Author: Golda Meir
Location: New York
Occasion: Statement before the General Assembly of The UN
Meir outlined the problems existing at that time in the world, and particularly in the regions of the Sinai Desert, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gaza Strip. The UN decided that Gaza strip should belong to one of the Arabian states. Nonetheless, the Arabs opposed this decision. The Arab-Israeli war broke out in 1948 as the echo of this conflict. Gaza strip was under control of Egypt in 1949-1967. By delivering her speech, Meir aimed the cooperation between European countries targeting the fair balance of power between the Arab and Israeli nations.
Text of the Speech
I rise to make a statement on the problems of the Sinai Desert, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gaza Strip.
On 3 December 1956 Israeli forces withdrew from the Suez Canal area along the length of the Canal to a distance of some 50 kilometres. This action enabled the United Nations Emergency Force to take up its position for the first time along the Suez Canal, and to create conditions in which the work of clearance might begin. The Secretary-General in his discussions with Israel representatives had indicated that the clearing of the Suez Canal was the most urgent and immediate problem, after which one could deal with the general problem of withdrawal in the Sinai Desert and finally with the particular problem of the Sharm el-Sheikh area.
Subsequent phases of withdrawal carried out during December and January followed this scheme of priorities.
On 8 January 1957 Israeli forces withdrew to a more easterly line, leaving no Israeli forces west of El Arish. As a result of this action, the major part of the Sinai Desert was evacuated. Thus the undertaking of the Israel Government transmitted by the Secretary-General to the General Assembly on 24 December had been precisely fulfilled.
On 8 January, as soon as the previous phase of withdrawal had been completed, the Israel Government informed the Secretary-General of its decision to withdraw another 25 to 30 kilometers throughout the Sinai Desert except in the area of Sharm el-Sheikh. This action enabled the entry of United Nations Emergency Forces into El Arish and the St. Catherine’s Monastery.
On 14 January, one day before the previous phase of withdrawal was due for completion, the Israel Government communicated its decision to have the Sinai Desert entirely evacuated by Israel forces on 22 January with the exception of the Sharm el-Sheikh area; that is the strip on the west coast of the Gulf of Aqaba which at present ensures freedom of navigation through the Straits of Tiran and in the Gulf of Aqaba. At the same time my Government informed the Secretary-General of its willingness to enter forthwith into conversations with him in connection with the evacuation of this strip. At the meeting of 14 January the Israel representative also indicated the desire of my Government to begin discussions at an early date on the arrangements envisaged for the Gaza area.
From this narrative the General Assembly will observe that the withdrawals in the Sinai Desert have followed an orderly system of phasing, in coordination with the eastward movement of United Nations Emergency Forces following closely behind. By 22 January Israel will have evacuated approximately 30,000 sq. miles of territory which it had held at the end of November, when the United Nations Emergency Force first became capable of following up the Israeli withdrawals in force as envisaged in the General Assembly’s resolution of 7 November.
It is evident, therefore, that my Government cannot accept–nor can any objective mind sustain–any criticism of Israel’s action in carrying out its undertaking of 8 November “to withdraw its forces from Egyptian territory as soon as satisfactory arrangements can be made with the United Nations in connection with the United Nations Emergency Force.”
On the basis of the discussions which its representatives have had during this phased withdrawal, my Government understands that there will not be any joint occupation in the area between Egyptian forces and UNEF forces; we believe that it should be the policy of the United Nations to maintain separation between Egyptian and Israeli forces.
Before I discuss the complex problems which now confront us I wish to comment on the circumstances which have attended these efforts by Israel to fulfil the objectives of the General Assembly. The position can be briefly stated. Throughout these weeks during which Israel has co-operated actively with the United Nations on the withdrawal of troops, there has not been one single act of compliance by Egypt with the recommendations or policies of the international organisation, to which she has looked for protection against the consequences of her own belligerency.
