Ben Gurion Presents Cabinet; Offers to Meet for Arabs for Peace Talks
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Ben Gurion Presents Cabinet; Offers to Meet for Arabs for Peace Talks

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In a jammed, but hushed Parliamentary chamber, Premier-designate David Ben Gurion today offered to meet with the rulers of Egypt or any other Arab state, for unconditional peace talks. At the same time, he told the country that the new government which he heads will follow the same foreign policy as its predecessors, and offered the presence of Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett in his Cabinet as proof of his words. He noted that security would be the central issue facing the new government.

Mr. Ben Gurion spoke for an hour and five minutes, after which he named the 16 members of his new coalition Cabinet which, by a last minute decision of the Mizrachi and Poale Mizrachi, has been expanded to include the religious bloc. The Premier-designate, whose illness had delayed presentation of the Cabinet for several weeks, read his speech slowly, with frequent interruptions for rest. He sat during the reading, and at the beginning of the speech the spectators feared he would be unable to complete the talks.

While he spoke, crowds surrounded the Knesset building. They had come to catch a glimpse of the ailing Premier-designate and Premier Sharett who only last night returned from his week-long dramatic appeal to the Big Four foreign ministers at Paris and Geneva for defensive arms and security guarantees.


In outlining the problem of security facing Israel, Mr. Ben Gurion said that it meant more than “maintenance of our sovereignty and independence–it means our very physical existence” for the Arabs have often and publicly said that they would wipe out Israel and the Jewish people of the world. This boast, he warned, was reminiscent of Hitler. He said it came as no surprise since the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem and many of his associates had been followers of Hitler.

Mr. Ben Gurion spoke of the need for viewing matters with “cruel clarity.” He noted that security was more than reliance on arms–it rests on economic stability, immigration, agricultural colonization and the creation of sea power. He cautioned his listeners against having any illusions that the Arabs would not attempt what they had threatened–driving Israel into the sea at almost any expense.

He made short shrift of Czech and Soviet arguments that the Czech-Egyptian arms deal was a “commercial transaction” and pointed out that the Czech Government knew that it was selling arms to a regime which was committed to the destruction of the Jewish State. But, he noted pointedly, the Czechs are not the only ones to supply the Arabs with arms. The British do the same, despite the Tripartite Declaration, and refuse to sell Israel the same weapons they sell the Arabs. The United States, too, he stressed, had supplied Iraq with some weapons.


The next Israel Premier said it was his duty “to tell all the powers that rule the world, all of them without exception, and with all the modesty becoming of an emissary of a small nation in political matters but with all the moral force of a son of the Jewish people: The people of Israel, in the land of Israel, will not be led like cattle to slaughter.”

The Jewish people will fight, he underlined, and not many people have fought the way this small people has fought for its independence. “What Hitler did to six million helpless Jews in Europe’s ghettos will not be done by any foe of the House of Israel to a community of free Jews rooted in their own land.” He said that aggressive designs against Israel would lead to a dangerous explosion whose results could not now be calculated and responsibility for which would fall equally on those who arm the aggressors and on those who deny weapons to the defenders.

Pointing out that Israel had offered the hand of peace to the Arab governments on various occasions, but that the Arab states refuse even to keep the armistice, Mr. Ben Gurion detailedly reported how Egypt trained and encouraged marauders to enter Israel and kill its people, how Egypt tries to blockade both the Suez Canal and the Red Sea, via the Gulf of Akaba. “This unilateral warfare must cease,” he emphasized, “for it cannot remain unilateral indefinitely.” He said Israel had, in the past, observed the armistice agreements faithfully, but an agreement violated by one side does not bind the other. “If our rights are affected by acts of violence on land or sea, we shall reserve freedom of action to defend them in the most effective manner.”


“We wholeheartedly want peace and good neighborliness,” Mr. Ben Gurion said at another point, “and are willing to cooperate with all our neighbors for the prosperity and well-being of the Middle East. We never initiated and never will initiate war against anyone; we do not covet a single inch of foreign soil just as we will not permit anyone to deprive us of any single inch of our territory.”

Noting that there was no reason for conflict with Egypt and every reason for fruitful cooperation, Mr. Ben Gurion declared: “I am prepared to meet with the Egyptian Premier and with every other Arab ruler as soon as possible in order to achieve a mutual settlement without any prior conditions. The Israel Government is also ready for a lasting, enduring peace settlement and long-term political, economic and cultural cooperation between Israel and its neighbors.

“If the other side is not yet ready for that,” he continued, “we will also agree to a limited settlement providing for insurance of the full implementation of the armistice agreements, for the mutual elimination of all incidents and acts of hostility, boycott and blockade, for observance of the freedom of the seas and for any additional arrangement agreeable to both parties.” He concluded his offer with the statement that “the Egyptian Government and the other Arab rulers now have an opportunity to show the world what they really want: war or peace.”


At the conclusion of his address, Mr. Ben Gurion named the 16 members of his Cabinet and the posts which they will hold: Mr. Ben Gurion, Premier; Zalman Aranne, Education and Culture; Levi Eshkol, Finance; Dr. Joseph Burg, Posts; Mordechai Bentov, Development; Israel Barzilai, Health; Yitzhak Bar Yehuda, Interior; Moshe Carmel, Communications; Kaddish Luz, Agriculture; Mrs. Golda Myerson, Labor; Dr. Peretz Naphtali, minister without portfolio; Pinchas Saphir, Trade and Industry; Dr. Pinchas Rosen, Justice; Behor Shitreet, Police; Moshe Shapira, Religion and Social Welfare and Mr. Sharett, Foreign Affairs.

It was decided after Mr. Ben Gurion’s address to allot ten hours to a debate on his message and the first two speakers were Menachem Beigin of Herut and Dr. Peretz Bernstein of the General Zionists, both of whom welcomed Mr. Ben Gurion’s recovery and both of whom hit the “leftist” nature of his government. Neither made any serious reference to his foreign policy. Then the House recessed until tomorrow.

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