When the Prime Minister addressed the Conference of Presidents of major American Jewish organizations, there were reports that the Lebanese government was considering abrogating the May 17, 1983, Israel-Lebanon Agreement. Mr. Shamir warned that Israel would protect its interests and ensure the security of the northern border. He also warned that Israel would not tolerate any attempt to establish in Lebanon terrorist bases operations against it. Under Syrian pressure, Lebanon did ultimately renege on the treaty.
Mr. Chairman, Dear friends,
I bid you all a very friendly Shalom and beruchim habaim to Jerusalem and to Eretz-Israel.
I welcome your decision to come here, to listen, to see for yourselves, to discuss with us and to express your views and reactions. To know more is to understand better, and a better understanding will bring us closer together, will further cement our partnership and will enable us all to project better and more effectively Israel's message to the outside world.
You represent the great American Jewish community and through you, I want to extend to them all a message of solidarity and unity of purpose. There is an urgent need to strengthen Jewish identity, to deepen Jewish consciousness and strengthen the bonds between us. Of course, we would like to see more and more of you here, visiting us, sharing our unique experience and making Israel your permanent home.
Much attention is being paid to our external and international relations. But at this particular stage, our foremost priorities lie in the domestic sphere. Since the beginning of its term, this Government has concentrated a major effort in overcoming our economic problems. We are attempting to combat inflation, to increase our exports and redress our balance of payments, while maintaining our defence capacity, preventing unemployment, and stabilizing our standard of living. At the same time, we want to sustain our scientific and technological development and we want to encourage aliyah. Altogether, these objectives are a major challenge to any Government. But we are determined to meet this challenge and we strongly believe that the goals we have set are attainable.
I say this with a high degree of confidence because we have a sound infrastructure, an advanced technology, a basically healthy economy and, above all, we have a highly motivated society that understands the meaning of sacrifice and realizes that it is imperative for all of us to win the economic battle.
The Government is setting the tone by undertaking drastic cuts in the national budget. We have appealed to the people to join in the national effort. We are witnessing the first glimmers of achievement with a rise in exports and a decline in imports. We are on the right track, but we need much patience and tenacity until we bring this vital chapter to its successful conclusion.
Let me turn now to our international situation.
What is happening in Lebanon today is, in many ways, a reflection of the situation throughout the Middle East. Like Lebanon, this area is ridden with ethnic, religious, political and ideological divisions. It is constantly on the verge of violence, which often erupts fiercely and mercilessly. No regime can pretend to be stable because none of them reflects the will and choice of the people and none of them is willing to pass the test of a free choice by the people. Dictatorship, totalitarian Government and repression are chronic ills.
Lebanon was different from its neighbours in one respect. It adopted a system of Government that was close to a democracy, which required a self-imposed balance between the various communities. This isolated attempt at democracy in the Arab world turned out to be a tragic failure. The forces of darkness, intolerance and violence imported into Lebanon by the Syrian Ba'ath totalitarianism, Arab terrorism and Khomeinistic fanaticism engulfed the little state and brought it to its knees.
When we went into Lebanon in June 1982, the country was largely occupied by the Syrian army and P.L.O. terrorists and the Government in Beirut was under the heel of Damascus. The blow we delivered to the terrorist organizations and the Syrian army opened up an opportunity for the restoration of a sovereign independent Government in Beirut. It was an opportunity.
With the help of the U.S., we negotiated an Agreement with the Lebanese Government, which was freely undertaken and overwhelmingly supported by the Lebanese Parliament and people. It was justly considered by the Lebanese as a true expression of their sovereignty, in defiance of Syrian coercion and pressure. The Agreement was designed to enable the withdrawal of our forces under conditions that would ensure the security of our common border, while safeguarding Lebanon's sovereignty. It was intended to pave the way to coexistence and normalization between Israel and Lebanon.
But the Syrian regime set out to destroy the Agreement by using its Lebanese proxies for that purpose. Syria was bent on preventing any Agreement with Israel, even at the price of destroying Lebanon in the process.
A unilateral abrogation of the May 17 Agreement by President Jemayel would be, first and foremost, a blow to Lebanon's own sovereignty, to its people and to their chances of freeing themselves from the Syrian's grip. Israel's signature on that document is a fact of history and international law. We will not renounce our signature nor our readiness to carry out the terms of that Agreement bilaterally.
In any case, we shall now protect our interests and ensure the security of our northern border in the manner which we deem necessary.
I want to address a warning that Israel will not tolerate any attempt at reestablishing in Lebanon a terrorist base of operations against Israel or against Israelis in Southern Lebanon.
My friends, we are at peace with Egypt, but the present state of relations with Egypt falls far short of our expectations and is a cause for much concern on our part. The concrete expression of peace is normalization of relations. But the Egyptian Government has suspended normalization and maintains what its spokesmen are calling a "cold peace" with Israel. The Egyptian media attacks Israel, the Jews, and Judaism constantly. More serious is the recent Egyptian courting of the P.L.O. and the Egyptian attempts at distancing themselves from the Camp David Agreement.
Apparently the Egyptian Government has decided to sacrifice its relations with Israel for the sake of reintegration into the Arab fold. It is a tragic mistake. The so-called Arab consensus will demand of Egypt an ever-increasing price at Israel's expense. We call on the Egyptian Government to go back to the path of peace and to the spirit of Camp David. We are ready to resume contacts with Egypt, to discuss all pending issues, to renew the -peace process and the autonomy talks. We hope that the U.S. Government will exercise its influence on Egypt for the purpose of advancing these objectives. Finally, we must register our growing concern that Egypt's behaviour is casting a dark shadow on the credibility of Arab commitments in the future.
