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Statement to the Knesset by Prime Minister Meir, (October 16, 1972)

On 5 September 1972, eleven Israeli athletes, members of the Israeli team to the Olympic games held in Munich, were assassinated by Arab terrorists. This act of murder was a climax in a series of horrendous acts perpetrated by Arab terrorists. On 16 October, the Prime Minister reported to the Knesset the results of the investigation of the security measures taken for the protection of the Israeli team. She then went on to say:

I do not intend to cover in detail the events in Munich, from the terrorists' taking control of the building and its occupants up to the bitter end at the airport. In my remarks to the Knesset on 12 September, I made clear that the Israel Government had no possibility of utilizing its forces and experience to free our dear ones, during any stage of the horrifying events in Munich and at the airport. The mode of conduct, of planning and execution of the operations carried out by the German forces were decided upon and were the sole responsibility of the German authorities, who did not require the agreement of any Israeli representative.

From the operational standpoint, there is indeed room for thought and for a critical attitude to the operation of the German forces at the airfield, which failed in the attempt to rescue our dear ones. At the same time, I wish to emphasize once more that the Israel Government fully appreciates the decision itself taken by the German authorities to use force in order to rescue our hostages, when no other alternative to save them remained. We attach great positive value to the decision of any Government not to surrender to anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish terrorist violence carried out on its territory. Even the operational failure does not alter this appreciation of ours and I do hope that the lessons learned will not be disregarded.

Members of the Knesset,

The subject of safeguarding against Arab terrorists' plans to attack Israeli installations, missions or Israelis, in Israel and abroad, has been our concern since the establishment of the State. The emphasis placed on, and the means adopted to, forestall attacks have changed from time to time, to meet changes in the terrorists' methods of attack and theatres of operation. Since the Six-Day War, quite a few grievous attacks have been made, forcing us to increase our security precautions. The steps taken by the security services prevented a considerable number of attacks which were about to be launched, but not all. The Arab terrorist organisations try to achieve surprise by varying their operations. They even decided to throw overboard all criteria and inhibitions, giving preference to any cruel and inhuman act. They are trying to cover up for their defeat inside Israel's borders and in the administered territories by murderous activity abroad.

During the last few years, especially since the hijacking of the airliner to Algiers (22 July 1968), methods and means employed to ensure the safety of Israeli objectives abroad have become more improved. The Government, while it was still headed by the late Levi Eshkol, instructed a special ministerial committee to deal with the subject of ensuring the safety of aircraft. Later, due to the worsening of the situation, the powers of the ministerial committee were extended to other Israeli objectives as well. The Committee worked incessantly under the chairmanship of the Deputy Prime Minister. The topics were submitted for debate by the head of the General Security Service. The instructions issued by the committee; in which representatives of the Security Services, the Police, and - where required - representatives of the branches of the IDF, the Air Force and the Navy, we transmitted for execution to the appropriate ministries and services. Decisions in principle of the ministerial committee were submitted and are still submitted to the Cabinet for approval. Considerable means have been invested in security. I am sure the Knesset does not expect me to enumerate the steps taken in various fields, before and after the events at Munich.

Members of the Knesset,

Terrorist activity, especially abroad, is by its very nature unpredictable in its methods, place and timing. Generally speaking, because of objective conditions, it is impossible to arrange full Israeli protection beyond the measures that may be adopted by the authorities, for every Israeli objective anywhere in the world that might serve as a target for attack. At the same time, we shall not cut our manifold links with our people abroad and with other countries. We shall not stop taking part in international life as citizens of a sovereign State, as partners in ties of economic and cultural life, of art, sport, science and the like. If we are destined to face the danger of attack in distant places, we shall meet the dangers conscious of the fact that only through courage can we overcome and conquer the danger.

In my Knesset statement on 12 September, I referred to the duty of Governments to eradicate nests of terrorism in their own countries. A number of States have taken action against terrorism at home. Special bodies have been set up to fight terror, measures have been adopted to make it more difficult for the terrorists to organize and operate, and security measures have been intensified. I shall not survey these steps here in detail. There is no doubt that they are only a beginning and that all possibilities have not yet been exhausted.

Let me mention only a few praiseworthy examples:

It was natural that the German Government should undertake a series of vigorous measures to prevent terrorists from organizing and operating in its territory. It has intensified the control of nationals of the Arab States and of entry to its territory, and it has outlawed suspected Palestinian organizations. The German Government has also intensified security precautions for Israeli institutions, installations and individuals. It has also shown readiness to take action in the same direction among other European countries, within various European and international forums.

