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Statement to the Knesset by Prime Minister Golda Meir

(May 5, 1969)

Prime Minister Eshkol died suddenly on 26 February 1969. He was succeeded by Mrs. Golda Meir, who re-formed the Government of National Unity without any change in its composition. Meanwhile, the War of Attrition was raging on the southern front. In a statement to the Knesset, at the opening of its summer session, the Prime Minister said that Israel would not be deterred by Arab aggression, threats of war, or by international pressures. Highlights of her Knesset address included the following points:

"As you will recall, in February a consultative framework on the Middle Eastern situation was set up by the four Big Powers. With this, Arab leaders began and continue intensive activities on three planes: First, they have endeavoured to terrorize international public opinion with the imminence of all-out warfare which could spread outside the region.

"Secondly, in order to enhance the impact of this propaganda, regular Arab armies in the south and in the east began to agravate the situation on the borders by unprecedented violations of the cease-fire. Egypt even went as far as to cast doubts upon the very existence of the cease-fire. The terrorists were ordered to step up their activities.

"Thirdly, to win the sympathy of world public opinion, the Arab rulers made a series of deceptively moderate statements centred about King Hussein's recent visit to the US.

"Appearing before the Press Club in Washington on 10 April, King Hussein said, inter alia, and I quote: 'Before the war, on 1 June 1967, Arabs had agreed to put an end to the state of belligerency with Israel, to afford it access in exchange for guarantees, to Sharm el-Sheikh and the Suez Canal, to recognize its rights to live in peace and security and to agree to conditions which would ultimately resolve the refugee problem.' If the Arabs had agreed to such conditions on the 1st of June 1967, such a step would have been dramatic, constituting such a great concession on the part of the Arabs that Israel could not have failed to recognize the generosity of the proposal, nor could any one else throughout the world.

"The Arabs today 'were offering Israel precisely this proposal and the Israelis rejected it.'

"We read these words in bewilderment. According to the concepts customary among civilized nations, peace is not a favour bestowed by one party upon the other, but even by the lights of King Hussein, we must ask: Why did he not make this proposal to us?

"The answer is now well known: On 1 June 1967, the Arab rulers were thoroughly occupied with feverish preparations for war, firmly hoping that this time they would be able to destroy us once and for all, as they themselves declared.

"At that time the King put his army under the command of the Egyptian High Command for the purpose of attacking Israel. In those days a Jordanian operational order was formulated, code-named Ra'ad, for the purpose of carrying out an attack on the village of Motza, destroying it and killing all its inhabitants. This 'peaceful operation' was to be carried out upon receiving the appropriate password from regimental headquarters.

"A copy of this 'glorious' order was found in the Hashemite Jordanian regimental headquarters near Ramallah, together with a few other files containing operational plans for raids on Israeli villages, designed to destroy them and to murder their inhabitants.

"If only the King had understood the true needs of his country, if only he had not thrown away his independence, if only he had refrained from his adventure, even without displaying towards the Government of Israel the generosity he evinced at the Press Club, he would have saved his country and its people the disaster which he brought upon them by his fatal decision at the beginning of June.

"But that is not all. The 1st of June 1967 was followed by the 1st of June 1968. If the King had had the courage to get up and announce then that he was ready to negotiate peace with Israel, he would have done his country yeoman service. But he missed the opportunity again on 1 June 1968.

"In that speech King Hussein tried to prop up his argument by referring to President Eisenhower, through selective quotations from the latter's statements made in February 1957, after the Sinai Campaign.

"For some reason or other King Hussein forgot to quote the public announcmenet made by the US President in 1957, which stated that there were no grounds for assuming that Israel's right to sail her ships in the Suez Canal would be violated, but if it were violated, the family of nations would have to act vigorously ...

"The Jordanian King goes on talking about Arab Jerusalem. Since when has the city been under Arab rule? Jordanian rule was imposed on part of Jeruslaem by violence, by military occupation. The Jordanian Army expelled the Jews from the Old City to the very last man, desecrated Jewish shrines, destroyed synagogues and cemeteries.

"The Jordanian Government refused to comply with the Armistice Agreement it had signed. Jews were deprived of the right to worship at the Holy Sites which have been deeply anchored in Jewish history since long before the Arabs came to the Land of Israel and long before Trans-Jordan became a State and had a king ...

"After preparing the ground with these words, King Hussein introduced a so-called six-point plan for a settlement in the Middle East which was a sort of climax to the Arab campaign of moderation. His plan was presented to world public opinion as a major contribution and a turning point. Anyone glancing at the six points will soon realize that they contain nothing but an Arab interpretation of the Security Council resolution. And, indeed, they were so described by King Hussein himself on his return to Amman, when he admitted to his listeners that his speech contained no change from the previous Arab position.

"The expression 'all States of the region' appears repeatedly in the six points of the plan. This terminology is also used by Egypt, but the actual name of Israel is not mentioned at all. In his speech he entirely disregarded the main burden of the Security Council resolution, namely, agreement between the parties, for the advancement of which Ambassador Jarring was appointed. Needless to say, the six points contain no mention of negotiation between the parties, without which no settlement can be reached. Arab propaganda gave Hussein's speech the mighty name of a peace plan, but this speech contains not one word about a peace treaty or normal relations between States...

"King Hussein announced that he was presenting his plan in Nasser's name as well. Let us see how Nasser himself interpreted this plan. In an American television interview broadcast on 21 April, Nasser announced: 'It should be realized that we support the struggle of the Palestine liberation fighters whose duty it is to liberate their native country.' Nasser stated further in that interview: 'It is out of the question for us to sit down at one table with the Israelis for direct peace talks.' Indeed, in his address of 20 January 1969 to the Council of State, Nasser already expressed his own appreciation of the Security Council resolution as follows: 'This resolution may possibly wipe out the traces of the aggression carried out in June 1967, but this resolution is insufficient insofar as the Palestinian fate is concerned.' In his address on 1 February 1969, at the opening of the Palestinian National Council, he stated: 'The UAR (Egypt) appreciates the stand of the resistance organization rejecting the Security Council's resolution of November 1967 - a resolution accepted by the UAR itself.'

