TEL AVIV (Oct. 14)
Premier Golda Meir last night assured hundreds of foreign and local newsmen that Israel had no doubt of final victory in the war. Asked whether Israel would consider a cease-fire with Egyptian troops on the Israeli side of the canal, the Premier twice refused to dismiss that possibility – saying only that the Israeli government would immediately discuss any cease-fire proposal when and if any such was made. But there was no sign of any such proposal from the Arabs at this time.
Mrs. Meir was scathing in her criticism of the Soviets who, she said, were aiding the Arabs not because they liked them, but out of their own “callous interests.” Asked about United States arms supplies to Israel she quoted Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who had spoken of an “ongoing relationship” in that connection. “So it’s ongoing,” she said.
Looking determined and fielding questions with ease – though with telltale rings under her eyes – Mrs. Meir sent her best wishes to the troops, saying every one of them was the son not only of his family but of every one of us. “All our love and all our heart goes out to you and we hope to see you back home soon.” The premier said she would not prophesy how long the war in the south will last – but it would not be only a few days. She said in the north the Golan Heights was clear of Syrians and in the south fighting was continuing and would probably do so for a few days to come. Mrs. Meir said that she could not find sufficient words to praise Israel’s fighters, and she was happy that the civilian population was matching the front in indomitable spirit and sacrifice.
ISRAEL’S POSITION NOW BETTER
She said Egypt and Syria had been helped by Algeria, Tunisia, Iraq and now Jordan which had sent tanks and men – “not too many” – to the Syrian front. She called the Soviet ongoing airlift to the Arabs massive. The Russians had taught them for six years not how to defend themselves – they knew Israel did not intend to attack – but how to attack Israel, Mrs. Meir charged. But Israel’s position now was much better than a week ago, after some “very, very bitter hours.” Saturday morning it had fought and beaten an Iraqi tank division destroying the greater part of the Iraqi force. And Israel was “progressing though this does not mean that the way is open before us.”
Mrs. Meir refused to discuss “operational plans” when asked if Israel intended to capture Damascus. She said Russia had sent more than 120 supply planes to Iraq, Syria and Egypt in the past few days. If Jordanian tanks got in Israel’s way in Syria, they would be knocked out, she declared; and of course Israel was guarding itself in case of direct Jordanian intervention across the river. Meanwhile, the bridges would remain open as far as Israel was concerned.
The Premier declared that the war ought to drive home to those friends of Israel abroad who had counselled otherwise the importance of defensible borders. How much more terribly would Israel have suffered if she had agreed to go back to the pre-1967 lines? Mrs. Meir asked. Questioned whether she regretted not making a preemptive strike, Mrs. Meir replied, “yes and no. Yes because had Israel struck first it would now be in a better position and quite a few lives would have been saved.” And no because “at least we don’t have the argument with the world about who started…we took the decision with our eyes open.”
Independent observers were quick last night to pick out of Premier Meir’s hour-long press conference her pointed refusal to rule out the possibility of Israel agreeing to a cease-fire at present positions. Asked repeatedly if Israel could contemplate a cease-fire with Egyptians on this side of the canal, she repeatedly replied that Israel would lose no time in seriously considering any cease-fire proposal if and when one came. She noted though that none seemed forthcoming from the Arabs at the moment. Nowhere in the Premier’s words was there an echo of Israel’s insistence earlier in the week on withdrawal to Oct. 6 lines.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet met today and decided to call a special meeting of the Knesset Tuesday to hear a statement by Mrs. Meir. At today’s Cabinet session she reported on political aspects of the war and Army Chief of Staff David Elazar reported on progress in fighting on both fronts.