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Statement to the Knesset by Prime Minister Golda Meir, (November 13, 1973)

In her statement to the Knesset the Prime Minister reviewed the events that led to the signing of the Six-Point Agreement. The Prime Minister also explained the reasons for her trip to the United States at the end of October and the nature of her talks in Washington:

On account of political events, there has been a postponement in my presentation of this statement. Because of the importance of the political matters, I have been careful all the time to give continual reports to the Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee, and I contacted representatives of the Opposition to explain the situation to them and get their consent to my deferring the statement.

In my address to the Knesset on 23 October, I reported the Government's decision to respond to the approach of the United States Government and President Nixon and to announce our readiness to agree to a cease-fire.

On 11 November, we signed an agreement for a cease-fire with Egypt. We are holding meetings on a military level with Egypt to ensure the implementation of the agreement and, despite the difficulties in the negotiations, which we have not yet overcome, I wish to express my hope that the agreement will be fully implemented in practice.

I should like to recall briefly the course of events that preceded the signature of the agreement. On 22 October, the Security Council adopted Resolution 338. Egypt announced its agreement to the cease-fire. Syria was silent. The cease-fire should have entered into force on the same day at 1850 hours, but the armies of Egypt and Syria continued fighting and the Israel Defence Forces acted as required in circumstances of continuing hostilities. Syria announced its agreement to the cease-fire only on 24 October. The Security Council adopted a further Resolution on the cease-fire on 23 October (Resolution No. 339), but the fighting did not stop. Repeated attempts have been made, from various sides, to lay upon Israel the blame for the violations of the cease-fire or to blame both sides equally.

The Egyptians did not stop fighting on 22 October and the IDF fought back.

Egypt and the USSR were well aware of the actual situation on the field of battle. They knew precisely where the IDF had got to in the course of the war. They knew that the Egyptian Third Army was surrounded, and that our forces had reached the town of Suez and further south. Accordingly, they artificially generated an atmosphere of hysteria, coupled with threats of the danger of a confrontation between the superPowers, while, at the same time, insistently demanding that Israel retreat to what were termed "the positions of 22 October", so as to extricate the Egyptian army from its encirclement and enable it once again to become an effective and active fighting force.

We found ourselves engaged in a political struggle against the Egyptian and Syrian refusal to honour basic obligations arising from the cease-fire and the Geneva Convention, such as the release of prisoners of war. We found ourselves faced with attempts to make the release of the prisoners contingent upon conditions that are not binding on Israel and that do not stem from the undertaking that Israel accepted when it agreed to the cease-fire. We found ourselves involved in a political struggle with hostile elements and even in serious differences of opinion with friends.

It will not be superfluous to repeat that what has been called "the positions of 22 October" is a concept that never existed and does not exist in reality. On 22 October, the IDF was engaged in a running battle against the attacks of the Egyptian forces, which did their best to overcome our troops. No one can identify the positions of the two sides on 22 October. There were no UN Observers in the area, and the spokesman of the UN Emergency Force was right when he admitted on 29 October that he was unable to determine what the situation on the ground was on 22 October.

Regrettably, there have even been friends of Israel who were led astray by the fata morgana of 22 October. I will say this: the definition "positions of 22 October" was coined by the Egyptians and the Soviets as a political slogan, intended to serve a double purpose:

a. To accuse Israel of violating the cease-fire decided upon on 22 October - which was violated by Egypt;

b. To extricate the Third Army from its encirclement.

Israel will not extend its "good offices" for the achievement of these objectives.

The Soviet Union has supported Egypt by diplomatic measures and by unconventional steps which caused great tension in the relations between the two super-Powers. A Soviet threat was heard - to despatch forces to Egypt and compel Israel to withdraw to the lines of 22 October. The steps taken by the Soviet Union extended beyond the limits of the Israel-Arab regional conflict.

I feel it my duty to praise the courageous stand of the President of the United States against this Soviet threat. America's positive deterrent in the face of Soviet menaces at the end of October 1973 will be recorded as an exemplary stand.

We are convinced that, thanks to the alert in the American armed forces declared by the President of the United States, undesirable developments were averted. The result was that the USSR preferred to cooperate with the United States and so prevent a deterioration of the situation which would surely have been brought about by the unilateral Soviet measures.

On 25 October, the Security Council adopted a further Resolution (No. 340), prescribing:

An immediate cease-fire;

Return to the positions held by the parties on 22 October;

Reinforcement of the number of UN Observers;

Establishment of a United Nations Emergency Force.

Following this Resolution, pressure on Israel to return to the 22 October positions increased - in other words, there were intensified efforts by various parties to extricate the Third Army from its encirclement. This is not the first time in military history that military units have been encircled in circumstances of war. I believe, however, that this is the first time that such agitated concern has seized so many capitals. Demands and attempts at persuasion have been addressed to us from every quarter to assure nonmilitary supplies to the encircled army. At the height of the tension, there were also a demand and recommendation to that effect from the United States Government, to permit the passage of a one-time convoy. Our reaction was that the best way to overcome the problems connected with the cease-fire was by means of a meeting between ourselves and Egypt. The United States transmitted this proposal of ours to Egypt, which replied that it was prepared to hold a military meeting, so long as the possibility was afforded for the immediate passage of a convoy with a non-military cargo for the town of Suez and the units of the Third Army. We announced our agreement to permit a one-time convoy. The tension relaxed.

In anticipation, therefore, of the first meeting of the military commanders, we permitted passage of a non-military supply convoy, with the IDF carrying out a careful check of the cargo. Our response was in reaction to an appeal from the United States Government, and stemmed from a desire to accept the Egyptian request, since we regarded as a desirable development the very fact of an Egyptian readiness to meet with us to discuss matters connected with the cease-fire.

It is interesting that the Egyptian answer included an obligation to put the ceasefire into full effect at 13.00 hours on 27 October.

On 28 October, there took place the first meeting between the representative of the Israel Defence Forces General Staff. Major-General Aharon Yariv, and Major-General Gamazy, representative of the Egyptian Army General Staff.

Towards the end of October, I reached the conclusion that it would be best to conduct clarification talks with the President of the United States and the Secretary of State on the main topics under discussion. The Government agreed with my view that it was worthwhile clarifying these issues by means of direct talks, and, with its approval, I set out for the United States. I had thorough discussions with President Nixon and with Secretary of State Dr. Kissinger, in which the matters under discussion were dealt with comprehensively and in detail. We dealt with the burning problems connected with stabilization of the cease-fire and the assurance of Israel's security needs. I did the best that I could to explain our approach to the Government of the United States.

a. Israel is interested in having it made clear to Egypt and Syria that Israel is prepared to observe the cease-fire meticulously. But this is possible only on a basis of reciprocity. Meticulous observance of the cease-fire means its observance on land, in the air and at sea.

b. For us the release of prisoners is a subject of the highest importance. This applies to our prisoners both in Syria and in Egypt. True, it is clear to me that United States-Syrian relations do not enable the United States to do very much in Damascus, but the relations of understanding between the United States and the Soviet Union ought to exert their influence upon Syria as well. Again and again I demanded of my interlocutors in Washington to treat the question of our prisoners in Syria with the highest urgency. I left them with no doubt about the supreme importance of this subject to us.

c. Israel will not be prepared to withdraw from its present military positions to an imaginary and fictitious line called the line of 22 October. I made it clear that the present cease-fire lines are convoluted and complex, and the way to stabilize the cease-fire is a disengagement and separation of the forces and a new deployment. I told them that we had instructed our representatives at the military meetings with the Egyptians to discuss this important subject. I told the representatives of the United States Government that in the framework of the disengagement and separation of forces we would agree to a mutual withdrawal: Israel will withdraw from its positions west of the Canal to the east bank, and the Egyptian army will withdraw from the east bank of the Canal to the western side.

In the talks in Washington, I also discussed the continuation of military supplies. In this matter, I met the United States Secretary of Defence, Mr. James Schlesinger. I explained to him and to other American personalities that after the 1973 war the IDF has to be even stronger than it was before. Ahead of us we have the objective not only of the renewal and replacement of equipment but also of strengthening the capacity and the armaments of the IDF in consideration of the abundance of equipment which the Soviet Union is supplying to Egypt and Syria.

I found understanding in Washington for the problems facing us, and the contacts between us on this subject are continuing.

As I informed the Knesset on 23 October, the United States Administration is making every effort to obtain from Congress the necessary allocations in the total amount of 2.2 billion dollars, to enable military aid to be given on easy terms. The supply and equipment from the United States is continuing, both by air-lift and in other ways.

I cannot say that the talks have settled all our differences of opinions, since it is possible that there may not always be completely identical attitudes, and there may be debates, even between friendly States. However, I can tell the Knesset that the talks were friendly, constructive and useful - and they will continue.

Even before I arrived in Washington, I was informed by the Secretary of State, Dr. Kissinger, that it was his intention to visit Cairo. In connection with this visit, I discussed with him a number of subjects connected with the maintenance of the cease-fire agreement.

Last week, the Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Sisco, arrived in Israel to inform us of Dr. Kissinger's talks in Cairo with President Sadat. The subject of our discussion was the six-point agreement. We informed Mr. Sisco in full detail of our approach and our position in this matter. The subject was discussed in the Cabinet, and in the Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee. Since the United States Government was the sponsor of the agreement, we conducted intensive discussions with it to clarify the practical significance of its articles, after which the Cabinet reached an affirmative decision. This time, too, as on other similar occasions, last-minute tensions characteristic of such complex deliberations were not absent - tensions which occasionally lead to delays in ratification.

At Sabbath's end on the tenth of November, before I left Israel for London, I stated publicly that the Government had authorized Israel's representative, Major-General Aharon Yariv, to sign the agreement.

On Sunday, 11 November, the representatives of Israel and Egypt signed the six-point agreement, which reads:

a. Egypt and Israel agree to observe scrupulously the cease-fire called for by the UN Security Council.

b. Both sides agree that discussions between them will begin immediately to settle the question of the return to the 22 October positions in the framework of agreement on the disengagement and separation of forces under the auspices of the United Nations.

c. The town of Suez will receive daily supplies of food, water and medicines. All wounded civilians in the town of Suez will be evacuated.

d. There shall be no impediment to the movement of non-military supplies to the cast bank of the Suez Canal.

e. The Israeli check-points on the Cairo-Suez road will be replaced by UN check-points. At the Suez end of the road, Israeli officers can participate with the UN in supervising the non-military nature of the cargo at the bank of the Canal.

f. As soon as the UN check-points are established on the Cairo-Suez road, there will be an exchange of all prisoners of war, including wounded.

I repeat, and I stress: the six-point agreement is intended to ensure the observance of the cease-fire on land, in the air and at sea, as well as the longed-for release of all our men from captivity. When I say cease-fire on land, in the air and at sea, there can be no mistake as to the meaning of these words. The agreement is conditional on reciprocal observance of all its provisions.

We desire a stabilization of the cease-fire both with Egypt and with Syria. However, I informed the Knesset at the time that the Government had decided not to delay the cease-fire agreement with Egypt or make it conditional upon a similar agreement with Syria and vice versa. The Government and the nation are deeply anxious about the welfare of our prisoners in Syria. This subject is under discussion by the Cabinet and the Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee. We shall continue, without pause, until our aim is achieved, to seek a way to free them.

The generalized text of the agreement requires a dialogue between the parties on the details of its implementation, under the auspices of the UN Observers. The subject under discussion at this stage between ourselves and the Egyptians is to assure the exchange of all the prisoners - both wounded and uninjured - concurrently with the arrangement for non-military supplies to the town of Suez and the encircled Third Army. Our position in this discussion is that the prisoners shall be exchanged as soon as possible, within the shortest possible period of time, and, on the other hand, to ensure that our agreement to the sending of daily supplies to Suez and the Third Army will not change the military situation or strengthen the encircled forces, and that the daily supplies are controlled and consist of essential non-military commodities such as food, medicines and water.

The agreement lays it down that the United Nations shall replace our check-points on the Cairo-Suez road to regulate the movement of the supply convoys to the town and the Third Army. This, however, does not detract from our control over the area and all along the route. The exchange of check-points is linked with implementation of the exchange of prisoners.

It is not my intention now to go into the detailed technical problems involved in implementation of the agreement. We were apprehensive from the beginning that the Egyptians would raise difficulties in the course of implementation. These apprehensions were not unfounded - but I still believe that, if Egypt observes the spirit of the agreement as strictly as we do, it will not be impossible to overcome the difficulties and to settle differences of opinion. Israel signed the agreement inspired by a positive approach to its objectives and determined to implement all its provisions scrupulously and without delay. The stabilization of the cease-fire and the relaxation of military tension are important and essential objectives for the prevention of the resumption and continuation of the war. This aim in itself suffices to require us to make every effort to attain it - particularly since we desire to regard it as a service towards an even loftier aim - the achievement of peace.

In the course of this war that was forced upon us, the IDF broke through to the western side of the Canal, where they represent a well-established military fact. But it was not Israel's purpose to remain there permanently. We are anxious for an end to the war and the promotion of the peace process. We want to see in this agreement a first step towards negotiations with a view to a true peace between ourselves and the neighbouring States. We know that this purpose cannot be attained by a short cut but it can certainly be approached step by step, in so far as our neighbours are ready for it.

