Sitting 3 of the Ninth Knesset Part II
- Begin (Likud): Mr. Speaker, Knesset Members, on the assumption that this night the Knesset will express confidence in the government, I would like to say that, with the consent of the entire government...my first action as prime minister tomorrow will be to instruct that asylum be granted to the Vietnamese refugees. We all recall the ships of Jewish refugees in the 1930s which wandered the seven seas, seeking entry to a specific country or various countries, and were denied access everywhere. Now there is a Jewish state. We have not forgotten. We will act humanely. We will bring those unfortunate refugees here to our country after our ship has saved them from drowning, and we will grant them a haven....
- Eliav (Sheli): MK Begin, as the captain of ships which brought illegal immigrants, I congratulate you.
- Begin (Likud): I thank you....And now to the debate. After having heard the speech given by the leader of the opposition, Mr. Shimon Peres, I would like to say that I think that the former leader of the opposition spoke out better against the government.
- Navon (Alignment): One has to undergo vocational retraining.
- Begin (Likud): But no matter, MK Peres will have plenty time to study his new profession, and we will doubtless hear him speak more convincingly....After all, what has happened? We have sat together with the Alignment in this House for many years, have always been rivals, but have also known personal friendships....The Alignment's election campaign was one of intimidation. Dire consequences were threatened if the Likud were to come to power. That approach did not help you. On the contrary, it did you great harm. I am not at all surprised that MK Peres stood on the podium today and gave the impression of being someone who had not yet recovered. It is hardly surprising. Did you imagine that this change would come about, MK Peres? I am sure that you were perfectly convinced that if you replaced Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin you would be prime minister. There was no doubt in your mind about it. The same applies to all your colleagues. I am sure that MK Allon was certain that he would be the next Minister of Defense, as you had agreed between you, because you were sure that your party would form the new government. It has been accustomed to ruling. For twenty-nine years you have ruled the country, as well as the Zionist Organization....You did not imagine that the nation would bring about this change, and that is why you are thunderstruck. But you'll get used to it.
You are taking a very mistaken approach. You spoke in an aggressive tone today. I accept that. This is a free parliament, and the opposition has every right to take a fighting stance. But I think, and I am saying this as a veteran Knesset Member, that you are making a mistake.
You should be taking stock and examining yourselves, because there has been a cataclysmic change in Israel.
Just take a look. The Likud had a majority in every town in Israel, except for three small townships. The Likud had a majority even in "red" Haifa. You must try to find the reasons. What happened to you? You were so confident of your victory....Why were you taken by surprise? Take note, gentlemen: in the army the Likud received 45 percent and the Alignment only 22 percent, whereas in the last elections we received 41 percent and you got 39.5 percent....What is the army? Who is the army? It is the younger generation. The younger generation turned its back on you in these elections. There has been a cataclysmic change in Israel.
After every election campaign you said: what? Do you have complaints about the results? This nation is wise and intelligent, it knows what it's doing, in which government to place its trust. So, what will you say now about this wise and intelligent nation? I call on you to take stock. If at the next elections the nation gives you preeminence once more we will have no complaints. But I am sure that you must see the error of your ways, examine yourselves thoroughly and ask yourselves why this happened....You are, after all, a great movement, which had twenty Members in the First Knesset....Your slogan should be we will mend our ways."...
The Alignment continues to claim that if we implement our policy we will be at loggerheads with the world. I hope that you will be a responsible opposition as well as a fighting one...but why should you say something like that, as if you were already calling on the world to rise up against us? Couldn't you at least have given us a chance? You tried a certain policy. I would like to know, during which government's term was the Rogers Plan renewed after being frozen for six years? When did we hear for the first time: "Israel will have to withdraw to the borders of 4 June 1967 with minor adjustments"? Was it in the time of the Likud government or the Alignment government?
I remember when the Rogers Plan was presented to us. I was a member of the government then, in 1969. And then-Prime Minister Golda Meir summoned the correspondent of the New York Times and told him: if any Israeli government-and she was referring to a democratic government-were to accept the plan which bears Mr. Rogers' name, it would be a government of treachery. I must confess that I do not like the word "treachery." If it is a question of law and justice, that is one thing. In matters of policy, everyone has the right to hold views without being accused of treachery. That is the nature of freedom. But that is what Mrs. Meir said....For six years the plan was kept in mothballs, but shaken out a few months ago. Under which government did that happen? In the wake of what policy? What have you not managed to say? Why was it said? Have you asked yourselves that? Under your
government, with the policy you termed "reasonable," "compromise," "logical." And so, two nights-ago, we heard it mentioned again.
Perhaps in another day or two a certain American document will be published, and all the Members of the Knesset, the entire nation, will learn that as my meeting with President Carter in late July approaches there may be differences of opinion between us, which we will discuss in a civilized way. We know our place: we are a small country, while over there is a Great Power, and President Carter is not only the president of the U.S. but also the leader of the free world....Perhaps when Israelis read a certain American document in another day or two they will discover that the Likud government may be given a warm welcome. Why should you say that we are setting Israel at odds with the whole world, and first of all with the U.S.? Under your rule there was a great argument. Did not Prime Minister Rabin have to tell America that we would never return to the borders of 4 June 1967...?
