At the beginning of Golda Meir's conversation with Kissinger on a disengagement agreement with Syria, shown here last week, he asked: "What is the policy of the people who are demonstrating? What do they want?" Golda replied "That we shouldn't budge."
Today we present another document on opposition to withdrawal in the Golan Heights – a letter (in Hebrew) sent to Mrs. Meir on 6 May 1974 by a group of writers, academics and public figures, who had begun a hunger strike outside her residence in Jerusalem. They included Moshe Shamir, a well-known writer originally from the left wing Mapam party, now a supporter of the Greater Land of Israel movement, and Yisrael Eldad , one of the ideologues of the right. They reminded Golda of her words to a delegation from the Golan settlements, rejecting any withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967, including Kuneitra. They added:
Madam Prime Minister, did you honestly mean what you said? Or have you changed your mind? The entire people is following with deep anxiety the signs and reports of erosion in the government's position, in the face of the war of attrition by the murderous Syrians and the false and misleading policy of the American secretary of state – who is tempting us to enter a fatal trap.
At this late hour we call on you, before the fateful decision is taken […]to stop the deteriorationto prevent the execution of the plan bringing forward the destruction of the stateto prevent the withdrawal from the GolanDon't give a prize to the aggressors!Don't give bases to the Syrian artillery!Don't breach the wall of the settlements!Don't abandon the Golan!Don't endanger Israel's security!"
With memories still fresh of Syrian shelling in the Jordan valley before the Six Day War and the Syrian attack on Yom Kippur in October 1973, the demonstrators represented, if in extreme form, genuine public feeling. Taking the risk was not an easy step for Mrs. Meir. On the other hand Kissinger argued that the strategic importance of Kuneitra was minor compared to co-operation with the United States, which had stood by Israel during the war and given it generous economic assistance. In the end, Israel signed and withdrew from Kuneitra and a small area of the Golan. On 30 May Golda presented the agreement to the Knesset and shortly afterwards the prisoners of war were released. The fears of the demonstrators were not realized, and Syria was punctilious in keeping the agreement.