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Thirty years ago, on 6 October 1973 at 2:00 p.m. (Cairo time), Egyptian and Syrian forces launched coordinated attacks on Israeli forces in the Sinai and the Golan Heights. Known variously as the October War or the Yom Kippur War, this conflict lasted until late October when Washington and Moscow, working through the United Nations, forced a cease-fire on the warring parties. The October war had a fundamental impact on international relations not only by testing the durability of U.S.-Soviet détente but also by compelling the United States to put the Arab-Israeli conflict on the top of its foreign policy agenda. The threat of regional instability, energy crises, and superpower confrontation, made a U.S. hands-on role in the region inescapable. Since the fall of 1973, Washington has played a central role in the protracted, if checkered, effort to address the conflicting security and territorial objectives of Arabs and Israelis. Recently declassified U.S. archival material, unearthed by the National Security Archive, provides critically important information on American policies, perceptions, and decisions during the conflict. Significant scholarship on the October War, by such analysts as Richard Ned Lebow and Janice Gross Stein, William P. Quandt, and Kenneth W. Stein, among others, has explored key issues and developments, such as Egyptian and Syrian objectives, superpower relations with the belligerents, U.S. and Israeli intelligence failures, the role of Moscow and Washington in escalating and dampening the fighting, and the impact of such key personalities as Kissinger and Sadat. (Note 1) New archival records, routinely declassified under Executive Order 12958, from the State Department's central files and the Nixon Presidential Materials Project at the National Archives (College Park), illuminate these and related issues. Organized chronologically (with a few exceptions) more or less corresponding to the stages of the fighting, this briefing book provides some of the highlights of the declassified archival record. Published here for the first time are documents reflecting: the failure of U.S. intelligence to perceive the imminent threat of war; according to the State Department's intelligence chief, Ray Cline: "Our difficulty was partly that we were brainwashed by the Israelis, who brainwashed themselves."
(document 63) the advance warnings of a possible Egyptian-Syrian attack received by the Israelis and Kissinger's advice to Prime Minister Gold Meir to avoid preemptive action (documents 7, 9, 10, and 18)
the initial state of confusion in the U.S. intelligence community about the possibility of war (document 13)
Kissinger's early decisions to provide military aid to Israel (documents 18 and 21) and stay in touch with Arab leaders, to maximize U.S. diplomatic influence (documents 20, 44, and 63)
Kissinger's initial downplaying of Arab threats of an oil embargo and production cuts (document 36A)
Kissinger's "shock" at, and refusal to follow, Nixon's instruction to establish a U.S.Soviet condominium to enforce a peace settlement (documents 47 and 48)
the complete record of Kissinger's 20-22 October talks with the Soviets and the Israelis on a United Nations Security Council cease-fire resolution (documents 46, 49-50, 53-56)
Kissinger's virtual green light for Israeli violations of the UN cease-fire (documents 51 and 54)
Brezhnev's use of the
U.S.-Soviet hotline to protest Israeli cease-fire violations and the entrapment of Egypt's Third Army (documents 61A and B) Brezhnev's 24 October letter that prompted the U.S. Defcon III nuclear alert (document 71)
Kissinger's rage at West European governments, whom he saw as acting like "jackals" and "hostile powers," for not supporting U.S. policy (documents 63 and 75)
tense meetings of NATO's North Atlantic Council where U.S. Ambassador Donald Rumsfeld heard complaints about the lack of advance notice of the U.S. alert (documents 79A and B)
Kissinger's conviction that war had put the United States in a "central position" in the Middle East while the Soviets had been "defeated" (document 63)
U.S.-Palestinian Liberation Organization contacts during the war (document 78)
the record of emotional conversations between Kissinger and Meir over ceasefire arrangements (documents 91A and B, 93A and B)
As significant as the new material is, highly important U.S. documentation on the October War remains classified, especially among the National Security Files in the Nixon Presidential Materials Project. The withheld material includes intelligence reports, back channel messages sent through CIA offices, and a variety of other documents. Perhaps most important, almost all of the transcripts of meetings of the
Washington Special Action Group (WSAG)--a special NSC sub-committee responsible for handling crisis situations-remain classified even though thirty years have passed. In addition, declassification work at the Nixon Presidential Materials Project is short-staffed and mandatory review requests take considerable time to process. Thus, it may be some years before new archival information on the October War becomes available. (Note 2) The transcripts of Henry Kissinger's telephone conversations ("telcons") are an especially important classified primary source on the October War. For years under Kissinger's personal control, all of the telcons are now under review at the National Archives and the Department of State. A new book by Kissinger, Crisis, consists of transcripts of his telephone calls during October 1973. (Note 3) This is a significant collection which elucidates key developments during the war. Unfortunately, the documents themselves are not available, only Kissinger's edited rendition of them. Crisis is by no means a stand-alone account of U.S. policy during the October War in part because it overlooks events, such as Kissinger's meetings with the Israelis on 22 October that had critically important consequences for the course of the fighting. As useful as Kissinger's compilation is, the documents have been edited by him as well as excised by the National Security Council. A fuller picture of the October War may not be available until the universe of Kissinger telcons is open for research. Moreover, Kissinger's own record may be incomplete. Other U.S. senior officials who participated in these events kept their own records of telephone conversations which may be as illuminating as Kissinger's. Walter Isaacson's 1992 biography of Kissinger cites some of this material. For example, on 6 October, Kissinger urged Nixon assistant, General Alexander Haig to keep Nixon in Florida in order to avoid "any hysterical moves" and to "keep any Walter Mitty tendencies under control." This language does not appear in Crisis. On 12 October, when the airlift decisions were being made, Kissinger told Schlesinger that the situation in Israel was "near disaster" and that it was due to "massive sabotage" by the Pentagon. "Massive sabotage" does not appear in Crisis either. (Note 4) The story of the October War and its background is a complex one that is necessarily simplified in the commentary on the documents selected for this briefing book. Unlike today's Mideast crisis, which focuses on Palestinian grievances against Israeli occupation, the issue that sparked
war in 1973 was the outcome of the last Arab-Israeli conflict, the "Six Day War" of June 1967. During the months before the 1967 war, neighboring states, who denied Israel diplomatic recognition, threatened Israel's very existence. Worried that an Arab attack was imminent, the Israelis launched a preemptive strike against Egyptian and Syrian forces on 5 June 1967. Within a few days, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) had seized the Sinai Peninsula to the Suez Canal from Egypt, Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan, and the Golan Heights--or the Jawlan--from Syria. The conflict and its outcome came before the United Nations Security Council, which after protracted discussion passed Resolution 242 calling for a full settlement. The resolution, however, was ambiguous enough to fit U.S. President Lyndon Johnson's basic objective: the United States would support Israeli territorial acquisitions until the Arab states were willing to declare peace with Tel Aviv. (Note 5) The extraordinary Israeli victory laid the basis for greater instability, on the one hand, creating what one analyst calls an "impertinent sense of invulnerability" in Tel Aviv, and, on the other hand, kindling irredentist sentiments in Egypt and Syria. (Note 6) While creating buffer zones eased short-term security concerns for Israel, a new threat loomed as Arab military defeats encouraged Palestinians to take the route of armed struggle. During the next six years, the Egyptians would engage in low-level conflict in the Sinai ("War of Attrition") while members of Black September would kill Israeli Olympians in Munich and U.S. diplomats in the Sudan, among other incidents. In September 1970, aircraft highjackings triggered a rebellion against King Hussein by Palestinian militants. With Syrian tanks entering Jordan, the possibility of wider conflict loomed but tensions lessened after Syrian forces withdrew under attack and the PLO was expelled from Jordan. Linking Damascus with Moscow, the Nixon administration defined the crisis in Cold War terms and treated Israel, which had been ready to strike Syrian forces, as a Cold War ally that had to be armed. The Nixon administration provided Israel with over a billion dollars in military credits to support sales of F-4 Phantom jets and other equipment. Peace efforts on the Middle East made little progress prior to 1973. During the early 1970s, UN envoy Gunnar Jarring and U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers floated plans to settle disputed issues, but their initiatives failed. The Israelis, who were internally divided over the basis for a settlement, were unresponsive to Egyptian overtures and the Nixon White House, preoccupied with Vietnam and seeing no immediate
threat to the peace, had low motivation to pull its weight. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was interested in developing closer ties with Washington and displayed Egyptian independence by expelling thousands of Soviet advisers in mid-1972, but Washington responded slowly to this initiative. While Cairo-Moscow ties were fraying, the Soviets sought a role in the region. Egypt remained dependent on Soviet military aid and Moscow continued to supply Syria. With diplomacy stalemated, during 1972 and 1973, Sadat believed that the military option was necessary to secure U.S. political intervention and to facilitate negotiations. To bring U.S. influence on Egypt's side, he was willing to make a separate arrangement with Israel over the Sinai, although he would keep his flexibility secret from leaders of other Arab states. To make the military option workable, that is to disperse Israeli forces during war, Sadat realized that he needed partners. A non-military ally was King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, who promised to use the oil weapon against the United States. For military action, Sadat turned to Syrian President Hafez el-Assad although the basis for cooperation was narrow because of differences in objectives. Determined to recover the Golan Heights, Assad had little interest in a relationship with Washington and rejected the possibility of negotiations. He saw Israel's very existence as abhorrent. Moreover, while Sadat secretly envisioned a limited war with Israel, Assad incorrectly assumed the possibility of a greater conflict that would force Israel to surrender the West Bank. Differences over strategy would undermine the Assad-Sadat partnership soon after the fighting began. (Note 7) Once begun, the October War would yield military triumphs and reverses for all sides. Egyptian and Syrian surprise attacks would stun the Israelis as Arab forces poured over the Suez Canal and into the Golan Heights. While the Israelis expected quickly to reverse the situation, they suffered significant losses during the first few days. The Egyptians successfully kept forces on the Canal's east bank, but success turned into near disaster as Israeli troops, led by General Ariel Sharon, among others, launched counter-offensives, seized positions on the
Canal's west bank and trapped Egypt's Third Army. U.S. diplomatic intervention saved Egyptian forces from destruction. Syria fared worse, with Israeli forces winning back control of the Golan Heights and moving troops within striking range of Damascus. Yet, as IDF generals would ruefully acknowledge, Egyptian and Syrian forces fought valiantly. The human toll was substantial. By the end of the war, 2,200 Israelis soldiers had been killed, which in percentage terms was equivalent to 200,000 Americans. This was four times as many as in the Six Day War. Another 5,600 were wounded. 8,500 Arabs were killed--many of them Syrian--but far fewer than the 61,000 lost during the Six Day War. (Note 8) Soon after the fighting started, the war developed into an international crisis, not least because Washington and Moscow had significant interests in the region. For both superpowers, credibility was a central consideration. And as Nixon put it, several weeks into the war, "No one is more keenly aware of the stakes: Oil and our strategic position." (Note 9) Both states had already armed their respective Arab and Israeli clients and both launched massive airlifts to sustain the battlefield strength of their allies. Although the Egyptians and Syrians suffered battlefield reverses, their resolve and a determined Israeli counter-attack kept the fighting going. Angered by the U.S. airlift, the Arab petroleum exporting states embargoed oil deliveries to the United States, thus producing a significant energy crisis. While both Moscow and Washington recognized the danger of confrontation and intermittently supported cease-fires, their political commitments made that support equivocal with destabilizing consequences. Superpower tensions over Israeli violations of the 22 October cease-fire escalated to the point where the Nixon administration staged a Defcon III nuclear alert, yet with all of the strains, détente prevented a serious clash. The need to avoid U.S.-Soviet confrontation made it all the more essential for Kissinger to press Israel to let non-military supplies reach the beleaguered Third Army. The U.S. intervention on behalf of Sadat and his troops foreshadowed Washington's new diplomatic role, the development for which Sadat had waged war. In late October, Israeli and Egyptian senior officers began meeting to work out the details of the cease-fire which culminated, after Kissinger became involved, in the "Sinai I" disengagement agreement of January 1974. Consistent with Sadat's nationalist orientation, Israeli withdrawal from Egyptian territory was his principal objective and it was largely attained before his
assassination in 1981. Nevertheless, other issues from the 1967 war--Israeli control of the Golan Heights and the West Bank--remain contested and a source of dangerous tension to this day. The ongoing Watergate crisis and the financial scandal that brought down Vice President Spiro Agnew intersected with the October War. Agnew's resignation and the need to appoint a new vice president distracted Nixon. So did the constitutional battle with Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, Attorney General Elliot Richardson, and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, whose firings--"the Saturday Night Massacre"--coincided with Kissinger's trip to Moscow. While Nixon's political prestige was collapsing, Kissinger's was growing even more. With Nixon embattled, Henry Kissinger emerged as the key U.S. decisionmaker during the October War. (Note 10)
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Table of Contents
I. The Looming Conflict II. On the Brink of War III. Coordinated Offensives IV. Airlifts, Battlefield Stalemates, and Oil Threats V. Turn of the Tide? VI. "The Smell of Victory" and Search for a CeaseFire VII. Collapse of the Cease-Fire VIII. Crisis IX. Crisis Resolved
I. The Looming Conflict
Document 1: Memorandum from National Security Council [NSC] Staff, "Indications of Arab Intentions to Initiate Hostilities," n.d. [early May 1973] Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials Project (hereinafter NPMP), Henry Kissinger Office Files (hereinafter HAKOF), box 135, Rabin/Kissinger (Dinitz) 1973 Jan-July (2 of 3) In the early spring of 1973, Sadat told Newsweek journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave that the "time has come for a shock" but no one at the time believe he had a plan for war. That in October 1972 he had already made a basic decision for war, if not its exact timing, was a well-kept secret. (Note 11) Certainly, the spring of 1973 augured the possibility of great instability in the Middle East: a looming energy crisis, Saudi intimations that the kingdom might use the oil weapon in the absence of a Middle East settlement, and Israeli raids on PLO offices in Beirut. Moreover, Egypt and other Arab states were making quiet military moves that portended possible action. The NSC analysts who may have prepared this report believed that various moves that U.S. intelligence had picked up--movement of surface-to-air missiles and bombers, higher alert for air forces, reports on war planning, and the like-indicated that those states were "preparing for war." Nevertheless, they could not be sure whether these developments indicated intentions to attack or a ploy to put "psychological pressures" on Tel Aviv and Washington. A safe conclusion was that "whatever the Egyptian and Arab leaders intend at this state, the pattern of their action thus far does not provide the Arabs with a rational basis for an attack at an early date." Sadat would not take military action "within the next six weeks," probably not before the "next UN debate." At the close of May, however, a few weeks after the preparation of this report, Roger Merick, an analyst at State Department's Intelligence and Research prepared a report forecasting a "better than 50 percent chance of major" Egyptian-Israel hostilities within six months. (Note 12) The INR estimate, which has not yet been found and declassified, generated greater interest in the State Department in steps to facilitate Arab-Israeli negotiations. Document 2A: Memorandum of Conversation [Memcon] between Muhammad Hafez Ismail and Henry A. Kissinger, 20 May 1973, 10:15 a.m. Source: RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, box 25, Cat C Arab-Israeli War
