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Dayan Says Any Attempt to Move Israelis from Suez Canal Would Mean War

Gen. Moshe Dayan, Israel’s Defense Minister, said today that any attempt to push Israel back from the East Bank of the Suez Canal would mean war. Asked at a press conference whether the presence of Soviet naval equipment including dredges in Egyptian ports may indicate that an attempt will be made by Russia to clear the Suez Canal, closed since the Six-Day War, Gen. Dayan said the only way that Russia could move Israeli troops from the canal would be through war and that he did not believe Moscow wanted to risk a war. Asked for his evaluation of the growing Soviet fleet in the Mediterranean, Gen. Dayan said this was a matter for NATO. (The Soviet missile-armed aircraft carrier Moskva left the Mediterranean Monday for the Black Sea, accompanied by three escorts. Eighteen Soviet naval vessels have entered the Mediterranean during the past 29 days.) Gen. Dayan noted that Egyptian policy was not to clear and operate the canal so long as Israelis are camped on it, and that Egypt Still is a party to the cease-fire at the canal. The presence of Soviet marine equipment does not point to war, he said.

Gen. Dayan said that Israel had no intention of intervening in the present strife in Jordan and added that if Jordan wanted a peace settlement with Israel, she “could have it tomorrow” and without it being conditional on peace settlements with any other country, including Egypt. He noted, however, that there is a question of whether Jordan can make peace with Israel without Egypt’s accord. He said he thought that King Hussein had sufficient power to enforce a peace treaty.

Gen. Dayan again warned Egypt that it would pay a “high price” if it continued to violate the cease-fire along the Suez Canal. He said Israel would always find ways and means to retaliate notwithstanding Egypt’s massed artillery along the canal’s West Bank. He refused to elaborate on last week’s Israeli commando raid deep into Egyptian territory which damaged two bridges and a power station. Asked if the Egyptians might retaliate, he said “if they do, they will have to pay a very high price and it may not be feasible for them.”

Gen. Dayan said that terrorist raids into Israel and Israel-held territories have done very little damage and not one Israeli border settlement has had to be evacuated nor have any settlers left. He noted however that 70,000 Arab farmers on the East Bank were forced to leave their lands as a result of terrorist activities and said that as “a former farmer, not as a former military man.” he felt sorry for them.

He said the situation in the occupied territories was not satisfactory to either side. “The Arabs do not want to be occupied and we do not want to be occupants and therefore the only solution is peace.” But, he added, “until then Israel will preserve law and order and will not permit demonstrations, strikes or disorders.”

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