I hope that in my meeting with President Carter I will be able to say, with the backing of the entire House, not only the Likud government...that on that subject there is general consensus, and we are adamant in our stand: this nation will not return to the borders of 4 June 1967, not even with minor adjustments. I also hope that I will be able to tell the president of the U.S. that there is national agreement on our refusal to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza....I repeat, it threatens every man, woman and child in Israel and it shall not arise. I shall say that with the support of more than 110 Knesset Members....
- Toubi (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality): MK Begin, with that policy they failed, and you will too....
- Begin (Likud): MK Toubi, even with your great victory at the polls you received only five seats. You can't form a government with those. Let me continue.
- Wilner (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality): We may not be able to form a government, but we can bring peace.
- Begin (Likud): MK Wilner, that's enough. Kindly let me speak. The leader of the opposition has said that the policy is sometimes mine alone. Permit me to quote: "We must not be tempted by all kinds of advisors and journalists to return to a country whose width at its 'waist' is ten or twelve miles. We must not be tempted, despite the difficulties, in Judea, Samaria and Galilee. If we return to a country which is 12 miles wide we will face an almost insurmountable defense problem. Everyone says we must defend the Golan Heights because of the high mountains there. There are peaks in Samaria too. It is said that there are agricultural settlements below the Golan Heights that is true. But most of Israel's population lives below Samaria." Who said that? Mr. Shimon Peres. So I am not alone, At least MK Peres is with me. Most of the Knesset supports that policy. We have learned from what happened in the Six Day War, and we know what it means to have enemy cannon threatening every town, village and settlement in Israel....We will prevent that....
It is true that MK Peres changed his mind. One day he decided to replace MK Rabin and be the Alignment's candidate for prime minister. In order to give himself the chance of gaining a majority he had to find favor in the eyes of MK Abba Eban and gain the support of MK Sarid, so that very little was left of his original opinion. But am I to blame for that? He changed his mind, and then what happened? Our majority may be small, but nonetheless, it is a majority....MK Rabin gave way, MK Peres took his place and was sure that the nation would give him its approval. But it did not. So one has to accept the public's verdict with good grace, and not adopt an aggressive tone on the day the government which has received the nation's confidence is presented.
We will treat the opposition differently. First of all, we recognize the position of the leader of the opposition...and I will cooperate with him, holding meetings with him from time to time and briefing him on the situation. That was not the case formerly. We will introduce that practice, which is accepted in democratic regimes. As long as the DMC is in opposition I will hold similar meetings with MK Yadin. But the leader of the opposition is the leader of the largest party. That is his status. We will respect it, and the opposition, and on general national topics on which we can find a common language we will doubtless ask him for his opinion and advice.
There appear to have been misunderstandings in the negotiations with the DMC....MK Yadin says that the Likud treated his movement as a junior partner...using the very phrase MK Rubinstein employed several weeks before the elections: "The DMC will form the next government, and it is irrelevant who its junior partner will be." So it was the DMC, not the Likud, which regarded either the Alignment or the Likud as a junior partner....
MK Rubinstein also said that this government will collapse like a house of cards....I am not making any promises. We are in the hands of the Knesset. Tonight you will give us your confidence, we hope. If you do not, I will submit my resignation to the president. We intend to govern for four years. If you shorten our term, we will go to the nation and it will decide. But meanwhile, MK Rubinstein, your dreams have collapsed like a house of cards. The DMC is not forming any government and cannot tip the scales....
- Yadin (Democratic Movement for Change): You're continuing with what you've been doing all along. You don't want us-say it.
- Begin (Likud): No, you're wrong. What I said was correct....
- Pa'il (Sheli): He wants you, but with some adjustments.
- Begin (Likud): The DMC adheres to principles, and I am as great an admirer of principles as I am of adherence to them. Dear friends and rivals, as you know, we were in the desert of opposition for 29 years and did not abandon our principles for a single day. There were those who said that we lost votes because of those principles. Yet we adhered to them. That is why I admire adherence to principles so much....I would like to make it clear, despite your interjection, MK Yadin, that the entire Likud, as well as the NRP and Aguda-the whole coalition-wants the DMC in the government because of its adherence to principles. I am even prepared to renew the negotiations tomorrow.
- Yadin (Democratic Movement for Change): Without prior conditions and with everything open to discussion.
- Begin (Likud): Without prior negotiations, and we can begin negotiating tomorrow. Mr. Speaker, it is late, after midnight. There are still a great many points I wanted to make, but there will be many other opportunities for that. I therefore propose that we conclude the debate. I ask the Knesset to express confidence in the government. There is much work to be done...in the economic, social, political and moral spheres....My colleagues and I will do it with devotion and dedication, with a good conscience, a sure heart and the belief that with God's help we will benefit the nation.
Those in favor 63
Those against 53
(The proposal to express confidence in the government is adopted.)