Document 2B: Memorandum from Kissinger to the President, "Meeting with Hafiz Ismail on May 20," 2 June 1973 Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 132, Egypt/Ismail Vol VII May 20-September 23, 1972 During the late winter and spring of 1973, Henry Kissinger held several secret meetings on Middle East issues in New York and France with Muhammad Hafez Ismail, Sadat's national security adviser. When they first met in February, Hafez and Kissinger had a wide ranging, although inconclusive, discussion of Egyptian-Israeli relations and the relationship of an Egypt-Israel settlement to the Palestinian problem, among other issues. This meeting did not start off well because press leaks had disclosed U.S. plans to provide Israel with F-4 Phantom Jets, a development that naturally discomfited the Egyptians. Kissinger tried to persuade Hafez that the administration's step-by-step approach balancing security and sovereignty concerns was more likely to win Israeli cooperation than the Egyptian approach emphasizing a comprehensive settlement of the 1967 borders. But Hafez was skeptical, worrying, for example, that once a step had been taken, e.g. a preliminary agreement over the Sinai, that Washington would lose interest. Kissinger and Ismail had further communications but they did not meet again before war broke out. Whatever the actual diplomatic possibilities were, Sadat had already decided that military action was essential to break the diplomatic stalemate and get Washington's attention. According to one of Ismail's staffers, Ahmad Maher ElSayed, who was present at the meetings, "What we heard from Kissinger was `don't expect to win on the negotiating table what you lost on the battlefield.'" In other words, Washington could do little to help as long as Egypt was the defeated power. Thus, Egypt had to "do something." If Kissinger said anything to that effect privately, the present document does not include it. Instead, it shows Ismail treating "war" as the alternative to accepting the "status quo," with Kissinger plainly seeing war as a bad choice: "military action will make [the] situation worse." In any event, nothing that Kissinger said would encourage Sadat to reverse the decision for war. Interestingly, however, Ismail himself may have opposed the final decision to launch hostilities [see Document 8]. (Note 13) Document 3: Henry Kissinger, Memorandum for the President's Files, "President's Meeting with General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev on Saturday, June 23, 1973 at 10:30 p.m. at
the Western White House, San Clemente, California Source: HAKO, box 75, Brezhnev Visit June 18-25 1973 Memcons During 1973, the U.S.-Soviet Union détente process continued to unfold with Nixon and Brezhnev holding a summit meeting at Camp David and the "Western White House" in June. With the second phase of the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks going slowly, the summit made no progress in that area, although it did unveil the controversial Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War. During the meetings in California, Brezhnev kept Nixon and Kissinger up late on the night of 23 June so that he could put across his concerns about the Middle East and China. While the Soviets knew nothing of Sadat's decisions until October, Brezhnev presciently emphasized the danger of the Middle East situation. Sharing his apprehension that war might break out unless the superpowers encouraged negotiations he said: "we must put this warlike situation to an end." Brezhnev further argued for the importance of agreement on "principles," such as guarantees for Israeli withdrawal from Arab territories but Nixon, while agreeing that the Middle East was a "matter of highest urgency," was not interested in making any decisions that evening. Brezhnev's principles, however, were inconsistent with the step-by-step approach that Kissinger had been pushing. Apparently Kissinger (and probably Nixon as well) was resentful that Brezhnev had raised this subject with no notice, as Kissinger privately noted: "Typical of Soviets to spring on us at last moment without any preparation." Document 4: Theodore Eliot, Jr., Executive Secretary State Department, Memorandum for the Record, "Next Steps on the Middle East," 29 June 1973, enclosing, Secretary of State Rogers to Nixon, "Next Steps on the Middle East," 28 June 1973 Source: National Archives, Record Group 59, Department of State Records (hereinafter RG 59), Subject-Numeric Files 1970-1973 (hereinafter cited as SN 70-73, with file citation), Pol 27-14 Arab-Isr During the summer of 1973 Secretary of State William Rogers supported a major diplomatic initiative on the Middle East. After Nixon's re-election in November 1972, Henry Kissinger expected to become secretary of state but Rogers refused to leave his post for at least six months because he did not want to hand Kissinger a "victory." The previous four years had marked one of the lowest points in State
Department history because Nixon and Kissinger had marginalized Rogers and the State Department in such key policy areas such as China, Vietnam, and U.S.-Soviet relations. Nevertheless, Nixon had given Rogers considerable scope in Middle East policy and Rogers had a continuous interest in finding ways to ameliorate the Arab-Israeli conflict (although Kissinger had thwarted many of his initiatives). After the Brezhnev-Nixon summit, Rogers made his last stab on Middle East policy by suggesting secret Egyptian-Israeli peace talks. Concerned about the risk of Middle East war, superpower confrontation, and oil embargoes if the problems continued to fester, Rogers believed that it was essential to get the Egyptians and Israelis to stop talking past each other on their respective interpretations of UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed in the wake of the Six Day War. Rogers' effort was stillborn; as the Eliot memo shows, Nixon "did not want the Secretary to proceed," ostensibly because the White House was waiting to hear from Brezhnev. Plainly, however, Kissinger was beginning to usurp Roger's role on the Middle East issue and, no doubt, neither Nixon nor Kissinger wanted him to get the credit for any progress in that area. Rogers finally resigned in August 1973. It is interesting to speculate whether a determined effort along the lines that he proposed could have derailed the war. (Note 14) Document 5: Memcon between Kissinger and Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz, 10 September 1973, 6:03 p.m. Source: NPMP, HAKO, Box 135, Rabin/Dinitz Sensitive Memcons Kissinger and the Nixon White House were under growing pressure to move on Middle East diplomacy but while they would make appropriate public signals, they saw no need to move quickly. On 5 September 1973, during a press conference, Nixon declared that the administration had important plans for Middle East negotiations: "we have put at the highest priority ... making some progress toward the settlement of that dispute." (Note 15) During a conversation a few days later with the late Ambassador Simcha Dinitz (Note 16), with whom he established a close relationship, Kissinger explained that "the trend here to do something is getting overwhelming. It can be delayed but it can't be arrested." While Kissinger believed that it was important to get negotiations going and was looking for ideas on initial steps-perhaps a proposal on Jerusalem or a settlement with Jordan-he had no problem with delay: he felt "no immediate pressure." But to reduce whatever pressure there was and to maximize U.S. leverage, Kissinger told Dinitz that he wanted
to find ways to "split" the Arabs, to keep the Saudis out of the dispute, and to otherwise "exhaust the Arabs." Kissinger may have used such language to ease Israeli concerns about negotiations, but that rhetoric could also have encouraged inflexibility. (Note 17) Document 6: Harold Saunders, NSC Staff, to Kissinger, "Memorandum on Your Talk with Zahedi," 19 September 1973, enclosing memorandum of Kissinger-Zahedi conversation, 15 September 1973, and untitled paper handed to Zahedi on 13 August 1974 Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 132, Egypt-Ismail Vol. VI May 20-Sept 30, 1973 Kissinger's backchannel communications with the Egyptians on a Middle East settlement continued into the weeks before the war. This time, the intermediary was Iranian Ambassador Ardeshir Zahedi (the son of the U.S.-backed general who had ousted Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh twenty years earlier), who had met with Ashraf Ghorbal, Ismail's deputy in Switzerland. There Zahedi how shown him a memorandum, prepared at the White House, which outlined the U.S. approach to negotiating a settlement, "a step at a time" so that "propositions" could be presented to Israel that "cannot be easily rejected." Perhaps suspecting that Kissinger was trying to entrap Egypt in a negotiating process with no clear end in sight, Ghorbal was not excited by the White House paper: "it contained some good words but not action." What he wanted was "a tangible and concrete suggestion."
II. On the Brink of War
Document 7: Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Brent Scowcroft to Kissinger, 5 October 1973, enclosing message from Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (passed through Israeli chargé Shalev) Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 136, Dinitz June 4, 1974 [sic]Oct. 31, 1973 Neither Israeli nor U.S. intelligence recognized the imminence of war in early October 1973. AMAN, the Israeli military intelligence organization, and the leadership generally assumed that national military power would deter war and downplayed the possibility of conflict until 1975 when Egypt and Syria had better air capabilities. Moreover, Israeli military and political leaders had a condescending
view of Arab fighting abilities. Rumors of war had begun to crop up beginning in the spring of 1973 and during September 1973 AMAN began collecting specific warnings of Egyptian-Syrian intentions to wage war in the near future. Moreover, in late September Jordan's King Hussein warned Prime Minister Meir that Syrian forces were taking an "attack position." These developments concerned the Israelis but AMAN ruled out major war. On 4 October, however, the Israelis picked up a number of signals suggesting the imminence of war: the Soviets were starting to evacuate the families of advisers in Egypt and Syria; a high-level clandestine source warned Mossad of the possibility of a coordinated attack; and aerial reconnaissance detected an increase in gun deployments along the Suez Canal. The next day, 5 October, with AMAN now seeing a "low probability" of war, Meir shared Israeli concerns with Washington. (Note 18) With Kissinger in New York at the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, his deputy Brent Scowcroft received this urgent message from Meir late in the day. Egyptian and Syrian war preparations were becoming more and more noticeable making Meir and her colleagues wonder whether 1) those countries anticipated an Israeli attack, or 2) intended to "initiate an offensive military operation." She asked Kissinger to convey to the Arabs and the Soviets that Tel Aviv had no belligerent intentions, but that if Egypt or Syria began an offensive, "Israel will react militarily, with firmness and great strength." Document 8: U.S. Interests Section Egypt, Cable 3243 to State Department, "Soviet View on Causes and Timing of Egyptian Decision to Resume Hostilities," 26 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 War (Middle East) 26 October 1973-File No. 21 During the weeks before the war, the Soviets believed that the situation was growing more dangerous, but like the Americans and the Israelis they did not see the "resumption of fighting [as] at all likely." Yet, they had begun to evacuate dependents because they had learned of the decision for war, but not its exact timing, a few days ahead of the event. As the war unfolded, U.S. diplomats in Cairo picked up interesting gossip about Soviet foreknowledge and Egyptian debate over war from a suspected Russian Intelligence Services (RIS, or KGB) official, Leo Yerdrashnikov (whose official cover was deputy director of the local Tass office). His account is fascinating although some details are unconfirmable, at least with sources known to this writer. Interestingly, in the discussion of Sadat and his advisers, Yerdrashnikov claims
that Hafez Ismail was among those who argued against war because a "policy of rapprochement … was working in Egypt's favor." The Soviet also claimed that Sadat had told Saudi Arabia's King Faisal of his decision in August and that the King had "encouraged" Sadat. Yerdrashnikov also sheds light on when the Soviets learned of Sadat's decision. On 3 October, Sadat told Soviet Ambassador Vladimir Vinogradov that war was imminent. Moscow did not, however, learn when the war would start until the morning of 6 October. (Note 19) Document 9: U.S. Embassy Israel, Cable 7766 to Department of State, 6 October 9988, "GOI Concern About Possible Syrian and Egyptian Attack Today" Source: NPMP, National Security Council Files (hereinafter NSCF), box 1173, 1973 War (Middle East) 6 Oct. 1973 File No. 1 [1 of 2] Apparently, Kissinger did not receive Meir's message [Document 7] until the next morning, when he passed a copy to Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin to corroborate Israeli concern. (Note 20) In any event, Kenneth Keating, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, provided more specific news in a message that arrived sometime before 6 a.m.: the Israelis believed that Egypt and Syria would launch a coordinated attack within six hours. The Israeli's "Top Source," an Egyptian (who may have been a double agent) had provided warning that war would begin that day. Shocked and surprised by the possibility of war, Golda Meir put it this way: "we may be in trouble." Some of Meir's advisers urged a preemptive strike, but the prime minister assured Keating that Israel would not launch a pre-emptive attack; she wanted to "avoid bloodshed" and, no doubt, the opprobrium associated with striking first. Instead, the Israelis ordered the mobilization of 100,000 troops, a disorganized process that took several days. At 2:00 p.m., the Egyptians and Syrians, aided by a successful deception plan, launched their attack. As Egyptian Major General Talaat Ahmed Mosallam later put it, the surprise was so complete "because of both the Arab plan and the failure of the Israelis to understand or even believe what they saw with their own eyes." (Note 21) Document 10: Message from Secretary Kissinger, New York, to White House Situation Room, for delivery to President Nixon at 9:00 a.m., 6 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 664, Middle East War Memos &
Misc October 1-October 17, 1973 At 6:00 a.m., Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco woke his boss with Keating's message. As this document shows, Kissinger immediately took the reins of power and began making phone calls and sending messages urging restraint by all concerned parties. That morning, Kissinger got in touch with Nixon (who was in Florida) only after he had made a series of calls, first to Dobrynin, asking that the Soviets hold back Cairo and Damascus. He also called Israeli chargé Shalev, advising him to inform his government "that there must be no preemptive strike." Later, having received Israeli assurances about preemption, he told Dobrynin and Egyptian Foreign Minister Zayyat that there would be no such strikes. Interestingly, Kissinger has never acknowledged that he recommended against preemption, although his recent collection provides more confirming information on this point. (Note 22) Document 11: U.S. Mission to United Nations cable 4208 to U.S. Embassy Israel, 6 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1173, 1973 War (Middle East) 6 Oct. 1973 File No. 1 [1 of 2] Hoping that he could avert war, Kissinger wired Ambassador Keating, informing him of his other efforts to secure Arab and Israeli restraint and of his "appreciation" for Meir's assurance that there would be no preemptive moves. Document 12: U.S. Department of State cable 199583 to U.S. Embassies Jordan and Saudi Arabia, "Message from Secretary to King Faisal and King Hussein," 6 October 1973 Source: NPMP, National Security Council Files (hereinafter NSCF), box 1173, 1973 War (Middle East) 6 Oct. 1973 File No. 1 [1 of 2] During the course of the October War, Kissinger tried to demonstrate impartiality by communicating with the leaders of Arab governments he considered "moderate," such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, among others. In this message, prepared for Kings Faisal and Hussein, Kissinger related his efforts to avert war and vainly asked their help in securing "restraint" on Assad's and Sadat's part. Within a few days, Kissinger would soon begin back channel communications with Ismail and Sadat. Document 13: Memorandum from William B. Quandt to
Brent Scowcroft, "Arab-Israeli Tensions," 6 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1173, 1973 War (Middle East) 6 Oct. 1973 File No. 1 [1 of 2] Saturday morning, before the U.S. learned that war had broken out, the Washington Special Action Group (WSAG) met in the White House Situation room in Kissinger's absence. (Unfortunately, all but one of the WSAG meeting minutes remain classified). According to one account, during the meeting, Director of Central Intelligence Colby opined that neither side was initiating war but that the conflict was the result of an "action-reaction cycle." (Note 23) This document, prepared by NSC staffer William Quandt, reflects the uncertainty of that morning. In light of Meir's warning, Quandt tried to interpret the various signs of impending conflict: evacuation of Soviet advisers, Egyptian forces on a high state of alert, and the positioning of Syrian forces at the Golan Heights. One possibility was that the evacuation of Soviet advisers meant that Moscow "had gotten wind" that war was imminent. Another possibility was a "major crisis in Arab-Soviet relations." Indeed, "downplay[ing] the likelihood of an Arab attack on Israel," U.S. intelligence saw an ArabSoviet crisis as a more plausible explanation. This was consistent with the received wisdom in the intelligence establishment that the Arabs would not initiate war as long as the military balance favored Israel. In other words, Tel Aviv's preponderant military power deterred war. This was the prevailing view of Israeli intelligence and U.S. intelligence bought into it. A few weeks later, Assistant Secretary of State Intelligence and Research Ray Cline observed, "Our difficulty was partly that we were brainwashed by the Israelis, who brainwashed themselves." (Note 24) Brainwashed or not, Quandt suggested a number of actions "if hostilities are imminent."
III. Coordinated Offensives
Document 14: Message from Soviet Government to Nixon and Kissinger, 6 October 1973, called in at 2:10 p.m. Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 27-Arab-Isr This message conveys Brezhnev's and the Politburo's concern about the Middle East "conflagration." Although far from straightforward about when they first learned of Sadat's war plans, the Soviets were no less shocked than the Americans by the Egyptian and Syrian decisions for war. For Brezhnev
and his colleagues, war was a "gross miscalculation," a "major political error," because they believed that the Arabs were sure to lose. Recognizing the danger of the situation for superpower relations, during the first days of the war the Soviets pressed their Egyptian and Syrian clients for a ceasefire. At the same time, however, Brezhnev wanted to maintain Soviet influence in the region, thus, Soviet policy had to avoid a military and political disaster for Egypt and Syria. The tension between détente and credibility concerns would shape Soviet policy throughout the conflict. (Note 25) Document 15: Memorandum from William Quandt and Donald Stukel, NSC Staff, "WSAG Meeting -- Middle East, Saturday, October 6, 1973, 3:00 p.m." Source: NPMP, National Security Council Institutional Files, box H-94, WSAG Meeting, Middle East 10/6/73 7:30 pm., folder 1 As Israelis were observing Yom Kippur, the Egyptians and Syrians launched their attacks. Just after 2:00 p.m. (Cairo time) 100,000 Egyptian troops and 1,000 tanks engulfed Israeli forces on the east bank of the Suez Canal while 35,000 Syrian troops and 800 tanks broke through Israeli positions on the Golan Heights. (Note 26) Providing Kissinger with some background information for another WSAG meeting, held early that evening, NSC staffers believed that senior officials had to start considering a number of issues, such as steps to minimize threats to U.S. interests, e.g., an Arab oil embargo, possible Soviet moves, and the "consequences of a major Arab defeat." With respect to the Soviet position, Kissinger's advisers believed that the key question was how Washington could "best take advantage of this crisis to reduce Soviet influence in the Middle East." But if Moscow's influence was to be reduced, it could not be the result of a "major Arab defeat" because that could endanger U.S. interests in the region, destroy the possibility of a settlement, and weaken "moderate" Arab regimes. The advantages of finding ways to "minimize" Arab "loss of face" required serious consideration. Document 16: Memorandum to Kissinger, initialed "LSE" [Lawrence S. Eagleburger], 6 October 1973 Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, Pol 27-14 Arab-Isr At the outset, the Israelis did not want UN Security Council action on a cease-fire because it could prevent them from reversing initial Arab gains. During a conversation with
Foreign Minister Abba Eban at 9:07 a.m, Kissinger indirectly assured him that Washington would not immediately go to the Security Council; this satisfied Eban because it would let the Israelis decide whether to "[do] it quickly." While Kissinger would soon consider Security Council action to stop the fighting, the Israeli position on a cease-fire influenced his thinking. Sometime during the day, Eban spoke with Kissinger's executive assistant, Lawrence Eagleburger, (Kissinger must have been temporally occupied) and registered his appreciation that Kissinger would defer UN action so that Israel had "time to recoup its position." In other words, the Israelis sought a cease-fire based on the status quo ante. To give the Israelis time to do that, Eban asked for a delay on any Security Council action until Monday. By the time Eban spoke with Kissinger later in the day, the latter had seen Eagleburger's memo and Eban had nothing to worry about. Having decided that Washington had to "lean" toward Tel Aviv in order to restrain the Arabs and the Soviets but also to get more leverage over the Israelis during the negotiating phase, Kissinger tacitly assured the foreign minister that Washington would not be "precipitate" in seeking Security Council Action. In any event, the Soviets were interested in a cease-fire and so was Assad--if the fighting stopped he would have control of the Golan Heights. Sadat, however, was not ready to halt until he had a stronger position on the Sinai. (Note 27) Document 17: Memcon between Kissinger and Ambassador Huang Zhen, PRC Liaison Office, 6 October 1973, 9:10- 9:30 p.m. Source: RG 59, Records of the Policy Planning Staff, Director's Files (Winston Lord), 1969-1977. Box 328. China Exchanges July 10-October 31, 1973 Back in Washington, at the close of the day Kissinger had one of his confidential talks with Huang Zhen, Beijing's representative in Washington. Rather frankly, Kissinger disclosed elements of his grand strategy; he assured the Chinese that "our strategic objective is to prevent the Soviets from getting a dominant position in the Middle East." Believing that the Israelis would achieve a quick victory over the Arabs in a few days, Kissinger wanted to demonstrate to the Arab states that "whoever gets help from the Soviet Union cannot achieve his objective." Moreover, to the extent that the Arabs believed that they could win some territory before agreeing to halt the fighting, Kissinger wanted to slap down that belief by supporting a cease-fire based on a "return to the status quo ante." The Chinese were sympathetic to the Arab
