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The war began when the Arab coalition launched a joint surprise attack on Israeli positions, on Yom Kippur , a widely observed day of rest, fasting, and prayer in Judaism, which also occurred that year during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Both the United States and the Soviet Union initiated massive resupply efforts to their respective allies during the war, and these efforts led to a near-confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers.
The war began with a massive and successful Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal. Egyptian forces crossed the cease-fire lines, then advanced virtually unopposed into the Sinai Peninsula. After three days, Israel had mobilized most of its forces and halted the Egyptian offensive, resulting in a military stalemate. The Syrians coordinated their attack on the Golan Heights to coincide with the Egyptian offensive and initially made threatening gains into Israeli-held territory.
Within three days, however, Israeli forces had pushed the Syrians back to the pre-war ceasefire lines. Within a week, Israeli artillery began to shell the outskirts of Damascus , and Egyptian President Sadat began to worry about the integrity of his major ally. He believed that capturing two strategic passes located deeper in the Sinai would make his position stronger during post-war negotiations; he therefore ordered the Egyptians to go back on the offensive, but their attack was quickly repulsed.
The Israelis then counter-attacked at the seam between the two Egyptian armies, crossed the Suez Canal into Egypt, and began slowly advancing southward and westward towards the city of Suez in over a week of heavy fighting that resulted in heavy casualties on both sides. On 22 October, a United Nations —brokered ceasefire unraveled, with each side blaming the other for the breach. By 24 October, the Israelis had improved their positions considerably and completed their encirclement of Egypt's Third Army and the city of Suez.
This development led to tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, and a second ceasefire was imposed cooperatively on 25 October to end the war. The war had far-reaching implications. The Arab world had experienced humiliation in the lopsided rout of the Egyptian—Syrian—Jordanian alliance in the Six-Day War but felt psychologically vindicated by early successes in this conflict. The war led Israel to recognize that, despite impressive operational and tactical achievements on the battlefield, there was no guarantee that they would always dominate the Arab states militarily, as they had consistently through the earlier Arab—Israeli War , the Suez Crisis , and the Six-Day War.
These changes paved the way for the subsequent peace process. The Camp David Accords that followed led to the return of the Sinai to Egypt and normalized relations—the first peaceful recognition of Israel by an Arab country. Egypt continued its drift away from the Soviet Union and eventually left the Soviet sphere of influence entirely. The war was part of the Arab—Israeli conflict , an ongoing dispute that included many battles and wars since , when the state of Israel was formed.
On 19 June, , shortly after the Six-Day War, the Israeli government voted to return the Sinai to Egypt and the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for a permanent peace settlement and a demilitarization of the returned territories.
This decision was not made public at the time, nor was it conveyed to any Arab state. Notwithstanding Abba Eban's Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs in insistence that this was indeed the case, there seems to be no solid evidence to corroborate his claim.
No formal peace proposal was made either directly or indirectly by Israel. The Americans, who were briefed of the Cabinet's decision by Eban, were not asked to convey it to Cairo and Damascus as official peace proposals, nor were they given indications that Israel expected a reply.
The Arab position, as it emerged in September at the Khartoum Arab Summit , was to reject any peaceful settlement with the state of Israel. The eight participating states — Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, and Sudan — passed a resolution that would later become known as the "three no's": there would be no peace, no recognition and no negotiation with Israel.
Prior to that, King Hussein of Jordan had stated that he could not rule out a possibility of a "real, permanent peace" between Israel and the Arab states. Armed hostilities continued on a limited scale after the Six-Day War and escalated into the War of Attrition , an attempt to wear down the Israeli position through long-term pressure. A ceasefire was signed in August He was succeeded by Anwar Sadat. Sadat set forth to the Egyptian Parliament his intention of arranging an interim agreement as a step towards a settlement on 4 February , which extended the terms of the ceasefire and envisaged a reopening of the Suez Canal in exchange for a partial Israeli pullback.
It resembled a proposal independently made by Moshe Dayan. Egypt responded by accepting much of Jarring's proposals, though differing on several issues, regarding the Gaza Strip , for example, and expressed its willingness to reach an accord if it also implemented the provisions of United Nations Security Council Resolution This was the first time an Arab government had gone public declaring its readiness to sign a peace agreement with Israel.
In addition, the Egyptian response included a statement that the lasting peace could not be achieved without "withdrawal of the Israeli armed forces from all the territories occupied since 5 June When the committee unanimously concluded that Israel's interests would be served by full withdrawal to the internationally recognized lines dividing Israel from Egypt and Syria, returning the Gaza Strip and, in a majority view, returning most of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Meir was angered and shelved the document.
Sadat hoped that by inflicting even a limited defeat on the Israelis, the status quo could be altered. Hafez al-Assad , the leader of Syria, had a different view. He had little interest in negotiation and felt the retaking of the Golan Heights would be a purely military option. After the Six-Day War, Assad had launched a massive military buildup and hoped to make Syria the dominant military power of the Arab states.
With the aid of Egypt, Assad felt that his new army could win convincingly against Israel and thus secure Syria's role in the region. Assad only saw negotiations beginning once the Golan Heights had been retaken by force, which would induce Israel to give up the West Bank and Gaza, and make other concessions. Sadat also had important domestic concerns in wanting war. A desiccated economy added to the nation's despondency. War was a desperate option. Egypt's economy was in shambles, but Sadat knew that the deep reforms that he felt were needed would be deeply unpopular among parts of the population.
A military victory would give him the popularity he needed to make changes. A portion of the Egyptian population, most prominently university students who launched wide protests, strongly desired a war to reclaim the Sinai and was highly upset that Sadat had not launched one in his first three years in office. The other Arab states showed much more reluctance to fully commit to a new war.
