October 16, 1973
Source: VOLUMES 1-2: 1947-1974 https://www.gov.il/en/Departments/General/7-statement-to-the-knesset-by-pm-meir-16-october-1973
Prime Minister Golda Meir in her address to the Knesset since the beginning of the October War, recounts the war’s status on the Golan Heights and in the Suez Canal area. She details Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, Iraqi, and Soviet involvement in the war, the support Israel is receiving from the United States. She provides the numbers of Arab military forces, the tanks and airplanes in their possession. Finally, she reveals that an Israeli task force had crossed the Suez Canal and was fighting on the west bank of that waterway. Following her address, the Knesset adopted a Resolution in support of the government.
Ken Stein, October 4, 2023
Mr. Speaker, Members of the Knesset,
Since Yom Kippur, for the past eleven days, we have been engaged in a cruel war. This war was forced upon us on two fronts at one and the same time. Fierce battles have been waged, in which the Israel Defence Forces have displayed all their valour and strength. The enemy chose to carry out his aggression on the Day of Atonement in both ignorance and malice. He chose this day knowing that so many of our people are engaged in prayer and in the synagogues, as this is the most sacred day of the Jewish people. In his ignorance he was unaware that among Jews the saving of life takes precedence over everything else. We shall not forget the wonderful and moving sight of thousands of young men quietly leaving the synagogues, wrapped in their praying shawls, and in a short time, with their soldiers’ knapsacks on their backs, going out to their units at the fronts, accompanied by a prayer for the welfare of all our fighters and profound faith in the victory of the Israel Defence Forces and the future of the Jewish people.
Our soldiers have fought like lions. The criminal offensive has been blocked, the enemy has sustained heavy blows, but the war is still at its height. Not a day passes without battles. Every Israeli soldier who falls in battle is precious not only to his family but to all of us, and the effort to defeat the enemy involves painful losses.
Members of the Knesset,
I will make no attempt at this time to give a detailed description of the situation on the battlefields and the fronts. I will say only this: On the Syrian front we have overcome the aggressors and pushed them back across the cease-fire lines. The Syrian army has been severely mauled and its forces have crossed over to the other side of the cease-fire line. An Iraqi division which took part in the fighting has been severely hit by our forces. The IDF have struck at the strategic infrastructure of Syria. The war on the Syrian front, however, has not yet been completed.
On the southern front the war is in full swing. After the battles to block the enemy our forces registered great achievements in defensive battles. Yesterday there were heavy armour-against-arm our battles and the impetus of the Egyptian offensive was blocked. The indications are that the enemy’s initiative has been curbed. At this time, as we are assembled at this session of the Knesset, an IDF force is also operating on the western side of the Canal. No doubt you will not expect me to give you a detailed account of the IDF’s moves and plans, and I will add no more on the significance of our achievements while the battles are at their height. The greetings of the nation go out to the soldiers and officers of the IDF.
Our men have fought and are fighting prepared to sacrifice their all. Such fighting can be understood only if we bear in mind the nature and the qualities of our young people, only if we understand that our men are aware of their mission in Jewish history, of their role as the heirs of our age-old heritage of heroism, in defence of their homes, the lives of their dear ones, and the survival of their people and their country.
The IDF units at the front exhibit not only supreme fighting capacity, resourcefulness and daring on the part of soldiers and officers, but also, to an extraordinary degree, fraternity of fighters and self-sacrifice – as defenders who are convinced of the justice of their fight.
Members of the Knesset,
Israel’s Defence Forces are a people’s army in the deepest and truest sense. The family of Israel is intimately linked to the IDF as a whole, as well as to one or more of their dearest ones serving in our armed forces.
At the same time, not only the family of front-line fighters but also the so-called “rear” – the whole of this nation – is one devoted and anxious family.
Hundreds of families whose dear ones have gone out to the defence of our people and our country have received the terrible news that a son, a husband, a father, or a brother will never return.
I have not the courage to try to console them. I can only repeat this truth of ours: They are all the sons of all of us, the pain is that of all of us.
Some of our soldiers are prisoners in enemy hands. We shall not accept any ceasefire that does not include an exchange of prisoners.
And then there are the missing: Let us not weaken in our hope that they will be found alive.
Dear families, the safeguarding of our people’s survival still involves the agonizing knowledge that our wonderful, brave and guiltless sons have to serve as our protective wall. When the day of peace arrives, it will be thanks to them. Let us all be worthy of them.
Members of the Knesset,
Who can dare deny that it was Egypt and Syria that opened the criminal attack against Israel? Will anyone dare, this time again, to deny the truth that the responsibility for this terrible war in which we are engaged falls on the Governments of Egypt and Syria? I repeat this fact once again, for even at the height of the fighting we are keenly aware of the moral aspects and the moral, human and political responsibility which governments assume in deciding on the initiation of war and bloodshed. The governments of Egypt and Syria will not be absolved of the stigma of this responsibility and its consequences.
