Dayan: Better Than Even Chance for Disengagement Talks to Succeed

Defense Minister Moshe Dayan said yesterday that there was better than a 50-50 chance for the Israeli-Egyptian disengagement talks in Geneva to succeed. He warned, however, that this could come about only if Israel maintained its high state of mobilization and held fast to its positions west of the Suez Canal until an agreement is reached. Dayan spoke to Israeli editors at Bet Sokolow, the journalists house here. He said that an agreement on the separation of forces should be linked to what he called a declaration of non-belligerence. He said Israel could not withdraw from militarily advantageous positions as long as a state of belligerency existed.

Dayan dwelt at length on what he considered a fundamental change of attitude of the part of the Egyptians following the Yom Kippur War. He noted that previously Cairo had refused to consider peace talks until Israel committed itself to withdraw from the territories in accordance with the Arab interpretation of Resolution 242. “Now they are sitting with us in Geneva and listen to Foreign Minister Abba Eban declare that we shall not return to the 1967 borders,” Dayan observed. He also cited newspaper reports that Egypt is prepared to reopen the Suez Canal as soon as the disengagement of forces is implemented, whereas formerly, they spoke of reopening the waterway only after a final peace settlement.

Dayan attributed the change in the Egyptian attitude to three factors: They succeeded in overrunning the Barlev line, gaining a narrow stretch or the east bank of the Suez Canal which increased their self-esteem; Israel punched through their lines and gained a salient on the west bank of the canal; and the two superpowers intervened, primarily the U.S. and its Secretary of State, Kissinger, Dayan said. As a result, unlike the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War was followed almost immediately by political moves for negotiations. “With the lines we hold today it is much easier for us–there is more readiness to talk of withdrawal, much more than we were ready seven years ago,” Dayan said.

WRONG ESTIMATE OF ENEMY HARDWARE

He admitted that before the Yom Kippur War he was wrong in evaluating the effectiveness of the armament in enemy hands and their fighting qualities. Nevertheless, he said, he still did not think that a preemptive strike by Israel before Oct. 6 would have basically changed the outcome. He said he did not think that calling up the reserves or launching a preventive strike was the right solution whenever there is a threat of war.

He revealed that several times since the cease-fire “good information” was received that the Egyptians and Syrians were preparing to launch a new war. “Nevertheless, we decided against a preventive strike. The political situation in which we find ourselves does not allow us to make such a move,” he said.

Asked about Israeli prisoners of war in Syria, Dayan said he did not believe reports that all Israeli POWs were murdered nor that there are only 29 POWs in Damascus. The number should be much higher, he said. He said he hoped the Syrians would follow the Egyptian example and enter into negotiations. “Our position in Syria should encourage them to come to the talks,” he said, adding, however, that “Egypt is the key to the whole situation.”

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