On 11 March, eleven Palestinian terrorists were able to penetrate Israel's coastal defences; hijacking two buses they were stopped by Israeli security forces near Tel-Aviv. Before being killed, they murdered 37 Israelis and wounded 76. In the wake of this attack, the Prime Minister decided to postpone his visit to the United States by one week. The day after the raid, he appeared before the press and made the following statement:
(The first paragraph of the statement has been translated from the Hebrew version which preceded the English.)
The number of Israeli citizens - men, women and children - killed by the murderers is 37. The number of wounded is 76, including seriously wounded. Eleven of these murderers landed on the shores of Eretz Israel yesterday after having received instruction on how to perpetrate the task with which they were charged by one "Abu Jihad" - who is the head of the military wing of the organization known as Fatah, which is headed by Yasser Arafat. That very Yasser Arafat who had been welcomed enthusiastically by the plenum of the United Nations organization.
(end of translation.)
The boats in which the murderous terrorists arrived are of Soviet manufacture known as "Zodiacs" (the Prime Minister later corrected himself, noting that these boats are in fact French-made) and their weapons were mainly Soviet-made and Soviet-supplied. They included R.P.G. a light mortar, machineguns and sub-machineguns.
They came here in order to kill the Jews. They intended to take hostages, and threatened, as the leaflet they left said, to kill all of them if we do not surrender to their demands.
But they didn't carry out that design. Instead, they landed around Caesarea, met a young lady, questioned her, and killed her. They then proceeded - eleven in number - to the main road. They captured a taxi and killed the passengers. Then they captured a bus and ordered the driver to proceed in the direction of Tel Aviv.
En route they saw another bus ahead of them. They ordered the wounded driver to speed up and reach and overtake the second bus. When they reached that second bus, they opened fire upon it, and killed and wounded other civilians. Then they alighted from their bus to the bus they overpowered, and forced the passengers of the other bus to leave it and go into the first bus which was already under the control of the killers.
Ultimately, they reached the Country Club, and there the road was blocked. They used their arms all the time, upon vehicles passing on both sides, killing and wounding people. Ultimately, when the bus was burned as the result of an explosion, probably by a hand grenade thrown by one of the killers, the "Hevra Kadisha" (burial society) found in the bus 25 bodies, burned so that they are not recognizable and we don't know yet their identities.
The government of Israel expressed today to the bereaved families whatever can be said to console them in their grief - and may God console them in their grief. These are victims of the fight of the Jewish People for its life, for its dignity and liberty.
For years, we tried to explain to free public opinion in the world that this organization called "Fatah" or P.L.O." is one of the meanest, the basest armed organizations ever in the annals of mankind since the days of the Nazis. Their purpose is to kill the Jews: Man, woman and child. They never attack a military installation - they come to kill our civilians.
The original purpose of the design, or order, was to take hostages, to put out certain demands to the Government of srael, and to threaten killing all of the hostages if we do not surrender to their demands. That they didn't achieve - but instead they started killing. But now we know the blood that was shed of innocent people: 37 Jews who were massacred again in our time.
As the vehicle of their attack was supplied by the Soviet Union - again I repeat the name: "Zodiac" is its name - and as the weapons mainly were supplied to that murderous Nazi organization by the Soviet Union: Let the rulers of the Kremlin ask themselves what do they do in our time. They saw what happened to the Jewish people in their country and in Europe in the forties, and now they supply murderous weapons, to wound and to kill the remnants of the Jewish people.
And let the free world stop for a while to think: It is only a short time ago that Yasser Arafat, the commander of "El Fatah" the so-called "P.L.O." was received enthusiastically by the General Assembly of the United Nations. And we must also not forget that at the Rabat Conference all the Arab countries around-decided to declare that murderous Nazi organization the so-called "Legitimate and only representative of the Palestinian Arabs."
We shall not forget. And I can only call upon other nations not to forget that Nazi atrocity that was perpetrated upon our people yesterday.
I appeal to our citizens in the area in which there is still a curfew to be patient with it. It is for their own defence, because there were eleven killers: Six were killed, two were taken prisoner, but three probably are still free to threaten our population, and perhaps to try to take hostages amongst men, women and children.
Between two and five the curfew will be lifted. It will be re-imposed until tomorrow. It is for the defence of our people. And I call upon all our citizens there to bear it patiently. It is for their defence. As we can see, those killers will stop at nothing including an attempt to take children as hostages. We must defend our children. Until the security forces find out whether those three are still alive, and if they are, until the security forces catch them.