While the General Assembly’s resolution of 2 November established special priority for an immediate cease-fire, it also contained other recommendations, not one of which the Egyptian Government has shown any intention to fulfil.
The 2 November resolution urged that “upon the cease-fire being effective, steps be taken to reopen the Suez Canal and restore secure freedom of navigation.” This objective, so vital for the security and economic welfare of many countries, has been subjected by Egypt to every kind of obstruction and delay; conditions and provisos have been attached to every phase of its implementation. No action has been spared which might slow the process down; steps essential for the clearance of the Canal have been made conditional on the policies and preferences of the territorial power. Negotiations aiming at establishing international law in the operation of the Suez Canal have been delayed, at Egypt’s behest. Above all, the Egyptian Government has given no indication that when the Canal is open it will not again be exposed to the illegality and discrimination which Egypt has maintained for the past six years, in defiance of a decision by the Security Council.
A similar fate has befallen the injunction of the General Assembly in its 2 November resolution “to desist from raids across the armistice lines in the neighbouring territory.” Fedayeen gangs, operating in neighbouring countries under Egyptian direction, continue to spread death and havoc throughout our countryside. Since 3 December when the Cairo radio announced the intention of the Nasser regime to conduct raids into Israel throughout the winter, some 30 assaults have been committed. The official media of information in Egypt have reported these attacks in boastful communiques. It is evident that in this respect, too, Egypt claims the fulfilment of Assembly resolutions by others, without any parallel acts of compliance on her part.
Moreover, during a period in which the United Nations has used its full influence on Egypt’s behalf for the withdrawal of troops, Egyptian policy has been masked by a grave violation of Charter principles and of fundamental human rights. Foreign nationals have been expropriated and deported. The Jewish community has been subjected to a persecution recalling some of the excesses of totalitarianism before and during the Second World War. 7,000 Egyptian Jews have been driven out by this organised cruelty, and all the conditions for a panic-stricken exodus have been wilfully created by the Nasser regime. Thousands of victims have reached Israel’s welcoming shores. Some member Governments, in their direct relationships with Egypt, have been moved to express mounting indignation and concern.
World opinion has been quick to perceive the disparity between the assistance which Egypt has received of the United Nations, and the complete absence of any Egyptian response to the legitimate interests of other States and of the organised international community. The question whether Israel is not withdrawing into a position of exposure to renewed Egyptian belligerency, by land and sea, arises in our mind with increasing anxiety and concern.
The acuteness of this question will be easily perceived if we recall that twelve weeks have elapsed since my Government addressed four questions to the Egyptian Government which have still not been answered:
1. Does Egypt still adhere to the position declared and maintained by her over years that she is in a state of war with Israel?
2. Is Egypt prepared to enter into immediate negotiations with Israel with a view to the establishment of peace between the two countries as indicated in paragraph 3 of the aide-memoire of the Government of Israel of 4 November 1956 to the Secretary-General of the United Nations?
3. Does Egypt agree to cease economic boycott against Israel and lift the blockade of Israel shipping in the Suez Canal?
4. Does Egypt undertake to recall Fedayeen gangs under her control in other Arab countries?
In our talks with the Secretary-General on withdrawal it was mutually understood at all times that the Sharm el Sheikh and Gaza areas were reserved for discussions at a later stage in the withdrawal process. Thus, if the reservation of these problems to this later stage were now made a source of criticism or blame, a serious injustice would be incurred, to the grave prejudice of future discussions. These problems are of special complexity; they touch the question of Israel’s security at its most sensitive point. They cannot be treated lightly, without danger to international peace and security. In each case, a change in the existing situation without simultaneous measures to prevent the renewal of belligerency would lead to a possibility, nay, even a certainty, of tension and hostility.
I now come to explain why these problems have this special character, and why we must all work with care and precision at the stage which we have now reached in our deliberations.
The Straits of Tiran
The strip of territory in the Sharm el Sheikh area commands the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba through the Straits of Tiran. The only channel leading from the Red Sea to the Gulf passes between the Island of Tiran and the southeast extremity of the Sinai coast.
