JERUSALEM (Jul. 9)
Israeli sources suggested yesterday the possibility of a major military strike across the Suez Canal in response to the rising Soviet escalation there, especially in terms of SAM-3 missiles. It was considered possible that Israeli action could be purely diplomatic–renewed insistence that the United States pressure the Soviets to de-escalate and thus remove the danger of full-scale war and direct Soviet-Israeli combat. But officials here, terming the Soviet build up an intolerable threat to Israel’s security, believe that some decision must be made quickly. (In Washington, it was clear that the reports of SAM-3 activity made Monday by the Israeli Chief of Staff, Gen. Haim Bar Lev, have registered strongly on the Nixon administration. The State Department disclosed yesterday that the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Jacob D. Beam, had met with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko in Moscow on June 29, and that he would consult with him more frequently from now one. It was believed that Mr. Beam will attempt to ease the Soviet stance on, and in, the Middle East.)
(In Cairo, official spokesman Ahamed Anis indicated yesterday his government’s willingness to give the American peace initiative a chance, saying it was studying the proposals “even between the lines” in an attempt at a solution. He noted the necessity of a “definite mandate” for the resumption of Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring’s peace mission. Without such a mandate, Egyptian officials noted, his peace mission would lack meaning. Egyptian President Nasser was reported to have decided to continue his talks with Kremlin leaders for another 10 days–the second extension of his visit. He was believed to want more time to discuss with them the various aspects of the U.S. and Soviet initiatives for the Middle East, the details of which have been widely reported but not yet officially disclosed.) Israeli military sources estimated today that dozens–perhaps 100 or more–SAM-2 missiles have been fired at Israeli planes flying operational missions west of the Suez Canal in recent days. The Soviets in Egypt apparently have been firing many missiles at each Israeli plane in the hope that one would find its target, rather than relying on pinpoint accuracy.
Israeli authorities are worried lest the success of the Soviet-directed missile and anti-aircraft system lead Egypt not only to bolster its canal positions but possibly launch a major canal crossing. It will be recalled that the massing of Egyptian military equipment along the border in early June, 1967, caused Israel to initiate preventive strikes as defensive measures, thus kicking off the Six-Day War. But Israeli officials are also taking into consideration the probable disapproval by Washington of any large-scale Israeli military move at this time–while sensitive negotiations are under way on the terms of the peace initiatives. Moscow and Cairo appear to be receptive to political solutions, and Israel seeks a sympathetic response to her request for 125 more American jets. (In Cleveland, Ohio, two dozen 25-ton self-propelled howitzers made in the Brook Park suburb by General Motors were loaded yesterday onto the Israeli freighter “Etros.” The M-109s, which fire 155 mm. shells and carry 50-caliber machine guns, were said to be part of the 1969 U.S.-Israeli pact. They were unofficially valued at $3.4 million. The loading was carried out under security conditions.)