TEL AVIV (Apr. 27)
Israeli political and military leaders spoke with both sympathy and frank criticism over the weekend of the disastrous failure of the American attempt to rescue the 50 hostages held at the U.S. Embassy in Teheran. Inevitably, comparisons were mode between that abortive effort and Israel’s successful rescue of 100 hostages from Entebbe Airport in Uganda in July, 1976.
The consensus of opinion here was that the abortive American operation humiliated the United States and did severe political damage to President Carter. Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir sent a cable to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance Friday expressing Israel’s sympathy for the loss of American lives and asked Vance to convey his condolences to the families of the American servicemen killed or injured.
At the same time, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement denying any Israeli involvement in the American action. The statement said that government ministers and other senior officials first learned of it from the media.
Premier Menachem Begin said in an interview published in Yediot Achronot yesterday that “The Americans are humiliated as regards Teheran. This big nation with all the vast power at its disposal feels itself degraded and does not know the solution.”
“They are asking advice from others, especially from Israelis because of the Entebbe operation,” he said. “We tell them that there is a difference between Entebbe and Teheran. At Entebbe we had chances for success because it was an isolated airport. We knew all its details. We used the factor of surprise. We took control of the airport area, took the hostages aboard and returned home. In Teheran the situation is different.”
FAILURE ATTRIBUTED TO FAULTY PLANNING
Gen. Dan Shomron, who was in charge of the Entebbe operation four years ago, declined to comment. But other Israeli military and political personages were less reticent today. Farmer Premier
He expressed surprise that the U.S., which has at least 800-1000 helicopters, aborted the operation because three of the machines failed. “They know that a helicopter is a delicate instrument given to malfunctions now and then. An operation such as that undertaken by the Americans should have allowed for all contingencies and alternatives. It was a failure of planning,” Rabin said.
Gen. (res.) Rehavan Ze’evi, formerly in change of Israel’s war against terrorists, said it had been a mistake for the U.S. to copy the Entebbe approach for the Teheran operation. “I doubt that the best way to extricate hostages from the heart of a teeming city of five million hostile residents is to go in with 90 troops in extremely vulnerable craft,” he said.
Ze’evi added that while the U.S. Army is an excellent fighting force, it is not organized for unconventional operations. He said the U.S. military did not understand tactical solutions which called for subterfuge, indirectness and misleading the enemy.
Gen. (res.) Chaim Herzog, one of Israel’s leading military analysts, said too many political constraints hampered American action of the sort attempted. “Eight Senate committees must give their approval to any CIA operation and it is intolerable that the President be required to consult Congress prior to any military action,” he said.
ISRAEL HAD ADVANCE HINT
Although Israelis were unaware that the U.S. contemplated a rescue attempt they had an advance hint from a Maariv report last Thursday that American military planes were making extensive use of Kina Airport in upper Egypt. Egyptian facilities apparently were used in mounting the operation, but neither the Maariv correspondent nor the source of his “scoop” was aware of the nature of the American activity.
Nevertheless, the Maariv story was given worldwide distribution after the event, to the consternation of some Pentagon officials. Israeli military circles said that the American failure should serve as a warning for the U.S. to improve its military potential. They said the failure was a surprise, a disappointment and a great blow to the free world.