JERUSALEM (Jan. 23)
Premier David Ben Gurion stood pat today and in an historic address to the Israel Parliament, declared that Israel was willing to withdraw its troops from the Gaza Strip but must insist on maintaining its administration over the territory. At the same time, he told the world that Israel had no territorial ambitions on Sharm el Sheikh, on the southern tip of Sinai, but would leave only if it received adequate guarantees of freedom of passage of the straits leading to the Gulf of Akaba.
Criticizing the United Nations for its failure to keep fedayeen gangs from infiltrating Israeli territory, the Israel Premier said that a United Nations force in the Gaza Strip would not be able to prevent new fedayeen forays. He cited the UN failure throughout the eight-year history of Israel to raise its voice or its arm in defense of the Jewish State.
The question of freedom of passage through the Suez Canal constituted a test of the UN, Mr. Ben Gurion told Parliament. Israel was not abandoning her demand for equal rights of navigation through the Canal and the UN would be judged by how well it implemented its decision to prevent overt and covert discrimination in the use of the waterway he stressed.
Premier declared that Israel had to continue administrative responsibility for the Gaza Strip in order to: 1. Assure the security of Israel settlements in the border area; 2. Assure the future of the inhabitants of the Strip who otherwise would be out off from the adjacent territory, which is a necessary hinterland, and 3. Open the possibility of the settlement of the Arab refugee problem. He solemnly assured the UN that Israel would keep no army units in the Gaza Strip.
OUTLINES THE FUNCTIONS OF AN ISRAEL ADMINISTRATION IN GAZA
“Israel must remain in the Strip while a suitable relationship is established between the Israel Administration and the United Nations,” Mr. Ben Gurion continued. “The Administration will maintain the internal security of the Strip by means of police, will continue to develop self-government among the population in town and village, and will continue to insure public service in health, education, electricity, irrigation, communications, agriculture, trade and industry.”
The Israel Administration in Gaza will act as a pilot project in Israel-Arab cooperation in contact with the United Nations, Premier Ben Gurion pledged. All possible efforts would be made to lift the 60,000 destitute residents of the Gaza Strip cut of their “present miserable condition” and to help secure for them decent conditions and a reasonable standard of living.
Israel is aware of the problem of the Arab refugees in the Gaza territory, he said. He then proceeded to contrast Israel’s reception of hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees, half of them from Arab countries, with the Arab states’ refusal to resettle the Arab refugees and the use of the refugees’ plight as a political weapon with which to beat Israel.
Restoration of Egyptian influence in the Gaza area, whether through the return of the Egyptian Army or indirectly by the entry of the UN Emergency Force, the Premier insisted, would block and eliminate all constructive prospects and the Gaza Strip would once again revert to “lawlessness to its own misfortune and that of the adjacent area.”
OFFERS TWO ALTERNATIVES ON AKABA AREA TO THE UNITED NATIONS
In his discussion of Israel’s demand for guarantees of freedom of passage through the Red Sea, the Straits of Tiran and the Gulf of Akaba, the Premier said that navigation through these waterways could be guaranteed by a treaty among the states bordering on them–Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia–agreeing to freedom of navigation for all shipping, without exception.
If this arrangement is not practical, he went on, the General Assembly could, if it chose, decide that occupation of Sharm el Sheikh and the east coast strip of the Sinai Peninsula by UNEF would guarantee freedom of passage. Israel’s agreement on such
an arrangement, he stressed, rested on an Assembly promise to keep UNEF in that area until a final settlement was reached between Egypt and Israel or some special arrangement for freedom of navigation of the Gulf of Akaba was reached.
In a review of the UN’s role since establishment of the Jewish State, Mr. Ben Gurion noted that Israel’s faith had not been shaken in the UN or its principles when five Arab states, four of them UN members, had invaded the new state on the very day it came into existence. He reminded the UN that neither the Assembly nor the Security Council had “lifted a finger” either to assist Israel or rebuke the Arab aggressors. While the UN stood silent, he underlined, the newly formed Israel defense forces repulsed the Arabs.
When the Arab League organized an economic boycott intended to strangle Israel and prevent her resettlement of hundreds of thousands of victims of Nazi terror, no United Nations institution adopted any measure to prevent this violation of the UN Charter by UN members In the same fashion, he stated, the UN watched the Arabs violate the armistice agreements and rebuff all Israel attempts to make peace.
After reviewing the long list of hostilities which mounted in intensity as the UN failed to act, the Premier said Israel acted in self-defense when it entered the Sinai Peninsula at the end of October and the first few days of November. “Israel would have placed herself in mortal peril had she not acted as she did,” he declared, “and she faces the nations of the world with a clear conscience.” He reminded his listeners that Israel acted only after Egypt, Jordan and Syria had signed a military pact and announced that they were prepared to attack Israel at their convenience.
Menahem Beigin, leader of the opposition Herut Party, devoted 50 minutes to a lengthy attack on Mr. Ben Gurion’s policies, including his latest announcement of readiness to withdraw military forces from Gaza. Such talk, he said, creates a danger that the UN will in the future demand withdrawal from Arab populated areas of Israel like Nazareth. He said that the Israel military victory in Sinai had been turned into a political defeat.
Dr. Peretz Bernstein, leader of the other major opposition party, the General Zionists, called on the government to state clearly that even under threat of sanctions Israel would retreat no farther. This should be done, he said, with the clear understanding that sanctions meant less food and the possibility of the paralysis of the Israel economy. Dr. Bernstein supported Mr. Beigin’s demand that the army be kept in Gaza. He charged that UNEF was serving as a vanguard for the returning Egyptian Army.