This channel is three miles in width, but its navigable part is only some 500 metres broad. Thus any ship passing to or from the Gulf of Aqaba must come very close to the Sinai coast.
At a point in the Sharm el Sheikh area known as Ras Nasrani, Egypt set up gun emplacements six years ago for the sole purpose of preventing ships from sailing freely in the Gulf of Aqaba to and from the port of Elath. Two of these were 6-inch guns and four 3-inch guns. They were trained on the only lane usable by ships as they sail through the Straits. These guns have blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba for the past six years.
Sharm el Sheikh, Ras Nasrani and the neighbouring islands are uninhabited, waterless and desolate. The only purpose of any human presence in those places until 3 November was to prevent free access to an international waterway. The purpose of our presence since then has been to ensure free access. It is astonishing to observe the elaborate installations; the ammunition depots; the airstrip; the spacious accommodations which the Egyptians had established, with the sole aim of obstructing the free passage of commerce between two parts of the high seas.
These installations were established towards the end of 1949. In reply to a query addressed to it by the American Embassy in Cairo, the Egyptian Government, on 28 January 1950, gave assurances that it had no intention of interfering with peaceful shipping, and that passage through the Straits would “as in the past remain free in conformity with international practice and with recognised principles of international law.” This Egyptian document has been recorded in full in the verbatim records of the Security Council
In spite of this assurance, and of the fact that the Gulf of Aqaba is a recognised waterway, Egypt has used its gun emplacements to blockade the passage of ships bound for Elath through the Straits of Tiran. The blockade in the Suez Canal, which was condemned by the Security Council in 1951, has been carried out by Egypt with equal stringency–and illegality–in the Gulf of Aqaba.
The blockade works primarily through its deterrent effect, but many acts of force have been committed against ships exercising innocent passage in this international waterway. Fire has been opened on British, American and Italian ships; interference and obstruction have been offered to vessels of Norwegian, Danish and other flags. These acts of piracy had almost eliminated commerce and navigation in the Gulf of Aqaba; slowed down the development of the Port of Elath; inflicted illicit injury on Israel’s economy and trade, and denied other countries an alternative route to the Suez Canal, as a link between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.
On 3 November, when Israel forces entered the Sharm el Sheikh area to assure Israel’s self-defence against wanton belligerency, these guns were silenced. To-day, for the first time, ships of all nations are free to move north and south through the Straits of Tiran to and from Elath. An alternative link to Suez joining the Red Sea and Mediterranean is now open to all shipping without distinction of flag.
In his Note to the General Assembly the Secretary-General refers to “the international significance of the Gulf of Aqaba” which justifies “the right of innocent passage through the Straits of Tiran and the Gulf in accordance with rules of international law.” In 1949 the International Court of Justice ruled that when straits are geographically part of a highway used for international navigation, the vessels of all nations enjoy the right of free passage therein, whether or not the straits are entirely or partly within the territorial waters of one or more states. In the words of the Court, they belong to the class of international highways through which passage cannot be prohibited by a coastal state.
The international character of the Gulf of Aqaba and the Straits of Tiran is fully confirmed by the jurisprudence of the United Nations. In 1951, the Security Council denounced the Egyptian blockade against Israel, as inconsistent with Egypt’s international obligations. In particular, the Security Council denied Egypt the right to exercise visit, search or seizure or to apply restrictions against shipping on the grounds of “belligerent rights”. Egypt was called upon to cease all such practices. While the Council’s decision was prompted by the Egyptian illegalities in the Suez Canal, its judgments against visit, search or seizure are couched in broader terms, so as to be of general application.
