THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY FIRST KNESSET 1949-1951
Prime Minister's Statement Concerning Jerusalem and the Holy Places Sitting 96 -- 5 December 1949
The Jewish Agency for Palestine had accepted the U.N. Partition Plan of November 1947, even though it called for the establishment of a corpus separatum in Jerusalem and its immediate environs, realizing that the only realistic alternative at the time would have been the failure to decide on the establishment of a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. The failure of the U.N. in the implementation of its own resolution, the Arab invasion of all parts of Palestine, including Jerusalem, Count Bernadotte's proposal of June 1947 to incorporate the whole of Jerusalem in an Arab state--the latter when Israel was compelled to fight for its creation and survival--all these effected a fundamental change in the situation and Israel's position. When the U.N. General Assembly debated the issue of the internationalization of Jerusalem once more, the Knesset debated the subject in rare unanimity.
Sitting 96 of the First Knesset
5 December 1949--14 Kislev 5710
Tel Aviv, Knesset Building
The Prime Minister, D. Ben-Gurion: As you know, the U.N. is currently discussing the issue of Jerusalem and the holy places. The State of Israel is a member of the U.N., not because of political convenience but because of its traditional, deep-seated commitment to the vision of world peace and the brotherhood of nations, as preached by our prophets and accepted by the U.N.
This membership obliges us, from the podium of Israel's First Knesset, to tell all the nations assembled at the U.N. and all those who love peace and justice in the world what has been in Israel's heart since it became a united nation under King David three thousand years ago as regards Jerusalem its holy city and as regards its attitude to the places which are holy to the other religions.
When we proclaimed the establishment of the renewed State of Israel, on 14 May 1948, we declared that, "The State of Israel will guarantee freedom of religion and conscience, of language, education and culture. It will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions. It will be loyal to the principles of the United Nations Charter." Accordingly, our delegation to the U.N. announced that Israel would honor all the existing rights regarding the holy places and sacred buildings in Jerusalem, assure freedom of worship and free access...to all the holy sites under its control, recognizing the rights of pilgrims of all religions and nations to visit their holy places and assuring freedom of movement for clergymen. We agreed to allow effective U.N. supervision of the holy places and the existing rights.
At the same time we see fit to state that Jewish Jerusalem is an organic, inseparable part of the State of Israel, just as it is an integral part of Jewish history and belief....Jerusalem is the heart of the State of Israel. We are proud of the fact that Jerusalem is also sacred to other religions, and will gladly provide access to their holy places and enable them to worship as and where they please, cooperating with the U.N. to guarantee this.
We cannot imagine, however, that the U.N. would attempt to sever Jerusalem from the State of Israel or harm Israel's sovereignty in its eternal capital.
Twice in the history of our nation were we driven out of Jerusalem, only after being defeated in bitter wars by the larger, stronger forces of Babylon and Rome. Our links with Jerusalem today are no less deep than in the days of Nebuchadnezzar and Titus Flavius, and when Jerusalem was attacked after the fourteenth of May 1948, our valiant youngsters risked their lives for our sacred capital no less than our forefathers did in the time of the First and Second Temples.
...A nation which, for two thousand and five hundred years, has faithfully adhered to the vow made by the first exiles by the waters of Babylon not to forget Jerusalem, will never agree to be separated from Jerusalem. Jewish Jerusalem will never accept alien rule after thousands of its youngsters liberated their historic homeland for the third time, redeeming Jerusalem from destruction and vandalism.
We do not judge the U.N., which did nothing when nations which were members of the U.N. declared war on its resolution of 29 November 1947, trying to prevent the establishment of Israel by force, to annihilate the Jewish population in the Holy Land and destroy Jerusalem, the holy city of the Jewish people.
Had we not been able to withstand the aggressors who rebelled against the U.N., Jewish Jerusalem would have been wiped off the face of the earth, the Jewish population would have been eradicated and the State of Israel would not have arisen. Thus, we are no longer morally bound by the U.N. resolution of November 29, since the U.N. was unable to implement it....
The attempt to sever Jewish Jerusalem from the State of Israel will not advance the cause of peace in the Middle East or in Jerusalem itself. Israelis will give their lives to hold on to Jerusalem, just as the British would for London, the Russians for Moscow and the Americans for Washington.
This is the first time in this country's history that the state controlling Jerusalem willingly accepts the principle of the international supervision of the holy places. It is no coincidence that it is being done by the nation which made Jerusalem an internationally sacred center and by the first government elected by the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
We hope that the religions which honor Jerusalem's sanctity and the nations which share our belief in the principles of peace and justice will honor Israel's rights in Jerusalem, just as Israel honors those of all the religions in its sacred capital and sovereign state.
