Begin’s Speech to Representatives of the French Fundraising
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, our dear, honored guests from France. Israel collaborated, produced and presented a peace plan in two parts. The first concerns the bilateral measures between our country and Egypt with two main principles. One, demilitarization of the Sinai Desert, which must never again become the platform to attack our land, as has happened five times in 29 years. When President Sadat visited Jerusalem, he promised me in a private conversation that the Egyptian army will not pass the Gindi and the Mitla Passes to the east and so the main part of the Sinai Peninsula will be defensible. To us, it is a most vital issue of our national security. We must have a belt of security as a result of the experience of a generation in order to prevent another war from breaking out and in order to be able to defend ourselves if attacked. But the military access of Egypt presented a different map, not in conformity but in contradiction to the personal pledge given to me by President Sadat. In accordance with their plan, the bulk of the Sinai Peninsula would be remilitarized. We, of course, cannot agree to such a concept which may prove most dangerous to our [unclear 02:40]. I repeat, for the sake of peace, for both nations, the desert of Sinai must be demilitarized.
The second principle concerns our settlements in the very narrow strip in the north of Sinai between Rafa, or Rafiah, and El-Arish. This is also one of the most vital issues of our national security. And, of course, there is no cabinet in Israel which would be capable to order dismantling of settlements in which so much sweat and toil were invested, making the desert blossom. No land was taken away from anybody. When our settlers came there, it was a complete desert. Sand and sand and nothing else. We brought water from the north and our men tilled the land and now it is almost a garden, green, producing. We are not going to destroy the fruits of the labor of our men at the whim of the Egyptian government.
When I met President Sadat at Ismailiah, I told him that those settlements are going to stay. Lately, again yesterday, the controller, director of the Egyptian press claimed that at Ismailiah, I misled President Sadat and, therefore, they put on me a new label and they called me "Shylock." Well, I am lending money. Of course, when you pay attention to the fact that the Egyptian directed press uses an old, anti-Semitic expression which wanders throughout Europe since Shakespeare wrote his Merchant of Venice.
But, did I mislead President Sadat? I have no right to quote from the minutes whatever he told me, but I am perfectly entitled to disclose to you what I told him. And now, I quote from the minutes of our conversation at Ismailiah. I told the president of Egypt, "I have to point out that we cannot leave our settlements and our civilians without self-defense. This is the result of our generation, with all the experience behind us. Mr. President, we respect your principle and we ask you to respect our principle." As you can see, at Ismailiah, I told President Sadat not only that the settlements will stay, but they will be defended by an Israeli contingent.
This is in the main the first part of our peace plan.
The second part relates to the autonomy, administrative autonomy which we suggest to give to our neighbors, the Palestinian Arabs residing in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District. Ladies and gentlemen, it will be for the first time in history that the Palestinian Arabs residing in those parts of the land of Israel will enjoy self-rule. For centuries, they lived under the oppressive Turkish rule. For three decades, under British rule. For 20 years, under Jordanian rule, which was very oppressive, indeed. The Jordanians ruled the Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria with a whip. It never occurred to them to suggest self-determination. It never occurred to them to propose autonomy. The same applies to Egyptian rule in the district of Gaza. They ruled the Arabs there directly for 19 years, never gave them Egyptian citizenship, and they let them live in the most horrible, abominable slums for two decades. We take out the people from those slums and give them proper, civilized housing and permanent jobs. And so we shall go on doing in order to solve, humanely, the problem also of Arab refugees who are in our jurisdiction. For the first time in history comes Israel and suggests to the Palestinian Arabs to enjoy self-rule autonomy, based on the following principles. They themselves, in a secret ballot, through a democratic election, will elect an 11-member council with 11 departments which will deal with all the problems of daily life. We shall not interfere to any extent whatsoever in the daily life of our neighbors. Security and public order must be the responsibility of Israeli authorities because if we should not have control of security, the so-called PLO, that murderous Nazi organization, the baser of which there has never been in history, since and except the armored Nazi organizations, would take over Judea and Samaria in 24 hours. Then, we would face a mortal danger. Almost all our civilians – men, women and children – would be at their mercy with their [unclear 10:23] and Kalashnikovs and Katyushas and heavy guns with a range of 43.8 km to be supplied by the Soviet Union in no time from Odessa to Baghdad, the flight time between those two sites being only two hours. It would turn into a Soviet base, like it happened in Angola and in Mozambique and in Ethiopia. Indeed, when I told President Sadat that some of the PLO men are Soviet agents, he corrected me and said all of them. Ladies and gentlemen, it would turn into a Soviet base, a mortal danger to us as a Jewish state. We would then place all our civilians in the [unclear 11:28]. Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Rehovot, Rishon Lezion, Ness Ziona, Bnei Brak, Ramat Gan, Petah Tikva, Givatayim. All those 2.5 million Jews, the remnants of our people, those who were saved from the Holocaust, under the range of their conventional artillery under the control of our most implacable enemy since the dark days of the Nazis. May I tell you, ladies and gentlemen, never shall we place our women and children in the range of that implacable enemy of the Jewish people. Never.
