JERUSALEM (Oct. 25)
Justice Minister Yaacov Shimshon Shapiro demanded last night the resignation of his Labor Party colleague Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, but Premier Golda Meir reiterated her confidence in Dayan this morning. Dayan issued a statement today declaring that he would remain in office as long as the Cabinet backed him and would ignore demands by individual members. Dayan reportedly submitted his resignation to Premier Meir several days ago but she refused to accept it.
These startling developments on the heels of the fledgling cease-fire marked the first public rupture within the government over who was responsible for Israel having been caught by surprise when Egypt and Syria launched their assault Oct. 6.
The attack on Dayan by a senior minister of the Labor Party was more scathing than anything said in the Knesset this week by the leader of the opposition, Menachem Begin, who assailed Premier Meir Tuesday night for accepting the Security Council’s cease-fire resolution charged that the government was responsible for Israel-being taken by surprise Oct. 6. Beigin addressed the Knesset following a lengthy report on the war and the cease-fire by Mrs. Meir.
Shapiro accused Dayan of serious failures before and during the latest Middle East war and demanded that he “beg forgiveness” at the grave of the late Premier Levi Eshkol whom Dayan replaced as Defense Minister on the eve of the Six-Day War. Shapiro suggested that he might resign if Dayan didn’t, but made, it clear this morning that he has not submitted his resignation.
Shapiro, one of the few ministers in Israel’s history who himself was forced to resign by pressure of public opinion last year in the wake of the Netivei Neft Sinai oil scandal inquiry, but who three months after his resignation was brought back into the government by Mrs. Meir, apparently has no support in the Labor Party at this time for his attack on Dayan. A close confidant of the late Premier Eshkol–whose memory Shapiro defended in his attack on Dayan–told the JTA privately today that he doubted if Eshkol, had he lived, would have thanked Shapiro for his behavior.
DAYAN’S FUTURE SEEMS THREATENED
Many Laborites resented Shapiro’s airing of his feelings publicly instead of taking them to the Premier or to the Cabinet. But this is not to say that eventually, in the future when the fear of war has receded, the Party’s own knives will not be sharpened against Dayan and he will be thrown to the wolves as the scapegoat for Israel’s failure to obtain early and convincing victory.
At the moment it would be inopportune to drive Dayan out, the Party leaders feel. For one thing, there may be unpleasant and unpopular political decisions which the Cabinet will be forced or urged or required to take in the near future–and it would prefer to take them with Dayan on the inside rather than on the outside accusing the others of weakness. Ultimately, however, someone’s head will probably roll over the war and especially the pre-war mis-assessment. Perhaps it will be that of a general or several officers. But Dayan is the man democratically responsible.
A lot will depend on how Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir, the Labor Party “strong man,” views the situation. If Sapir throws his weight behind Dayan he will be saved. But if Sapir joins the forces baying for Dayan’s blood, the Defense Minister’s days will be numbered.
Apart from the weighty political decisions to be taken, another factor weighing with Sapir in these pre-election days is the balance of power vis-a-vis Likud and especially the added popularity and glow of heroism with which Gen. Arik Sharon might emerge from the war. Many people will say that if Dayan is no longer to control the army they want Sharon. The Labor Party’s candidate would be Gen. Haim Barlev, who was installed in mid-war as supreme commander of the southern front. But though a vastly competent general, Barlev has none of the charisma of either Dayan or Sharon.
DAYAN ISSUES STATEMENT
Meanwhile, Dayan issued a statement this morning saying: “The Minister of Defense is responsible to the Cabinet and the Knesset for the actions of the Israel Defense Forces and of the Ministry of Defense. He does not consider himself obligated to respond to the personal demand or comments of any individual Cabinet member. If Mr. Dayan did not enjoy the complete confidence of the Prime Minister he would submit his resignation.”
Mrs. Meir’s office stated later that some days ago Dayan had offered to resign if the Premier no longer had confidence in him. The Premier had assured him that she retained full confidence in him. All the questions and examinations connected with the war, she said, would be carried out in due course within the Cabinet. Now was not the time.
LATE NEWS BULLETIN: UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim announced in the Security Council late this afternoon that some 900 troops from the UN peace-keeping force in Cyprus would be transferred as the advance party of the Mideast force.