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Rioting is Aimed at Destroying Israel, Shamir Tells UJA Crowd

March 16, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israeli Premier Yitzhak Shamir, in a message aimed directly at American Jews, declared Monday night that the rioting on the West Bank and Gaza Strip is not a struggle for Palestinian rights, but a new stage in the Arab war to destroy the State of Israel.

“I know you are disturbed by what you see on television,” Shamir said in a speech to the sixth National Young Leadership Conference of the United Jewish Appeal.

“Make no mistake about it, what you see is not demonstrations…it is not civil disobedience, it is war,” he said. “It’s not a war for Judea, Samaria and Gaza…It is a war against Israel, against the existence of the State of Israel.”

Shamir said that during Israel’s 40 years of existence, the Arabs have tried and failed to defeat Israel through five wars, economic boycotts and terrorism. He said they now have resorted to violence in the streets by teen-agers and “I promise you they will fail again.”

Shamir is in Washington for intensive talks with President Reagan, whom he will meet with Wednesday, and Secretary of State George Shultz on the latest American proposals for a Middle East peace settlement. He called both leaders “great friends of Israel” who have “demonstrated this friendship in words and deeds.”

“We are coming with an open mind to listen to what our American friends have to say,” Shamir said. But he indicated that he still does not accept the basic Shultz formula of “territory for peace” and instead will try to convince the Reagan administration of his own proposals.

“We are told that the only thing needed to achieve a true and lasting peace is for us to proclaim our willingness to give up territories in Judea, Samaria and Gaza,” Shamir said.

“I am astounded by some people’s short memories. Did we have peace when we did not have these territories?” he asked. “We are always open to new constructive ideas. We have made many sacrifices for peace and we shall always remain committed to peace with security.”


But Shamir stressed that Israel cannot be pressed to act against its interests. “To us these matters are questions of life and death, of our very existence,” he said. “We believe that only those who must bear the consequences of agreements on their flesh, those who must shed their blood to defend our country, can decide what risks to t{SPAN}###{/SPAN} in the pursuit of peace.”

At the same time, Shamir expressed his belief that the Arabs will eventually realize that “violence will not defeat us and they will make peace with us. I hope that our visit here will bring the day of peace closer.”

If Shamir’s tough stance is unpopular with American Jewry, it was not evident at the UJA dinner. His entrance into the ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel was greeted with loud and sustained applause and cheers from the 3,000 delegates to the conference. He received lengthy applause again when he was introduced and throughout his speech.

Earlier in the day, UJA President Stanley Horowitz called for increased support and understanding for Israel during these “difficult and troubled times.”

Horowitz said UJA is determined to rally American Jews behind Israel, not only “during a Six-Day War or an heroic Entebbe action, but also during tough times like now.” He stressed that “now is the time to recognize Israel’s yearning for peace.”

The situation in the territories has not hurt UJA’s fund raising, according to Horowitz. “Our 1988 campaign, over half completed, is $40 million ahead of 1987,” he said. “Our Super Sunday campaign, which took place in many communities throughout the country right in the midst of the Palestinian uprisings, is already up 22 percent from last year’s total.”

The dinner Monday night was also UJA’s major celebration of Israel’s 40th anniversary. Shamir and the audience viewed a short musical play, called “An Israel Tapestry,” which described the history of Israel from the early settlers to the present.

Shamir called for a renewed commitment to aliyah as part of the 40th anniversary celebration. “It is the main purpose of the state,” he noted.

But he also urged “Jews from all over the world, especially those who have never been in Israel, to join us in the festivities” by visiting the Jewish state during the anniversary celebration.

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