JERUSALEM (Oct. 16)
Premier Golda Meir said today that Israeli forces have crossed the Suez Canal and are fighting on the west bank of the waterway. She made the dramatic disclosure in the course of a speech in the Knesset this morning shortly after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat threatened in Cairo to launch long range missiles against Israel unless the Israelis agree to a cease-fire calling for their withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories. Mrs. Meir did not indicate the size of the Israeli force nor how it crossed the Suez Canal. She said, however, that the operation was part of an overall strategic plan and that it was still in progress. She said the United States deserved the gratitude of the people of Israel for its aid, but added “We do not wish anybody to fight for us, even if we needed somebody to help.”
The Premier assured America that its help to Israel would not prejudice its friendship and interests elsewhere in the world–including in the Arab world. “In the name of the Israeli people I thank President Nixon and people of the U.S. who are acting in the old American tradition of aiding a state under attack,” she said. The quantity, variety and pace of American supplies are in step with the needs of the time, she added, and assured the world that Israel did not want or need anyone else to do the fighting for her. Mrs. Meir praised American Jews, saying the United Jewish Appeal and Israel Bonds had taken upon themselves to cover Israel’s social welfare, education and aliya and health expenses while the country’s own resources were wholly to finance the war. The compulsory loan, the voluntary loan and the additional budget the Knesset was due to pass this evening were all for that purpose. Development would be cut back IL250,000 but world Jewry’s help would ensure that Israel’s peacetime needs would continue to receive resources and to flourish, she said.
The Premier also expressed appreciation of the attitude of Israel’s Arab population, saying that numerous Arabs have offered to help the war effort with financial donations and in other ways. “This augurs well for the future,” she stated. Premier Meir referred to Jordan’s dispatch of troops and tanks to the Syrian front a “worrisome and dangerous step.” She said Israel did not want to fight Jordan–and it was not in Jordan’s interest to fight Israel. But she warned that if circumstances demanded that Israel strike at Jordanian tanks on the battlefield, they would do it. Mrs. Meir pledged to Israeli prisoners of war that there would be no cease-fire that did not provide for a POW exchange. She noted that there had been much talk of cease-fire–but Israel had received no suggestion from any political body–and so there was no need to discuss this. Syria and Egypt had apparently not yet been hit hard enough–since they did not want a cease-fire. A cease-fire would come only when Arab armies were on verge of collapse, then, she remarked bitterly, there would be plenty of “volunteers” at the UN and elsewhere who would try to bring about a cease-fire.
Referring to the British embargo. Mrs. Meir said that withholding equipment that Israel vitally needed to beat back attack was shameful. She called British and French embargo policies cynical and egoistical opportunism. Israel’s aim, she said, was to carry the battle to the enemy and to “continue until we smash his might.” She said that one did not need a rich imagination to understand what would have happened had the Egyptian-Syrian attacks come from the pre-1967 borders. As soon as Syrians took Golan Heights they would have begun shelling settlements as of old. “We must have no doubt we are fighting for our survival as a state and as a people….The Arab leaders pretend their aim is to restore the pre-1967 lines, but in fact they intend the total crushing of Israel; It is our duty to convince peace-loving people the world over who tend to ignore this–that the Arab aim is to destroy Israel,” she said.
Mrs. Meir said the 11 days of battle had seen Israel’s forces fight bravely and in strength. “The soldiers had fought like lions and inflicted grievous blows on the enemy. But the war is not yet over and the battles rage daily with more dear sacrifices ,” she declared Mrs. Meir said the Israeli army was the people’s army in the deepest sense. Every household was intimately connected with the army through its dearest ones. Thus the whole country was united as one family. “I am not brave enough to attempt to comfort the hundreds of families who received the terrible message….they are the sons of all of us….the pain is all our pain,” she said. Menachem Beigin, opposition leader, said after Mrs. Meir spoke that he was prepared for national unity and for its sake would shelve all the questions he had about the beginning of the war and what preceded it until victory was secure. But he assured the Knesset that he would have some basic questions to ask at that time.