TEL AVIV (Sep. 17)
An optimistic, if sober assessment of Israel’s military strength and the prospects of a new outbreak of war with Egypt in the immediate future, was given by Israel’s top military men yesterday — Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Maj. Gen. Chaim Bar-Lev, Chief of Staff of the armed forces, Gen. Dayan spoke at a Labor Party meeting. Gen. Bar-Lev made his remarks in a radio interview. Both discussed the possibility of direct Soviet intervention on the Arab side should a new war break out and both agreed that in the last analysis this depended on the firm stand of the United States. Both generals also stressed the need to maintain Israel’s military strength at a peak to deter aggression. Gen. Bar-Lev spoke of Israel’s need for “advanced design aircraft” to maintain its “deterrent image.”
Gen. Dayan warned Egypt that it would be a “fatal mistake” on its part to “leap across” the Suez Canal. He said he did not think the Egyptians would try but warned that Israel must remain alert and security conscious. “It is time we ceased living on the albums and memories of the great victory we had,” he told the Labor Party members. “We must be prepared for what lies ahead. We must be ready for a possible war and take into account its moral and economic burdens. We cannot put aside preparations for war even if hostilities do not break out immediately.” On the possibility of Soviet intervention he said America’s stand would be decisive. “If they stand fast, the Russians will not intervene and risk a confrontation with the United States,” he said. He also stressed that Israelis must learn to live with the Palestinian Arabs. It is not a one-way street, he said, adding that changes have resulted from almost two years of living together.
Gen. Bar-Lev said that Israel’s re-armament since the June, 1967 war was “satisfactory” except in one sector — advanced design aircraft. “It is very important for us to receive such planes primarily because of their deterrent image,” he said. Gen. Bar-Lev said that Israel had significantly more military power at its disposal now than before the Six-Day War and spoke of the deployment of forces, particularly in the Sinai. “I do not speak of the immediate front line. I am speaking of the general deployment that can repulse any aggressor.” he said. According to Gen. Dayan, the Egyptian artillery bombardment along the Suez Canal on Sept. 8 showed no perceptible improvement in Egyptian fighting qualities. He said that the Egyptians fired more than 10,000 shells but the damage was negligible. He thought, however, that the Egyptians would continue their commando and sabotage activities in the Sinai and along the Suez Canal. “I think the Israel Army has the right to answer such activity with the appropriate reply,” he added.
Gen, Bar-Lev said direct Soviet intervention in the Middle East depended on the Soviet assessment of whether such action would bring about a confrontation with the United States. In any case, he said, the physical possibilities of any large scale military intervention in the Middle East were very limited. Israeli military circles said that the Egyptians were deeply entrenched along the Suez Canal and had considerable artillery. Their deployment is defensive but could be quickly turned to the offensive. Nevertheless, Egypt will not wage war against Israel now, these circles believe, because of the water obstacle which would make such an operation extremely difficult, but they may try later. It was conceded that the Egyptians have paratroops, amphibious vehicles and pontoon bridges.