Mrs. Meir Reaffirms Israel’s Willingness to Continue Truce Indefinitely

Premier Golda Meir of Israel announced in the General Assembly today that her government is “prepared to continue the present cease-fire (in the Middle East) without a time limit.” She urged “the leaders of the Arab countries of the Middle East and especially… the new leadership of Egypt to recognize once and for all that the future of the Middle East lies in peace and this must be achieved by Israelis and Arabs themselves.” A spokesman for the Israeli UN Mission stressed afterwards that Mrs. Meir had used the word “continue” in connection with the cease-fire rather than “extend,” which could carry the implication of a cut-off date. Mrs. Meir made her remarks in the course of an address to the 25th anniversary commemorative session of the General Assembly in which she stressed the sanctity of international agreements, rebuked the United Nations for giving “equal status” to the victims of aggression and those who commit it, and re-emphasized Israel’s position that a genuine, lasting peace in the Mideast can be achieved only by direct negotiations between the parties without interference or imposed solutions from outside. The 73-year-old Prime Minister was attired in a dark blue suit and single strand of white pearls. She spoke slowly and deliberately, never raising her voice during the address, which lasted a half hour.

Mrs. Meir accused Israel’s Arab neighbors of the “cynical flouting of solemn agreements” for the past 22 years, commencing with the violation of the UN Charter by their invasion of Israel in 1948. She cited Arab violations of the 1949 armistice agreements, the 1957 arrangements and the cease-fire resolution of 1967, the latter by embarking on a “war of attrition” against Israel. “And now Egypt is undermining the American peace initiative by violating the cease-fire standstill agreement,” Mrs. Meir said. Her omission of the word “flagrantly” before “violating” was the only significant change in the prepared text of Mrs. Meir’s address, which was distributed to newsmen only minutes before she spoke. “it is these violations which have halted all progress toward peace, despite Israel’s earnest commitment towards its quest,” Mrs. Meir said. “Agreements can only be reached if those making them enter upon them in mutual trust and in the assurance that they will be honorably executed,” she went on. “Until the situation obtaining at the time when the cease-fire went into effect is restored, Israel cannot be expected to take part in the Jarring talks. Israel seeks to resume negotiations; it wants the Jarring talks to be fruitful, but it cannot renew its participation in them, until it is demonstrated that agreements that have been concluded are faithfully observed,” Mrs. Meir said.

ISRAELIS AND ARABS MUST MAKE MIDEAST PEACE; OUTSIDE INTERVENTION SCORED

“In an atmosphere in which a callous breach of faith between nations is touted as a virtue, and aggression against a peaceful neighbor is acclaimed as a sacred cause, no hope for peace can prosper,” she added. “Yet despite what has happened, we still trust that for the sake of all our people, the Arab leadership will join with us one day in guiding our area from the present turmoil to the horizons of peace.” Mrs. Meir said she spoke “not in rancor but in sorrow.” She said, “I am convinced that all of us in the Middle East will continue to exist as sovereign states. None of us will leave. But we may choose whether we will continue in the sterile course of mutual destruction, whether we will go on hurting each other to no one’s benefit, or whether we will venture on a constructive course, and build our lands separately and together.” During the course of her address, Mrs. Meir chided the UN for its inability to help achieve a lasting peace. But the “most serious” weakness of the UN, she declared. “is the fact that those who commit aggression and those who are its victims have equal status in the United Nations–and even on the Security Council.” Israeli sources said Mrs. Meir was not suggesting any purge but merely emphasizing what Israel considers a major obstacle in the way of settling the Mideast crisis. She also praised the UN’s efforts toward eliminating “colonialism” and promoting “national liberation.”

Mrs. Meir also observed that the question of whether or not Israelis and Arabs alike will “forfeit our right to decide our own destiny” will only be resolved “in the measure that the people of the Middle East succeed or fail in making peace among themselves and by themselves without hindrance of intervention of any outside power.” She added that recent events in the Mideast “have proven yet again that resort to substitutes and alternatives for direct peaceful solution of the conflict creates fertile ground for breaches of promise and mutual suspicion.” This appeared to be a reaffirmation of Israel’s insistence on direct talks between her and the Arab states rather than the indirect talks favored by the Arab states in the efforts to settle the Middle East crisis. It was also seen as a veiled rebuke of the Soviet Union’s intervention with military muscle and personnel to beef up Egyptian military forces against Israel. Mrs. Meir’s address was delivered in the shadow of a scheduled General Assembly debate on the Middle East next week. Israel has stated that she is prepared to deal with any attempt by the Soviet-Arab bloc to “tamper” with Security Council Resolution 242. Mrs. Meir was greeted with a burst of applause at the conclusion of her address. Many delegates went to her delegation desk to shake her hand.

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