JERUSALEM (May. 30)
The Knesset voted late tonight to approve the Israeli-Syrian disengagement accord that had won the unanimous endorsement of the Israeli Cabinet yesterday. The vote climaxed a stormy debate following Premier Golda Meir’s reading of the main points of the agreement which, she stressed repeatedly and emphatically, did not prejudice Israel’s security and provided fully for the defense of Israeli settlements on the Golan Heights. Mrs. Meir hinted at secret protocols and undertakings with regard to the problem of terrorist incursions which are not specified in the text of the disengagement agreement.
Mrs. Meir’s address, her last before parliament as Premier, was interrupted by a noisy, almost violent protest demonstration in the visitors gallery, an event unprecedented in Knesset history, Eight demonstrators–young students and settlers from the Golan Heights–were forcibly removed by guards after they linked arms and refused to heed the Speaker’s demand for order. Even as the Knesset debated, fighting continued on the northern front where Syrian artillery shelled Israeli positions in the Mt. Hermon region and the southern section of the Yom Kippur War enclave during the day. There were no Israeli casualties. The exchanges of fire, which have gone on with few interruptions for nearly three months, are not expected to cease until the disengagement accord is formally signed in Geneva tomorrow.
ENSURES DEFENSE OF GOLAN
Premier Meir told the Knesset that the new disengagement line is “for the most part” identical with the line that existed before the Yom Kippur War. It “ensures the defense of the Golan Heights,” she said. She told the packed house that her Cabinet had been guided by the Chief of Staff and his
A crucial aspect of the agreement, one which the Likud opposition seized upon, is its failure to specifically forbid “para-military actions,” a reference to terrorist incursions. On this matter, Mrs. Meir disclosed that the United States had informed Israel that it regarded raids by armed groups or individuals across the demarcation lines to be contrary to the cease-fire and that Israel, in the exercise of its right of self-defense, may act to prevent such actions by all available means.
The U.S. would not consider such acts by Israel as violations of the cease-fire and will support them politically, Mrs. Meir said. She added, “I assume the U.S. would not have made such a declaration had it not had solid foundation for doing so,” an apparent allusion to a secret U.S. Syrian understanding on the terrorist problem. She promised that further details on this and other subjects would be given to the Knesset Security and Foreign Affairs Committee.
MAIN POINTS OF DISENGAGEMENT ACCORD
The main points of disengagement, as outlined by the Premier to the Knesset are as follows: A mutual commitment to scrupulously observe the cease-fire on land, sea and air and to refrain from all military actions; separation of forces by an area of separation (buffer zone) within which no military force will be stationed except United Nations units; the two armies will be separated by the buffer. A thinning out of forces and arms will be undertaken in zones parallel to the buffer. Long-range artillery and missiles will be permitted at an additional distance away. The UN force will supervise the buffer zone and the limitation of forces zone. UN forces will be recruited from non-permanent members of the Security Council.
Israel will evacuate the Syrian territory it captured in the Yom Kippur War last Oct; there will be a Syrian civilian administration inside the buffer zone (the town of Kuneitra); prisoners of war will be exchanged after the signing of the accord but before its implementation; the bodies of the dead will be returned; civilian residents of the evacuated Syrian territory and the buffer zone will be permitted to return.
The line of separation will coincide with post 1967 cease-firelineson the Israeli side, except for the town of Kuneitra and the Rafid Junction. The town will be located within the UN buffer zone and its inhabitants and Syrian civilian administration will be permitted to return. The Mr. Hermon positions taken by Israel in Oct. will be under UN control. Mt. Hermon positions held by Israel since 1967 will remain in Israeli hands. The Premier said the signing would take place tomorrow in Geneva and the repatriation of woulded soldiers would begin Saturday.
ADDITIONAL TERMS IN THE ACCORD
(In addition to these points outlined by Premier Meir, the official document released today at the United Nations contained the following: “The sir forces of the two sides will be permitted to operate up to their respective lines without interference from the other side.” The agreement is to be signed not later than May 31, 1974. The Israeli and Syrian Military Working Groups will start their work for the purpose of implementation in Geneva under UN aegis within 24 hours of the signing and “will complete this task within five days.” Disengagement will begin within 24 hours after the completion of the task of the Military Working Group. The process of disengagement will be completed no later than 20 days after it begins,” the official document said.)
TERRORISM, SYRIAN JEWS ARE ISSUES
Likud leader Menachem Beigin accused the government of retreating from previous positions. He said the Meir government had pledged that there would be no pull-back from the 1967 Six-Day War lines on the Golan Heights but now Israel is withdrawing under pressure from Syria. He noted that government officials had promised time and again that Israel would demand a solution to the problem of Syrian Jewry in the disengagement process, but yesterday’s agreement does not even mention Syrian Jews.
Beigin also made much of the fact that the agreement includes no curb on terrorist activities from Syrian soil and charged that it will in fact permit the Palestinian terrorists to act on Israeli territory to attain their goals.
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, also making his swansong appearance in the Knesset as a member of government, told the Knesset that he hoped Syrian Jews would be permitted to leave even though their exit is “not in the technical framework of the disengagement.”
Dayan justified Israel’s pullback from most of the Golan Heights town of Kuneitra “on condition that it leads to innocent civilian settlement” by the Syrians. He noted that Israel had never intended to settle in Kuneitra “and when we speak of plans for an Israeli city on the Golan we think of it much further to the west.” Dayan pointed out, as Premier Meir did, that any terrorist incursions from Syria would have to be interpreted as a deliberate violation of the agreement by Damascus.
U.S. INTEREST PLAYED ROLE IN ACCORD
In the course of her address, Premier Meir expressed satisfaction with the scrupulous observance of the Suez disengagement pact concluded last Jan., and noted Egypt’s declared intention to develop civilian and economic life in the canal area. “We would like the same process to develop on the northern border as well,” she said. She observed that the accord with Syria is likely to strengthen the pact with Egypt and that its successful implementation would hold out prospects for further dialogue toward a final peace.
Mrs. Meir conceded that Israel’s consideration of the accord with Syria had included the U.S.interest in reaching an agreement. “I will not deny that in our decision we also took account of the advice and the policy of the U.S.,” she said. She recalled the manifestation of “U.S. deterrent power” in the Oct. war and America’s subsequent “fruitful political activity…which goes hand in hand with the needs of the peoples in the region.”
Recalling her statement last Jan. 22 after conclusion of the agreement with Egypt when she expressed confidence in a “continuing positive approach” to Israel’s “security requirements” by the U.S., Premier Meir said, “Not only have my words not been disproved, but the consistent aid of the U.S. to Israel has been assured for the future by the President of the United States.”
Mrs. Meir opened her Knesset speech with praise of President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger “for their tireless efforts.” She concluded by extending her blessings to the new government of Premier-designate Yitzhak Rabin and said she was happy that she could hand over the reigns of government after leading Israel to the present accord which, she hoped, would bring peace and tranquility to the northern border.