General Dori Replies to Ben-Gurion on Conduct of War of Liberation

General Yaacov Dori who, as Israel’s first Chief of Staff, directed the armed forces in the 1948 War of Liberation, expressed the opinion today that some Israeli failures in the war might have been avoided if there had been more unity between political and military commanders.

The General, who is now president of the Technion, thus ended a silence of several days in the dispute between Israeli military leaders and former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion over the conduct of that war. The dispute was precipitated by Mr. Ben-Gurion in an interview he gave to the newspaper Haboker in which he was reported as saying that he believed that if Gen. Moshe Dayan, now Agriculture Minister, had been in command of the 1948 operations, Israel’s borders would have been "different" and its military achievements "greater."

In the 1948 war, Gen. Dayan led a strikingly successful commando unit and, as Chief of Staff, he commanded Israel’s forces in the defeat of Egypt in the 1956 Suez campaign. The Ben-Gurion statement was seen as downgrading the military achievements of former commanding generals, including Gen. Dori; Maj. Gen. Yigal Allon, commander of several important fronts in 1948, now Labor Minister; Gen. Yigael Yadin, an archeologist who was Chief of Operations and later Chief of Staff, and others.

With the exception of Dori, the military leaders struck back with charges that the decisions which prevented the total liberation of Palestine in 1948 were political and not military and therefore were the responsibility of Mr. Ben-Gurion as Prime Minister and Defense Minister during the war.

DOUBTS BEN-GURION’S EVALUATION; REGRETS SLIGHT TO COMMANDERS

Unlike his colleagues, Gen. Dori today indicated he did not believe that it was only political orders which prevented the capture of all of Palestine. "With our meager forces and lack of equipment, we did marvelously but we also suffered serious defeats, such as in the old city of Jerusalem and at the Latrun pass," he said. "These might have been avoided had there been more unity between the political and military commanders."

He also denied emphatically an allegation by Mr. Ben-Gurion that he kept Mr. Ben-Gurion from getting to know Gen. Dayan during the war. Gen. Dori said: "I never prevented or objected to any direct contact between the Minister of Defense and army commanders, although this was not customary with the Army command."

General Dori also commented on Mr. Ben-Gurion’s assertion that Gen. Dayan could have achieved greater results had he been Chief of Staff in 1948. Gen. Dori said that Mr. Ben-Gurion "could never prove this evaluation, in which there is more doubt than probability." He added that he regretted the fact that Mr. Ben-Gurion, in praising Gen. Dayan, had to slight others.

The former Premier, who is in Tiberias, maintained complete silence over the growing reaction to his statement, which included a request by the Herut party for a Parliamentary investigation into the conduct of the 1948 war.

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