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Landing of Egyptian Troops in Syria Arouses Concern in Israel

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Though the landing of Egyptian troops in Syria yesterday has not caused an exaggerated alarm in Israel, serious concern is felt here because this is the first instance of physical coordination between two Arab armies north and south of Israel.

While Israeli observers view the move as chiefly an expression of the inter-Arab struggle for hegemony, they are trying to evaluate its consequences for Israel’s security. The movement of Egyptian troops to Syria is being looked upon here as a partial Implementation of the joint Arab command aimed at strangling Israel, which was one of the main causes for the Sinai operation.

Some important differences, however, have been noted here between this development and the previous alliance. Jordan is no longer a partner in the scheme and the move is aimed at Turkey at least as much as at Israel which makes it a NATO and United States concern.

The crucial question about the latest development, according to thinking on top Israeli levels, is to what extent was the Egyptian move approved or condoned by the Soviet Union. The possibility is seen that Nasser may have moved without Soviet approval. Several things point to this.

Nasser has been trying to conciliate the West for economic reasons and may actually claim that his move was aimed at preventing Russia’s uncontested domination of Syria. If this is true, it was noted here, it would imply that the move was not Soviet-inspired. This would in turn, raise another question; why did the Syrians agree to such a landing?

Observers here also pointed out that the Soviet Union has let more than 24 hours elapse since the announcement of the Egyptian troop landings, without comment. This, despite the fact that in recent weeks Moscow has been quick to react to any Middle East development. It is expected here that even if the Egyptian move did not receive the advance blessings of the USSR, Moscow is likely to make full use of it in its current campaign against Turkey.

With Syria emerging as the Soviet Union’s favorite in the Middle East, with King Saud arrogating to himself the position of arbiter and conciliator among the Arab nations, Nasser seemed to be moving toward total eclipse. His move in Syria was evidently meant to restore his position, at least in Syria.

Other reports from Arab capitals indicate that the Egyptian-Syrian agreement had far-reaching effects beyond the stationing of troops in Syria. Nasser reportedly wrangled a Syrian agreement to accept a considerable number of Egyptian peasants to settle in under-developed Syrian areas. Such a move would be interpreted here as more of a step toward genuine Syrian-Egyptian merger than all the pronouncements, treaties and alliance which have already been made.

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