The President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the Secretary-General of the United Nations sent us messages of condolence. We thank them. Yesterday night Mr. Sam Lewis, the American Ambassador to our country, phoned me from Washington and informed me of the contents of the President's message. I am grateful to the President for his words, and so we express our thanks to Prime Minister Callahan and to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
I informed our Ambassador in the United States, and also the Charge D'affaires in the American Embassy, that regrettably, the Foreign Minister and I will not be able during this week to go to Washington for our scheduled talks with the President, the Secretary of State and their advisers. I asked to inform the President that we shall be able, as we assume, to go next week. The exact date will be determined in the contacts between the two governments. I regret that we cannot go this week as scheduled for the important talks with the President of the United States, but I am sure he will understand. And during today or tomorrow, we shall have an announcement from the White House and the State Department about the new date of our meeting with the President and the Secretary of State.
Tomorrow the Government will make an announcement in the Knesset.
Ladies and Gentlement, this is the atrocity perpetrated upon our people yesterday. We shall not forget.
Translation of the Hebrew questions and answers at the press conference with the Prime Minister, Mr. Menachem Begin.
Q. To what extent, in your opinion, will the negotiations currently being conducted with Egypt be influenced by yesterday's events?
A. The fact is that for the time being the negotiations were terminated in accordance with the Egyptian government's decision. But we have communication with Egypt, and last night I even received a further note from the President of Egypt, Mr. Sadat. I informed the American Charge D'affaires, who handed me this letter, that I would reply following my return from the U.S. - and so I will do.
If there is a desire in Egypt to conclude an agreement with Israel, and bring about peace between us - if there is such a desire, this bloody event should not preclude thorough negotiations for signing a peace treaty.
Q. Next week, when you are in the U.S. do you expect to discover greater understanding by the U.S. for Israel's position - after what happened last night in the terrorist attack?
A. I trust that in light of this bloody event, a persons of goodwill will appreciate our fundamental position vis-a-vis the demands voiced even nowadays in utter contempt for human intelligence, in betrayal of the magnificent human concept - dating to Woodrow Wilson - of self-determination for nations, will better appreciate our position, namely: It is inconceivable that in Judea and Samaria and in Gaza a state should be established that would be ruled by Yasser Arafat and his murderers. That is actually the demand presented to us nowadays as well in one form or another, at times directly and at others - indirectly. Our position is known. Were that to be the case - and we have said so these many years - our people would have been confronted by mortal danger and our state by a threat to its survival.
Q. What is the extent of the alertness displayed by the security authorities to prevent infiltration of murderers to Israel's shores, and what is the extent of the efficiency displayed by Israel's security forces against these murderers?
A. The entire issue (raised) in your question - will be examined.
(here the Prime Minister inserted his correction vis-a-vis the "Zodiac" dinghies' country of manufacture.)
Q. In general terms, can you relate to the question whether the Government has decided to take steps to restrict the terrorists' freedom of movement in neighbouring countries?
A. The Government should be left to take its decisions.
Q. Has last night's action led to a change of your evaluations, the negotiations being conducted for the attainment of peace in the region?
A. My views did not have to be reinforced by any murder. My views, to my knowledge, were the views of the majority of the people of Israel, and remain true - to defend our people, to maintain our security and secure the fate of our children. But I expressed the assumption that after this bloodshed, after this Nazi act of atrocity, people of goodwill will be found - in different parts of the world - who will better appreciate and understand our position.
Q. Has the Cabinet resolved that the funerals be state funerals? Will the Prime Minister attend some of them?
A. The I.D.F. "Hevra Kadisha" (burial society) will see to laying the victims to eternal rest. The members of the Cabinet, and I myself will attend the funerals.
Q. Do you view the murder of El-Sibaei... in Cyprus and yesterday's attack as a single complex, designed from both sides to eliminate President Sadat's and Israel's peace initiative?
A. I don't think there is any connection between these two bloody events... the murderers who came here did not hit any one known person. In Larnaca, they chose someone - true, President Sadat's personal friend - and killed him, and that is an atrocity. But when we speak of the bloody event here - as you can note, their entire intention was to kill the Jew for being a Jew. They encountered on the shore a young woman - as I have been told - 19 years old, who was innocently sitting there. They put questions to her and then killed her. Why? Because she is Jewish. Thereafter they boarded a bus, fired in both directions at every vehicle, to kill every passerby.
They came to kill Jews. They are Nazis, and perpetrated a Nazi deed. Had they been able, they would have destroyed all the Jews in Eretz Israel. But they are not, and will not be able.
And I now call on our people - in the homeland, in Eretz Israel, and in the Diaspora, this is a terrible day in our lives, but we must be strong. This brutal blood-lusty enemy wishes to break our spirit - he will not succeed. The Jewish people is a tested people in both enemy attacks and in suffering. It has overcome spiritually, and prevailed, and I call on all the Jewish people - be strong and of courage in these days. We shall overcome, with the help of the Lord, we shall overcome and secure the future of our children in our land. The security of our people, and make sure of conditions whereby no evil-doer will be able to raise his bloody hand against any man, woman or child in Israel.
Be strong and of courage. We shall prevail.