The Government of the US is working to devise and activate practical measures to prevent terrorism in its territory. The President of the US has set up a committee on the ministerial level to combat terror. The US Government has also embarked on ramified activity on the international scene. The Secretary of State, Mr. Rogers, has sent notes to some 50 countries appealing for measures against terrorism. In all his public appearances, including his speech in the UN Assembly, he has devoted an important place to the question of terrorism and stated that the US has drafted a further international treaty dealing with the war on terrorism. An emphatic condemnation of terrorism has been expressed in official reactions from President Nixon, the Secretary of State and his assistants, the Senate, the US delegation to the UN, and others.

Israel welcomes these initial activities by various States in this field and hopes that they will continue and be intensified in other countries as well.

The UN organization has also placed on its agenda an item dealing with measures to prevent terrorism. As a result of pressures by the Arab States, the question has been transferred for preliminary consideration to the legal committee, with a secondary priority, and combined with the demand to consider the causes of terrorism as well. Our UN delegation is on the alert in regard to this subject and is trying to ensure an officacious debate.

The efforts of the Arab states to prevent a practical discussion on the question of terrorism within the framework of the UN are evidence of their direct responsibility for encouragement, support and assistance to the terrorist organizations. It is this support that enables these organizations to continue to exist and operate, and the Arab countries cannot wash their hands of the responsibility so long as they continue to provide shelter, training facilities, supplies and equipment, and financial and political support for the murderous activities of the terrorist organizations.

In this context I view with gravity the statement made by the Egyptian President in his speech yesterday, to the effect that he sees in "the Palestinian resistance" - read: El-Fatah and other terrorist and sabotage organizations - "the legitimate representation of the Palestinian people", and his announcement that "Egypt will measure the stand and trends of every Arab State by its relations with the Palestinian resistance."

Members of the Knesset,

Let us not give way to the illusion that worldwide repulsion at the murderous deeds has put an end to the terrorist activities of these organizations. Expressions to emotion, however strong they may be, will not put an end to terrorism unless they are accompanied by action.

From time to time we face new trials that are forced upon us in the course of the struggle for Israel's survival and rights. We must continue to organize ourselves and to rally to meet such renewed trials, even if the arena is far away. We shall not exempt other Governments from their obligations, in addition to the activity of the Israeli factors in charge of this subject, but we must realize that, for the sake of security abroad, we shall also need voluntary effort and readiness from all Israeli factors organizations, institutions and individuals - who go abroad. All these must display alertness and cooperation in regard to the subject of security.

According to the division of authority that has always been in force in Israel, the Prime Minister is responsible for the general security service and the Israel secret service. There has been no change in this situation. In carrying out this task, I shall continue to have recourse to the assistance of any Cabinet colleagues and of the services of persons with appropriate qualities and skills.

In recent days, in connection with the events at Munich, there has been severe criticism of Israel's security services, including generalized and completely unjust allegations.

We are not in the habit of describing in public the activities and achievements of the security services, and I shall not do so on this occasion either. I must emphasize, with full responsibility, that the security services, with their various branches, together with the Israel Defence Forces and the Police, have played a decisive role in the war against terrorism within the territory of the State, in the administered areas and abroad. They play a part of major importance in maintaining security and preventing dangerous assaults. The services are always deployed to do their duty as required by the changing circumstances, and I am confident that they will continue to be successful in the future in coping with new problems and those that may arise.

Members of the Knesset,

Our war against the Arab terrorists is a vital mission demanding devotion and concentration. From its very nature, it cannot be limited to defensive means, to safeguarding and self-defence, but must be active in all that has to do with the detection of murderers, of their bases, their actions and operations, to foil their designs and, in particular, to stamp out the terrorist organizations.

The current stage in terrorist activity abroad lends added force to the justification of our initiatives to strike at the terrorist bases and concentrations in the neighbouring countries, from which they set out to carry out their criminal missions, and not to absolve from responsibility those Arab states which support their operations and shelter them.

In some of the newspapers in Israel distorted versions have been published of Government policy and of my position on the war against terrorism. This subject is not a matter for public discussion, and I have not seen fit to issue denials. There is nothing for me to do but to repeat what I said in the Knesset on 12 September, with the concurrence of the entire Government of Israel: "We have no choice but to strike at the terrorist organizations wherever we can reach them. That is our obligation to ourselves and to peace. We shall fulfil that obligation undauntedly."


Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs