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Israelis Assured Armed Forces Capable of Devastating Egypt in Event of War Egyptians Say New Phantom

January 3, 1972
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israeli military and political leaders assured their countrymen as the new year began that their armed forces were capable of inflicting devastating blows on Egypt should the latter resume warfare in the months ahead. These remarks were made as reports proliferated over the weekend that Israel would be getting the additional US Phantom jets for which it has a long standing request. The semi-official Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, and today that President Anwar Sadat called a series of urgent consultations with his senior military and civilian officials following confirmation that the US will resume supplying Phantoms to Israel.

According to Al Ahram, the Sadat regime is considering whether to renounce its earlier stated intention to give diplomacy another chance to resolve the Middle East conflict in view of the Phantom deal. The Cairo newspaper Al Ahber claimed today that US Secretary of State William P. Rogers made the resumption of Phantom deliveries conditional on Israel’s agreement to a substantial withdrawal from the Suez Canal. But a Cairo radio commentator said the new Phantom deal was a serious escalation of the Middle East crisis.

There was no confirmation in any official quarters of new developments with regard to the Phantoms for which Premier Golds Meir went to Washington last Nov. (US State Department sources were non-committal over the reports that Phantom deliveries would be resumed and administration spokesmen at the Florida White House at Key Biscayne would neither confirm or deny the reports. Deputy Presidential Press Secretary Gerald Warren referred newsmen Friday to White House Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler’s Dec. 2 statement following the Nixon-Meir meeting that the administration would “continue to maintain its ongoing relationship of financial assistance and military supply to Israel.”)

Premier Meir hinted obliquely that Israel would be getting the American jets. She said on a radio interview Thursday that since the State Department has not denied the reports to that effect, it seemed that the planes would come. The consensus of opinion here and abroad is that there will not be a resumption of fighting in the immediate future primarily because the Egyptians know they cannot hope to win without direct Soviet intervention and the Russians have made it clear they are not going to intervene.


Israel’s retiring Army Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Haim Barlev told reporters Friday that the Russians have withdrawn almost all of their units from the canal zone and were unlikely to intervene in any action east of the waterway unless Egypt appeared to be heading for another disastrous defeat on the scale of the Six-Day War. Asked about Israel’s reaction to limited warfare by Egypt–a resumption of the late President Nasser’s “war of attrition”–Barlev declared Israel would respond with such power that the Sadat regime might be toppled.

He observed that Sadat was not as popular in the Arab world as Nasser had been and could not survive a major defeat. “Our line of deployment in Sinai is not line it is one component of what may be eight or nine or even more lines of Israeli deployment in the Sinai,” Barlev said. He warned that if Egypt “makes the mistake” of attacking Israeli civilian targets “Israel would react in a way that Egypt will never try again.” According to Barlev, Israel could neutralize or destroy Egypt’s Soviet-built missile defense system if necessary.

Israel’s Deputy Premier Yigal Allon warned over the weekend that if the Egyptians attempted a crossing of the Suez Canal they would suffer 80 percent casualties. The situation in the canal zone remained quiet as the new year dawned. Egyptian soldiers on the west bank of the waterway seemed to be relaxing over the holiday. Many were seen going about their duties without helmets.

There was, however, a feeling in Israeli circles that the political situation in the Middle East may be heated up in the months ahead, especially if there is no progress toward an interim Suez settlement or a revival of the Jarring peace mission. The situation is complicated by the recent entry of China into world affairs. Barlev has estimated the presence of 20,000 Soviet personnel in Egypt of which 5,000 are technicians and advisors and the rest troops. According to Allon, the Russians do not explicitly seek Israel’s destruction but would do nothing to prevent it.

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