The Arab States concentrated tremendous forces for the attack. I will quote some of the main figures for the Arab armies as of 15 October:
Troops – Some 650,000
Planes – Some 650
Tanks – Some 2,500
Troops – Some 150,000
Planes – Some 330
Tanks – Some 2,000
Iraq (her part in the war)
1 armoured division (some 230 tanks)
3 squadrons of fighter planes
Jordan (her part in the war)
1 armoured brigade (some 80 tanks)
Morocco (her part in the war)
One motorized brigade (some 1,500 troops with armoured vehicles)
Egypt – some 150 batteries of SA-2, SA-3, and SA-6.
Syria – some 35 batteries of SA-2, SA-3, and SA-6.
Artillery (120 mm and up)
Egypt – 2,000
Syria – 1,300
According to intelligence reports, additional Arab states are about to send forces of varying sizes to participate in the war against Israel.
Members of the Knesset,
There is no need for a fertile imagination to realize what the situation of the State of Israel would have been if we had been on the 4 June 1967 lines. Anyone who finds it difficult to visualize this nightmarish picture should direct his mind and attention to what happened on the northern front – on the Golan Heights – during the first days of the war. Syrian aspirations were not limited to liberating a piece of land, but to deploy their artillery batteries once again on the Golan Heights against the Galilee settlements, to set up missile batteries against our aircraft, so as to provide cover for the breakthrough of their armies into the heart of Israel.
Nor is a fertile imagination required to imagine the fate of the State of Israel had the Egyptian armies managed to overcome the IDF in the expanses of Sinai and to move in full force towards Israel’s borders.
I will not waste the Knesset’s time by quoting official announcements by the Arab rulers and their spokesmen regarding the objects of the criminal attack that they have launched.
There is no doubt in our minds that war has been launched once more against the very existence of the Jewish State. This is a war over our very existence as a state and a nation.
The armies of Egypt and Syria, supported by other states, with a wealth of arms in tanks, missiles and aircraft -went to war with the aim of reaching the lines of 4 June 1967 on their way to achieving their major goal – the conquest and destruction of the State of Israel. The Arab rulers pretend that their objective is limited to reaching the lines of 4 June 1967 – but we know their true objective: the total subjugation of the State of Israel. It is our duty to realize this truth, it is our duty to make it clear to all men of goodwill who tend to ignore it. We need to realize this truth, in all its gravity, so that we may continue to mobilize from among ourselves and from the Jewish people all the forces and resources necessary to overcome our enemies, to fight back until we have defeated our attackers.
Members of the Knesset,
The Soviet Union aspires to profit from the war against Israel. Anyone whose memory does not deceive him is fully aware of the grim role played by the Soviet Union in creating the conditions that led to the Six-Day War. Every sensible person is aware of the Soviet Union’s role in the subsequent developments. The Soviets rehabilitated the armies of Egypt and Syria and supplied them with a wealth of modern sophisticated armaments, with numerous advisers and experts, and at the beginning of 1970 the Soviet Union stationed fighter squadrons and ground-to-air missile batteries in Egypt. In August 1970 the missiles were advanced to the vicinity of the Suez Canal.
Furthermore, the Soviet Union did not prepare the Arab armies for defence, knowing that they were in no danger of being attacked, but built up, trained, equipped and deployed these armies for the planned purpose of aggressive action, as has been revealed. The hand of the Soviet Union is obvious in the equipment, the tactics and the military doctrines that the Arab armies are trying to imitate and adopt. Above everything else, the Soviet Union’s all-out support for Israel’s enemies in the course of the
war has been manifested in the airlift reaching our enemies’ airfields and the ships calling at their ports. The Soviet planes and ships carry military equipment, including missiles of various types, and it may be assumed that the planes are also bringing in advisers and experts on operational matters, as well as on equipment and armament.
Soviet air- and sea-lift up to 15.10.73:
From 10 October to date:
To Syria – 125 Antonov – 12 planes
To Egypt – 42 Antonov – 12 planes and a further 16 Antonov – 22 planes
To Iraq – 17 Antonov- 12 planes
Since 10 October, Russian ships carrying heavy equipment have been calling at the Port of Latakia. Intelligence reports indicate that the Soviet Union has succeeded in involving other countries of the Soviet bloc in the supply of aid to Egypt and Syria. Such conduct on the part of the USSR goes beyond the limits of unfriendly policy. It is a policy of irresponsibility not only towards Israel, but towards the Middle East and towards the world.
Members of the Knesset,
In the UN and in the world press there is considerable talk on the subject of a cease-fire. I wish to say to the Knesset in the clearest possible way: up to now no proposal for a cease-fire has been made to the Israel Government by any political factor whatsoever. Accordingly, there is no need for us to discuss the subject. Moreover, the Egyptians and Syrians have seemingly not yet been beaten enough to evince any desire for a cease-fire. Here and there ridiculous statements have been made by Arab statesmen in favour of a cease-fire conditional on our withdrawal to the lines of 4 June 1967 … Apparently they are still under the illusion that the Syrians have not yet been repulsed and that the Egyptian tanks are still rolling forward. The time for a cease-fire will come indeed when the enemy’s strength has been broken. I am certain that when we have succeeded in bringing our enemies to the verge of collapse, representatives of various states will not be long in “volunteering” to try and save our attackers by means of a cease-fire, and then there will be considerable activity at the United Nations, the Security Council. At any rate, now as in previous wars, the ceasefire depends first and foremost on the strength of the IDF.
Members of the Knesset,
On the ninth day of the war it transpired that a crack Jordanian armoured brigade with 80 tanks had been transferred from Jordan to Syria and placed at the disposal of the Iraqi command.
I think it is unnecessary to stress that we do not want a clash or a war with the Kingdom of Jordan and we are still convinced that it is in Jordan’s interest not to bring about another war with Israel.
In the Jordanian announcement of 13 October, Radio Amman emphasized that in addition to holding down Israeli forces along the line for the purpose of lightening the pressure on the Syrians, the Jordanian command had decided to take an additional step, namely, to despatch an elite Jordanian force to the assistance of the Syrians. The announcement emphasized that this step was in addition to the defence of the long Jordanian line, which is a defence of “the heart of the Arab nation.”
This is a disturbing and dangerous step. We regarded it as the start of an escalation. We drew the attention of international factors to the fact that developments might get out of control, for in the combat area in war time it is not possible to distinguish one tank from another and we shall have to treat the Jordanian force in Syria as the circumstances of the war may dictate.
Members of the Knesset,
Now, as in times of danger in the past, we are witnessing the grave and disgraceful manifestation of the imposition of an embargo on the shipments of arms to Israel at a time when we are fighting for our very lives.
The French embargo is still in force, and furthermore, the whole world sees how our warnings have proved true: we warned that the Mirages which France was supplying to Libya would be used in war against Israel. They tried to refute this warning of ours, to assure us that the Mirages were being delivered to Libya on condition that they would not be transferred to any other country and would not be used in war. And now the Mirages supplied to Libya are taking an active part in the battles in Sinai. There can be no better proof of this than the downing of such planes by IDF fire. Nor do we ignore the fact that Britain has held up deliveries essential to our war effort.
Faced with these manifestations, every lover of peace is justified in contemplating with anxiety the cynicism and partiality displayed in international politics, and taking note of the selfish, unethical policy conducted by enlightened states towards a small country beleaguered and attacked.
Members of the Knesset,
Always, and especially at this time, the friendship and assistance of the United States, its people and its Government, are dear to us. We have no doubt that the U.S. Government feels profound concern at the bloody events in our region, a concern that stems from America’s deep-rooted policy of peace, from her desire to prevent bloodshed, and from America’s interest that there should be no regional troublespots which might flare up and spread.
I have no doubt that the U.S. Government has Israel’s good at heart, and these feelings of friendship for us arc not at the expense of the legitimate interests of other countries, the Arab States included. We are taking care to explain our policies and our needs to the U.S. Government..
As always, we appreciate the warm identification and the great assistance of the Jews of the United States, whose hearts are with Israel in these difficult hours of struggle.
In the name of the people of Israel I wish to express our thanks to the President of the United States and to the American people, who have followed American tradition in helping a nation struggling against aggression.
Faced with the vast quantities of arms and equipment streaming into the Arab States from the Soviet Union at an increasing pace, the United States is continuing to respond to our requests with the quantities and types of arms, and the speed necessitated by the situation. We have no desire that anyone should fight in our place, but we are entitled to help in defending ourselves. I am convinced that the United States will do all that is required for the deterrence of dangerous tendencies in the policy and the actions of the Soviet Union, and will render to Israel all the help needed to defend her existence and repel her attackers.
In view of the circumstances of this war, waged against forces of huge dimensions, we are called upon to make a great and total effort in the monetary sphere as well, to finance the cost of the war. This situation also demands changes in the entire structure of expenditure and revenue of the Government and the State.
Accordingly, we decided first of all on a war loan to be imposed on everyone by law, following the principles of social justice in its implementation. Thus, higher rates have been fixed for the upper income brackets. This loan is a general one, to be levied on all taxable income.