[Pause for applause]
But we produced a plan of human decency. Autonomy for the Palestinian Arabs, security for the Palestinian Jews. We can live together and build together the country.
Ladies and gentlemen, with this plan in its two parts I went to Washington a month ago and I presented it to the president of the United States; to the secretary of state; to the ranking senators – Senator Jackson, Senator Case – both parties – the Democratic and the Republican – represented by them – Senator Javits and Senator Stone; to the former president of the United States, Mr. Gerald Ford; to the former secretary of state, Dr. Kissinger; to the majority leader of the House of Representatives; to the representative of the mighty Jewish community in the United States. God bless them all, we are proud of the Jewish community in the United States. And then, may I tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that we are also proud of the Jewish community [unclear 13:56].
[Pause for laughter]
Then I went to London and presented the plan to the prime minister of Great Britain and to the foreign secretary of Great Britain. Also [French 14:20-14:24] but, until now, I didn't get from it any opinion. Whereas all those who saw this peace plan said, now I quote, the secretary of state of the United States read out a communiqué in which he states, "It is a notable contribution, it is a constructive approach." President Carter, our friend, says, having listened to my presentation and seen the maps, with all the details, including the question of the Jewish settlements, "There is a great deal of flexibility in this man. It is a bold step forwards." Some people say that the Egyptian government decided yesterday to recall the delegation so that there should be pressure, American pressure exerted on Israel. Ladies and gentlemen, what pressure? Can a notable contribution become otherwise in four weeks? Can a constructive approach become negative in one month? Can a great deal of flexibility turn into inflexibility? And can a long step forwards be turned into a short step backwards? All in seven weeks? It is absolutely inconceivable and [unclear 16:16] amongst ourselves [unclear 16:20] us with this inconceivable concept of pressure to be exerted upon us. We presented a positive plan, a human plan, a peace plan, a real peace plan, far-reaching, sweeping. No pressure can be exerted on us to turn fairness into unfairness, decency into indecency. However, during the week, three days ago, came to us the foreign minister of Egypt, a likeable man – I like him, I told him so – and, upon landing on our land, made a statement at the Ben-Gurion Airport to the effect that we must give up Jerusalem. So he said. He just landed and told us, "You will have to give up Jerusalem." May I tell you, ladies and gentlemen, it was the most preposterous statement ever made by a guest. Imagine, I come to France and say that Paris should be divided into two. [unclear 17:58]
[Pause for laughter]
But I couldn't make such a statement. I said it's a preposterous statement for a guest to make, but I have another word, in the language of Cormais and Baudelaire: [French 18:24-18:32]. In classical French, it means "chutzpah."
[Pause for laughter]
We didn't ask the foreign minister of Egypt to leave our country, after that chutzpadik statement. On the contrary, we received him with hospitality. Then we started negotiations, which were quite successful. Out of seven paragraphs of the declaration of principles, we agreed on five. Two were left out for further negotiations coming forth. And [unclear 19:33] was recalled. Of course, it was not only our right, but our duty to answer that statement, as I did. I would do it at any opportunity. As prime minister of Israel, it was my duty to explain to the foreign minister of Egypt that Jerusalem, the heart of the Jewish people, was occupied by the Jordanians for 19 years as a result of invasion [unclear 20:07]. And for 19 years we couldn't go there to pray to the holiest of the holies of the Jewish people. And when we were attacked, 11 years ago, with God's help we liberated Jerusalem. Everybody can go now pray to the holy shrines of his religion: Christians, Muslims and Jews. And so Jerusalem was reunited, and it will be united, the capital city of Israel and the Jewish people, forever and ever.
