Yom Kippur War
Yom Kippur WarFlash90

The Israel State Archives, a unit within the Prime Minister's Office, issued an additional publication summarizing the Yom Kippur War: ”The Golda Meir Government and the Negotiations on the Separation of Forces Agreement with Syria, January-May 1974)." The publication includes approximately 40 documents from the Archives' collections, including the minutes of Government meetings during the period of the negotiations, which were recently opened for study (and appear on the site as the last chapter of the publication marking 50 ears since the Yom Kippur War).

In October 1973, talks were begun with Egypt; exchanges of POWs with Egypt were carried out in November. Kissinger was interested in overseeing the next stage in the talks – separation of forces. Indeed, he sought to take advantage of the situation to advance broader diplomatic measures and displace the Soviets from their position as the main supporters of the Arab states. In the Separation of Forces Agreement with Egypt (https://catalog.archives.gov.il/en/chapter/the-separation-of-forces-agreement-with-egypt-january-1974/), which was signed in January 1974, Israel agreed, for the first time, to withdraw from areas it occupied in 1967.

The negotiations with Syria were much tougher and led to an agreement only at the end of May, approximately six months after the end of the war. Syria was interested in an Israeli withdrawal from areas it occupied during the war but refused to convey to Israel a list of the POWs it held and allow Red Cross visits. As a condition for opening the negotiations, the Government of Israel demanded a list of the POWs. After preliminary contacts, it was decided, at a Government meeting on 3 February, to inform Kissinger that the Government would agree to present him with ideas on a new separation line only after it had received a list of POWs and Red Cross visits were allowed.

As a result of pressure on President Assad by the US and the Arab states, mainly Saudi Arabia and Egypt, President Assad approved the giving of the list of names to Kissinger. Receiving the list led to a considerable easing and the Government decided that the exchange of POWs would be the first article in any separation agreement. Exactly 50 years ago, on 1 March 1974, Red Cross representatives visited the POWs.

The minutes of the Government meetings give expression to the disagreements over withdrawing from the Golan Heights to beyond the Purple Line, the separation of forces line following the Six Day War. The Government discussed both the security significance of a withdrawal from the Syrian enclave and concern for the security of the communities on the Golan Heights. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan expressed his concern over a resumption of the war if Israel continued to hold the current line. The Prime Minister at first opposed any withdrawal beyond the Purple Line; however, in the end, she was compelled to agree to giving up the town of Kuneitra. In the Government meeting on 17 May, she said: 'What to do? G-d, I did not want to give up Kuneitra, not because Kuneitra is like Jerusalem…I did not want us to move from the Purple Line."

The documents also give expression to the war of attrition in Syria, the infiltration of terrorist organizations from Lebanon, including the attack in Ma'alot, the talks and correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State, and the Israeli response to American pressure. The publications also relate to the stormy public atmosphere, the pressure of the families of the POWs and MIAs, and the rise of a movement opposing a withdrawal on the Golan Heights.

The agreement, which the Government approved unanimously, and which afterwards was passed by the Knesset, was signed on May 31 in Geneva. A ceasefire took effect the same day. The wounded POWs were returned to Israel the following day. On June 3, Yitzhak Rabin presented his government. On June 6, the remaining POWs were returned to an enthusiastic welcome at the airport by Yitzhak Rabin and Golda Meir together.