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Statement to the Knesset by Prime Minister Meir (August 4, 1970)

The Prime Minister explained the reasons for Israel's acceptance of the United States initiative and its expectations of what would ensue after the firing ceases. On that day, the Ministers of the Gahal party submitted their resignation to the Prime Minister, thereby bringing to an end the existence of the Government of National Unity which had been constituted on 1 June 1967. Excerpts from the statement:

These resolutions of the Government of Israel are predicated on the principles of our policy over the years and conform to what has been the policy of the Government ever since the cease-fire: strengthening the security of the State and advancing the cause of peace between Israel and the neighbouring countries. These decisions are a direct outcome of the necessity to continue to consolidate our capacity to stand fast on the cease-fire lines and to strive for negotiations with the Arab States - without prior conditions by any party whatsoever - for the conclusion of peace treaties. We have always regarded these principles as complementary.

... On 24 July 1970, the US Government notified us that the Egyptian Foreign Minister had informed it of the unconditional consent of his Government to the proposal of the US Government. The manner in which the Egyptian President worded his agreement to the American proposal testifies that the hoped-for change in his attitude has not yet taken place, and that we have yet to see a burgeoning of that readiness for peace which alone can ensure sincere negotiation. One need only take note of the statements of the Heads of State, Foreign Ministers, Government officials and statesmen in the neighbouring countries to feel grave doubts about the readiness to recognize Israel and to conclude an agreement for a just and lasting peace with it. Nevertheless, in spite of these doubts, the Government of Israel feels that it must not give up trust in this prospect, slight though it may be.

... I have reason to believe that the (US) President's positive attitude to the task of preserving the balance of our security - particularly in the light of the growth of the Soviet involvement and the flow of Soviet arms to Egypt - is both practical and consistent.

... Israel's stand was and is readiness for peace talks without any pre-conditions on any side.... Israel has publicly declared that, by virtue of its right to secure borders, defensible borders, it will not return to the frontiers of 4 June 1967, which lay the State open to the temptations of aggression and which, on various fronts, lend the aggressor decisive advantages. Our position was, and remains, that, in lieu of peace, we will continue to maintain the situation as determined at the time of the cease-fire. The cease-fire liens will be replaced only by secure and recognized boundaries determined in a contractual peace. In accepting the American Government's peace initiative, Israel was not asked to, and did not, take upon itself any territorial commitments.

... Implementation of the Security Council Resolution (must be) through negotiation, agreement and the signature and application of treaty engagements to be worked out between the parties. In our reply of 22 April 1969, we made it clear to Ambassador Jarring that implementation would begin only after agreement had been reached on all the clauses.

... We are prepared to reach face-to-face negotiations with our neighbours even if this is preceded by a stage of indirect talks.

... If our consent to such a stage can promote the dialogue between the parties on peace, we will accept that, too.

There have been moves afoot to change Ambassador Jarring's mandate and grant the Four Powers the status of a body authorized to instruct the UN envoy. Israel opposes this trend ...

We have repeatedly made our position clear that Paragraph I I of the UN Resolution concerning the granting to the refugees of free choice between returning to Israel or receipt of compensation and rehabilitation in Arab countries is irreconcilable with Israel's existence, security and character. We did not bring about this tragic problem, and we are not responsible for the postponement of its solution. We are prepared to cooperate towards a solution of the problem in the context of peace and in the framework of a regional programme.

We subscribe to a cease-fire on all fronts on the basis of reciprocity ... I am sure that even those Ministers (in the Israel Coalition Cabinet) who opposed the American proposal, but agreed to the limited cease-fire, did so in the light of the clarifications which we received on the subject from the Government of the United States. According to that proposal, accepted by the Government of Egypt, the cease-fire on the Egyptian front, to be effective, would have to include an understanding that:

(1) both sides would stop all incursions and all firing, on the ground and in the air, across the cease-fire lines,

(2) the UAR and the USSR would refrain from changing the military status quo by emplacing SAM's or other new installations in an agreed zone west of the Suez Canal cease-fire line, and

(3) Israel would observe a similar standstill on new installations in a similar zone east of the Canal.

It has also been made clear to Israel, in the most official manner, that the obligation to observe the cease-fire on all fronts, including the Egyptian front, is a continuing one, and the American proposal for a limited cease-fire is only a first step towards bringing about full and continuous acceptance by the parties of the Security Council Resolution on the cease-fire, even after the end of the three-month period.

... We have never concealed the fact that, in the National Unity (Coalition) Government, positions diverged regarding the final borders of Israel to be included in the peace treaties. The members of Gahal (Liberal-Revisionist Bloc) today submitted their letters of resignation from the Government. All (the other) members of the Cabinet received this with deep regret.

... There were and are basic issues on which the Government was fully united, to wit: that there would be no withdrawal from the cease-fire lines until the advent of peace, and that Israel would not return to the 1967 borders. These positions have not changed and they are still valid today ...

The decision taken by the Government of Israel was not an easy one. Not because we hesitated to launch a move that may bring us nearer to peace, but because of the doubts that we have concerning the readiness of the Arab leaders to embark sincerely on the road to peace ... Even so, we have felt in duty bound carefully to examine every prospect, be it ever so slender, which could lead us to peace - to examine it with the fullest readiness and maximum responsibility.

It is not out of weakness that we reached our decision. It is within our power and we prove it every day - to maintain our control of the cease-fire lines on all fronts until peace comes. At the same time, we do not approach the negotiating table with the arrogance of the victor. We have said repeatedly: we want peace among equals, peace that will ensure our existence and sovereignty, just as it will ensure the existence and sovereignty of every Arab State in the region. Now that we are called upon to translate this readiness from theory into practice, we do so in all sincerity, guided by that cardinal motive of the desire for peace upon which our society is based. But we are not proceeding blindly. We are aware of the hostile tendencies still lingering in the hearts of the Arab leaders in our region. And we are aware of the involvement of such a super-Power as the Soviet Union, which is stirring up our region for the promotion of its own selfish interests and not of those of any nation in the area. It behoves us to proceed sincerely, yet with open eyes, in full readiness to accept peace, but without disregarding the dangers. The Government of Israel is convinced that its decision assures the continued ability of Israel to defend itself against all aggression without forfeiting any opportunity to embark on the road to peace.


Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs