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Eshkol Urges Direct Peace Talks, Stresses Importance of Immigration to Israel

June 11, 1968
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Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, addressing the plenary session of the 27th World Zionist Congress here tonight, devoted the major part of his presentation to Israel’s quest for peace and a flat rejection of “palliatives” and “temporary arrangements” reached outside the Middle East which resulted only in war and the present Arab-Israel impasse. But Mr. Eshkol’s most urgent plea was for Jewish immigration from the free world. “We are entering a new era,” he said, “and even today Israel’s economy can absorb any professional who would come.” Because the country is lacking in craftsmen and experts, the Prime Minister said, some branches of the economy have been restricted in their development.

He referred to the plight of Russian Jewry and expressed the hope that they would ultimately be free to come to Israel. But the timing of immigration from Russia is not dependent on the Jewish nation or Israel; immigration from the free world depends on what the Jewish nation does, Mr. Eshkol declared.

The Prime Minister stressed that if there is to be peace in the Middle East, there is no alternative to secure borders agreed upon by both sides. “True peace will come only through direct, face-to-face talks, out of mutual respect and mutual recognition,” he said. He decried the interference of a “big power” which, “to the sad fate of the region and of peace, equips our enemies with the best weapons and war material and does not bring peace nearer.”

Mr. Eshkol said Israel has had enough of international undertakings which have failed to alter the situation. There are specific international resolutions on the free navigation of the Suez Canal, and an international force was stationed in Sinai to ensure free navigation through the Straits of Tiran, he said. There was supposed to be free access to the Holy Places and free access to Mt. Scopus in Old Jerusalem by distinct agreement under the auspices of the United Nations. “Look how they were performed.” Eshkol declared. “Destruction of synagogues, desecration of cemeteries, everywhere indescribable dirt and refuse. That is what we found in the Old City of Jerusalem and our sacred places. That is what happens with arrangements when there is no true peace.”

President Zalman Shazar, of Israel, addressing the Congress’ opening session last night, also stressed the primacy of immigration from the free world. While Israel appreciates fund-raising campaigns and their results, he said, for Jews in the diaspora he has only one world – “come.” The President said that Israel’s aim is peace and the Jewish people must show their ability to win peace just as a year ago they showed how they could win a war. “Israelis.” he said, “do not want to kill or be killed.”

Aryeh Pincus, chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive, praised the work of the Youth Aliyah in his general report of Agency activities. He noted 11 new settlements have been established recently from Biranit, on the Lebanese border, to Gerofit and Hazeiva in the Negev. He described the Jewish Agency’s work abroad, mainly in the field of education. He urged the Zionist movement to make aliyah – immigration – its prime task and major goal.

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