JERUSALEM (May. 27)
Defense Minister Shimon Peres said yesterday that the new Arab strategy is aimed at a piecemeal draining of Israel’s military strength in a series of mini-wars along the borders rather than a full-scale final assault and that they were conducting it on the basis of massive arms acquisitions from both the West and the Soviet Union and their overwhelming numerical strength in manpower.
Addressing the annual convention of the Israel Journalists Association in Tel Aviv, Peres observed that the Arab countries are undergoing important military, political and economic changes which demanded an Israeli reassessment of the general Middle East situation.
He also contended that “there is a gap between what the Soviet power in the Middle East is believed to be and its real power. Obviously, from Israel’s standpoint, the USSR is a real problem,” Peres said, “but from a global point of view, the USSR’s achievements in the area are insignificant and its military power in the area is a subject for serious doubts,” Accordingly, Peres said, it is not the U.S. but the Soviet Union that should be reassessing its Middle East policy at this time.
Peres warned against the continuing strengthening of the Arab armies and the deterioration of Israel into a defenseless state. He said that while the administered territories may not serve as a deterrent to a new war, their loss could lead to a situation in which Israel will have no deterrence whatsoever and will be a tempting target for the Arabs to break its back.
THREAT OF PALESTINIAN STATE
A Palestinian state with borders some 10 miles from Israel’s coast would be a daily threat to Israel’s narrow waist, he said. “I can understand those who say they do not want to govern another million Arabs, but we certainly do not want to be governed by others,” Peres said.
He predicted that Israel would be able to maintain a reasonable balance of military power in the Middle East in the future although the numerical odds during the coming decade will probably remain steady at three to one in the Arabs’ favor.
“The Arabs have reached the conclusion that it would be best for them to exploit their one in-disputable advantage–their numerical superiority–by increasing the number of countries involved directly against Israel, by mobilizing large numbers of soldiers and accumulating vast quantities of arms in the hope that their quantitative superiority would eventually overcome Israel’s qualitative edge,” Peres said.
In that connection, Peres said, the Syrians are trying to form a new coalition to include Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and the PLO which could concentrate 14 divisions. Despite the potential weakness of such a coalition, it could serve to counter-balance Egypt and would strengthen the more belligerent elements in the Arab world, he said.