well as ourselves would like to compete fairly and perhaps introduce some new fruit and vegetables, to the joy of many Europeans. But we should like to have an equal chance to export our goods, as we import a great deal from Europe. We import more than we export in the European market. That is our basic request.

Thank you for your kindness, Lord Kinnoull. I shall tell our farmers that they have an important admirer in this important body.

THE PRESIDENT (translation)

We have come to the end of the parliamentary questions to the Prime Minister of Israel and I thank him sincerely.

Prime Minister, this is a proud moment for our Assembly. I hope you will leave with the conviction that you have many friends here who are not only interested in the problems put to you, but who also wish for you, for your government, for your people that you will succeed in this peace mission desired by all of us. We would like you to know that the Council of Europe shares all your concerns.

(Loud applause)

Mr Peres, Prime Minister of Israel

Thank you most warmly, Mr President.

(The Representatives rose and gave Mr Peres a standing ovation.)