The IDF is well deployed on both fronts, and, if Egypt and Syria resume hostilities, it is well within the power of the IDF to overcome the aggressors, but we consider the cease-fire and progress towards peace as preferable to any further victory.

We read about public opinion polls in European countries, including countries whose Governments do not conduct a policy sympathetic to Israel. I have had the opportunity of meeting with Heads of Government and Heads of Opposition Parties. Even if here and there several points of debate exist, one cannot agree with the statement that Israel is isolated in the countries of Western Europe. I can tell the Knesset that I found a basic friendship, much understanding, even in the midst of serious concern about the oil blackmail of the Arab rulers.

Since I last appeared in the Knesset, I have been in the United States and in Britain. I met the leaders of the Jewish communities in both countries. When I was in London, there was a mass demonstration of solidarity with Israel, the like of which had never before been witnessed even on the part of the proud Jewry of that country. I will make no attempt to describe the depth of feeling which found expression in my meetings. I will only say that the Jewish people stands even more firmly with us than during the Six-Day War. Above all, it is impossible not to be encouraged by the participation of the younger generations in this solidarity with Israel.

I have limited myself today to a current topic upon which the Government is obliged to report to the Knesset, but I am conscious of the fact that this is only one of the great subjects facing us in the aftermath of the war. Perhaps it is early yet to say "in the aftermath of the war", for we are actually living under a cease-fire in a war which has not yet ended. It is essential that we remain fully conscious of this fact, despite our desire to move on from a cease-fire to negotiations towards peace. I said earlier that our situation on both fronts is strong, and that we hold positions which give us both military and political advantages. But we have no assurances that the Egyptians or the Syrians will not violate the cease-fire and bring about a renewal of hostilities. Thus alertness and readiness are required both at the front and in the rear. To my regret, in these circumstances the time has not yet come for our soldiers to return to their families and their everyday affairs. The war has not ended and the consciousness of this fact must guide all our behaviour. Our hearts, our minds and our faith go out to the Israel Defence Forces wherever they are stationed.

Side by side with our posture of mobilization on the sectors of the fronts, we will have to face the political struggle, to continue our efforts for peace, while striving to attain our political ends, and to withstand the danger of acquiescence in the unjustified demands of our enemies or attempts to impose upon us solutions which run counter to our rights and needs.

I behold our people, and I believe that this war that we have endured has made them more serious, more responsible for our fate, less prone to waste of strength and resources. I believe that the war has also united our people, despite unfortunate superficial phenomena. I have seen, and I see and feel, the burden of mourning, the grieving over the loss of our dear ones who fell in battle.

I am also aware of criticism - both serious self-criticism and the facile criticism that denounces others.

The nation can rest assured that every error made - at whatever level - will be investigated without fear or favour, so that we may learn lessons, draw conclusions and be prepared for any military and political test.

I am convinced that the trial which we have undergone has strengthened the nation, has aroused, and is continuing to arouse, more earnest and profounder thinking. At a time such as this, there is a readiness to ponder, and even to question, accepted values and to go beyond reflection. There will be general elections in which the people will choose its representatives. Until the general elections, the Government and the elected institutions will continue to act with full democratic authority, but never exceeding it. The Government and the Knesset maintain all their authority until a new Knesset and a new Government are elected. We shall do our duty, both as regards the moves of war and the processes of peace, with all due public and democratic responsibility. I hope that the elections will take place on the date set for them by the Knesset. The people will not be confronted with any fact incompatible with the principles of democracy.

The war was hard, we suffered grievous losses and unpleasant surprises - but our soldiers' achievements were exemplary. The nation is sad, but confident in its forces. We have learned, and we are learning, a great deal about how we must live and conduct ourselves in the future. I believe that we shall profit by the mistakes that have been made, by evaluations that proved wrong, by conditions that have changed. We shall adjust ourselves to new circumstances.

We are faced with a struggle over the boundaries of the future and the conditions of peace. It would be wrong to believe that we have learned from this war that, under the conditions of modern warfare, there is no value in depth and defensible borders. We have learned many things. We have not learned that we must return to the lines of 4 June 1967, which tempt our neighbours to aggression. Anyone who thinks that Israel will be weak and afraid after this war is mistaken. Israel after this war will be no less peace-loving than it was yesterday and even readier than yesterday to fight for its rights and for its aims.


Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs