Another ten years passed of relative peace, yet tension, in region. Then, in 1967, the famous Six Day War occurred. It began in May 1967, Nasser orders naval blockade of the Gulf of Tiran to protest the Israeli diversion of the Jordan River. Out of fear of an Arab attack as revenge for 1948, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on Egypt, Jordan and Syria. On June 5th, 1967, Israeli troops crossed over and occupied the Sinai Peninsula. They also invaded and occupied Gaza, the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem.
The Six Day War
Another ten years passed of relative peace, yet tension, in region. Then, in 1967, the famous Six Day War occurred. It began in May 1967, Nasser orders naval blockade of the Gulf of Tiran to protest the Israeli diversion of the Jordan River. Out of fear of an Arab attack as revenge for 1948, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on Egypt, Jordan and Syria. On June 5th, 1967, Israeli troops crossed over and occupied the Sinai Peninsula. They also invaded and occupied Gaza, the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem. Israel continued its aggression and even captured the Golen Heights in Syria.
The UN managed to negotiate a ceasefire, but Israel refused to withdraw its troops from the captured territories. To deal with this, the UN unanimously passed Resolution 242 calling for Israel to withdraw from territories captured during the Six Day War. In return, the Arab countries must recognize Israel’s right to live peacefully within its borders. The UN also addressed the need to settle the Palestinian refugees who were uprooted during the Six Day War.
The resolution was rejected by the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat. The losses incurred during the Six Day War were devastating to the Arabs, and became known as the Naksa (setback). After the Six Day War, Egypt and Israel remained locked in a war of attrition that lasted 3 years (from 1967 until 1970). This war resulted in the death of thousands on both sides. Nasser, unable to handle the loss of these events, offered to resign as President of Egypt. However, he received overwhelming support from his people and remained in power until he died of a heart attack in 1970. He was succeeded by Anwar Sadat.
This situation caused a lot of economic problems for Egypt, but Israel remained an obstacle. Sadat tried to realign Egypt with USA during the cold war. To accomplish this, he expelled almost twenty thousand Soviet military forces from Egypt. But this move was poorly timed. A few weeks later, the Munich Olympics Massacre occurred, and the US lost any sympathy may have still had for the Arab cause. At the Munich Olympics, a team of Palestinian militants captured Israeli participants and murdered them. This did not help the Palestinian cause and created further hostility in the region.
The 1973 War
In 1973, the Arabs were frustrated due to economic stagnation and the lack of progress in solving the problem of Israel. Anwar Sadat decided to use war to turn the tide in his favor. To do this, he allied with Syria and on October 6th, 1973, Egypt launched an attack across the Suez Canal, while Syria attacked the Golan Heights. Egypt were successful and crossed the Bar Lev line on the Israeli side of the Canal. They overwhelmed Israel and took control of the region. This event became known as the Crossing.
After the crossing, Egypt ceased their offence. Sadat had achieved his objectives. He has restored the military credibility of Egypt, taken some of the Israeli territory, and showed the superpowers that Israel was not so tough. Sadat waited for other countries to intervene and call for a ceasefire, but it never happened. In the meanwhile, Israel managed to overcome the Syrian assault and launched a counterstrike against Egypt.
On October 16th, 1973, General Ariel Sharon led an Israeli army across the Suez Canal, and came within striking distance of Cairo. The US and USSR called for a ceasefire, and all three countries agreed. The war was really just a proxy war for the US and USSR. The US had supplied weapons to Israel, while the USSR had done the same for Egypt and Syria.
The consequences of this war were not in favor of the Arabs. It served as a reminder of the potential for a direct superpower to intervene. In fact, the US played a bigger role in the region after this war. The second consequence was its impact on the oil industry. This war provided oil-producing nations with a level of power previously thought impossible to achieve.
OPEC had announced a 5% monthly reduction in oil production until Israel withdrew from occupied Arab territories, while Saudi Arabia suspended (indefinitely) all oil shipments to US. Oil prices soared, causing global concerns and worries. Europe and Japan decided to show more empathy for the Arabs due to their need for oil from them, while the US decided it needed to start depending less on the Arabs, and start producing more oil themselves. The importance of oil caused the US to play a more direct role in the Israel-Arab conflict.
After the war
As part of the fallout from the war, the US started playing a bigger role in Middle Eastern politics. In January 1974, Henry Kissinger, the US Secretary of State, negotiated for peace between Egypt and Israel. In September, he persuaded the two countries to sign an agreement that forced Israel to withdraw from Western Sinai. The US assisted both countries in recovering from the war. This event provided reconfirmation of special relationship between US and Israel, as seen during negotiations as well as through a 4-fold increase in military aid. But the US also provided Egypt with much needed financial aid, including money to rebuild Suez Canal, which reopened in 1975
The 1973 War was seen as a victory for Egypt. Anwar Sadat became known as the ‘Hero of the Crossing’. But now Egypt had to deal with its own economic problems. To do so, it needed to make peace with Israel, what happened next would shake the Arab world, leaving lasting consequences on the region.Conclusion:
Next time, we will discuss how Egypt and Israel came to terms, and the effects of their peace deal.
The creation of the State of Israel had caused political unrest and problems, both in the Middle East and across the globe. The alliance between Israel and USA would only further embolden Israeli aggression. In our next episode, we will conclude our history of Palestine by looking at events from the past 40 years of Palestinian history.
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