NEW YORK (Jan. 27)
Gen. Chaim Herzog, ORT-Israel president, suggested here last night, that the failings of Israel’s leadership were of lesser importance in the initial successes of Egypt and Syria in the Yom Kippur War than the “active, determined part” of the Soviet Union “in preventing peace from coming to the Middle East.” Addressing the banquet session of the 52nd annual American ORT conference, Herzog, who is also a military commentators, said that factor deserved consideration by “the devotees of detente, wherever they are,” who, he said, could continue “to delude themselves as much as they want.” He said the facts showed that “at no stage did the Soviet Union relinquish one iota of its policy and ambitions in the Middle East” or “anywhere else in the world.”
He said there was a very strong tendency, both in Israel and in the Jewish world elsewhere, to place a considerable degree of blame on the Israeli leadership for what occurred in Oct. He asserted that he had “no hesitation in apportioning the guilt where it lies,” but, he added, “we are tending, by means of the time-honored Jewish process of self-flagellation,” to give the picture “a distorted perspective.” Herzog declared that the force which attacked Israel on Yom Kippur day on both fronts was roughly equivalent in total force of men, tanks, artillery, planes, to the total force that NATO could muster. It was against this force, he said, “against which many countries might have succumbed, that Israel stood its ground heroically and not only held its ground but finally moved over to counter-attack and to an incredible military victory.” He said an Israeli defense force outnumbered 10-1 on the Golan Heights fought off and pushed back an attack backed by 1400 Syrian tanks.
Herzog said the spirit of Israel was such that its forces reached a line within artillery range of Damascus in Syria and occupied 1600 square kilometers of Egyptian territory. He said if it had not been for the intervention of the major powers and the Security Council, the Egyptian Third Army “would have been destroyed within a matter of days and the destruction of the entire Egyptian army would have followed as a result.” Herzog said the “political reality” after the October cease-fire was that the Soviet Union and the United States “had resolved not to allow either side to achieve a decision in the area.” He said Egyptian hopes to force Israel to remain mobilized indefinitely were frustrated by the fact that the Israeli economy “which you helped build,” had shown “an incredible degree of resilience and has proved to be stronger than we ever imagined.”
United States support in the $2.2 billion aid “was a direct answer to this declared Arab policy.” he said, adding, “the incredible Jewish outpouring” of help to Israel “had a direct effect on the Arab thinking” about crippling Israel by forcing continued mobilization. He praised Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger for his “incredible drive, tenacity and diplomatic ability” in bringing about the Israeli-Egyptian disengagement accord. He said if the Egyptians honored it, it would be a good one for both countries “because it diminishes the prospects of immediate hostility, removes from Israel the pressures relating to the blocking of the Suez Canal” and creates “a basic for future negotiations.”
Herzog stated that if the agreement is not honored by the Egyptians “at least it leaves us with a shortened line of defense, giving us good defensive positions and leaving us with most of the strategic depth afforded by the Sinai Peninsula, to say nothing of the oil fields and Sharm el Sheikh.” He added, however, that Israel would not make further geographical moves “without a meaningful change in the attitude of the Egyptians toward Israel, politically and economically.” Herzog expressed the view that Israel was now in a position “to find a modus vivendi with Jordan,” adding, “within the framework of this we have to seek a way also to meet the problem of the Palestinians.”