Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Begin on "Palestine"


Statement in the Knesset by Prime Minister Begin on the Cairo conference, 28 November 1977

We want the peace to be between ourselves and all our neighbours. And again: let these things be heard in Damascus and in Amman, in Beirut and in Baghdad, and in all the Arab capitals from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf…And we want peace with King Hussein so that we may be able to build our lives together, and to think how to open a new era for this country… We propose to all of them that they should send delegations...

(Interjection: The Palestinian people as well?)

Mr. Wilner, listen to me now, please. I am talking to you as one Jew to another. Listen and don't interrupt. I speak Hebrew. That word you used is not Hebrew, it is jargon. When the first British High Commissioner was here and it was necessary to decide what name for the country could be stamped on the coins - those with a hole in them -then in English, of course, they engraved "Palestine" - there was no doubt: in English the name of the country was Palestine, and in Arabic, "Filastin" - there is no doubt about it, that is the name of the country in Arabic. But it had to be decided how it should be in Hebrew, and they said: Of course, "Eretz Yisrael."

That has always been the name of the country, since days of old, in all generations. But there were protests: How can we say "Eretz Yisrael" so expressly? And then, that British High Commissioner found a compromise. He would write "Palestina", which is not Hebrew at all, but he would add in parentheses, "Aleph Yud" - so the Jews read it "Eretz Yisrael" - and those who did not understand so well read "Palestina (Ai)". And now do you know the origin of this word? And I speak Hebrew, my dear sir, not Sovietish.

(Interjection: Is there a Palestinian people or not?)

There is an Arab people.

(Interjection: A Palestinian people?)

I have already told you: I speak Hebrew, not Sovietish. When you are in Moscow you can speak in your own language.

Mr. Speaker,
We have set foot on the road to the establishment of peace. I ask the House to give its blessing for this road on which we are going to go. And I have an appeal to all the members of the Knesset, without distinction between most of the parties. Dear friends, honoured rivals, ladies and gentlemen, members of the Knesset:..There is no need to compete in "concessionism." We are not in exile, but in our homeland, not in the ghetto, but in our sovereign state. It is not fitting that there should be competition as to who is a more peace-loving Jew and who is a less peace-loving Jew.

The truth is that we all want peace with all our hearts and all our souls. We want peace, we pray for it and long for it, and we also hope to bring it about. True we have straightened our backs in the Land of Israel. We shall not grow arrogant, but we shall not bow our heads either. We shall insist on our people's rights, on its security and peace, and with God's help we shall succeed in bringing true peace to our people and our neighbours, because peace is necessary to us and also to them.
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