Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan praised the Carter administration today for "providing Israel with the shield of the United States" by deploying American technicians in the Sinai Peninsula to help police the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
Using terms that contrasted vividly with the low-key description Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance and other U.S. officials have used to describe a limited role for the American monitoring force, Dayan in essence defined the force as a tripwire whose presence would automatically bring the United States into a renewed Middle East war that involved the Sinai.
When potential aggressors realize that instead of Israel "it is the United States of America that they will have to fight first, then they will drop the idea," Dayan said to a luncheon meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Egypt, Israel and the United States agreed last week to allow Egyptian and Israeli military patrols, augmented by U.S. civilian technicians and increased U.S. aerial surveillance, to police the three year Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai peninsula.
While State Department spokesman Hodding Carter declined immediate comment on Dayan's remarks, other U.S. officials argued that the role of the monitoring force was merely a technical one.
U.S. technicians and monitoring equipment have been in the Sinai since 1975 when Israel made a partial pre-treaty withdrawal. The technicians were scheduled to be withdrawn at the end of the year.
When the new agreement was announced on Sept. 19, Vance stressed that all American personnel would be civilains and would not exceed 200 in number. Also, as was done when the technicians originally were sent to the Sinai in 1975, the executive branch would ask Congress to approve the arrangement, Vance said.
Dayan emphasized today that relations between Egypt and Israel were taking such a positive turn that "I don't think the United States is taking any risk" through its involvement.
The United States and Israel had quarreled sharply over the Sinai force after the Carter administration reached a private agreement with the Soviet Union to allow a force of United Nations' observers to supervise the withdrawal. Israel opposed the introduction of the observer force and demanded instead that the United States send a multinational armed force, which Israel contended was required by the terms of the treaty.
Dayan today emphasized that Israel approved the compromise plan to use Egyptian, Israeli and U.S. monitors only after the United States had found it impossible to enlist other nations in a credible multinational force.
"We were very pleased that the United States was willing to come forward and say, "We shall do it ourselves at our own expense'. . .when other people would not do it," Dayan said.
His opening remarks to the council, which regularly hosts important visiting officials at luncheon and dinner meetings, were on the record.
Egypt was reliably reported to have originally been opposed to joint Israeli-Egyptian patrols because their use would have left Israeli soldiers on territory that had been returned to Egyptian sovereignty.
The three nations have refused to spell out the details of the agreement they reached in Washington last week, but it is believed that there will be no joint patrols. Israeli troops reportedly will stay on their side of the withdrawal line and will meet Egyptian troops only at specified check points.
The American monitoring force will be stationed in the buffer zone between the Egyptian and Israeli units. Officials say there is still a possibility that U.N. observers will become involved.
In addition, the United States will increase the number of reconnaissance flights being made over the Sinai now by U.S. Air Force planes based in Cyprus.
Immediately after levaing the council meeting Dayan met just outside his hotel with former ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, who had angered Israel and his State Department superiors by meeting in August with a representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization in violation of U.S. policy.
The incident led to Young's resignation.
"We did not discuss the PLO or Yasser Arafat or .. . anything like that," Dayan told reporters.