All of Israel’s Arab neighbors, except Jordan, have entered the missile race, according to Gen. Dan Shomron, the Israel Defense Force chief of staff.
But the IDF possesses the defensive and offensive power to deter their use, Shomron said in an Israel Radio interview over the weekend. He did not go into details, but indicated the Arab states were aware of Israel’s means of retaliation.
Shomron said the danger of the missile race was the tendency to develop chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. The Chinese-made CSS-2 intermediate range missiles recently acquired by Saudi Arabia are capable of carrying nuclear warheads, but both China and the Saudis have denied they are so armed.
According to Shomron, Israel’s ability to strike back has deterred the Arab states from using chemical weapons in their wars with Israel. Egypt used chemical weapons during its campaign in Yemen in the 1960s, but not in the 1967 war with Israel, Shomron pointed out.
Similarly, Syria had chemical weapons at the time of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, but neither the Syrians nor the Egyptians employed them against Israel, even when their armies on the ground were in serious difficulties, the chief of staff said.
The Arabs knew that Israel’s capability to hit back was far greater, he said. Nevertheless, there are gas masks available for every Israeli citizen, should the need arise. But the danger of chemical warfare against population centers is exaggerated, according to Shomron. By closing doors and windows the danger is greatly reduced, he said.
Shomron also supported Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s point made last week that air power, in which Israel excels, is a more effective attack system than missiles. He noted that while Syria’s Soviet-made Skud missiles can carry 100 tons of explosives, a warplane that carries five tons is much more accurate.
Rabin said that Israel’s air force could drop 100 tons of high explosives on enemy population centers for every ton delivered to Israel in a missile attack.
Shomron maintained that missiles cannot determine the outcome of a war. He recalled in that connection the strategic failure of V-1 and V-2 rockets Germany used to attack British cities during the final year of World War II.
Asked if Israel has joined the missile race, Shomron replied, “That’s what I read in the papers.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.