[Pause for applause]
When I met yesterday a group of Egyptian journalists, I started to understand what happened. Amongst the many questions they asked me – not all of them polite, we played it cool – there was the following question: "You should recognize the fact, Mr. Prime Minister, that President Sadat recognized your right to survive." Shalom Aleichem.
[Pause for laughter]
He recognized our right to survive. Ladies and gentlemen, we never have asked anyone to recognize our right to exist. When Descartes made his famous, famous scientific [unclear 22:08] saying "Cogito ergo sum," "I think, therefore I exist," he left to ask the same because this is our history. I suffer, therefore I exist. I struggle, therefore I exist. And I believe, therefore I exist. Credo ergo sum. But we exist, our dear Egyptian friends, without your recognition for 3,700 years. Even without your recognition we left Egypt in order to exist in the land of our forefathers, promised to us by God and man. We never asked your president or your government or any other president or a general or a nation to recognize our right to exist. Who asked ever to recognize the right of France to exist? The right of Belgium to exist? Of Luxembourg to exist? We exist. Therefore, we have a right to exist. We've paid a price for that right. What a price. Up to this generation. That does not diminish our right to exist. To the contrary. What we expect from you is to recognize our right to our land as we recognize your right to 21 sovereign Arab states stretching from the Persian Gulf up to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. 12 million square kilometers. You should recognize our right to this land we have, our little country, as the expression of the right to self-determination of the Jewish people, victimized, persecuted, humiliated, ultimately physically destroyed, at last having come back. We expect you to recognize our right to our independence and to our human dignity and to our sovereignty. We never asked you to recognize our right to exist. We have it. The right to exist was given to us by Elohei Avraham, Yitzchak Ve'Yaakov.
[Pause for applause]
Ladies and gentlemen, the talks with [unclear 25:28] and the political committee in Jerusalem were [unclear 25:32] because saying we shall pursue our goal of peace, we pray and yearn for peace [unclear 25:43] if it's a good peace plan. We want peace with all our neighbors. To the south, with Egypt. We respect the people of Egypt. We tell them, if we have peace, we can help each other. We do not say so condescendingly. We don't have any superiority complex over the Arabs. We respect them as a people, their contributions to human civilization, but neither do we have an inferiority complex. We, too, contributed to human civilization. We can help each other. And we want peace with our northern neighbors and in the east. We want real peace. We shall pursue this noble goal. We hope that the talks will be resumed. It's up to Egypt. If the Egyptian government should decide to resume the talks, the government of Israel will be prepared to do so as well. And let no one despair the chances for peace. Ultimately, ups and downs, surprises, walking out and coming back. Ladies and gentlemen, we learn from history. War is evitable. Peace is inevitable.
[Pause for applause]
Now, ladies and gentlemen, I have a special appeal to make to you. Make an effort, a unique effort, and it will be earmarked for a great, human, noble purpose. We have soon in this country 45,000 families in the most abject housing conditions. Three, five, seven people in [unclear 27:58]. How can the children stand it? There are other phenomena of family life under such conditions, as adults here will understand. I don't have to explain. This is that part which is a shame for any society. We are a Jewish society. We are a people who got the command in days immemorial, "Justice, justice shall you pursue," "Tzedek, tzedek tirdof." We cannot acquiesce this horrible, abominable, intolerable problem. We want to build for them proper, civilized houses and let the children be happy and smile and study and advance in life. 300,000. I made an appeal to the Bonds Organization, to the Keren Hayesod, to the United Jewish Campaign. Let us all make an effort, the Jewish people in the Diaspora and our people in this country, and together we shall solve the problem in a few years. It cannot be done in a week or a month. We need a few years. But three, four years [unclear 29:27] the flats, the apartments will be built [unclear 29:32] to those apartments and you shall listen to the laughter of a Jewish child. There cannot be [unclear 29:49] a noble purpose. And, therefore, I appeal to you. [unclear 30:00] All that you give above your contribution from last year, last years, will be earmarked, kodesh, for this purpose. And if you make the effort, then we shall measure here, in a few years, we shall solve completely this economic, social, no, this moral problem. [unclear 30:27] So, today, I appeal to you [unclear 30:35]
[Audio cuts at 30:49]