"Already on 23 November 1967, the day after the resolution was passed, Nasser stated inter alia, in addressing the Egyptian National Convention: 'We shall not recognize Israel. We shall not make peace with it or conduct negotiations with it. We shall not permit Israeli shipping in the Suez Canal.' These three nays have been and are being repeated by Arab leaders to this very day. Anyone following the behaviour of the Arab rulers concludes that a typical pattern may be discerned in it: They close their eyes to the process of history, and upon reaching a blind alley, they will not turn to the road that leads to peace, but rather try to put the clock back. They are trying to turn back the wheels of history to a point to which there can be no return, without even admitting their responsibility for the destruction and the blood, and without taking a realistic road leading to peace and progress for their peoples and the entire region.

"Simultaneously with the propaganda campaigns in the world's capitals in which the Arab rulers attempt to appear as pious lovers of peace, we have witnessed the stepping up of the firing on the borders and along the cease-fire lines.. The Israel Defence Forces have repulsed all attacks and have repaid the aggressors their due along the borders and in the interior. We mourn our dear ones who have fallen. The aggressors have not achieved even one of their objectives and have paid a heavy price for their aggression.

"On the Jordanian front, we are closely following events in the areas from which the terrorists fire their bazookas and Katyushas. The Israel Defence Forces can clearly discern when and how the artillery of the Jordanian Legion starts firing and when the Iraqi batteries join in. It is a fact that the saboteurs enjoy the protection of the Jordanian army, who not only turn a blind eye to their activities but even provide active assistance, with artillery fire. We have stated more than once that we shall follow the principle of reciprocity along the cease-fire lines. We shall hold fast to this principle.

"After the defeat of 1967 it was to be hoped that Nasser would tell the truth to his people, but in his speech on I May this year the Egyptian ruler said: 'The objective of the armed forces was to destroy the Bar-Lev line which, Israel has contended, is an indestructible, fortified line. After this period of battles at the Canal, Minister of War Fawzi informed the Government and myself last week that our armed forces have thus far succeeded in destroying 60 per cent of the Bar-Lev line - of those fortresses set up by Israel along the Suez Canal. Fawzi informed us in the Government that the armed forces will continue to carry out their plan until they complete the destruction of the remaining 40 per cent of the Bar-Lev line".

"All I can say is that I hope that in future his so-called victories are of the same type as those claimed in this false report. Anyone who has visited or visits the Canal zone can see for himself that there is absolutely no foundation for this claim...

"There is no substitute for our consolidation along the cease-fire lines in view of the fact that the Arabs still refuse to make peace. In the absence of peace the cease-fire lines are the best guarantee for Israel, even if firing from the other side has not ceased.

"The fedayeen and Fatah were not born in June 1967. Criminal attacks on our people and our settlements did not begin only after the Six-Day War. The Arab demands for retreat from the cease-fire lines, without peace and without agreed secure borders are not intended to stop the firing. They will not bring peace to our borders, nor will they bring peace any nearer...

"To the best of our judgement the Arab countries cannot at present permit themselves to wage total war. This assessment has a firm foundation, but our forces are ready for any eventuality, even for the eventuality of a mistake in this forecast.

"For 20 years our region has been the focus of unrest and war. And now, more than ever, after June 1967, the trenchant question arises: Is this situation unavoidable or is there any possibility of opening a new chapter of peace and cooperation?

"This subject stands at the forefront of the political struggle, which has lasted for nearly two years. During this period we have withstood serious political tests - in the Security Council, at the emergency session of the United Nations, at ordinary sessions of the General Assembly, and in consultations with Envoy Jarring, as well as in our contacts with Governments and power blocs throughout the world...

"So far the efforts by our enemies have failed on the political scene. Israel never ceased to call for a true peace of mutual respect between our neighbours and ourselves. But, to our great sorrow, we have found that the Arab leaders regarded the deliberations of the Four Powers as an escape from the need to take the road to peace, as an opportunity to persevere in their obstinate refusal to progress towards peace...

"For two years there have been various moves to find a substitute for peace treaties, such as a 'peace arrangement'; some say it be sufficient for each State to declare its intentions of peace; others are satisfied with 'cessation of belligerency': there are suggestions for demilitarization, for guarantees and all kinds of arrangements all this without demanding of Arab leaders to make peace with Israel, plain peace ... peace as it exists between the majority of nations.

"The Arabs for 20 years have refused to make peace with Israel, with Israel to be used as an experimental ground for all possible arrangements except a contractual peace. The time has now come to put an end to agreeing to Arab refusal to sign a peace contract. . .

"The Governments of the Middle East, and not external factors, are responsible for working out and drafting the peace treaties. The peace treaties must include agreement on final secure and recognized boundaries.

"The peace treaties must annul claims of belligerency, blockades, boycotts, interference with free navigation and the existence and activity of organizations and groups engaged in preparing or executing sabotage operations from bases and training camps on the territories of the States signatory to the peace treaties ...

"Within the framework of peace we must strive for a system of relations based on wide regional cooperation for the development and prosperity of the Middle East....

"I hope and trust that, over the sound of the canons and the tumult of hostility that the voice of Israel calling for peace will reach the ears of lovers of peace throughout the Arab world. This call goes out not in any meek or apologetic tone. Aggression and the threat of war and international pressures will not deter us. We shall not tire of our struggle, nor shall we relinquish our aspirations and striving for peace."


Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs