NEW YORK (Mar. 29)
The Chief of Staff of Israel’s armed forces believes the most serious problem in the Middle East today, especially for America, is the Sovietization of Egypt. But, he told Time Magazine correspondent Marlin Levin in Jerusalem, that Israel’s Air Force will continue to pound Egyptian weapon sites west of the Suez Canal even if they are manned by Russians. The interview with Gen. Bar Lev was published in the next (April 6) edition of Time which described the 45 year-old military leader as the most powerful man in Israel’s defense establishment after Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. Gen. Bar Lev said Soviet troops will be operating in Egypt not only as advisers and technicians but as ordinary troops operating weapons systems. “This, to my mind, is the most serious problem for the U.S. particularly,” he said. He said Israel does not view the new SAM-3 anti-aircraft missiles as a defensive weapon. “They are being installed to give Egypt an offensive capability. Once the missiles are installed, Egypt will feel freer to do whatever she wants,” he said.
Gen. Bar Lev said Israel’s continuing bombing raids on targets along the Suez Canal zone and inland from it are a tactical measure to prevent Egyptian armed forces from preparing for a new large scale war. “Our deep penetrations definitely disturb these preparations,” he said. “Large amounts of equipment have been destroyed. The Egyptians have been forced to move back anti-aircraft and artillery to protect themselves not only on the canal but also west of Cairo,” he said, Gen. Bar Lev told Mr. Levin that Israel has desisted so far from bombing Alexandria and Port Said “because we simply have not found it necessary to bomb these places. They are civilian targets.” He added, however, “I am not sure we won’t…one day.”
EGYPTIAN AIR AND GROUND FORCES NOT IMPROVED QUALITATIVELY SINCE SIX-DAY WAR
In the general’s opinion, the Egyptian Air Force has not improved qualitatively since the June 1967 war. “They manage to operate ordinary equipment. As far as airplanes go, they put up a poor show. I think the MIG-21, MIG-17 and Sukhoi are very good planes–no worse than Western planes. But you have to have men operating them who really know the ropes,” Gen. Bar Lev said. He said the Egyptian pilots use Russian tactics and follow Russian battle plans but do not execute them. “Before they reach the target they pull up to 1500 or 2000 feet. They dive, get rid of their armament and then turn west. This is the best way not to get hurt. It isn’t the best way to hit the target.”
Gen. Bar Lev had the same assessment of Egyptian ground forces. “The Russian plans are made for people who continue on their missions despite opposition fire. But the moment we discover Egyptian raiders and start firing, the attack is broken, finished. The carrying out of a plan is as important as the plan itself.” Gen. Bar Lev said that Israel has not been able to dismantle the terrorist organizations “but we have managed to keep them at a very low level of activity.”