Abba Eban's Historic Address
_Major Excerpts From Statement to the UN
In recent weeks the Middle East has passed through
a crisis whose shadows darken the world. This crisis
has many consequences but only one cause: Israel's right
to peace, to security, to sovereignty, to economic develop-
ment, to maritime freedom — indeed its very right to
exist — has been forcibly denied and aggressively at-
This is the true origin of the tension which torments
the Middle East. All the other elements of the conflict
are the consequences of this single cause. There has been
danger, there is still peril in the Middle East because
Israel's existence. sovereignty and vital interests have
been and are vitally assailed.
Today's intemperate utterance illustrates the lack of
equilibrium and objectivity which has contributed so
much to the tension and agony of Middle Eastern life.
I come to this rostrum to speak for a united people
which, having faced danger to the national survival, is
unshakably resolved to resist any course which would
renew the perils from which it emerged.
The General Assembly is chiefly preoccupied by the
situation against which Israel defended itself on the
morning of June 5. I shall invite every peace-loving state
represented here to ask itself how it would have acted on
that day if it faced similar dangers.
But if our discussion is to have any weight or depth,
we must understand that great events are not born in a
encouraged them. She gave them every moral and prac-
tical support. But the picture of Israeli troop concentra-
tions in strength for an invasion of Syria in mid-May
was a monstrous fiction. Twice Syria refused to cooperate
with suggestions made by the United Nations authorities
and accepted by Israel for a simultaneous and reciprocal
inspection of the Israeli-Syrian frontier.
On one occasion the Soviet Ambassador complained
to my Prime Minister of heavy troop concentrations in
the north of Israel. But when invited to join the Prime
Minister that very moment in a visit to any part of Israel
which he liked, the distinguished envoy brusquely refused.
The prospect of finding out the truth at first hand
seemed to fill him with a profound disquiet.
There is only one thing to be said about Prime
Minister Kosygin's assertion this morning that there were
heavy concentrations of Israeli troops in the Syrian
frontier in mid-May. The only thing to say about the
assertion is that it is completely untrue.
There is only one thing to be said about these dis-
criptions of villages being burned and inhabitants being
shot. These are false, inflammatory words of propaganda
designed to inflame passions in an area already too hot
By the ninth of May the Secretary General of the
United Nations, from his own sources on the ground, had
ascertained that no such Israeli troop concentrations had
single instant of time. It is beyond all honest doubt that
between' May 14 and June 5, Arab governments, led and
directed by President Nasser, methodically prepared and
mounted an aggressive assault designed to bring about
Israel's immediate and total destruction.
them into effect. But the inevitable result of this cam-
paign of menace was the burden of a heavy race in arms.
We strove to maintain an adequate deterrent strength;
and the decade beginning in March, 1957, was not monop-
olized by security considerations alone.
But Israel's danger was great. The military build-up
in Egypt proceeded at an intensive rate. It was designed
to enable Egypt to press its war plans against Israel
while maintaining its violent adventures elsewhere. In
the face of these developments Israel was forced to de-
vote an increasing part of its resources to self-defense.
With the declaration by Syria in 1965 of the doctrine
of a - day-by-day military confrontation. - the situation in
the Middle East grew darker.
The Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestine
Liberation Army, the United Arab Command, the inten-
sified expansion of military forces and equipment in
Egypt, Syria, Lebonan, Jordan and more remote parts
of the Arab continent — these were the signals of a
growing danger to which we sought to alert the mind
and conscience of the world.
June, 1967, was to be the month of decision. The
"final solution" was at hand. .
There was no convincing motive for the aggressive
design which was now unfolded. Egyptian and Soviet
sources have claimed, and we read the claim repeated
today, that a concentrated Israeli invasion of Syria was
expected during the second or third week of May.
No claim could be more frivolous or far-fetched. It
is true that Syria was sending terrorists into Israel to
lay mines on public roads and, on one occasion, to bom-
bard the Israeli settlement at Manara from the Lebanese
border. The accumulation of such actions had sometimes
evoked Israeli responses limited in scope and time. All
that Syria had to do to insure perfect tranquility on her
frontier with Israel was to discourage the terrorist war.
