Ben Gurion Rejects Neutralism; Parliament Votes to Support His Stand
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Ben Gurion Rejects Neutralism; Parliament Votes to Support His Stand

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Appearing in the Parliament of Israel for the first time since he was wounded there by a madman’s hand grenade, Premier David Ben Gurion–his injured leg still shoeless–closed a foreign policy debate by firmly rejecting the left-wing’s proposals that Israel alter its foreign policy in the direction of neutralism. The Premier was upheld innovate of 63 to 12, after his 70-minute address.

Explaining in detail the reasons why the Israel Government found it impossible to adopt a neutralist policy, the Premier voiced a long and sharp criticism of the Soviet Union–noticeably much sharper than his remarks opening the debate a month ago.

Mr. Ben Gurion, summing up instead of Foreign Minister Golda Meir, who is at home nursing her injured foot, hurt in the same bomb attack, insisted that Israel’s position in the international situation was markedly improved over what it was two years ago. He assailed and rejected all prophecies of doom and trumpeted his faith that the free nations still have the power to deter aggression.

Most of his biting oration was aimed at refuting the remarks of two deputies–Yaacov Chazan, leader of the Mapam, a member of the government coalition, and Jochanan Bader, fiery deputy of the opposition Herut, Only during the first few minutes, as he paid tribute to the memory of Col. Nehemiah Argov, his military aide who committed suicide two weeks ago–when he wept openly–did the Premier appear to be other than the biting, slashing prophetic figure so familiar to the Knesset membership.


Replying to Mr. Chazan’s demand for neutralism, the Premier asserted that neutralism was possible in two forms alone–that all nations of the world concede Israel the sort of neutral status granted Switzerland, or that Israel be neutral in its dealings with all nations.

The first is not possible, he continued, because the Arab states–neither the pro-Soviet nor the pro-Western states–are not prepared to grant Israel neutrality. Nor have the rest of the nations of the world indicated a desire to grant Israel such a status, he said. Indeed, he added, there was no reason that they should single out Israel as sacrosanct without similar guarantees to Belgium, Hungary or other countries. The United Nations, he said, could not be depended upon to guarantee Israel’s security as Israel had learned in 1948 and in 1951 when the Security Council ordered an end to the Suez blockade of her shipping.

As for Israel’s neutrality toward other nations, Mr. Ben Gurion noted that Israel desired equally good relations with all states and was working in that direction. But this did not depend on Israel alone, he pointed out.

It was not Israel but the Soviet Union which had breached an oil supply and trade agreement, Mr. Ben Gurion reminded his listeners. “Several times we asked the Soviets for scientific assistance but they have not responded, but we showed no resentment. When we received such minor favors as the photographing of (Jewish and Hebrew) manuscripts (in Soviet museums) we were grateful,” he declared.

“When the Soviet press uttered baseless slanders against us,” he said, “we were silent. We allow the Israel Communists to tell lies about the United States and the Soviet Union. Shall we,” he asked sarcastically, “forbid non-Communists from telling the truth about the United States and the Soviet Union? Would that be neutrality?”

He denied Mr. Chazan’s charges that the Western-oriented Bagdad Pact was aimed at establishing a base for an attack on the Soviet Union or that its conclusion had led to the Soviet-Egyptian arms deal. He stressed that he loved the Bagdad agreement no more than did the Mapam.


With broad irony, the Premier described the neutralization policy suggested by Mr. Chazan as a “modest and praiseworthy wish,” but interjected that neither Mr. Chazan nor anyone else had invented the “magic wand” to achieve it. The Premier made short shrift of a Herut proposal that Israel conclude a treaty with France. He asked for, and received.

He defended Lester B. Pearson, former External Affairs Minister of Canada and Nobel Peace Prize winner, whom Mr. Bader had slashed at in passing. The Premier disclosed that Mr. Pearson had assisted Israel in acquiring Sabre jet planes whose deliveries were halted at the last minute when Israeli troops marched into the Sinal Peninsula. He expressed his gratitude to the Canadian plane manufacturer who returned Israel’s purchase price when export licenses were cancelled, permitting the Jewish State to use the funds to purchase planes elsewhere.


A Herut suggestion that an attempt be made to block the Suez Canal and otherwise interfere with the Egyptian economy in its dependence on the Nile, the Premier dismissed as “tantamount to suicide.” To Peretz Bernstein, General Zionist leader, he said that the government could not have explained beforehand its intentions concerning Sinal. To have breached secrecy, he asserted, would have endangered the campaign and laid Tel Aviv and Haifa open to bombardment.

To the world at large, the Premier reiterated that peace in the Middle East is possible only on the bailable only on the basis of negotiating with Israel as it is; anyone who counsels truncating Israel he stated, advocates continuation of the Middle East tension. For the benefit of friend and foe alike, Mr. Ben Gurion called Israel’s current foreign policy the right one and not ineffective–our international position today is much better than it was two years ago.”

The most stringent security measures were in effect while he spoke. The visitors gallery was half empty. Newspapermen and guests were checked several times and their every move was under surveillance of secret service men and uniformed ushers.

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