cause so Kissinger had to be able to assure progress on Arab grievances. Once negotiations begin, "we will have to separate ourselves from the Israeli point of view to some extent." That would be possible, however, if Washington could offer security guarantees for "new borders after the settlement." Document 18: Memcon between Dinitz and Kissinger, 7 October 1973, 8:20 a.m. Source: RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973-1977. Box 25. Cat C 1974 Arab-Israeli War The first page of this document is mostly illegible--except for a few scraps on U.S. supply of Sidewinder (air-to-air) missiles and bomb racks--but it provides interesting detail on the early moments of the war, such as Israeli cabinet debates on the question of whether to preempt or not. Apparently advice that Kissinger had given in the past--"whatever happens, don't be the one that strikes first"--played no small part in Meir's thinking. With war underway, Kissinger assumed that Israeli forces would soon reverse Egyptian advances; therefore, he wanted to delay action at the UN Security Council to enable the IDF to "move as fast as possible." The Israelis were seeking military aid---Sidewinder missiles, planes, ordnance, ammunition, and aircraft parts-but aircraft was the priority of the moment. Kissinger, however, was not so sure that aircraft could be provided "while the fighting is going on," although he thought it possible to make Sidewinders and bomb racks available. As for the Soviets, Kissinger did not show much concern: "in all their communications with us, they were very mild." Document 19: Department of State, Operations Center, Middle East Task Force, Situation Report # 8, "Situation in the Middle East, as of 2300 Hours (EDT, Oct. 7, 1973" Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1173, 1973 War (Middle East) 7 Oct. 1973 File No. 2 During the first day of the fighting, Arab forces made significant gains--the Syrians had penetrated the Golan Heights while the Egyptians had moved into the Sinai past the east bank of the Suez Canal. Given the great strategic value of the Golan Heights, so close to Israeli population centers, the Israelis started to throw in forces there first. (Note 28) To keep officials abreast of developments, the State Department's Middle East Task Force, lodged at the Department's basement Operations Center, regularly issued
"sitreps" on military and political developments. This one, produced at the end of the second day of the fighting, showed a grim situation: "major losses on both sides," a "miserably tough day" for the Israelis. Document 20: Kissinger to Egyptian Foreign Minister AlZayyat, 8 October 1973, enclosing "Message for Mr. Hafiz Ismail from Dr. Kissinger," 8 October 1973 Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 132, Egypt/Ismail Vol. VII October 1-21, 1973 Within a day after the war broke out, Sadat's security adviser, Haifez Ismail, sent Kissinger a secret message, through the Cairo CIA station, outlining his government's war aims. The message remains classified and Kissinger found its basic terms---restoration of 1967 borders--unacceptable, but he saw it as extraordinarily significant: it treated Washington as the key player in the peace process but also showed Sadat's moderation; he did not seek to "widen the confrontation." (Note 29) Kissinger quickly responded, asking Sadat and Ismail to clarify points about territorial withdrawal. He also asked about the substance of a backchannel message from Sadat to the Shah of Iran that the Iranians showed to U.S. Ambassador to Iran Richard Helms. Given Kissinger's expectation that the Israelis would soon be overtaking the Egyptians, he may have anticipated that Ismail and Sadat would be interested in his offer to "bring the fighting to a halt" and "personally participate in assisting the parties to reach a just resolution" of the Arab-Israeli dispute. Document 21A: Memcon between Dinitz and Kissinger, 9 October 1973, 8:20-8:40 a.m. Source: RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, box 25, CAT C Arab-Israeli War Document 21B: Memcon between Dinitz and Kissinger, 9 October 1973, 6:10-6:35 p.m. Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, Pol Isr-US Early in the morning of 9 October, Kissinger received a call from Dinitz that Israeli forces were in a more "difficult" position. A counter-offensive launched the previous day had failed with major losses. At 8:20, the two met for a more detailed conversation, with a chagrined Dinitz acknowledging that the Israelis had lost over 400 tanks to the Egyptians and 100 to the Syrians. Egyptian armor and surface-to-air missiles
were taking their toll in the air and ground battle and the Israeli cabinet had decided that it had to "get all equipment and planes by air that we can." Kissinger, who had assumed that Tel Aviv could recapture territory without major infusions of aid, was perplexed by the bad news--"Explain to me, how could 400 tanks be lost to the Egyptians?"--and the diplomatic implications of substantial U.S. wartime military aid was troublesome. As indicated on the record of the 8:20 a.m. meeting, Dinitz and Kissinger met privately, without a notetaker, to discuss Golda Meir's request for a secret meeting with Nixon to plea for military aid, a proposal that Kissinger quickly dismissed because it would strengthen Moscow's influence in the Arab world. To underline the urgency of the situation, Dinitz may have introduced an element of nuclear blackmail into the private discussion. While Golda Meir had rejected military advice for nuclear weapons use, she had ordered the arming and alerting of Jericho missiles--their principal nuclear delivery system--at least to influence Washington. (Note 30) Kissinger has never gone on record on this issue and no U.S. documentation on the U.S. Israeli nuclear posture during the war has been declassified. Whatever Dinitz said, Kissinger was responsive to the pleas for more assistance. Later, when the WSAG considered the Israeli position, it recommended the supply of arms as long as Washington kept a low profile. Meeting Dinitz later in the day, Kissinger told him that Nixon had approved the entire list of "consumable" items sought by the Israelis (except for laser bombs) would be shipped. Moreover, aircraft and tanks would be replaced if the need became "acute." To ensure that the U.S. role had low visibility, Israeli cargo plans would have the El Al markings painted out. Moreover, discussion of arrangements to charter U.S. commercial aircraft for shipping war material began on the U.S. side. During that meeting, Dinitz had better news to report: progress on the Golan Heights and the massive destruction of Syrian tanks. Document 22: William Quandt to Kissinger, "Middle Eastern Issues," 9 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 664, Middle East War Memos & Misc. Oct. 6-Oct 17, 1973 Pointing to risky developments--Israel's losses and request for supplies, the probability that fighting would "drag on" for more days, threats to U.S. citizens in Lebanon, calls from Kuwait for use of the oil weapon, and reports of Soviet casualties from Israeli bombing in Syria--Quandt advised Kissinger that he would have to consider decisions on a
number of problems. Meeting Israel's arms requests "too visibly" could endanger U.S. citizens but holding back would undermine Tel Aviv's confidence in U.S. policy. For Quandt, the "key problem" was a cease-fire. The earlier position favoring a cease-fire based on the status quo ante had become less and less tenable because of the "prospects for increasingly serious threats to US interests if the fighting is prolonged." Pushing for a "ceasefire in place," however, was likely to "irritate" the Israelis, who were trying to recover lost territory. Tel Aviv might charge a high price, such as "strong" diplomatic and military support after the war, but Quandt thought it might be "worth the cost." Whatever impact this suggestion may have had on Kissinger's thinking, he brought up the possibility of a cease-fire in place during a phone conversation with Dinitz later in the day. (Note 31)
IV. Airlifts, Battlefield Stalemates, and Oil Threats
Document 23: Department of State, Operations Center, Middle East Task Force, Situation Report #18, "Situation in the Middle East, as of 1800 EDT, Oct. 10, 1973" Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1174, 1973 Middle East War - 10 October 1973 File No. 5 While Arab and Israeli ground forces were "sparring and regrouping," Syrian and Israeli air forces were engaged in battle and the Israeli Air Force bombed the international airport at Damascus. Meanwhile, Greek, Israeli, and U.S. intelligence picked up signs that the Soviets were airlifting supplies to their Arab clients. "The Israelis speculate the main cargo is missiles." As for the U.S. effort to supply Israel, the U.S. press had already observed an Israeli Boeing 707 picking up missiles and bombs in Norfolk, VA. Moreover, comments by Sheik Yamani, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Petroleum, suggested that the U.S. military supply of Israel would have a cost--cutbacks in oil production. The Soviets had made their airlift decision early in the war, believing that extensive support could enhance Moscow's prestige in the Arab world. This decision had significant implications for the course of the war; not only did the airlift encourage the Egyptians and Syrians to continue fighting it came to be seen in Washington as a "challenge" to American power. (Note 32) Document 24: U.S. Interests Section in Egypt, cable 3942 to State Department, "Current Egyptian Military Position," 10 October 1973
Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 638, Arab Republic of Egypt IX (Jan-Oct 73) A secret source within the Egyptian government provided the U.S. Interests Section with current information on battlefield and political developments. Some of this intelligence reached the Associated Press, which reported conflicting information on Egyptian war aims: either to take "all of Sinai" or to hold ground deep enough into the peninsula to force a cease-fire in place. While the plan that Sadat has shown Assad aimed at forty kilometer incursions into the Sinai, the actual Egyptian war plan posited a far more limited attack, enough to get Washington's attention and force Tel Aviv to negotiate. The information provided by the source suggested a more restricted incursion than Sadat had originally anticipated (20 kilometers instead of 60), but the intimation of limited purposes was correct. Given that had concealed from Assad his limited goals, a press leak of this sort was undoubtedly highly disturbing to the Egyptian leadership. Apparently, the AP report upset the informant so much that the Interests Section observed that "If this continues, source cannot continue to produce." Document 25: Yuli Vorontsov, Minister-Counselor, Soviet Embassy, to Scowcroft, 10 October 1973, enclosing untitled paper, delivered 11:15 a.m. Source: NPMP, HAKO, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 19 (July 13, 1973-Oct 11, 1973) Skeptical that the Arabs would make lasting military gains and worried about the war's impact on U.S.-Soviet détente, Moscow was interested in a cease-fire throughout the conflict. But Sadat wanted to keep fighting in order to get political concessions from Israel while the latter rejected a cease-fire that left Arab territorial gains in place. By 10 October, Soviet interest in a cease-fire was more serious; the fighting was stalemated and the Politburo estimated that the Arabs would not make further military gains. That morning, Dobrynin called Kissinger informing him that Moscow was interested in a Security Council resolution for a cease-fire in place as long as a third party introduced it and Moscow would not have to vote for it. As the memo suggests, it had been difficult for the Soviets to persuade the Egyptians to accept a resolution (by contrast, Assad wanted a cease-fire to stop Israeli advances). To give their clients some cover, the Soviets would have to maintain some distance from any resolution. Kissinger stalled on the Soviet proposal ostensibly because of Vice President Agnew's resignation (owing to a
financial scandal). Kissinger, however, wanted to give Tel Aviv time for military advances. In between conversations with Dobrynin, he advised Dinitz to the effect that "Everything depended on the Israelis pushing back to the prewar lines as quickly as possible … We could not stall a cease-fire proposal forever." By the time the Israelis were supporting a cease-fire resolution, they had begun making military gains, but those gains turned Sadat against the proposal. That, the Soviets regarded as a "gross political and strategic blunder." While Kissinger's dilatory tactics irritated Moscow, the Soviets continued their airlift. As Soviet Middle East expert Victor Israelian later suggested, "the motivations of the two superpowers were the same," with both were trying to "assist their clients in their deteriorating military situation. (Note 33) Document 26: Memcon between Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth Rush and Petroleum Company Executives, "The Middle East Conflict and U.S. Oil Interests," 10 October 1973 Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 27Arab-Isr While Kissinger was trying to put off the Soviet cease-fire proposal, Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth Rush heard out top executives from Exxon and Gulf Oil on the possible use of the oil weapon during the war. The executives had asked for the meeting because they had learned that Kuwaiti Oil and Finance Minister Abdel Rahman Atiqi, who had already called for an emergency meeting of Arab oil ministers to discuss the role of petroleum in the war, was warning Washington to avoid action that could lead to precipitate moves against "U.S. oil interests." Believing that the Arabs had the companies "at their mercies," the oil executives worried that if Washington started to replace Israeli aircraft losses, radicals like Qadhafi would get the upper hand and the companies would be nationalized. Also in prospect were price increases of 100 percent and the curtailment of oil production. Rush was also concerned about the impact of prolonged fighting but he could not promise the executives what they wanted: a U.S. statement against arms shipments to the Middle East. As State Department official Roger Davies noted, the Soviet airlift, then just beginning, would increase pressure to "resupply Israel." Document 27: Department of State, Operations Center, Middle East Task Force, Situation Report #22, "Situation Report in the Middle East, as of 0600 EDT, 10/12/73"
Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1174, 1973 Middle East War - 12 October 1973 File No. 7 On 11 October the IDF continued their offensive against Syrian forces, the next day breaching the "main Syrian defensive line" and recapturing the Golan Heights. The situation on the Suez front remained "static," with an artillery battle under way. The Soviet airlift unfolded causing apprehension among the Israelis about the restoration of Syrian SAM capabilities. Meanwhile, Nixon, Kissinger, and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger were beginning to make major decisions on the U.S. supply operation. While Kissinger and Schlesinger had sought to contract private U.S. aircraft to move supplies, this proved impractical because U.S. companies wanted to stay away from the conflict. Moreover, on 12 and 13 October, Kissinger was getting reports that the Israelis were running low on ammunition. Although he was not sure if Dinitz was telling him the truth about ammunition supplies----"How the hell would I know," he told Schlesinger--he did not want to risk any Israeli failure in "going as a fierce force." When it became evident that civilian charter aircraft could not be mobilized, on 13 October Nixon ordered a major U.S. military airlift to supply Israel. To his staff, Kissinger justified this move as part of his diplomatic strategy: having failed to win Egyptian support for a cease-fire resolution at the United Nations, it was necessary to prolong the fighting to create a "situation in which [the Arabs] would have to ask for a cease-fire rather than we." [See Document 63]. (Note 34) Document 28: Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Joseph Sisco to Kissinger, "Proposed Presidential Message to King Faisal," 12 October 1973, with State Department cable routing message attached Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 15-1 US/Nixon Given the Nixon administration's continued concern over the position taken by "moderate" Arab regimes, policymakers were pleased to receive what they saw as a restrained communication from King Faisal. In the continued effort to woo Faisal, the State Department prepared a reply for Nixon's signature. Stressing Washington's balanced, "pro-peace" stance, the message delicately encouraged Faisal to keep out of the conflict and avoid taking actions that could hurt Israel or Washington: it was important to conduct "ourselves in such a way that it will not be impossible for the US to play a helpful role once the fighting is over."
