. . . And What Both Tell Us About The Arab/Israeli Conflict
By: Jonathan Harris
To say that the “1967” and the “Yom Kippur” events were two separate wars, can be misleading. In reality, both cases were two battles in the same war. The same players (Egypt, Jordan, and Syria) and motivations were present in both.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lybia, Algeria, Sudan, Morocco, Lebanon, and Jordan all participated in conjunction with the traditional Arab forces during the Yom Kippur “War,” the majority of them committing troops. Clearly, something other than geographical location, and economic benefit was motivating the Arab world to make war. Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal nailed this point when he stated in the November 17th in 1972 edition of the Beirut Daily Star that, “All countries should wage war against the Zionists, who are there to destroy all human organizations and to destroy civilization and the work which good people are trying to do.” The cause of both wars ultimately was anti-Semitism. King Hussein of Jordan expressed this anti-Israeli unity when he announced in May of 1967 that, “The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are poised on the borders of Israel...to face the challenge, while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the whole Arab nation. This act will astound the world. Today they will know that the Arabs are arranged for battle, the critical hour has arrived. We have reached the stage of serious action and not declarations.” (Leibler:60) Earlier in 1964, Nassar of Egypt expressed a congruent belief when he stated, “The danger of Israel lies in the very existence of Israel as it is in the present and in what she represents.” (Harkabi:27) Popular myth indicates that the Arabs were merely trying to “liberate” the Palestinians. From the way in which they speak however, even using the term “wipe of the map,” as Nassar said, it should be clear that something much larger than “liberation” was at play.
It should come as no surprise that both wars were defensive on the part of Israel. There is no dispute that Israel was not the aggressor when in 1973. The 1967 war, though preemptive, was also defensive. Nassar’s quote above took place merely six days before Israel attacked Egypt, during which time “Approximately 250,000 troops (nearly half in Sinai), more than 2,000 tanks and 700 aircraft ringed Israel.” (Herzog:149) Israel’s only option was to strike first, utilizing the element of surprise, or become annihilated by the overwhelming superior forces.
Another interesting comparison has to do with the United Nations. It is interesting to look back on both conflicts and realize that the UN seemed to throw its support to the Arabs.When Nassar ordered the UN Security Force which had been stationed in the Sinai Peninsula since 1956 to withdraw, they completely followed his order, even though the General Assembly was never called. In addition, the Egyptian blockade of the Straits of Tiran was in direct violation of the “Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone” which was adopted by the UN in 1958. Why did the United Nations allow Egypt to break International law without voicing opposition? The only opposition came when Israel started to prevail. In the same way, the Yom Kippur War revealed a greater timidness. It wasn’t until the day that Israel was in a position to wipe out Egypt’s army that the UN called for a cease-fire. Thus, when Israel was losing, the UN did nothing.
The 1967 War saw a three-fold expansion in Israel’s size, and then a subsequent reduction when it was time for treaties to be signed. Clearly, Israel was willing to trade land for peace when it, “returned all of the Sinai to Egypt, territory claimed by Jordan was returned to the Hashemite Kingdom, and nearly all of the Gaza Strip and more than 40 percent of the West Bank was given to the Palestinians to establish the Palestinian Authority.” (Bard) Unfortunately, this did not settle the problem, because the same nations attacked Israel again in 1973. Similarly, Israel “gave up the passes and oil fields it had won from Egypt in 1973, in return for Egypt’s good word that war was not the answer.” (Goldschimidt :356)