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Eban Concerned About Demographic Realities Undermining Israel

September 18, 1987
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Abba Eban, chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee and a former Foreign Minister, warned here Wednesday night that an Iranian victory in the Persian Gulf war would gravely jeopardize both the security of Israel and vital Western interests. He also expressed serious concern over demographic realities which could deprive Israel of its “Jewish character or our democratic principles” unless the problem of the 1.3 million Palestinians in the Israel-administered territories is soon resolved through negotiations.

Eban, a Labor MK, was guest speaker at a gala celebration held by the New York Region of the American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev marking the close of the David Ben-Gurion Centennial Year, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Israel’s first Prime Minister.

More than 500 guests attended the dinner-dance at the Pierre Hotel. The occasion honored Jack Weiler, a prominent New York businessman and philanthropist and Ben-Gurion Centennial Fellow who has been associated with the university since its founding in 1969. The American Associates announced two new programs, the Pioneers of the Negev and the Jack D. Weiler Fellowship Endowment Fund, which will raise funds for graduate student scholarships.


Eban, who is also a former Israel Ambassador to the U.S., said: “The mistaken policy of supporting Iran by the dispatch of arms is one which both the United States and Israel should regret and abandon. The most tragic result of the Gulf war would be a decisive victory for Khomeini’s Iran. A Middle East dominated by a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam would make it difficult of Israel to enjoy any degree of peace or stability and Western interests would be fatally injured. No threat from Iraq would be equal to this danger, and U.S. policy is now in the right direction.”

He said that Israel, since the early years of its founding, “has been a great and noble adventure” and “has succeeded beyond expectation in is capacity for survival against assault, for economic growth, for cultural dynamism, for social consolidation and for unparalleled service to the rescue and pride of Jews everywhere.”


Nevertheless, Eban warned, “We come to the next decade in a mood of crisis and confusion about our structure, identity and values.” He declared that Israel is “exercising a coercive jurisdiction over a foreign population embracing 1.3 million non-citizens who have no definition of their civil rights or their national personality and who neither give nor owe any devotion to our flag, our faith, our tongue, our national vision, our Zionist principles, our Jewish solidarity or our historic experience.

“Within a dozen years there will be 4.5 million Jews and 3.5 million Palestinian Arabs in the enlarged area of the Land of Israel. We shall face the danger of losing our Jewish character or our democratic principles or both. Nothing but a peace settlement with the determination of agreed boundaries and effective security arrangements and commitments can resolve this structural disharmony,” Eban said.

He stressed that “The new structure has to be negotiated. It cannot be unilaterally resolved, nor can there be a total return to the fragile situation out of which subsequent wars have erupted. What Secretary (of State) George Shultz, one of the Jewish people’s most faithful friends in all our history, has diagnosed as ‘the demographic time-bomb’ has come near to explosion…”

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