TELAVIV (Dec. 3)
“There is nothing Israel can do to improve relations with the Soviet Union under present circumstances, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declared here. “Whatever Israel does will only be held against her by Moscow,” he added.
The Prime Minister spoke at the traditional annual dinner with editors and foreign correspondents. The dinner, marking this year the 14th anniversary of the adoption of the partition resolution by the United Nations, was also attended by high Government officials and army officers. In the course of a question-and-answer period that followed the dinner, Mr. Ben-Gurion also stated that:
1. The Syrian coup which separated that country from Egypt and ended President Nasser’s United Arab Republic did not diminish the Arab threat to Israel or bring nearer a settlement of Middle East differences.
2. Israel was not prepared to accept Prime Minister Nehru of India as a mediator in the Arab-Israel dispute because his qualifications as a neutralist were doubted.
3. Israel’s stand against the South African Republic in the United Nations on the Apartheid issue was justified for a variety of reasons.
4. Dag Hammarskjold, the late United Nations Secretary-General was Just and reasonable and there is no Justification for a negative attitude toward him.
5.The best of the eight governments he has headed was the provisional one which he was unable to reconstitute after the elections last August.
He said there were two main factors in the question of Israel-Soviet relations. One was the fact that Israel had only one vote in the United Nations compared with the 11 Middle East Arab countries and that there were 70,000,000 Arab voices in the world as against 2,000,000 Hebrew-speaking people. The second factor was that there are 3,000,000 Jews in Russia whom the Soviet authorities wanted to assimilate forcefully, a goal to which Israel was a barrier.
COMPARES TITO’S FRIENDSHIP TO ISRAEL WITH NEHRU’S ‘NEUTRALISM’
He hailed Nehru as a leader who had succeeded in establishing a true democracy in India but he questioned his qualifications as a “neutralist.” He said that word could not be genuinely applied to Nehru. He compared the Indian leader in that respect with Tito of Yugoslavia, who greeted President Ben-Zvi on his birthday and who maintains relations with Israel. He said Nehru does not maintain such relations, in spite of his de facto recognition of Israel. The Prime Minister added that Nehru claimed neutrality while India maintained membership in the British Commonwealth.
Mr. Ben-Gurion stressed that his visit this month to Burma meant a renewal of personal contact with Premier U Nu and Former Premier No Win. whom he described as ardent friends of Israel. Promising a report on the meeting when he returned, he said he was looking forward to meeting again the two Burmese leaders who had already visited Israel.
In reply to a question about Israel’s relations with Communist China, he said that Israel had recognized the Peiping regime but that Red China did not appear to be eager to reciprocate. He expressed the hope that, considering the good relations between Burma and Red China, his visit to Burma might promote rapprochement between Israel and Red China.
In his reply to a question about South Africa, he said that Israel’s attitude was motivated by three factors. One was its belief in self-determination for all peoples. The second was Diaspora Jewry–meaning-that Israel should not give an example to anti-Semites everywhere that a discriminatory policy toward Jews was by inference acceptable. The third was the ties with the new countries of Africa and Asia. He said there might be some “disappointments” in those continents but that there was not another country which enjoyed such tremendous prestige in the new Afro-Asian countries as did Israel.
He told another questioner there was no justification for a negative attitude toward the late Dag Hammarskjold who, he said, had been just and reasonable. “We had bitter discussions and there were times when I persuaded him and he admitted this,” the Prime Minister disclosed, “There were times when he was not persuaded but this cannot be taken as a negative attitude towards Israel. He was a most able man.”
The best of the eight governments he has headed, he said in reply to a question, was “the one I did not manage to establish, “a government on the same pattern as the caretaker government which included all he considered to be constructive factors in building up Israel.
He also discussed, in reply to a question, a substitute through Israel for the Suez Canal. He called this “the old plan” to utilize the difference in altitude between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea for a canal that could be used also for power production. “I do not think it can be materialized now, but if the Negev is inhabited then navigation on the Red Sea will be as important as in the Mediterranean and we hope to safeguard free navigation in this sea,” he said. “However, I am not sure we will not have to fight over it.”