In March 1954 the Security Council discussed an Israeli complaint against Egyptian restrictions both in the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aqaba. The majority voted for a resolution condemning these restrictions, wherever applied, and calling for their immediate cessation. This resolution was presented by New Zealand and supported by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Brazil, Colombia, Turkey and Denmark. Interpreting the majority view, the New Zealand representative said:
“The final paragraph of the draft resolution refers only to the complaint of interference with ships in the Gulf of Aqaba. The arguments advanced by the representatives of Egypt in justification of that interference cannot be sustained and in fact have already been rejected by the Council.”
Thus the illegal character of Egypt’s restrictions is established by recognised principles of international law, by the jurisprudence of the Security Council and of the International Court of Justice; by the consensus of the Maritime Powers; and even by Egypt’s own admission in its assurance to the United States on 28 January 1950.
Israel is the only country in the world, except Egypt, with a coastline both on the Mediterranean and on the Red Sea. The fact that its territory unites the Eastern and Western oceans across a land bridge of less than 150 miles constitutes Israel’s most important geographical advantage; to have had this facility denied by illegal action for many years is an outrage which should no longer be suffered. Indeed, having in recent weeks experienced the use of this open international waterway, Israel can surely not be asked to acquiesce in its ever being closed again. The development of the southern part of our country; the expansion of our port facilities at Elath; our right of free commerce with friendly nations in Africa and Asia; the vision of our country as a bridge between the traffic and ideas of the Eastern and Western worlds; the liberation of countries in Europe and Asia from exclusive dependence on a single Canal at Suez, exploited by Egypt to hold other states up to injury and extortion; the consequent denial to Egypt of a position of monopoly and domination, unhealthy both for itself and for the maritime nations–all these great issues are bound up in the problem of ensuring free passage through the Gulf of Aqaba and the Straits of Tiran. The more this problem is contemplated the bigger it becomes. It is an issue of broad international scope.
Israel is not alone in having a vital interest in the permanent maintenance of free navigation in the Gulf of Aqaba. Countries whose economy depends upon the flow of trade between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean have already suffered loss through the Egyptian blockade in this international waterway. The Gulf, freed from the illegal Egyptian blockade, can become a pivotal point of international commerce. The port facilities at Elath are being constantly improved. Communications of all kinds across the relatively short land-link between the two seas are under active improvement; and other projects are in a planning stage. If this position is not impaired, then no single state, and therefore no state at all, will have a stranglehold on the jugular vein of other nations.
The relevance of this consideration is already shown by an item appearing in this morning’s New York Times.
The avoidance of any renewed blockade in the Gulf of Aqaba and the Straits of Tiran is an objective which the Government of Israel is resolved to pursue with the utmost tenacity. We have no national interests superior to this. We cannot take the responsibility of allowing this interest to be endangered, and of seeing Egyptian guns ever again set up to obstruct the commerce of nations in this international waterway.
Nor, I believe, will the United Nations wish to assume that responsibility. It is unthinkable that our Organisation should, for whatever motive, be instrumental in restoring an illicit blockade. What would history say of the United Nations which for the past five years has not been able to keep the Suez Canal open without discrimination, if it should now be instrumental in obstructing the alternative route between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean? Is it not sufficient that Egypt’s policies have denied the world the use of the Suez Canal? Must the blockade also be brought back to the only alternative route? For nine years Egypt has refused to maintain a legal situation in the Suez Canal. Is it conceivable that similar discrimination should be brought back to the Gulf of Aqaba and the Straits of Tiran?
But this result, shocking as it seems, would certainly occur if the United Nations were to press for Israel’s withdrawal, without, at the same time, establishing effective arrangements for ensuring permanent freedom of navigation through the Straits and the Gulf.
Unless special measures are now instituted, Israel’s withdrawal, after an uncertain interlude of United Nations Emergency Force occupation, would be succeeded by the establishment of Egyptian guns. The open waterway would again become a closed lake. Ships would be detained and assaulted. Since Israel can never again allow her legitimate commerce to be intercepted in the Gulf, Egyptian belligerency would have dire effects. That this prospect is very real is proved by an Egyptian broadcast a few days ago:
“The Arabs will pursue every Israeli ship which tries to pass into the Gulf of Aqaba until they destroy her.”