Jordanian King Hussein feared another major loss of territory, as had occurred in the Six-Day War, in which Jordan lost all of the West Bank, territory it had conquered and annexed in —49, which had doubled its population. Hussein still saw the West Bank as part of Jordan and wanted it restored to his kingdom. Moreover, during the Black September crisis of , a near civil war had broken out between the PLO and the Jordanian government.
Iraq and Syria also had strained relations, and the Iraqis refused to join the initial offensive. Lebanon , which shared a border with Israel, was not expected to join the Arab war effort because of its small army and already evident instability. In the months before the war Sadat engaged in a diplomatic offensive to try to win support for the war.
By the fall of , he claimed the backing of more than a hundred states. Sadat had also worked to curry favour in Europe and had some success before the war. Henry Kissinger believed that the regional balance of power hinged on maintaining Israel's military dominance over Arab countries, and that an Arab victory in the region would strengthen Soviet influence.
Britain's position, on the other hand, was that war between the Arabs and Israelis could only be prevented by the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution and a return to the pre boundaries. On October 12, nearly one week into the war, the Cypriot government announced that it would "oppose the use of British bases in Cyprus as a springboard against Arab countries", which further strained Anglo-American relations.
Four months before the war broke out, Henry Kissinger made an offer to Ismail, Sadat's emissary. Kissinger proposed returning the Sinai Peninsula to Egyptian control and an Israeli withdrawal from all of Sinai, except for some strategic points. Ismail said he would return with Sadat's reply, but never did. Sadat was already determined to go to war. Only an American guarantee that the United States would fulfill the entire Arab program in a brief time could have dissuaded Sadat. Sadat declared that Egypt was prepared to "sacrifice a million Egyptian soldiers" to recover its lost territory.
Political generals, who had in large part been responsible for the rout in , were replaced with competent ones. The role of the superpowers, too, was a major factor in the outcome of the two wars. The policy of the Soviet Union was one of the causes of Egypt's military weakness.
President Nasser was only able to obtain the materiel for an anti-aircraft missile defense wall after visiting Moscow and pleading with Kremlin leaders. He said that if supplies were not given, he would have to return to Egypt and tell the Egyptian people Moscow had abandoned them, and then relinquish power to one of his peers who would be able to deal with the Americans.
The Americans would then have the upper hand in the region, which Moscow could not permit. Nasser's policy following the defeat conflicted with that of the Soviet Union. The Soviets sought to avoid a new conflagration between the Arabs and Israelis so as not to be drawn into a confrontation with the United States.
The reality of the situation became apparent when the superpowers met in Oslo and agreed to maintain the status quo. This was unacceptable to Egyptian leaders, and when it was discovered that the Egyptian preparations for crossing the canal were being leaked, it became imperative to expel the Soviets from Egypt. In July , Sadat expelled almost all of the 20, Soviet military advisers in the country and reoriented the country's foreign policy to be more favourable to the United States.
The Syrians remained close to the Soviet Union. The Soviets thought little of Sadat's chances in any war. They warned that any attempt to cross the heavily fortified Suez Canal would incur massive losses. Brezhnev said that if Israel did not, "we will have difficulty keeping the military situation from flaring up"—an indication that the Soviet Union had been unable to restrain Sadat's plans.
In an interview published in Newsweek April 9, , Sadat again threatened war with Israel. Several times during , Arab forces conducted large-scale exercises that put the Israeli military on the highest level of alert, only to be recalled a few days later. Almost a full year before the war, in an 24 October, , meeting with his Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Sadat declared his intention to go to war with Israel even without proper Soviet support.
Egypt's initial war objective was to use its military to seize a limited amount of Israeli-occupied Sinai on the east bank of the Suez Canal. This would provoke a crisis which would allow it to bring American and Soviet pressure to bear on Israel to negotiate the return of the rest of Sinai, and possibly other occupied territories, from a position of relative strength.
Other than a flurry of Syrian missile attacks on Ramat David airbase and surrounding civilian settlements during the first days of the war,  the fighting took place in Sinai and the Golan Heights , territories that had been occupied by Israel since the end of the Six-Day War of , and in the later stages, on the west side of the Suez canal in Egypt and in areas of the Golan beyond those held by Israel prior to the outbreak of war.
Their assessments on the likelihood of war were based on several assumptions. First, it was assumed correctly that Syria would not go to war with Israel unless Egypt did so as well. Second, the department learned from Ashraf Marwan , former President Nasser's son-in-law and also a senior Mossad agent,  that Egypt wanted to regain all of the Sinai, but would not go to war until they were supplied MiG fighter-bombers to neutralize the Israeli Air Force and Scud missiles to be used against Israeli cities as a deterrent against Israeli attacks on Egyptian infrastructure.
Since they had not received MiGs and Scud missiles had only arrived in Egypt from Bulgaria in late August and it would take four months to train the Egyptian ground crews, Aman predicted war with Egypt was not imminent. This assumption about Egypt's strategic plans, known as "the concept", strongly prejudiced the department's thinking and led it to dismiss other war warnings. By mid, Aman was almost completely aware of the Arab war plans.
It knew that the Egyptian Second and Third Armies would attempt to cross the Suez Canal and advance ten kilometres into the Sinai, followed by armored divisions that would advance towards the Mitla and Gidi Passes, and that naval units and paratroopers would then attempt to capture Sharm el-Sheikh. Aman was also aware of many details of the Syrian war plan. However, Israeli analysts, following "the concept", did not believe the Arabs were serious about going to war.
The Egyptians did much to further this misconception. Both the Israelis and the Americans felt that the expulsion of the Soviet military observers had severely reduced the effectiveness of the Egyptian army.
ISBN 13: 9788496364448
Yom Kippur War