My Life: The Iron Lady of Israel, Golda Meir - XXII

NewsBharati    12-Mar-2024 10:45:11 AM   
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The War

On October 7, the report from the border reached Golda, and obviously, it was clear that the situation was quite grim, the army wanted permission for the counter attack against Egypt. It also wanted permission to take on-the-spot decisions when necessary. The permission was sought and given by the cabinet, Golda wrote that if she had not learned to keep strong during the years she spent in public life, it could have been absolutely difficult.

She had to make a statement about the war to the citizens of Israel, it was the most difficult assignment of her life, she stated. The true situation could not be disclosed, so they decided to wait and assess the situation for some time. Israel had informed friendly countries about the plans of an offensive by Israel against Syria and Egypt, but it was of no use when the war started. Negotiations with the US began quickly for military aid, there was hardly any time and any space for mistakes to be committed.
golda meir 

The tide turned

On the 5th day, Israel pushed Syria across the 1967 ceasefire line and the attack on Syria started. Golda knew that the president of the US would help Israel, she could see that the help was needed as the day after could have been too late. The Soviet aid was reaching Syria and Egypt by sea or by air. The first flight landed on the 9'th day of the war, on 14th October,it helped Israel and lifted their spirit,at the same time it made American position clear. By that time Israelis lost 656 people in the battle. Still, planes were in need. The ground crew learned to use special equipment overnight. Golda cried for the first time when the first flight touched the ground. She felt she was right to refuse to take action first, which could have resulted in loss of life without the weapons, her decision saved lives and the country from the blame of being the aggressor. The aid from America brought Israel back into the battle, the tide turned, though the country lost young and old equally.

As the king of Jordan had learned his lesson, he did not open the third front, just sent a brigade to help Syria.
Crossing the canal took a little longer than expected because of the fierce battle, the cabinet was with Golda all the time till the news reached. Golda explained to the Israeli parliament how it was necessary not to withdraw from the territory occupied by Israel after the six-day war. Syria anyhow intended to enter into the Heartland of Israel. Egyptian army wanted to push Israel's army and break into the Israeli border. Their objective was not just to reclaim the lost territories. So the only option Golda stated was, to fight back the attack and all are defeated.
She wanted to put on record the role of Russia in the middle East.

The role of Russia

Russia helped Arab nations in every aspect from types of equipment to tactics, providing advisers to experts. The help included weapons of all kinds, it succeeded in involving other countries too. She called this policy as being irresponsible.

The complex situation any country could be in

One of the terrible aspects was finding the facts about the boys who could not communicate during the period of war. The war lasted longer than expected, contact with families could not be maintained and the people were taken by surprise.

Reserve people were called from the entire country, they could not get sufficient time, and the situation was terrifying. Initially, it was difficult to know the detailed information of all the soldiers, Egypt and Syria refused to share the list of soldiers, information and search too. Golda had the anxious parents to talk to,they believed that she would be able to get the correct information by her efforts. Golda thought, maybe in their hearts they blamed her for not being prepared for such situations despite the imminent danger. She always said to them that no arrangement would be accepted which did not have the clause of return of prisoners. The information was withheld for the long time,she said she could not forgive Egypt Syria for such activities,this was against many international practices,it put parents in extreme pain. She thought that torture was worse than death. They could return after months of concerted efforts for months after the ceasefire.

Golda clearly stated that as Egypt and Syria were losing, Russia started a full-scale campaign for a quick ceasefire, with no reference to who started it and who was losing it. It was to save them from total defeat. The only aim of Israel in the war was peace. For years Israel wanted peace but the answer used to be war. This time she wanted to bring all to the table of negotiations. The country too wanted to finish war as quickly as possible. The difference between the two sides of the war was obvious, there was no comparison between the number of army personnel, the wealth of arms and ammunition between the two warring sides. Golda felt the only point of advantage was the ' hatred for war and death '.

She stated that if the ceasefire could have been postponed for a few more days, the defeat could have been more conclusive, but the resolution for the ceasefire was moved at a great speed. Israel and Egypt gave the acceptance, but Syria did not. They continued with shooting on 22nd October too. Israel could completely encircle the third army and gain control of parts of the city of Suez. She made the statement in the Israeli parliament ( knesset), explained the position clearly, Israel had occupied the area on the Golan hights which was under control before war.
Ceasefire and negotiation

The ceasefire was to be under the supervision of the UN forces, the 20,000 soldiers were to be helped to recover from their defeat, as the Egyptian president wanted to avoid making the reality public. Israel wanted the enemy soldiers to lay down their arms and return. She noted that there was concern for the aggressor not for the victims. Israel had to give in because the US was their only true and powerful friend.

Israel wanted it to be binding to all the parties. Assurance of prevention of blockade and interference with free navigation was not accepted. The release of prisoners and immediate exchange of prisoners was of great important. US secretary of state Henry Kissinger's superhuman efforts were invested, the process was very complicated. He could deal with all the minute details of the deal which were essential to solve the problem. He knew all the possible details of the area which was the centre point of negotiation.

He worked on the negotiation points very meticulously, Golda wrote as if there was no word like fatigue in his dictionary. He was ready to work when the negotiations reached the dead end,and would be ready to try one more time, mostly he could succeed. He used to be ever ready for the work, would never waste a moment when probably he thought there was some space for the discussion. Of course, he had all on his side, ' intelligence, diligence and the fact that he represented the greatest power in the world x, which made a very effective combination indeed ', Golda described. He was jew, but that she said, never clouded his judgement or the task.

Amidst this situation,Golda visited the territory occupied after the war,and talked to the soldiers on points related to everything,war, negotiations, prisoners of war. They all talked in detail.

Prof. Vidya Deshpande

Professor Vidya Deshpande has had a journey of more than four decades in the field of education. Her  main expertise is in the subject of Philosophy,  and she has worked as a teacher of philosophy and logic with Nowrosjee Wadia college for 36 years. She has been associated with the Janakalyan Blood bank for last for 38 years and has also carried out the responsibility as a management committee member of Karve Stree Shikshan Sanstha for 10 years. Her special fields of interest are Philosophy of social sciences, school education, development of skills for self reliance,  and top up skills to make students profession ready,