In August 1951, in discussing Egypt’s maritime blockade, the representative of Brazil uttered a grave warning. He said:
“Should we accept the Egyptian thesis, we would be bound to recognize any measures of reprisal adopted by the Israel Government. It is obvious that in the exchange of hostile acts that would follow we could hardly expect to lay the foundations of a definite solution to the Palestine question.”
Thus, the establishment of effective guarantees for permanent freedom of navigation in the Gulf and the Straits is essential not only for the defence of international and Israeli interests, but also for the preservation of peace. If conflict were to break out, who can be sure to what it might lead?
Because the problem of the Sharm el Sheikh area raises such grave issues it has been reserved for discussion to this late stage. It was no doubt for this reason that in conversations between the Israeli delegate and the Secretary-General it was mutually understood that the very complication of the problems, and the international interest involved, implied a need for negotiation in order to safeguard that international interest and that therefore this belonged to a later state of the general withdrawal.
Surely no delegate who studies this problem can doubt its gravity. Our sole aim and interest in the Sharm el Sheikh area is to ensure that we take no action now which would leave even the smallest chance of such a tragic result as the restoration of the blockade and the consequent renewal of regional conflict and of international tension.
On the other hand, a solution is not impossible. My delegation has variant proposals in mind which it will be prepared to explore in the continuing course of its discussions on the problems of withdrawal. Ways can be sought of simultaneously reconciling two objectives–the withdrawal of Israeli forces, and the effective guaranteeing of permanent freedom of navigation in this international waterway.
The mere entry into this area of United Nations Emergency Force, even with the specific aim of preventing belligerency, would not in itself be a solution. For, there is yet no clarity about the functions of the United Nations Emergency Force or about the duration of its tenure. Any temporary measure for preventing belligerency and securing free navigation would not be effective unless it were ensured in advance that it would operate until a peace settlement were achieved, or until some other effective measure were established by international guarantees for ensuring permanent freedom of navigation. Such guarantees could, perhaps, be furnished either by the principal Maritime Powers; or by an agreement between the four coastal states; or by some combination of the two forms of guarantee. But, if the United Nations Emergency Force were to be regarded as a key to the solution of this problem, greater clarity and precision would be needed in defining its functions and the conditions and duration of its tenure.
The Gaza Strip
In his Note to the General Assembly the Secretary-General states that “further discussions with the representatives of Israel are required” on the question of the Gaza strip. On 14 January, Israel representatives stated that they were ready for such discussions at an early date. At this stage I wish only to describe the general background of our thinking on the Gaza question.
When the State of Israel was established in 1948, the Egyptian army crossed the Sinai Desert into the Negev, in defiance of the cease-fire resolution of the Security Council, in an attempt to destroy Israel’s new-born independence by force of arms. The attack was held by the Israel settlements in the Negev. The Egyptians were driven back across the international frontier into Sinai. They succeeded, however, in clinging to a narrow rectangular strip 6 miles wide extending north from the Egyptian frontier for 26 miles along the Mediterranean coast to a point within 35 miles of Tel Aviv.
The Gaza strip was an integral part of the mandated territory of Palestine, and is geographically and economically part of the Negev.
For the eight years of its occupation by Egypt, this strip served as a base to spread terror and wreak havoc against Israel.
The bulk of the area is rural, with urban centres at Gaza, with a population of 45,000; Khan Unis with a population of 14,000 and Rafa with a population of 5,000. The resident population of the entire strip is estimated at 80,000. Only about a third of the population manages to support itself on citric-culture, date growing and some small industry.
Within the Gaza strip there live some 200,000 refugees who are fed, clad and generally provided for by United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and other international relief agencies. Throughout the Egyptian occupation of Gaza, Egypt did not annex the Gaza strip, but treated it as occupied territory provisionally administered by the Egyptian military authorities. In a ruling given by the Cairo Court of Administrative Jurisdiction in September 1955, it was stated that the Gaza strip was outside Egyptian territory and that the Egyptian authorities were exercising “a kind of control over part of the territory of Palestine.”
