TEL AVIV (Oct. 16)
Chief of Staff Gen. Mordechai Gur said last night that the changed character of warfare resulting from the introduction of highly sophisticated weapons systems and electronic detecting devices in the Middle East made a return by Israel to its pre-June, 1967 borders totally impossible.
He said the changes, following the Yom Kippur War included a greater use of air power by both sides and the supply of Soviet-made “Scud” missiles to the Arab arsenal that threaten civilian targets behind the lines.
Gur said that sophisticated anti-aircraft defense systems based on missiles cannot be allowed too close to Israel’s borders because they would neutralize the maneuverability of Israel’s Air Force, Similarly, he said, the existence of early warning systems and the variety of electronic warfare equipment ruled out a return to the 1967 lines.
The Chief of Staff spoke at an international symposium on the military aspects of the Yom Kippur War currently being held in Jerusalem with the participation of about 200 military officers, experts and analysts from abroad, and a like number of Israeli military officers and commentators.
CAN RETAIN QUALITATIVE SUPERIORITY
Gur said that in the event of a new war, Israel would retain its qualitative superiority. While the Egyptians seek sophisticated equipment that can be operated by simple soldiers, Israel is trained to operate sophisticated weapons by the most sophisticated personnel, he said.
Although it might appear that the existence of long-range missiles and early warning devices would make the location of Israel’s future borders less relevant to its defense than in the past, as has been argued by some circles who believe Israel could safely return to an approximation of the 1967 lines, sources here said Gur’s thesis is based on the fact that modern techniques of warfare make geography more important than ever.
They pointed out that even with improved advance warning devices, the time lapse between the warning and the attack has been greatly reduced. Israeli defenses based in the 1967 borders would not provide the essential extra minutes necessary to counter a surprise attack.
Similarly, the sources pointed out, if the Arabs placed anti-aircraft defense systems at Tulkarem, Qalqilya or Jenin on the West Bank, the airspace around Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem would be within range and activity by the Israel Air Force would be prevented. The sources also noted that the same sophisticated weapons, even if capable of being operated by unsophisticated personnel, are far more effective in the hands of sophisticated soldiers. They said this has been proven in the use of planes, tanks and other weapons by both sides.
FUTURE PROBLEM IS NOT MILITARY
Gur said Israel would not have a qualitative or quantitative problem in the next 5-10 years, Israel’s problem, he said, would be to win the next war with fewer casualties and with as little damage as possible to the nation’s economy and industry. In the long range, however he said, the future poses the question not of army against army but Israel against the Arabs and how they can live together in the region.
He said that should there be another war, Israel would seek conditions that would enable it to win a decisive victory before or in spite of intervention by the superpowers. Asked about the danger of nuclear warheads on “Soud” missiles, the Chief of Staff said Israel did not contemplate their use by the Arabs. The “Sounds” with conventional warheads are a threat to the civilian population but are not a decisive factor in war, he said.
ARMS TO ARABS, TO ISRAEL’S INTEREST
At an earlier session of the symposium, Brig, Kenneth Hunt, deputy director of the institute for Strategic Studies in London, said that the sale of American arms to Arab countries which might use them against Israel was “probably to Israel’s interest” in the long range because “it undercuts the Soviets. It is part of the price for protection” of Israel by the U.S., he said.
Hunt said “American policy is clearly aimed at being on better terms than before with the Arabs, particularly the conservative Arab regimes.” He said the recent political changes in the Middle East created problems for Israel for which military strength was no counter. He told the symposium that the desire to avoid a nuclear war still governed American and Soviet policies in this region.