Not only did she not discourage those actions: she
12 FrWay, Jena 13, 1967 THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
doctrine and upon established usage, the principle has
become a reality consecrated by hundreds of sailings
under dozens of flags and the establishment of a whole
complex of commerce and industry and communication.
The blockade is by definition an act of war, imposed
and enforced through armed violence. Never in history
have blockade and peace existed side by side. From May
24 onward, the question who started the war or who
fired the first shot became momentously irrelevant. There
is no difference in civil law between murdering a man by
slow strangulation or killing him by a shot in the head.
From the moment at which the blockade was posed,
active hostilities had commenced and Israel owed Egypt
nothing of her Charter rights.
Nobody who lived those days of Israel between May
5 will ever forget the heavy foreboding that
hung over our country.
There was peril wherever she looked, and she faced
it in deepening solitude. On May 24 and on succeeding
days, the Security Council conducted a desultory debate
which sometimes reached a point of levity. The Soviet
representative asserted that he saw no reason for dis-
cussing the Middle Eastern situation at all.
A crushing siege bore down upon us. Multitudes
throughout the world trembled for Israel's fate.
And so, on the fateful morning of June 5, when
Egyptian forces moved by air and land against Israel's
western coast and southern territory, our country's choice
was plain. The choice was to live or perish, to defend
the national existence or to forfeit it for all time. I will
not narrate what then transpired.
From these dire moments, Israel emerged in five
heroic days from awful peril to successful and glorious
resistance. Alone, unaided, neither seeking nor receiving
help, our nation rose in self-defense.
Mr. President, I have spoken of Israel's defense
against the assaults of neighboring states. This is not
the entire story. Whatever happens in the Middle East
for good or ill, for peace or conflict, is powerfully af-
fected by what the great powers do or omit to do. When
the Soviet Union initiates a discussion here, our gaze is
inexorably drawn to the story of its role in recent Middle
Eastern history. It is a sad and shocking story; it must
be frankly told.
23 and June
My authority for that conviction rests on the state-
ments and action of Arab governments themselves. There
is every reason to believe what they say and to observe
what they do.
From 1948 to this very day there has not been one
statement by any Arab representative of a neighboring
Arab state indicating readiness to respect existing agree-
ments on the permanent renunciation of force, especially
the Charter agreement, to recognize Israel's sovereign
right to existence or to apply to Israel any of the central
provisions of the United Nations Charter.
For some time Israel showed a stoic patience in her
reaction to these words of menace. This was because the
threats were not accompanied by a capacity to carry
Behind the wall of a strong defense, with eyes
‘igilantly fixed on dangerous borders, we embarked on
a constructive era in the national enterprise.
Arab hostility towards Israel became increasingly
,dated, while Israel's position in the international family
became more deeply entrenched. Many in the world
drew confidence from the fact that a very small nation
could, by its exertion and example, rise to respected
le% ids in social progress, scientific research and the
And so our policy was to deter the aggression of our
neighbors so long as it was endurable; to resist it only
when failure to resist would have invited its intensified
renewal; to withstand Arab violence without being ob-
sessed by it; and even to search patiently here and there
for any glimmer of moderation and realism in the Arab
mind. We also pursued the hope of bringing all the great
powers to a harmonious policy in support of the security
and sovereigncy of Middle Eastern states.
We were able to limit our response to this aggression
so long as its own scope appeared to be limited.
will give a special place in their narrative to the blatant
decision to close the Straits of Tiran in Israel's face.
It is not difficult to understand why this outrage had
such a drastic impact.
In 1957 the maritime nations, within the framework
of the United Nations General Assembly, correctly
enunciated the doctrine of free and innocent passage
through the Strait. When that doctrine was 'proclaimed
— and incidentally, not challenged by Egypt at that
time — it was little more than an abstract principle for
the maritime world. For Israel, it was a great but still
unfulfilled prospect; it was not yet a reality.