At the same time, we have issued a call for the acquisition of these loan bonds over and above the requirements of the law. Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir, as well as a public committee composed of Lieut.-Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak Rabin (Chairman) and Messrs. Zalman Suzayev and Asher Yadlin, have undertaken responsibility for the loan. An appeal was first of all launched to persons in the upper income brackets, and I am happy to be able to state that the public as a whole has shown willingness to share in the burden of financing the war effort. An encouraging response has come from all sectors of the population.
The proceeds of the loan will be devoted exclusively to financing war expenditures. The Government has also decided to reduce the development budget by IL 250 million in order to finance war expenditure.
As far as possible, we do not wish to neglect the essential areas of peace-time activity. In this respect, world Jewry has come to our aid by evincing once again its solidarity with the people of Israel. These wonderful expressions of Jewish fraternity carry a significance far beyond the financial aspect.
The central Jewish bodies – the United Jewish Appeal and the Israel Bonds – are undertaking a further burden. The one has undertaken to finance our social welfare budget and the other the development budget. World Jewry is giving expression to its desire that the absorption of immigrants should not cease, that education and health not be neglected, and that we may be able to continue our economic development. We in Israel are fighting and also financing the costs of the war, while our brethren, the Jews of the world, are helping us to carry on rather than suspend our peacetime activities.
I should like to mention the identification with the State shown by Israel’s Arab citizens. Offers of voluntary help have come from all communities and strata, from the distant villages in the north to the Bedouin encampments in the south. They have taken the form of providing manpower for vital work, blood donations and subscriptions to the voluntary war loan. This is an encouraging phenomenon and a good omen for the future.
Members of the Knesset,
We are a democratic State. Freedom of speech and criticism are natural and deeprooted characteristics of Israeli society. In the present situation it is only natural that questions should arise which demand explanation and reply. There is always room for criticism and self-criticism. The time is not far off when we shall be able to find time for this as well, in the Knesset and other forums, but I hope that all of us – both Government and Opposition – will not distract our attention now from the main national effort, and that in everything we do and say we will keep to the essential: the maintenance of responsibility and the strengthening of our unity in the effort required to achieve our goals and for victory.
Our objective in this war, which unites the entire nation, is simple and clear: to repel and to break the strength of the enemy on both fronts. Thanks to the redoubtable strength of the IDF, thanks to the spirit of the nation, which is manifested day by day, thanks to the identification of the Jewish people with Israel – we will achieve our goal, we will aim and strive to attain this objective to the full.
We have never considered war to be a means of achieving solutions to the problems at issue in our part of the world. Ever since the establishment of the State of Israel we have been convinced that negotiation is the shortest and most effective way to peace. Now, in the midst of battle, we shall not enter into debates on political aims and problems. The repelling of the enemy and the crushing of his power are the conditions for safeguarding our future. We shall concentrate everything on the effort to break the enemy’s strength and to push him back. It is for this effort that we shall strengthen our unity.
When I am asked by Israelis and non-Israelis, “when will it end?” I answer: “when we have succeeded in beating the enemy.” For our part, we shall do everything – I repeat, everything – in order to succeed within the shortest possible time, but we shall not be impatient. This is the true and responsible answer at this time.
Knesset’s Resolution on the Government’s Statement.
On behalf of the factions:
Alignment (Labour Party – Mapam)
National Religious Party
Poalei Agudat Yisrael
Meri – Israel Radical Camp
Moked – Maki and “Tkhelet-Adom”
Knesset Member Shalom Cohen
Knesset Member Avner Sciaki
The Knesset heard the Prime Minister’s statement, held a debate on it, and resolved as follows:
- The Knesset communes in awesome reverence and deep love with the memory of the men of the Israel Defence Forces, heroes of the nation, who gave their lives in defence of the nation and the homeland against the aggressive legions of the enemy on the southern and northern fronts.
- The Knesset expresses its condolences, in the name of the entire people, to the families who have lost their dear ones. The memory of the heroes and martyrs will live on forever in the heart of the nation.
- The Knesset extends its wishes for a speedy and complete recovery to those wounded in battle, and for the speedy return home of the prisoners of war.
- The Knesset calls upon the entire people to stand united behind its armed forces, which are fighting to defeat the enemy’s aggressive legions and to provide Israel with victory, security and peace.
- The Knesset expresses its appreciation to all those free nations which have taken a stand in support of beleaguered Israel and are aiding her in the war for her freedom and future.
- The Knesset denounces Britain’s and France’s withholding of equipment from Israel which is defending herself against the aggression of her enemies, whilst they are receiving an ever-increasing flow of arms and war materiel from the Soviet Union.
- The Knesset expresses its appreciation to the United States, its people, its President, its Government and its legislatures, for their support for Israel and the righteousness of her war against aggression and plots of extermination.
- The Knesset holds in esteem the stand taken by the Jewish people all over the world, who are again proving their identification with Israel in this fateful trial.
The above resolution was adopted by a vote of 84 in favour and three against.