TEL AVIV (Dec. 26)
With only five days left for campaigning before the Knesset elections, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan is battling for his political life. He is speaking more frequently and getting more media coverage than other Cabinet ministers and in his speeches he is stressing areas where his expertise is undisputed–military matters and security.
Addressing a Labor Party meeting in Haifa today, he offered a frank appraisal of Israel’s military position and conceded that the situation is more difficult and fraught with peril than before the Yom Kippur War. Yesterday, addressing newspaper editors here, he assessed the prospects of the Israeli-Egyptian disengagement talks at Geneva and suggested that they include declarations of non-belligerency. (See separate story)
Dayan’s intensive campaigning is attributable to his loss of stature since the Yom Kippur War. He has borne the brunt of criticism for the army’s state of unpreparedness when Egypt and Syria attacked Oct. 6 and is now trying to restore public confidence in him as the nation’s defense chief. He readily concedes that he and others misread intelligence reports but insists he made no mistakes once the war broke out and that even if the reserves had been mobilized faster, the outcome would have been about the same.
Dayan is fighting critics in his own party who have insisted that he be left out of Premier Golda Meir’s next government, should Labor win a new mandate in next Monday’s elections. Dayan clearly wants to remain at the defense helm. He told his audience in Haifa that if Mrs. Meir wins reelection and asks him to serve again as Defense Minister, “I shall gladly accept this and serve:” He does not see himself in that post automatically. He noted that while the judicial committee presently investigating the Yom Kippur War may determine whether or not it was properly fought, the public will be the ultimate judge when it goes to the polls next week.
ISRAEL MUST PLEAD FOR AID
The Defense Minister observed that Israel is the only country in the world which cannot make deals at will for the purchase of tanks and planes. “Only the U. S. is ready to supply us with equipment and even this only with the specific approval of the State Department and for that Mrs. Meir has to go to Washington each time to discuss and persuade,” he said. “With all due respect to the U.S., we do not enjoy the same relations that Egypt has with Russia which supplies it with military equipment in any quantity and under any conditions without interruption,” Dayan said.
Charging that the Soviets have turned the Middle East into their weapons testing ground, Dayan said the Russians had learned valuable lessons from the defeat of their arms in 1967 and improved them by 1973. “As the SAM-2 and SAM-3 (missiles) were rather restricted in their efficiency, the Russians brought up the SAM-6 and to fight our tanks they brought up the ‘Sager’ anti-tank missile,” Dayan said.
He said that “the new reality” Israel must face is qualitative, quantitative and the time element. As to quantities, the Egyptians had 27 missile sites in 1967 compared to 200 in Egypt and Syria now, Dayan said. “While in the Six-Day War we faced 400,000 Arab soldiers, we face now well over one million, and the ratio of their tanks and planes has tripled. As a matter of fact, our casualties also tripled,” Dayan said
He noted that the Russians supplied the enemy with new weapons which proved qualitatively superior to those of seven years ago. “As to the time element, we are restricted in our reserves. After all, we are but a city in American terms as regards population,” Dayan observed.