JERUSALEM (Jul. 24)
Foreign Minister Abba Eban declared today that the statement yesterday by Egyptian President Nasser that the United Nations-sponsored cease-fire on the Suez Canal had ceased to exist must be taken at face value. Mr. Eban also said–in giving Israel’s official reaction to Nasser’s speech in which he also declared that Egypt now had regained enough military power to fight to regain the lost Arab territories–that “the path of war” chosen by the Egyptian leader was actually the Egyptian policy pursued since the 1967 Six-Day War in spite of the cease-fire.
The Foreign Minister described as of “utmost importance” a remark by Nasser that there was a section of the Egyptian population which “is a victim to Zionist propaganda” and wished to make peace with Israel. Mr. Eban said this remark proved that a significant section of Egyptians were against Nasser’s war-influenced policy and wanted peace in the area. Mr. Eban also noted the Soviet note yesterday assuring the Egyptians of unreserved political and military support and said that this indicated the Soviet policy of preventing peace in the area, in contrast to the efforts by the Russians to present themselves to world public opinion as seeking Mideast peace.
Israeli experts indicated their belief that Nasser was again a victim of misinformation given to him by his field officers as to Egypt’s readiness for major combat. They suggested that Nasser might again be a prisoner of his public statements which could bring him to a point of no return where once more he would be compelled to face the reality of Israel’s military power. They dismissed as misleading Nasser’s charge that since Israel was not implementing the Security Council resolution to withdraw from occupied territories, he was not bound by the cease-fire. They pointed out that the cease-fire was voted on in June while the peace-seeking proposal was adopted five months later in November, 1967.
Two other Cabinet members–Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Minister-Without-Portfolio Menahem Beigin–also commented on the Nasser speech. Gen. Dayan and his aides visited the Kasba area of Hebron in the occupied West Bank where a curfew was imposed this morning to facilitate a search for the perpetrators of a number of sabotage acts. Some 30 suspects were detained in a house-by-house search and the curfew was lifted this afternoon.
Gen. Dayan, agreeing that Nasser’s statement should be taken at face value, said in an interview with newsmen in Hebron, that “the conclusion we should draw is that the Egyptians may renew the war and bomb even Tel Aviv.” But he insisted he believed that major war would not be renewed in the near future. Mr. Beigin said the Nasser declaration meant that the Egyptian armed forces had been “given a free hand” to attack Israel. He added that Israel must reject suggestions that such Nasser statements were designed solely for internal propaganda purposes and that Israel must make it clear that if Nasser carried out his threats to renew major war in four or five years, he would again suffer “a crushing defeat.”