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Dayan Tells Knesset Israel Must Retain Possession of Sharm Ei-sheikh Strong Point

Defense Minister Moshe Dayan told the Knesset yesterday that Israel must retain possession of Sharm el-Sheikh, the strong point guarding the entrance to the Straits of Tiran. Qualifying this view as his personal opinion. Gen. Dayan said however that on this issue he and Foreign Minister Abba Eban were in full agreement.

Gen. Dayan’s remarks marked the second time this week that he has spoken out on what he considered Israel’s essential security frontiers. On Monday, he told the Labor Party platform committee that the Jordan River must be Israel’s eastern frontier, that Israel must retain the Gaza Strip and Golan Heights and must be permanently linked “through territorial continuity” with Sharm el-Sheikh.

Gen. Dayan told the Knesset yesterday, “I prefer to sit in Sharm el-Sheikh without peace than have peace and return Sharm el-Sheikh to Egyptian hands.” He recalled having said the same thing several weeks ago at a Kibbutz movement convention. He cited Foreign Minister Eban’s recent assertion that “any (peace) arrangement must ensure Israel’s control over Sharm el-Sheikh as that is the only way to ensure free navigation” in the Straits of Tiran.

Egypt, Gen. Dayan said, still stands on the “three no’s” of the 1967 Arab summit conference in Khartoum–no peace with Israel, no negotiations and no recognition of Israel, In those circumstances, the Defense Minister asserted, Israel should prefer holding Sharm el-Sheikh to a return to the pre-June, 1967 lines.

Gen. Dayan dismissed Soviet proposals for a Middle East settlement because they “do not contain the element of peace.” Moscow calls merely for the Arabs and Israel to deposit declarations of non-belligerency with the United Nations Security Council, and while Israel does not belittle non-belligerency, “we should be precise enough in our terminology to make a clear distinction between peace and non-belligerency,” Gen. Dayan said.

Gen. Dayan expressed distrust of either Egyptian or UN forces based at Sharm el-Sheikh or international guarantees on freedom of navigation through the Straits of Tiran. The demand by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser for withdrawal of UN forces from Sharm el-Sheikh and its reoccupation by his military forces are generally regarded as principal causes of the 1967 war. Egypt threatened to blockade the narrow straits for ships bound to and from Israel’s Red Sea port of Eilat. Israel captured the strong point during the war.

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