JERUSALEM (Dec. 11)
Defense Minister Ezer Weizman today strongly defended a plan to reorganize the army’s ground forces under a single command and his appointment of Brig. Gen. (res.) Yisrael Tal as the commanding officer. He told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee that certain adverse reports about Tal were “malicious rumors” and that while the plan itself and the naming of Tal aroused disagreement in military circles, “the army is not a factory and when a decision is made it is carried out.”
Both Tal and Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan were present at the committee session. According to MKs who attended, Eitan made no comment to refute Weizman’s defense of Tal. Eitan is a hawk. Tal is regarded as one of the more doevish generals. Under the new plan he would rank second only to Eitan in the military chain of command and would be in a position to succeed him When Eitan’s term as Chief of Staff expires in two years. Weizman also expressed full confidence in Eitan.
The reorganization plan would place all front line units-armored corps, infantry, paratroops, artillery and engineering corps-under one command. Tal would have the mandate to improve the army’s attack capability. Individual corps would be reorganized, accenting research and development in all fields of modern warfare with the objective of increasing over-all efficiency and reducing expenses.
PLAN WAS DEVISED BY TAL
The plan was in fact devised by Tal who was the army’s top strategic expert and Deputy Chief of Staff before the Yom Kippur War. It encountered strong opposition at the time from the then Chief of Staff Gen. Mordechai Gur. Gur, Who is presently a leader of the Labor Party, reiterated his criticism today and questioned Tol’s competence.
He called Tal’s appointment to the top post a “big mistake” and claimed that the general’s performance before, during and after the Yom Kippur War had been unsatisfactory. According to Gur, there was no justification to recall Tal from “civilian life after several years of frustration” and put him in a position that made him a potential Chief of Staff. In Gur’s view, there are a number of younger generals much better suited for the job. He acknowledged however that Tal was a very competent armored corps officer.
Tal, 55, has served as assistant to the Defense Minister for defense development and production matters since his retirement from active duty. In that capacity he was in charge of developing the Israel-made Merkava tank that was recently put into service.
Gur criticized the reorganization plan on grounds that it was unnecessary and could lead to waste of money and manpower. He warned that it might create certain obstacles in the work of the General Headquarters Staff. Weizman recently backed the plan. He said that until now the situation was not right for a major reorganization but with the stabilizing effects of the peace treaty with Egypt, the time is now ripe for a change.