Throughout their occupation of the strip, which ended in November 1956, Egypt acted in Gaza as a foreign conqueror. There was no democratic local representation in Government councils. No action was taken to improve the impoverished condition of the area. Restrictions were placed on the passage of persons and goods from the Gaza strip to Egypt.
As a result of these conditions, many Gaza inhabitants fled to Jordan and to other Arab countries.
The only purpose which the Gaza strip served during the Egyptian occupation was that of providing a convenient base for aggression against Israel. Extending deep into the heart of Israeli territory, the Gaza area was excellently situated as a springboard for this purpose. Over the years, attacks were launched week by week and month by month against the land and people of Israel, and against Israel property and vital installations. Egypt established a closely knit chain of gun positions along the entire demarcation line, subjecting Israel villages to intermittent fire, making life unbearable across large areas of the Northern Negev and the southern coastal plain. Israeli casualties in killed and wounded as a result of Egyptian attacks, nearly all of which emanated from the strip, totalled no less than 573. This was in addition to innumerable cases of sabotage, mine-laying, robbery and theft.
In the summer of 1955 the Nasser regime launched a new form of aggression against Israel from the Gaza strip. Amongst the destitute elements of the local population and refugee camps, the Egyptian High Command organised fedayeen units as military formations of the Egyptian army. In the past eighteen months, these units carried out an intensified campaign of attack upon Israel. They ambushed road traffic, killed men, women and children, blew up wells and water installations, mined roads at night, demolished houses in which farmers and their families were peacefully asleep. These outrages culminated in major outbreaks during August and September 1955, April 1956 and October 1956.
In the ominous build-up of Egyptian forces, with offensive weapons obtained during the first half of 1956, the Gaza strip had an essential role both as a centre for fedayeen groups, and as the forward base of an Egyptian Army division which was stationed there within and hour’s drive from Tel Aviv.
Since the expulsion of Egyptian forces from Gaza fedayeen have ceased to infest the countryside. When the tensions and hostilities had died down in early November, the refugee camps became calm. Israel farmers and their families in the Negev had at last attained physical security. Since 3 November no house, no school, no baby home in their villages has been shelled from across the border.
The report submitted by the representative of the Secretary-General, Colonel Nelson, who visited the Gaza strip at the end of November lies before the General Assembly as Document A/3491. According to this report “the Israel authorities have methodically established a program to stabilise life in Gaza.” “They have established law and order.” “The execution of civic responsibilities is being worked out progressively with the local officials.” “The Israel Administration allows the United Nations Relief and Works Agency complete freedom throughout the area.” “A plan to make available basic foodstuffs at subsidised prices from Israel Government stocks to the local non-refugee population is being worked out.” “Measures were being introduced to facilitate the marketing of agricultural produce, citrus and dates for export from the Gaza area. In speaking to several farmers there was evidence that arrangements were being made through the Israeli Citrus Board to actually export the agricultural produce.”
Colonel Nelson reports on the opening of banks and credit facilities. He certifies that “there was relatively small physical damage caused in the area due to the events of the 2nd and 3rd of November.” “On 25 November the Israel civilian police reporting to Israel Central Police Headquarters was established in the area, and is being coordinated with the local police. Throughout the area one could see both Israeli civil police and the local police patrolling.” On the other hand “there were few troops evident in the area as compared to the concentration of Egyptian troop units prior to 2 November.”
Colonel Nelson goes on to report that “water installations are functioning throughout the area;” that “power stations in the area are back to normal;” that telephone communication is being restored progressively;” that “requisitioned cars and trucks are being progressively returned to their owners;” that “hospitals are in full operation;” that “Israel Health Ministry representatives have been in the area to coordinate and assist.”
