NEW YORK (Oct. 20)
Israel persists in her demand for direct peace negotiations with the Arab leaders, despite their insistent rejection of such proposals, but the Jewish State also demands immediate freedom of shipping through the Suez Canal “whether there is peace or not,” Israeli Foreign Minister Mrs. Golda Meir declared here today.
She spoke on a coast-to-coast television interview over the National Broadcasting Company’s network, replying to questions posed by the program’s head, Dave Garroway, and by NBC’s United Nations correspondent, Pauline Frederick.
Asked what Israel’s “constructive ideas and proposals” would be, to make Arab-Israeli peace talks “fruitful,” Mrs. Meir replied:
“Well, you see, maybe this is a weakness in the position of Israel–that we are not asking anything from the Arabs. We are not asking any additional territory. We are not asking anything except peace, and we realize that that’s weak. If we were asking something of them and they were asking something of us. there would be more possibility of a compromise, probably. But this is our position and we cannot change it.
“You know that we said to the Arab countries over and over again– I mean from the United Nations or from Parliament–that we are prepared. and we suggest to them that we meet without any preconditions, so that if they have any demands, and if they have any grievances of any kind, let them put them on the table when we are negotiating. We are so convinced that it is in the common interest that we have peace, that we know that, if once we meet and begin peace negotiations, there is no doubt that we will end up with a piece agreement between us.”
Summarizing the Arab reactions to the peace proposals she laid before the UN General Assembly, the Israeli Foreign Minister said: “There have been reactions in two quarters. First, quite a few of the heads of the Arab delegations immediately asked for the right of reply, as though the asking for peace was an attack upon them. And then Mr. Nasser. in a speech in Aleppo the other day, said that never would he meet Mr. Ben-Gurion, and never would he acquiesce to the existence of the state of Israel. But we will keep at it.”
ASSERTS ISRAEL’S EXISTENCE DOES NOT DEPEND UPON NASSER’S ACQUIESCENCE
“You can exist without his acquiescence, I believe,” commented Mr. Garroway. “Yes.” Mrs. Meir replied, “but we are conscious of the fact that it would be much better for us and everybody concerned–as much for the Arab states as for us–if there was peace in our area. But our existence does not depend upon Mr. Nasser’s wanting as to exist or not.”
On the Suez question, Mrs. Meir stated: “As to the shipping through the Suez Canal. that we demand whether there is peace or not, because, according to the decisions of the Security Council, both in 1951 and in 1956, the Canal, being an international waterway, should be free for shipping of all countries irrespective of any political situation whateso ever. So, whether there is peace or not, we stand on our right that we should be allowed not only to send our cargo, which Mr. Nasser does not allow now, but even our boats. The situation has become worse since 1958 because, until then, at least Israel cargo could go through the Suez Canal. Now he doesn’t even allow that- not only Israeli boats but on boats of other flags.”
The Israeli Foreign Minister had this to say about the disarmament problem: “Our proposal was for disarmament–absolute disarmament both of Israel and the Arab states. Send the armies away so that they can do the work in the fields and factories–and, of course, with mutual control. That is what we suggested, and suggest, because we believe that there is no country in the Middle East that really can afford this arms race. At any rate, we do not want it, and we suggested it to the Arab countries. We are prepared; at any moment that they are prepared to disarm–we will disarm.”
Asked by Mr. Garroway whether Israel was prepared for partial disarmament and the banning of outside weapons, Mrs. Meir affirmed: “No, we are prepared to disarm–absolutely. We’re in a world of tension, and we have a little world of tension of our own, and that is the tension between Israel and the Arab countries. At least if we take this tension away from the world, it seems to us that it would be a contribution to world peace in addition to the value that it would mean to all the people in our area.”