EXCERPTS FROM FOREIGN MINISTER SHIMON PERES’ REPLY IN THE KNESSET TO NO-CONFIDENCE MOTIONS ON THE GAZA-JERICHO AGREEMENT

May 2, 1994

Palestinian autonomy:

It was agreed in Cairo to set up autonomy in the Gaza Strip, with external security remaining in our hands, with all the settlements remaining in place, with Israel responsible for the Gaza Strip and Jericho unlike the Camp David proposal to implement autonomy in all of Judea and Samaria as well, for all residents. Autonomy grants the Palestinians full self-government except for two areas: security and foreign relations.

With regard to passports in Gaza, there are three possibilities: to give them Israeli passports, to give them Gazan passports, or to leave them without passports. What would be gained by leaving them without passports? Do we want to give them Israeli passports? What do we want to annex the Gaza Strip? To make them Israeli citizens? In Judea and Samaria, we allowed the Palestinians to hold Jordanian passports in what way is a Jordanian passport, which accords the right to vote for the Jordanian parliament, preferable to a travel document, also called a passport, given to 800,000 Gazan residents?

We shall establish the most logical autonomy possible. We have an interest in seeing it work. Just as people can buy a ticket to travel by bus, they can use a passport to travel abroad. There is no difference. There are more stamps in the world than states. The words ‘The Palestinian Authority’ or ‘The Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority’ will appear on both passports and stamps, to explicitly differentiate it from a state. The head of the Authority will not be called the president of a Palestinian state, as some would call him, but the head of the Palestinian authority. We shall allow the Palestinians to travel, like fellow human beings, with passports of their own; to send letters to Arab states with which we do not have relations. If someone sends a stamped letter to a relative in Iraq, does this mean he is establishing a state?

I can assure you that we reject the idea of a Palestinian state, and favor complete autonomy as we promised. By establishing the autonomy, we prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state, because the alternative to autonomy is a Palestinian state.

Any comparison to other autonomies in the world baseless, because in Greenland or elsewhere it was agreed that autonomy would be a permanent relationship. In Camp David it was agreed that autonomy would be a temporary relationship, and that a permanent arrangement must be agreed upon within five years. This is a tremendous difference.

We are proud of what we are doing. There are two elements here. Force must be answered with force. But the desire of a people not to be governed by another must receive a moral and political response. A knife will be parried with a knife. But the desire of a people to live its own life must be accorded a political and moral answer. We are doing both.

It is an illusion to think that the problem is merely one of borders. It is also a problem of relations. It is naive to think that terrorism can be suppressed solely by prisons and military means. Terrorism must be uprooted by political means as well. Had relations in Hebron been different, the presence there of a Jewish community would not pose a problem. When is an army needed? When are police needed? There are Arabs living in Haifa. Does this require a police presence? Take the Jewish-Arab municipality of Ma’alot-Tarshiha there is no need to maintain a single soldier there. We have not defined borders. We embarked on this process in order to change the relationship. Both the Revisionist movement and the Labor movement hoped for a totally different relationship between Jews and Arabs.

The Jewish state is a state with values. We shall not be afraid. We shall carry both a political banner and a moral banner. We do not wish to rule over another people, we do not with to repress another people, we do not wish to imprison another people. We will settle our account with murderers, but the others shall be able to live honorably. History, the Israeli elections and public opinion polls even the stock market say that we are on the right course.

Negotiations with Syria:

Prime Minister Rabin has not submitted any map, nor defined geographic lines. The Labor Party, the present coalition, the Government of Israel and the Prime Minister have stated publicly that we are in favor of territorial compromise on the Golan Heights. We never denied this, and we shall adhere to this. We did not submit a map. We are conducting negotiations because we want to achieve peace with Syria; because we must think not only of the past but also of the future; because in the future there will be not only knives but also missiles; because in the future there will also be non-conventional weapons; because we must build a different future.

What we proposed to the Syrians is to conduct negotiations, with the understanding that we accept the principle of territorial compromise; that we want to discuss a single package of withdrawal, peace and security, because the three are inseparable. We are weighing each step carefully.

This government will do what it promised, and shall seek to achieve real peace with Syria. Within the framework of this peace, there will be an element of withdrawal. We shall not submit maps before we know the other components, and before we are convinced that there is a spirit of conciliation and a readiness for compromise on the Syrian side as well. We are not doing them a favor, and they are not doing us a favor. But there are rules, as in the talks with the Palestinians. Throughout those talks, we insisted on our security needs, while in other areas we tried to enable the Palestinians conduct their own lives honorably with passports, with the ability to write letters, with self-government, with a police force.

I know that there are mothers who are afraid to board a bus, and I know that there are reserve soldiers who say: For 27 years we served pointlessly as moving targets in the Gaza Strip enough. We are leaving Gaza, and opening a new chapter. When we made peace at Camp David there were also shouts of ‘traitor’ and ‘liar’, and stones, banners and demonstrations. Those who played a part in Camp David, under the leadership of then Prime Minister Begin, deserve historical acclaim.

Mr. Speaker, honored Knesset, historic decisions entail pain, opposition and outcries. The decision has been taken. We shall embark on the only correct course. I propose that the motions be removed from the agenda.