JERUSALEM (May. 23)
Premier Levi Eshkol told a tense Parliament tonight that any effort by Egypt to block Israeli transit through the Straits of Tiran would constitute an act of war. Speaking after consultations with leaders of all parties, and an extraordinary meeting of the Cabinet, the Premier again appealed to the Western powers to act to assure that the Gulf of Akaba would remain open to Israeli shipping. Egypt’s President Nasser announced yesterday that Egypt was closing the Straits to Israeli shipping.
During the Premier’s talks with leaders of the political parties, it was understood, a general agreement was reached on the Government’s policy. Among those attending the talks were former Premier David Ben-Gurion, Shimon Peres and Gen. Moshe Dayan. Peres and Dayan are leaders of the dissident Israel Workers Party (Rafi) formed by Mr. Ben-Gurion as an opposition party.
Israeli security sources said this morning that the partial mobilization carried out in the last few days had provided sufficient force to meet any possible Egyptian attack. Should additional measures be necessary, they added, these would be effected without delay. All Israeli units mobilized since Egypt precipitated the current crisis by ordering UNEF off its territory, have been placed on full combat status. Israeli naval units off Eilat in the Gulf of Akaba also have been given emergency instructions and orders to be ready for any contingency.
The flash point, observers agreed, would be reached when the first ship with Israeli cargo seeks to go through the Tiran Straits. For obvious reasons, Israelis are not saying when this is scheduled.
People in the streets in Israel’s major cities continued to show calm. The only notable sign of tension was the virtual standstill when the Israel Radio news program was being broadcast. At those moments almost everyone seemed to stop doing whatever he or she was doing to listen to the news.
Most Western Embassies in Israel have advised their nationals to leave the country. Large numbers of Americans, Canadians and British left today and more planned to leave tomorrow. The first Embassy to advise its nationals to leave was the United States which posted notices advising all American nationals to leave the Middle East danger zone. Israeli authorities announced that food supplies were plentiful for several months and while no details were supplied, it was generally believed that the oil situation also was excellent.