JERUSALEM (May. 17)
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol today made a public proposal to the Arab states which signed armistice agreements with Israel to start direct negotiations “with a view to converting these agreements into peace treaties.” He spoke in the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, which reconvened today for its summer session.
Mr. Eshkol recalled that, among the Arabs, voices have recently been heard rejecting the idea of war and openly calling for a peace settlement and coexistence. Without indulging in premature optimism, he said, Israel is entitled to assume that in the Arab world–and even in its political leadership–there are men who believe in their hearts in the necessity for Arab-Israel coexistence.
“The peace settlement must be based on Israel as she is,” he stressed, “Hitherto, the states which have entered into the armistice agreements have evolved patterns of daily life and development projects within their existing borders. Slight mutual adjustments are conceivable at certain points where the population’s daily life is disturbed. And this must be the rule: Peace is designed to alter the relations between states, not to change the states themselves.”
OFFERS OVERLAND TRANSPORT AND FREE ACCESS TO ISRAEL’S PORTS
The Israel Prime Minister stressed some of the benefits which will be enjoyed by all concerned when peace between Israel and the Arab countries is assured. They included: regular overland transport by road and rail; free transit through airports; communications by radio, telephone and posts; free access to Israel’s ports; facilitating oil trade; encouragement of tourism and free access to the Holy sites; joint research of production and marketing of raw materials as well as desalination of water and exploiting of new sources of energy.
Mr. Eshkol pointed out that a climate of negotiation would make possible joint action to restrain the armaments race, and to bring about disarmament in the region. The great resources which would be liberated would make it much easier to resettle the Arab refugees and absorb them in their natural, national environment, he pointed out. For such action, Israel would be prepared to aid financially to the best of her ability, with the assistance of the Great Powers, he said.
The Prime Minister declared that such a peace program is no figment of the imagination and that “the day will come when the Arab states will recognize that the true division is not between Israel and the Arabs, but between peace lovers and aggressors, and will draw the logical political conclusions.” He emphasized that on the same basis of a “natural national environment” Israel has absorbed Jewish refugees from Arab lands numbering no less than the Arab refugees who left Israel.
(In Washington, the first reactions to the proposal for direct Israeli-Arab peace talks, made by Mr. Eshkol, were favorable. However, it was pointed out that formal comment on this proposal would have to await receipt there of the full text of Mr. Eshkol’s address.)