But during the 10 years in which we and the other
states of the maritime community have relied upon that
existed. This fact had been directly communicated to
the Syrian and Egyptian governments. The excuse had
been shattered, but the allegation still remained.
The steps which I now come to describe could not
possibly have any motive or justification in an Israeli
troop concentration in the north, which both Egypt and
Syria knew did not exist. Indeed the Egyptian build-up
ceased very quickly even to be described by its authors
as the result of any threat to Syria. Let us now see how
the design began to unfold.
On May 14, Egyptian forces began to move into Sinai.
On May 16, the Egyptian command ordered the Uni-
ted Nations Emergency Force to leave the border.
On May 18, Egypt called for the total removal of the
United Nations Emergency Force. The Secretary General
of the United Nations acceeded to this request and moved
to carry it out, without reference to the Security Council
or the General Assembly; without carrying out the pro-
cedures indicated by Secretary General Hammarskjold
in the event of a request for a withdrawal being made;
without heeding the protesting voices of some of the
permanent members of the Security Council and of the
government at whose initiative the force had been es-
tablished; without consulting Israel on the consequent
prejudice of her military security and her vital maritime
freedom; and without seeking such delay as would enable
alternate measures to be concerted for preventing belli-
gerency by sea and a dangerous confrontation of forces
It is often said that United Nations procedures are
painfully slow. This one, in our view, was disastrously
swift. Its effect was to make Sinai safe for belligerency
from north and to south, to create a sudden disruption
of the local security balance and to leave an international
maritime interest exposed to almost certain threat.
I will not say anything of the compulsions that led
to the decision. I have already said that Israel's attitude
to the peace-keeping functions of the United Nations has
been traumatically affected by this experiente. What is
the use of a fire brigade which vanishes from the scene
as soon as the first smoke and flames appear? Is it
surprising that we are firmly resolved never again to
allow a vital Israeli interest and our very security to
rest on such fragile foundation?
Now, those who write this story in years to come
Since 1955 the Soviet Union has supplied the Arab
states with 2,000 tanks, of which more than 1,000 have
gone to Egypt.
The Soviet Union has supplied the Arab states with
700 modern fighter aircraft and bombers; more recently
with ground missiles, and Egypt alone has received from
the USSR 540 field guns, 130 medium guns, 200 120-
mm. mortars, 695 antiaircraft guns, 175 rocket launchers,
650 antitank guns, 7 destroyers; a number of Luna M
and Sopka 2 ground-to-ground missiles, 14 submarines
and 46 torpedo boats of various types including missile-
carrying boats. The Egyptian Army has been trained by
The constant increase and escalation of Soviet arma-
ments in Arab countries has driven Israel to a corres-
ponding though far smaller procurement program. Israel's
arms purchases were precisely geared to the successive
phases of Arab, and especially Egyptian, rearmament.
For Israel's attitude is clear: We should like to see
the arms race slowed down. But if the race is joined,
we are determined not to lose it. A fearful waste of
economic energy in the Middle East is the direct result
of the Soviet role in the constant stimulation of the race
The USSR has exercised her veto right in the
Security Council five times. Each time a just and con-
structive judgment has been frustrated.
Now this use of the veto has had a dual effect. First,
it prevented any resolution to which an Arab state Was
opposed from being adopted by the Council. Secondly,
it has inhibited the Security Council from taking con-
structive action in disputes between an Arab state and
Israel because of the certain knowledge that the veto
would be applied in what was deemed to be the Arab
The consequences of the Soviet veto policy have
been to deny Israel any possibility of just and equitable
treatment in the Security Council; and to nullify the
constructive factor in the affairs of the
Middle e East.
In the light of this history, the General Assembly will
easily understand Israel's reaction to the Soviet initiative
in convening this special session, not for the purpose
of proposing constructive and balanced solutions but for
the condemning of our country and recommending a with-
drawal to the position that existed before June 5.
In respect to the request for a condemnation, I give
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