We find no justification for Jordan's unwillingness to enter into negotiations with Israel in accordance with the Camp David Agreements. These Agreements were the first breakthrough which resulted in a reasonable and equitable compromise after much soul-searching and many concessions on our part. They produced a formula that addressed the difficult issues of the future of Judea, Samaria and Gaza in the only manner acceptable to both Israel and the Arab side.
It is inconceivable to us that the Jordanian Government will turn to the P. L. 0. for any purpose whatsoever, least of all for the purpose of negotiations with Israel. The P.L.O. is the opposite of peace and a threat to Jordan's own stability. Negotiations and accommodation between Israel and Jordan are possible and even necessary because we have many overlapping interests that require normalization of relations between us.
There still is some misunderstanding on the subject of our presence in Judea and Samaria. Our right to live in the area that was the heartland of Jewish sovereignty and history for thousands of years cannot seriously be challenged. The very idea that the Government of the Jewish State should, by its own action, prevent Jews from living in Beth-El and Shiloh, in Hebron and Shechem is preposterous.
We will maintain our policy of setting up new villages throughout Eretz-Yisrael. During the six years of the Likud Government, 185 new villages, new centres of population, were established in Eretz-Yisrael, compared with 51 during the preceding 10 years. Of these, 62 were established in Yehuda and Shomron, 64 in the Galilee, 17 in the Jordan River Valley and 29 in the Arava.
Peace, the yearning for peace, and the readiness to make peace is not just a matter of policy for us. It is part of our nature and faith. It is inherent in our system and philosophy as a free and democratic nation. But we will not permit our desire for peace to be used by our adversaries as a means of extracting concessions from us at the expense of our security and future.
Our true strength derives from our freedom, our democracy and our heritage, and not from our military might. Around us, mighty military establishments have risen and fallen because of the human and social weakness on which they were built. A growing realization of Israel's inherent strength has brought about a marked improvement in attitudes to Israel on the part of nations and Governments in the west, and especially in the U.S. The recent closer relationship with America is an expression of this realization and we expect it will lead to a stable, long-term political and military understanding that will contribute to more stability in our region and enhance the prospects of peace. We are encouraged by the renewal of our diplomatic relations with a number of African states and hope that their courageous action will be followed by others.
Meanwhile, we are troubled by the influx of massive quantities of sophisticated military equipment into the hands of notoriously dangerous or unstable regimes such as Syria, Saudi Arabia and others. We consider it especially disturbing that Western Governments have developed a habit of recycling petro-dollars by selling arms to states in our region. It can only fuel the fires of war and contribute to further instability.
Over and above this, the prospect of German arms in countries hostile to Israel, such as Saudi Arabia, is intolerable. We have tried to explain to the Government and leaders of the Federal Republic of Germany that the supply of German military equipment to Arab countries and their possible use against our soldiers in the future would be a very serious matter for all Jews in the world.
With the election of Konstantin Chernenko as the new leader of the Soviet Union, I express the hope that his Government will re-examine Soviet policy in the Middle East and change its attitude, especially towards Israel. The time has surely come for them to show greater understanding of Israel's national aspirations and legitimate striving. They could make a substantial contribution to the stability and peace of this vital region of the world by stopping the supply of vast quantities of the most sophisticated weapons to our enemies.
And it is appropriate that at this meeting of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations I would address a call to Konstantin Chernenko to recognize the right of Jews to repatriation in their homeland, Eretz Israel, and to open the gates for their exit. In the Brezhnew years we brought about 200,000 Jews to Eretz Israel from the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, in the 15 months of Andropov's regime, the flow was drastically reduced and almost stopped. Let us resolve tonight, you the leaders of American Jewish organizations, and we representing the Government of Israel, to revive the struggle on behalf of our brethren in the Soviet Union and to pursue it with the utmost vigour until the Soviet Authorities will again open the gates and let our people go.
My friends, you have been here with us in days of renewed turmoil in the Middle East. There has been an escalation in the Iran-Iraq war. Nearby in Lebanon we are witnessing the torture of a country and a nation. Only yesterday an extraordinary event occurred when a host of Lebanese refugees streamed into the area under our control seeking safety among the Israeli people. And in these shifting sands Israel stands not only as an island of democracy but also as an island of stability. I am sure that you found, despite our own grave problems, that the people of Israel have confidence in the future and faith in the goals for which we strive. It is my firm belief that we shall overcome the present difficulties and that we can look ahead with hope providing we all make the necessary efforts and sacrifices.
Sometimes when we are caught up in the problems of the day and weighted down by burdens and anxieties, we should pause and reflect on the great transformation that has taken place in our own lifetimes. Perhaps our greatest source of faith in the future is the knowledge that we have a wonderful and dedicated young generation that is ready and willing to defend the State and to develop it; that is capable of taking the helm in the constant striving to make Israel strong, secure and successful.
We are after all an ancient people with a rich experience both in our own land and in the dispersion. In the course of our long history, we have experienced Jewish sovereignty over many hundreds of years and its destruction, once and twice. We have behind us an impressive record of achievements, and some blunders as well. This immense wealth of experience provides us with an exceptional guide in our inevitable march toward realizing the age-old Jewish dream of securing the permanent existence of the third Jewish commonwealth. We will continue to build it and strengthen it with confidence, tenacity and wisdom.Israeli Foreign Ministry