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Ben Gurion Tells Knesset of Efforts for Contact with Arab Nations

Efforts to reach an understanding with Arab countries which were not directly involved in the Israel-Arab war were not entirely futile, though results are not as yet translatable into concrete terms, Premier David Ben Gurion told the Knesset today.

The Premier spoke in defense of the decision of the Foreign Ministry to send two of its officials, Reuven Shiloah and Maurice Fischer, to the recent Mediterranean Conference in Florence, Italy, where they were forced to withdraw from the guests’ gallery by threats of the Arab participants that they will boycott the conference. A number of Israelis participated in the conference as private individuals, on the basis of which the conference was convened.

Mr. Ben Gurion said that his five decades of experience in dealing with the Arabs had convinced him that under present cold war conditions there was only one avenue toward peace with the Arabs. He said this was the strengthening of Israel to such an extent that the Arabs would find it worthwhile to make peace and cooperate.

Remarking that if the cold war ended, it might be possible for the East and West jointly to induce the Arabs to make peace, the Premier asserted that the Arabs were not a single entity and some Arab countries participated less actively or not at all in anti-Israel stands. He said it was possible that an understanding might be reached with such Arab countries and that therefore Israel should maintain contact with them.

He also justified the Foreign Ministry action at the Mediterranean Conference on the basis of the importance Israel placed on friendship with Italy which had been interested in the success of the conference.

Prof. Meir Plessner of the Hebrew University, who spoke at the Conference, said today that Amitore Fanfani, Italy’s Premier, had threatened to cancel Ms scheduled trip to Israel if the Israelis had maintained their refusal to participate in the Mediterranean Conference. This had been the initial Israeli reaction to the Arab boycott threat. Israel Foreign Ministry circles commented that neither Shiloah or Fischer had received any such threats from Premier Fanfani.

Herut, General Zionist and Religious Bloc speakers criticized in Knesset the sending of Shiloah and Fischer to the Conference in Florence.

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