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Israel Accepts the Armistice, Reply to Acting Mediator Bunche

(November 18, 1948)

Israel offered the following compromise: it would withdraw forces sent to the Negev after 14 October; its forces in the Negev prior to that date would remain there: it was willing to enter into armistice negotiations with Egypt as soon as possible. This was deemed satisfactory by the Acting Mediator and preliminary talks were held with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation on 20 November. Text of the reply to Dr. Bunche:

A. The Government of Israel understands that it was not the Security Council's intention to order the withdrawal of military forces from positions they held before October 14.

B. The Government has taken note of the Acting Mediator's announcement that the withdrawal of military forces north of a predetermined line does not affect the units stationed in Israeli settlements in the Negev for defensive purposes prior to October 14.

C. The Government would like to use this occasion to point out that since May 15, 1948, there have been motorised units in the Negev moving freely through the area, in addition to the forces engaged in static defence.

The Government expresses its satisfaction at the fact that the Security Council did not order the retreat of forces that were in the Negev before October 14 in order to guarantee the independence and security of the State of Israel and to defend its inhabitants.

D. The withdrawal of our units from the central part of the area, including Beersheba, would invite pillage by irregular forces which constitute a constant threat to the security of the residents living there. If Beersheba is left undefended, the pathway to Jerusalem will be open and it will no longer be possible to guarantee its defence from the south.

E. The Government hereby announces that the forces that entered the Negev on or after October 14, in order to re-establish transport facilities that had been disrupted by the Egyptian Army, in violation of the truce and of the decision of the Chief of the Observers, have been withdrawn to their previous positions.

F. As far as the coastal area is concerned, the Government is ready, in consultation with the Observers, to order the withdrawal of its regular forces to the area north of Sunid, on condition that arrangements are made for local security, in a manner to be agreed upon with the UN Observers.

G. The Government sees a contradiction between the Acting Mediator's proposal to establish demilitarised or neutral zones, and his decision that Egyptian forces may remain in the Bir Asluj area and that his "supervision of the road from Bir Asluj to Rafiah will continue." The Government retains the right to raise this point again in negotiations with the UN Observers.

H. Finally, the Israel Government wishes to reiterate its concern for the decisions and recommendations of the Security Council and its willingness to do whatever it can to foster a peaceful settlement of the dispute that broke out in the Land of Israel as a result of Arab aggression. In accordance with the request of the Acting Mediator, the Government has appointed Yigael Yadin and Reuven Shiloah as its representatives in discussion with the Chief of the UN Observers. The Government reiterates its urgent request to the Acting Mediator that he immediately announce the time and place of a meeting with authorised representatives of the Arab governments. It expresses the hope that this meeting will result in the opening of direct negotiations designed to establish peaceful and neighbourly relations, a goal that the State of Israel has constantly sought since this unfortunate dispute began.

Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs