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Difference of Opinion Surfaces: Should Israel Respond to Egyptian Attack by All-out Thrust or Limite

December 22, 1971
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israeli leaders are taking very seriously the Egyptian threat to renew warfare along the Suez Canal as President Anwar Sadat’s “year of decision” nears its end. But differences of opinion surfaced today as to whether Israel’s response to an Egyptian attack should be an all-out thrust for a decisive victory or a limited war. Most observers here believe that Sadat is not thinking in terms of full scale hostilities but is considering a renewal of the “war of attrition” carried out by his predecessor, the late Gamal Abdel Nasser.

It is believed here, however, that attempts to cross the Suez Canal and establish bridgeheads on the east bank are included in Egyptian planning. Cairo’s future strategic moves will be coordinated with the leaders of Libya and Syria, Egypt’s new federation partners, who are due in Cairo for a meeting tomorrow. Sadat is to address a joint meeting tomorrow. Sadat is to address a joint meeting of the Egyptian parliament and the central committee of the Arab Socialist Union behind closed doors Thursday.


The secretariate of the ASU, Egypt’s only political party, confirmed reports that a “final decision” has been made to resume fighting against Israel, according to Cairo radio. However, sources close to the secretariate have reportedly said that there was no connection between the decision itself and the date on which shooting will be resumed, nor does the decision to fight mean that diplomatic efforts to reach a solution will be abandoned. Cairo radio said that war preparations will not last too long.

Two of Israel’s leading military commentators warned last night that Israel must not allow Sadat to dictate the form and limits of a future war. The commentators, Maj. Gen. Haim Herzog, a member of the Rafi wing of the Labor Party who often reflects official views, and Maj. Gen. Ezer Weizman, chairman of the opposition Herut faction who has the reputation of a “hawk,” agreed on separate radio interviews that Israel should seek a decisive victory if war breaks out anew.

In their view, warfare cannot be controled and Israel cannot enter into a tacit agreement to confine the shooting to the Suez Canal zone. Weizman called for a swift, clean-cut decision with negotiations for a new cease-fire only after it is achieved. Gen. Herzog stressed that details of future strategy are not a subject for public discussion. But he said that if attacked, Israel’s wisest course may be to strive for a decisive victory.


But security experts here take an opposite view. They warned today that in the event of a new war with Egypt, it would be in Israel’s interest to restrict itself to actions that would not warrant a deeper Soviet involvement in the conflict. In order to prevent a direct confrontation with the Russians, Israel would have to restrict its blows to the Egyptian Army and to prevent it from gaining a foothold on the east bank of the canal. This strategy, the proponents of which were identified only as security experts, would seem to preclude massive Israeli retaliation against targets deep inside Egypt.

Defense Minister Moshe Dayan visited the Suez Canal front yesterday and was spotted by a group of Egyptian officers and a Russian officer on the other side of the waterway. One of the officers pointed a finger toward Dayan and some Egyptian soldiers called to him by name.

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