Dayan Warns Publicly of Israel’s ‘collapsing Image’

Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan issued a somber public warning today that Israel is viewed abroad as “dying economically” and this image has led foreign statesmen to believe they could pressure Israel for new concessions. In newspaper interviews, Dayan blamed primarily the government coalition and the ministers responsible for the economy for this state of affairs. He expressed his own deep confidence and conviction that Israel has the strength to stand up for its vital interests and to withstand demands for changes in United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.

Dayan’s statements to the press and in an appearance this morning before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, as well as in a blistering attack on the Cabinet in general and Finance Minister Simcha Ehrlich in particular at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, quickly became the focal political talking point both in Jerusalem and at the autonomy talks in Haifa. There was speculation that Dayan was preparing his own resignation and or that he was seeking to move Premier Menachem Begin to changes in the composition of the Cabinet.

In his appearance before the Knesset committee, Dayan disclosed that U.S. secretary of State Cyrus. Vance had asked Israel several days ago whether press reports of its imminent economic collapse were true, and if so whether the U.S. could extend any help. At the Cabinet meeting, the Foreign Minister characterized that body as weak and argued that Israel’s political standing abroad has been affected by the weak image of Israel on the economic front.

He argued there as he did today that there was an impression albeit wrong, in some quarters abroad, that Israel was coming apart at the seams, leading some to believe that Israel could be pressured and browbeaten. Dayan rebuked Ehrlich for having “sat and said nothing” when he was told late last year that U.S. financial aid for the construction of airfields in the Negev to replace those Israel will give up in Sinai under the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty would be a loan, not a grant. Dayan, at the Cabinet session, urged the shocked ministers to “pull yourselves together” and show that Israel could not be pushed around but had the strength and determination to protect its vital interests.

Likud Knesset members expressed shock and dismay today at the fierceness of Dayan’s public attacks upon the government in which he serves. Labor Alignment Knesset members seized upon his words as demonstrating the discord within the government. Moshe Shabal of the Alignment said the conclusion should be not only for Dayan to resign but for the entire Cabinet to resign.

HIGHLIGHTS OF DAYAN’S INTERVIEW

Highlights of Dayan’s interview today with the press included:

“In the eyes of the world we seem to be dying economically…I am not sure whether the Histadrut…would give their support to this social and economic chaos if Labor were in power….Perhaps this is legitimate, but what it means in our situation is suicide, and the Histadrut is not blameless in this. But first and foremost it is the coalition itself that is to blame.”

“It is not a matter of personalities (in reference to Ehrlich). I protest vociferously at the fact that the Finance Ministry heard of the change in U.S. aid for building the Negev airfields–from grant to loan–and kept silent.”

Many countries suffered from inflation, “but in our case, not only do we not overcome it, we do not seem to know how to tackle it at all….That is why the world thinks of us as a dead man, as someone about to go bankrupt.”

“I am in favor of broadening the basis of the coalition, so that we should have more strength to take difficult steps. I favor broadening the coalition so that the government should have broader shoulders.”

“I am fully convinced–prepared to swear on the Bible that I was never more confident–that we can withstand political pressures, pressures upon us….Neither the U.S. nor the whole of Europe can force us to do what we don’t want to do, in relation to Resolution 242, in relation to the Palestinians, and in relation to what is happening in Lebanon where we have got to keep on hitting at the terrorists.

TOUGH TALKS WITH THE DUTCH

Dayan recalled that when he was in Holland last month he had held “tough conversations” with Dutch political and military leaders over the south Lebanon situation which evolved out of the fact that a Dutch contingent is stationed with the United Nations Interim force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Dayan noted that Dutch soldiers were coming home as convinced anti-Semites. One had written recently in a Dutch paper that it was a pity Hitler had not finished off all the Jews.

Nevertheless, Dayan said he had explained to his Dutch hosts that Israel would continue to attack Palestine Liberation. Organization bases stationed within the UNIFIL area of operation–because the alternative was to permit the PLO to launch attacks on Israel from these bases unhindered. This was on example, Dayan said, of how Israel must fight for its basic vital interests regardless of the attitudes of friendly states abroad.

HITS SLOW NORMALIZATION PACE

Dayan also expressed dissatisfaction in his interviews and at the Knesset committee at the slow pace Egypt was proceeding in normalizing relations with Israel. He told the Knesset members that he had personally heard Egyptian President Anwar Sadat promise Begin open borders, yet application by Israelis for visas to Egypt are still being held up.

The Foreign Minister expressed disappointment with Egypt’s demand that the International Red Cross should supervise the transfer of students from the Gaza Strip to and from Egypt. “I will immediately resign if the Cabinet accepts this proposal,” he warned. Dayan added by way of explanation that this is not the way nations at peace handled matters between them.

Dayan also aired his comments on the normalization process at a private dinner he gave at his home last night for his Egyptian counterpart, Minister of State Boutros Ghali. According to reports today, Ghali contended that the bureaucratic delays regarding visa applications would be cleared up.

Nevertheless, Egyptian Premier Mustapha Khalil, who is heading the Egyptian delegation at the autonomy talks, said during an interview on Israel Television yesterday that Israel was misinterpreting the understanding reached between Sadat and Begin over the open borders. “You are really confusing the whole issue,” he said. “What we have agreed upon is not normalization. What we have agreed upon is a kind of token open borders between the two countries. We didn’t say that this is normalization, because normalization under the treaty is subject to negotiations that will start next January.”

NEXT STORY