Debate on the Prime Minister's Statement
...M. Begin (Herut): Distinguished Speaker, knowing that our proposal to restore the status of the City of David as our capital will be discussed at a joint meeting of the Constitution Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee next Wednesday and will then be brought before the plenum of the Knesset, on behalf of the Herut party group founded by the IZL, I have the honor of announcing that any attempt to impose alien rule on Jerusalem will be smashed on the rock of the resistance of the entire nation.
The youth of Jerusalem, and of all Israel, which has drawn its renewed strength from the eternal sources of the liberators of the homeland and the rebels of Judea, which raised the banner of freedom aainst the British oppressors, penetrating their strongholds and wreaking havoc among them, which did not recoil from attacking forces far vaster than its own when more than one hundred thousand well-armed soldiers and policemen sought to maintain alien rule over our homeland, and which succeeded in overcoming the oppressors and driving them out of part of the homeland and from Jewish Jerusalem, will thwart any attempt, no matter by whom, to make Jerusalem subservient to foreigners once again.
The Political Subcommittee, which is parallel to the U.N. Assembly, passed a resolution reiterating the U.N. decision of 27 November 1947 to sever Jerusalem from the body of Israel. The official prestate institutions, regrettably, accepted this, and we are happy to hear from the Prime Minister today that that resolution is no longer valid. We believe that this statement also applies to the Partition Plan. Foreign powers will not determine the borders of our state. The nation that dwells in Zion will decide what the extent of Israel's sovereignty shall be.
...Whatever the outcome of the debate in the U.N., we must decide to put an end to the artificial situation in which we await the decision of other nations regarding the fate of Jerusalem. On the contrary, the representatives of other countries must be told quite clearly that the Jewish nation has made its decision concerning Jerusalem. Our own hesitancy has allowed the present situation to arise. The acknowledgement of the existence of "Jewish Jerusalem," implying that some other Jeru-salem exists, has enabled other nations to conclude that some parts of the nation are prepared to relinquish certain sections of the city....
This must be stopped....The world must be told that Jerusalem is ours, all of it--the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, Jerusalem inside and outside the walls--and that it is our capital, both in practice and in theory. This is a decision which the Knesset must make.
We no longer have pre-state institutions which must meet at times of danger and pass resolutions protesting the decisions made by foreign nations. We are a state, a sovereign state, and Jerusalem is ours. Justice, history, emotions and faith favor undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We no longer meet in order to protest. We will decide and implement our decision....We must make it clear to the world that all of Jerusalem is our capital.
...N. Yellin-Mor (Fighters): In making this statement I am the representative of a public which is small in numbers but has considerable specific weight. I speak in the name of soldiers who are alive today and of many who did not survive, and on behalf of soldiers who raised the banner to free the homeland several years ago. For them Jerusalem was not merely a holy symbol, but a sacred objective in the endeavor to substitute Jewish for alien rule.
For them Jerusalem was a principal objective of the war and also a testing point. Dozens of my colleagues spent many years in prisons in Jerusalem, in the Russian Compound. There they appeared before the courts of the foreign ruler, asking them: "Who are you to judge us here, in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish homeland?" For their independence they were sentenced to many years in prison. But they went to jail joyfully, knowing that even by doing so they were undermining the oppressor's rule.
In the solitary confinement cells in Jerusalem my colleagues wore the red garb of those who had been condemned to death, and Moshe Barazani, together with Feinstein, a member of the IZL, tore their hearts out on the eve of their execution, not wanting to fall at the hands of foreigners.
My colleagues fought on the walls of Jerusalem in the summer months of 1948; there they shed their blood, and they were buried in Jerusalem's soil.
...Consequently, there is no power in the world which can deprive the Jewish nation of Jerusalem, which was conquered by fire and blood. It will not be abandoned at the arbitrariness of those who raise their alien hands to vote, no matter who they be. The shame of foreign oppression will not return to Jerusalem! Foreigners will not order those who dwell in Jerusalem to deny the blood that was shed for the city's freedom!
If the sanctity of graves is a political reason there are thousands of fresh graves which are more sacred to us than anything else, and they command us to fight for our capital. Every soldier will defend Jeru-salem, and if additional sacrifices are required Jewish youngsters will willingly shed their blood.
Let the foreigners who are discussing the fate of Jerusalem take note of our call: Remove your hands from our capital! Jerusalem will be Jewish forever, and its government will be only Jewish!
The Speaker, J. Sprinzak: Knesset Members, we have heard the Prime Minister's statement and those of all the parties, all of whom spoke clearly on the question of Jerusalem.
Despite the differing views, I declare that the entire Knesset is united in stating that Jerusalem is an inseparable part of the State of Israel and cannot be placed under foreign rule of any kind. This is the view of the First Knesset of the State of Israel.
(The members rise and sing the national anthem.)