1 Statement to the Knesset by Prime Minister Begin upon the presentation of his government- 20 June 1977

1 Statement to the  Knesset by Prime Minister Begin upon the presentation of his government- 20 June 1977


 VOLUMES 4-5: 1977-1979
1. Statement to the Knesset by Prime Minister Begin upon the presentation of his government, 20 June 1977.

The main theme of Mr. Begin's address to the Knesset was the historic, eternal and inalienable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. At the same time he renewed the call, issued by all previous five Israeli Prime Ministers to the Arab leaders to negotiate with Israel and to do all to prevent war. He also reiterated Israels desire to renew the friendship with France and the Soviet Union, while praising the importance of the American friendship for Israel. After a long debate, the government, won a vote of confidence, 63 voting in favour (Likud, N.R.P. and Agudat Israel) and 53 against. Following is the part of the address dealing, with foreign policy, and immigration.

Mr. Speaker, Members of the Knesset,

In a democratic decision of which we are proud, the people of Israel on 17 May 1977 resolved upon a change of guard in the administration. A party that had for a long time been the former of leaderships and governments, became the second party in the Knesset, while a political bloc that had served the nation patiently and loyally according to the rules of democracy - in parliamentary opposition became the first party and was called upon to form a new Government.

On Tuesday, 7 June 1977, the President by virtue of his powers, and upon the recommendation of Knesset factions representing a decisive majority of Members of the House - entrusted me with forming the Government. I have come today to present the Government - its composition and distribution of functions therein - to the Knesset and to request therefore the confidence of the House of Representatives.

The electorate has placed its trust in us - but we shall not pride ourselves in victory. We are aware that the principal tests he ahead of us. And since the Government is new and likewise its policy, I request the house and the nation to grant it moral credit, at least for the first year of its tenure. Not in one day will we rectify the situation and advance the state in the social, economic and political spheres. Our resolve is to do so, and we shall make a supreme effort -by hard work - to implement the positive programmes for whose execution we received the people's confidence. But that takes time. I hope that the moral credit will be given us, and that we shall be able - in conditions of national consensus to improve the lot of our people, in all walks of life.

Members of the Knesset,

Upon assuming his high office, the President of the United States, Mr. Carter, quoted from the Prophet Micah, as follows: "It hath been told thee, o man, what is good, and what the Lord cloth require of thee: only to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." These words have served in the past - and always will be - a guiding light to us. But Micah the Morashtite also had a vision of acharit hayamim - a vision wonderfully resembling, with certain differences, that of Isaiah the son of Amoz. To this day, the heart of every person pursuing freedom, peace and justice is stirred when reading those immortal words: "And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

In the light of this vision, we too shall proceed, out of the faith and knowledge that this is one of the most prodigious contributions of Jewish perception to human civilization, and that the day will come when wars between people shall cease and lethal weapons shall be no more, and peace shall reign on earth. And this, too, shall we remember: after the transcendence of the universal vision, Micah the Morashtite asserts: "For let all the peoples walk each one in the name of its God: but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever."

By virtue of this age-long heritage, I wish to declare that the Government of Israel will not ask any nation, be it near or far, mighty or small, to recognize our right to exist. The right to exist? it would not enter the mind of any Briton or Frenchman, Belgian or Dutchman, Hungarian or Bulgarian, Russian or American, to request for his people recognition of its right to exist. Their existence per se is their right to exist. The same holds true for Israel. We were granted our right to exist by the God of our fathers, at the glimmer of the dawn of human civilization, nearly four thousand years ago. For that right, which has been sanctified in Jewish blood from generation to generation, we have paid a price unexampled in the annals of the nations. Certainly, this fact does not diminish or enfeeble our right. On the contrary. Therefore, I re-emphasize that we do not expect anyone to request, on our behalf, that our right to exist in the land of our fathers, be recognized. It is a different recognition which is required between ourselves and our neighbours: recognition of sovereignty and of the mutual need for a life of peace and understanding. It is this mutual recognition that we look forward to: For it we shall make every possible effort.

The Land of Israel, our sole country; we have clung to it throughout the generations, never did we sever the link with it. We prayed to it, longed for it, loved it with all our heart and with all our soul. Not for one day did we forget it, in our wanderings in exile, and its name was upon the lips of our saintly forefathers when they were dragged by annihilating enemies to a wanton death. We were exiled from this soil and we returned unto it, with faith and by right and with sacrifice, with glorious pioneering building and in a fight for self-liberation.

No one gave us our freedom as a present. We conquered it, with the vestige of our national strength, in a generation in which a third of our people was destroyed and no one came to their rescue.

