TEL AVIV (Feb. 17)
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan told a group of Israeli Army veterans last night that he would prefer to hold Sharm el-Sheikh without peace than to have a peace settlement without an Israeli military presence at the Sinai strongpoint. Sharm el-Sheikh, at the southern tip of the peninsula, commands the Straits of Tiran and access to Israel’s port of Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba. Indications that Israel expects the Suez Canal to be reopened in the not too distant future with navigation rights for Israeli shipping were seen in a decision by the Zim Lines yesterday to shelve plans to operate a passenger liner service from Eilat to East and South African ports. The plan was based on the supposition that the Suez Canal would remain closed for a long time. Once the waterway is reopened there would be no need for the planned service from Eilat. In the early 1960s, the Zim Lines operated a passenger service from Eilat to East Africa, employing a chartered Burmese vessel. The service was suspended when the charter expired. Freighters and tankers of Israeli and other nationalities call regularly at Eilat but the port’s foreign trade would suffer if the Suez Canal is opened to Israeli and other shipping.