First Published: Morning Freiheit, March 5, 1972.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The necessity for the Israeli government to make a political move that could persuade world opinion it is not striving for territorial annexation is becoming more urgent. For a brief time Israeli government circles argued that the three African presidents who had conferred last year with Israeli and Egyptian government officials had supposedly not requested that Israel commit itself to return the occupied Arab areas as part of a peace agreement. However, it quickly turned out that this interpretation of the African presidents position did not tally with the facts.
Pres. Senghor of Senegal, one of the three African presidents involved in this effort at mediation, said in an interview with Le Monde of Paris:
“In the statement to the United Nations on Dec. 6, 1971 Abba Eban backed away from his promise made to the representatives of the Organization of African Unity. The Egyptian leaders cannot take any more farreaching steps than those which stated their readiness for talks with Israel on the basis of the borders of June 4, 1967. The key to the solution is now in Israel’s hands.
“Israel can clear the path to a solution by making a public pronouncement in which it pledges not to annex any occupied areas, as it had committed itself to do in discussions with the representatives of the Organization of African Unity. Unfortunately, Abba Eban’s statement indicates he now regrets having made this earlier commitment... Thus there is reason to consider that Israel’s most sincere friends south of the Sahara will be compelled to place responsibility for the failure of the mission of the African presidents on it.”
A most significant statement was made by Asraf Juama, an Egyptian diplomat, at a press conference in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 11, 1972. He explained that the Egyptian government would not insist on having its military forces would commit itself to withdraw from the Sinai peninsula. Then turning to the Israeli journalists at the press conference he said:
“Do not think of short term gains. Rather think of gains over the long term... Israel can enjoy security not by adding territory, but with the aid of agreements and guarantees... We do not want war with Israel, but we strive for an honorable peace, one not dictated by the forces of occupation.”
The Israeli government’s statement of early February, 1972 on its readiness to negotiate a partial settlement to open the Suez Canal is actually a positive declaration, but other remarks by Golda Meir arouse disquiet and create obstacles to the renewal of negotiations Another disturbing report was made by Chagi Asad in >em>Davar (Feb. 6, 1972) that if the Jarring mission is renewed it will be undermined and in a short time Egypt will have no choice but to turn to America to mediate a Suez settlement.
At Golda Meir’s meeting with the 8th term students in Tel Aviv, she was asked if the Jewish settlement in the occupied Arab areas are not accomplished facts, which contradict the Israeli government’s declarations that it wants negotiations without any preconditions. Golda Meir gave no direct reply except to say that when ”we will be seated at the negotiating table, we’ll decide whether we have not gone beyond the boundaries which in our judgment ought to belong to us.”
It appears that Golda Meir and a few other ministers unilaterally took the authority to decide which ought to be Israel’s stable boundaries even though no parliamentary body made any decision on this.
To belittle the rights of the neighboring nations is not only unjust, but also dangerous for Israel. The territories which were occupied in the Six Day War are not Israel’s territories. The military occupation does not give Israel any right of ownership over them. If the inhabitants of the occupied areas were to be forced by the Israeli government to lose their right to their land it will create a precedent which may allow outside forces, more powerful than we are, to enforce changes we may find unacceptable.
There are circles in the coalition government in Israel that base their hopes on a sharpening of the contradictions between the world powers, which they think will enable them to maintain the status quo in the occupied areas. However, all peoples, including the Israeli people, desire peaceful co-existence between the great powers as well as among all nations.
Whoever hopes there can be peace with annexation ignores the fact that the process of annexation only increases the hostility of the Arab peoples to Israel and leads to a desire for revenge among our neighbors. It is therefore vitally necessary to revise the entire system of settlements in the occupied areas and to halt them altogether in preparation for the renewal of negotiations with Egypt. Israel should also declare that these settlements will not serve as a pretext to determine future boundaries and that Israel will be ready to evacuate the Sinai peninsula for the price of a peace settlement.
Recognition of Israel by the Arab world, stable boundaries and a peace agreement – all this is the real gain for Israel, this will be our great victory.
Frei Yisroel, Tel Aviv, Feb. 16, 1972. (Transl. by S.R.)