Sharett Says Soviet Responsible if War Comes in Middle East
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Sharett Says Soviet Responsible if War Comes in Middle East

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Premier Moshe Sharett wound up a foreign affairs debate in the Knesset today by declaring that if conflagration breaks out in the Middle East as a result of the Communist supply of arms to Egypt, “it is clear who will be responsible.” The Premier ridiculed assertions that the Czech-Egyptian arms deal was a simple commercial deal and said the initiative in the arrangement came from the Soviet Union and was part of a general Soviet policy.

The debate was opened yesterday with a 45-minute expose of the situation by Mr. Sharett and was conducted throughout with a display of moderation and responsibility by most of the parties who were mindful of the fact that oratorical bursts might well shatter the coalition Cabinet formed by Premier-designate David Ben Gurion even before it was presented to the Knesset. Mr. Sharett, who came to the Knesset today fresh from a meeting with the bed-ridden Premier-designate, was restrained in his replies to the debaters, but bitter in his condemnation of the Communist-Arab arms deal.


Mr. Sharett compared the Soviet arms program in the Middle East with that of the United States. The latter, he pointed out, followed a policy of balancing arms to Israel and the Arab States and watched closely to ensure that the balance of power should not be upset. The government, he said, had no information to show that the United States was preparing to enter an arms race in the Middle East but the Eastern bloc, he pointed out, supplied arms without any conditions, with all the dangerous consequences arising from this act.

The Premier concluded his restrained and mild rebuttal with a warm appeal for national solidarity and mobilization of the nation’s resources in the face of the present emergency. He asked the engineers, who are to go out on strike tomorrow, to call off their strike and avert damage to Israel’s industrial effort.

In opening the debate yesterday, Mr. Sharett denounced the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc for supplying arms to a state which had avowed the intention of destroying Israel. He sharply criticized Washington and London for fostering the myth of a “new, enlightened regime in Egypt with a strong man at its head,” and for rushing in to try to bribe the wavering regime with military supplies. Mr. Sharett also subjected the Dulles proposals to critical analysis and served notice that Israel would not wait indefinitely for Arab agreement to the Johnston water development plan.

The Premier denied repeated assertions that Israel is stronger than the Arab States militarily and announced that “because obtaining arms is for us the first essential for existence, we will not hesitate to obtain them from every possible source.” He called on the West to meet Israel’s need for a security pact and appealed to the Jews of the world to supply arms to Israel.


Menachem Beigin, leader of the Herut Party, second largest in the Knesset, spoke after Mr. Sharett last night and roundly condemned the government for placing reliance on foreign powers to secure Israel’s sovereignty. He demanded a preventive war against Egypt immediately and seizure of the Gaza strip which serves as a springboard for aggression against Israel.

Elimelech Rimalt, General Zionist, blamed the government for short-sightedness in failing to foresee developments. He called for a strengthening of Israel’s military potential. Itzhak Rafael, of the Poale Mizrachi, criticized what he interpreted as an announcement by Premier Sharett that he would buy arms from the Soviet Union if possible.

Itzhak Benahron, of the Achdut Avodah, a member of the coalition formed by Mr. Ben Gurion, proposed a program of increasing Israel’s arms production, increase of immigration and an appeal to the conscience of the world. Israel Barzilai, of Mapam, the left-wing labor party which will also be a member of Mr. Ben Gurion’s coalition, called for a neutralist policy for Israel, and cooperation of the four great powers, including the Soviet Union, to calm the Middle East. Rabbi Isaac Meir Levin, Agudist, criticized the government for having failed to present Israel’s case effectively to world opinion. Esther Wilenska, Communist, charged that the government had pursued a pro-Western policy.

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