Religious institutions in the area are pursuing their activities without interruption. In a letter addressed on 18 November to the Israel Ministry of Religious Affairs, Monseigneur Antonio Vergani, Vicar General in Israel of the Latin Patriarchate, stated “I have found that everything has gone for the best and that as soon as the occupation of the town by Israel forces had started an officer came immediately to the Latin Church where some 1,500 persons sought refuge, and having ascertained that no harm occurred, posted another officer and guard.”
Similar tributes to a growing stability and peace in the Gaza area have been recorded by the Senior Vicar of the Armenian Patriarchate and by the representatives of the International Red Cross Committee.
The future status of the Gaza strip remains to be determined. It must be recalled that Gaza is separated from Egypt by scores of miles of desert. The Egyptian military regime during the past eight years was provisional in character, and of undefined legal status; and it resulted in the decay of the area and in the impoverishment of its population. No contribution whatever had been made by Egypt to the solution of any part of the refugee problem, despite the fact that this problem had been created through the invasion of Israel by Egypt and other Arab states in 1948. It is inconceivable to my Government that the nightmare of the previous eight years should be re-established in Gaza with international sanction. Shall Egypt be allowed once more to organise murder and sabotage in this strip? Shall Egypt be allowed to condemn the local population to permanent impoverishment and to block any solution of the refugee problem?
My Government believes that a solution of Gaza’s problems, and especially of the problem of Arab refugees can be found. On the other hand, it must be admitted that any international force would be powerless to prevent the return of elements which would incite and intimidate the local population and the refugees, and the recrudescence of fedayeen activities. Nor is it possible to maintain an area such as the Gaza strip almost entirely devoid of economic resources in a state of economic isolation from any adjoining territory.
It will be seen that the issues which arise are complex, and offer no easy solution. There are difficult political and security problems in which 80,000 residents and some 200,000 refugees are involved. It is clear that some time is needed to work out a permanent solution of all these problems. They cannot be solved overnight. The Government of Israel is prepared immediately to enter into discussions in a quest for a solution. But we must not ignore the report of the representative of the Secretary-General who writes that “the removal of any effective authority from the area would cause an eruption either by the refugees or the local inhabitants in the form of looting or destruction of property.” It is not difficult to envisage what suffering and dislocation would come upon this sorely tried region, if there were to be an uprooting of all those elements of social, economic and municipal stability which have now been established. Opportunities must be nourished for bringing about radical improvement in the economic and social condition of the inhabitants and for working out a solution of the refugee problem. We believe that all this can be guaranteed by the continuance of the present administrative processes, working in cooperation with representatives of the local population and of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and in suitable contact and relationship with the United Nations. While we are not yet ready with final proposals, we hope shortly to present detailed plans to the international community whereby the Gaza strip would achieve peace and stability; whereby the economic future of the population will be assured, and whereby the United Nations with Israel’s fullest cooperation, will be enabled to proceed effectively towards a solution of the refugee problem. The withdrawal of Israeli military forces from the Gaza strip can well be one of the elements in the arrangements which we envisage.
We are ready at an early date to pursue our thinking along these lines with the Secretary-General in accordance with paragraph 9 of his note to the General Assembly. In this case, as in that of the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba, the desire to proceed speedily with the fulfilment of the General Assembly’s objectives on the withdrawal of troops should be tempered by a prudent concern for the avoidance of disruptions and dislocations and above all for the prevention of any risk of resuming the deadly conditions of belligerency which made Gaza a focus of international conflict during the previous eight years.
Mr. President, the General Assembly will surely have no difficulty in concluding that the problem of the Gulf of Aqaba with its broad international perspectives ; and the question of the Gaza strip, with its almost unparalleled complexity, require further clarification in a cooperative spirit. I do not doubt that if the General Assembly leaves room for that consideration the progress already recorded in the Secretary-General’s note can be crowned by arrangements which will eliminate the prospect of the renewal of belligerency by land and by sea. In the pursuit of such arrangements my delegation will bend every resource of heart and mind in the days that lie ahead