Over seventy years ago, Ze'ev Jabotinsky wrote, of this land: "Indeed, the true core of our national uniqueness is the pure fruit of the Land of Israel. Before we came to the Land of Israel we were not a nation and we had no existence. On the soil of the Land of Israel, from the fragments of diverse tribes, was the Hebrew nation formed. On the soil of the Land of Israel did we grow up. Upon it we became citizens, we fortified the faith of the one God, we inhaled the breath of the land, and in our struggle for independence and rule we were enveloped by its atmosphere, the grain that flourished on its soil sustained us. It was in the Land of Israel that the concepts of our prophets developed, and in the Land of Israel the Song of Songs was first uttered. All that is Hebrew within us has been bestowed upon us by the Land of Israel. Everything else that is within us is not Hebrew. The people of Israel and the Land of Israel are one."

And so it is, as we have asserted in our basic guidelines: the Jewish people has an historic eternal and inalienable right to the Land of Israel, the land of our forefathers.

Members of the Knesset,

We shall endeavour to deepen the friendship between ourselves and the United States of America. This will be the firm foundation of the Government's policy. America and Israel have in common not only profound feelings for and faith in the values of morality and democracy. We believe they are united also by a true and profound partnership of interests. Israel is an integral part of the free world. But the free - the democratic - world has of late greatly shrunk. It may be linked to an island whose shores are swept by stormy waves and tempestuous seas of turbid totalitarianism. A famous 19th century slogan must be altered in our day: "Free men of all countries, unite. We must all stand together to repulse the threat and preserve the freedom of man."

We shall work for renewal of the friendship between Israel and France. There existed more than friendship: there was an alliance between our two countries. I hereby call on the President of France and its Government to resume those relations with Israel - of course, on a basis of reciprocity. France has many friends in Israel and Israel has excellent friends in France. From the two ends of the Mediterranean we shall stretch out a hand to one another and work for the revival of the friendship between the two peoples.

We are interested in normalization of relations between Israel and Soviet Union. Three periods have there been in relations between Zionism and the Land of Israel and the Soviet Union. Starting with the Bolshevik Revolution, for close on thirty years, relations were unbridgeable hostility instigated by Moscow. In the late 'Forties came the great turn. Under the influence of the War of Liberation against British rule, Moscow began to view the aspiration for the Jewish State's renaissance as one of human progress - and we all recall the speeches by Messrs. Gromyko and Tsarapkin, about the urgent need for establishing the Jewish State. And then the 'Fifties, in which there came a turn for the worse, Moscow lending a hand to our enemies and equipping them with lethal weapons - knowing well that one day these would be directed against the remnants of the Jewish people, whose destruction its rulers had seen with their own eyes on the soil of their country and elsewhere.

Upon the outbreak of the Six-Day War, the Soviet Union severed diplomatic relations with Israel. Resumption of these normal relations depends, in the nature of things, on Moscow's initiative. Should such initiative be forthcoming, we shall demand that an end be put to persecution of Judaism and of Zionism, to the incitement against them, that all Prisoners-of-Zion be released and every Jew throughout the Soviet Union so desiring be allowed to immigrate, to return to the Land of Israel - or, in the words of our brethren, the seekers of Zion in the Soviet Union, to the "Jewish people's historic homeland."

Our prime concern is prevention of a new war in the Middle East. I call upon I King Hussein, President Sadat and President Assad to meet with me - whether in our capitals or on neutral soil, in public or away from the spotlights of publicity - in order to discuss the establishment of true peace between their countries and Israel. Much blood, too much, has been shed in the region - Jewish and Arab. Let us put an end to the bloodshedding that is abhorrent to us, and sit down to the negotiating table in sincerity and seriousness. Should this plea encounter refusal, we shall make a note of the Arab intransigence. It will not be new. Five Prime Ministers who preceded me - David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Sharett and Levi Eshkol of Blessed memory, and Mrs. Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin, to whom I wish long life - repeatedly called for holding such meetings. And there was no response or, rather, there was a negative response - from the other side. But we shall not weary of sounding the call - not for propaganda purposes, but for the vital needs of our peoples and our countries.

And now, members of the Knesset, the appeal to ourselves, to our people. I call on all citizens of Israel who have left the country, to return home. In days past, Jew-haters were wont to say that the Jew pursues an opposite rule: "Ubi bene, ibi patria" (Wherever I feel good - there my homeland be). We shall take no account of them. We shall prove to ourselves that with the revival of independence, the Jew pursues an opposite rule: "Ubi patria, ibi bene" (Where my homeland be, there be it good for me) - even though it be difficult for me. The Government will act to ease matters for the returning families. We shall not address these people by derogatory terms. Insults solve no problem. We shall say to them simply: the time has come to return home.

We call on the young generation, in the homeland and in the diaspora, to arise, go forth and settle. Come from east and west, north and south, to build together the Land of Israel. There is room in it for millions of returnees to Zion. We do not wish to evict, nor shall we evict any Arab resident from his land. Jews and Arabs, Druze and Circassians, can live together in this land. And they must live together in peace, mutual respect, equal rights, in freedom and with social-economic progress.

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