TEL AVIV (Feb. 13)
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan said last night that he thought the most opportune time to pursue a peace settlement with Egypt will come when the Suez, Canal is reopened to shipping. He said the shooting would end on the Syrian front only after a disengagement agreement is reached there and until then Israel must continue to respond vigorously to Syrian attacks. He said he knew of no political pressure on Israel to limit its response.
Dayan made those remarks at a press conference with military correspondents here during which he observed that both Israel and Syria have had their Yom Kippur War losses fully replaced and expressed the view that Egypt was complying with the terms of the Jan. 21 disengagement accord. Dayan insisted that the government stands by its demand that Syria act in compliance with the Geneva Convention on POWs before Israel will sit down to disengagement talks.
He said the shooting on the Syrian line was not a “transient episode” but a deliberate policy of President Hafez Assad. Israel is dealing with an extremist nationalist regime intent on proving its point with deeds. Assad would have a harder time explaining to his people why he wasn’t shooting then why he is, Dayan said.
Dayan observed that the Syrians do not consider themselves to have been beaten in the Yom Kippur War. They entered that war far stronger than in the 1967 Six-Day War and despite severe losses–1000 tanks, 200 planes, 10 missile batteries and 10,000 casualties–they have since been fully re-armed by the Russians and continue to get volunteers from Iraq. Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. “They don’t feel hopeless. They don’t like the present lines and the Golan Heights in Israel’s hands, so they shoot,” Dayan said. He said a firm reply was necessary “but this alone will not end the Syrian attacks.”
ARMED FORCES STRENGTHENED SINCE WAR
The Defense Minister said he thought President Anwar Sadat of Egypt was anxious to have Syria enter into disengagement negotiations with Israel if only because he doesn’t want Egypt to be the only Arab state to have reached such an accord. As for future relations with Egypt, Dayan said he wanted a certain amount of time to elapse to see how the disengagement agreement works out.
If the Egyptians begin to rehabilitate the canal zone, if they demobilize a large part of their army and embark on a development program, “I think it would be a mistake if we do not try to continue negotiations in an attempt to reach final peace whether in Geneva or elsewhere….I think the most opportune moment will come after shipping operations in the canal are resumed,” Dayan said.
He disclosed the extent to which Israel’s armed forces have been strengthened since the Yom Kippur War. He said the Air Force has had a five percent increase in fighter planes, 30 percent more transports, three percent more helicopters and 33 percent more Hawk missiles. On the ground, Israel has 15 percent more tanks; 85 percent more armored troop carriers; 25 percent more artillery; and 50 percent more ammunition than it had during the war.
Dayan mentioned the supply of Soviet Scud missiles to the Arab states which he said increased Israel’s dependence on the U.S. for sophisticated weapons that it cannot afford to develop at home.