Document 29A: State Department Cable 203672 to U.S. Embassy, Saudi Arabia, "Message to the King from the Secretary, 14 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1174. 1973 Middle East War 15 15 October 1973 File No. 9 Document 29B: U.S. Embassy Saudi Arabia, Cable 45491 to State Department, "US Arms to Israeli: Saudis Sorrowful: King May Send Another Message," 16 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1174. 1973 Middle East War 15 16 October 1973 - File No. 11 A U.S. military airlift to Israel could not occur in secret and Kissinger's State Department initiated a coordinated diplomatic campaign to minimize the adverse political impact on the Arab countries. Before the State Department started briefing other governments in the region about the airlift, Kissinger wanted to explain his decision through a private message to Faisal. Recognizing that the only way he could make the airlift palatable to the Saudis was on antiCommunist grounds (the kingdom had never established diplomatic relations with Moscow), Kissinger played up the anti-Soviet angle, suggesting that what had made the U.S. decision "inevitable" was insufficient Soviet cooperation in the latest cease-fire talks and the Soviet "massive airlift." Moreover, the administration had to make this decision "if we are to remain in a position to use our influence to work for a just and lasting peace." In other words, by helping Israel Washington would be in a position to press Tel Aviv for concessions during peace talks. That Kissinger hardly mollified Faisal is indicated in the marginal notation: "Faisal angry at this." Although Faisal's response to Nixon remains classified, apparently he wrote that the U.S. decision had "pained" him. Yet, the Saudis were careful to conceal any antagonism; as the cable from Ambassador James Akins suggests, the embassy in Riyadh discerned "no visible anger … but rather genuine expression of sorrow." (Note 35) Document 30: Department of State, Operations Center, Middle East Task Force, Situation Report #32, "Situation Report in the Middle East as of 1200 EDT, Oct. 15, 1973" Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1174, 1973 Middle East War - 15 October 1973 File No. 10 (2 of 2) After what amounted to a week-long, "operational pause," on 4 October the Egyptians began a major tank offensive on the
Sinai, the "largest armored battle since World War II." Asad had been pressing Sadat for action to relieve pressure on the Syrian front, but the Israelis quickly reversed the offensive. (Note 36) The Egyptians suffered significant losses--76 tanks according to Egyptian sources, 280 according to the Israelis-a defeat that opened the way to IDF advances across the Suez Canal. The Israeli air force was heavily engaged in combat operations, attacking airfields, fuel depots, tanks, and missile batteries in Egypt and Syria. On the oil front, oil company and embassy officials believed that King Faisal would take "'some' retaliatory" action if the United States announced that it was airlifting military supplies to Israel. Document 31: Seymour Weiss, Director, Bureau of PoliticoMilitary Affairs, Department of State, to Kissinger, "Armed Shipments to Israel," 15 October 1973 Source: RG 59, Top Secret Subject-Numeric Files, 19701973, box 23, DEF G The Pentagon organized the airlift to Israel out of the Joint Staff's Logistics Readiness Center (LRC). Given the high stakes involved, State Department officials believed it essential to monitor the airlift's progress, not least so that they could resolve any political problems that emerged. At the outset this proved difficult; an Air Force Colonel Wieland, who was working for the State Department at the LRC, found himself "prematurely invited out" by the Defense Department. While Wieland's supervisor, Seymour Weiss, would have to turn the bureaucratic wheels to reinsert the State Department into the LRC, he was nevertheless able to provide an initial report on the airlift's status. Seventeen flights a day were already scheduled with 25,000 tons of supplies approved for shipment. Among the items that had already been delivered were F-4s (Phantom jets), Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, anti-tank weapons, and artillery projectiles, among other items. Weiss mentioned a diplomatic problem: Egypt had lodged a protest with the West German government against the movement of military supplies from U.S. bases to Israel. Despite that protest, the United States continued to supply the Israelis from U.S. bases in Germany for the time being. Weiss's reference to the "over-taxed" airbase at Lajes (the Azores) signaled another diplomatic problem: none of the other bases mentioned--Torrejon in Spain or Mildenhall in the United Kingdom--would be available for refueling empty aircraft returning from Israel. While it took severe diplomatic pressure--a "harsh note" from Nixon (Note 37)--to secure Portuguese cooperation, Kissinger would be highly pleased with the Portuguese during the airlift
while his anger with other Europeans steady grew. Document 32A: U.S. Mission to NATO Cable 4936 to Department of State, "NATO Implications of the Middle East Conflict: NAC Meeting of October 16, 1973," 16 October 1973 Document 32B: U.S. Mission to NATO Cable 4937 to Department of State, "NATO Implications of the Middle East Conflict: NAC Meeting of October 16, 1973," 16 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1174, 1973 Middle East War, 16 Oct. 1973-File No. 11 [1 of 2 During the first week or so of the crisis, Kissinger learned that NATO Secretary General Josesph Luns had said something to the effect that Washington "had been taken in by the Soviets on détente and we are now paying the price for détente" (see Document 75). Taking advantage of a restricted North Atlantic Council (NAC) meeting on the war, Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. permanent representative (with Ambassadorial rank) to the North Atlantic Council, reviewed U.S. policy with his Canadian and European counterparts and expressed displeasure at such criticisms. Describing U.S. policy early in the war, the decisions for an airlift to resupply Israel, and the ongoing diplomatic efforts to end the fighting, Rumsfeld saw the "present crisis [as] a test of the evolving spirit of détente." He tartly observed that "we do not take kindly to suggestions that the U.S. was foolishly drawn into détente relationships with the USSR." In light of the danger that the Soviets might tip the military balance, Rumsfeld asked alliance partners to cooperate in finding ways to "make clear to the Soviets that détente is a two-way street." Later in the discussion, he suggested a number of measures that the Allies could take to "damage" Soviet interests "if the choose to damage ours," including slowdown Western participation in the Conference on European Security and Cooperation or "economic measures," presumably denial of credits or exports. As Rumsfeld noted, the Council emphasized "Alliance solidarity" but his summary overlooked some tough questions raised during the discussion. For example, the Belgian representative, André De Staercke, implicitly criticized Washington for not consulting with NATO before the meeting: "consultation was an essential part of solidarity." While Rumsfeld contended that the present meeting was a form of consultation, de Staercke was more interested that Washington consult with its allies on basic decisions during
V. Turn of the Tide?
Document 33: Department of State, Operations Center, Middle East Task Force, Situation Report #36, "Situation Report in the Middle East as of 1800 Hours EDT Oct. 16, 1973" Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1174, 1973 War (Middle East) 16 Oct. 1973 File No. 11 [2of 2] This sitrep pointed out the first signs of what would turn out to be a major reversal of fortunes for Egypt: a small Israeli armored force led by General Ariel Sharon had arrived on the west bank of the Suez Canal to begin striking Egyptian artillery and air defense units. Another item pointed to the possibility of a petroleum crisis. Angered by the U.S. airlift and then by the U.S. announcement of large-scale financial aid to Israel, the Arab oil producers were making plans to wield the oil weapon. This document shows the Saudis pressing the European Community (EC) to "use their influence to change America's policy in the Middle East." Oil would be used as a weapon against the U.S. airlift but the production "decrease … will hurt the EC countries first." (Note 38) Document 34A: William B. Quandt to Kissinger, "Memoranda of Conversations with Arab Foreign Ministers," 17 October 1973, with memcon attached Source: SN 70-73, POL 27Arab-Isr Document 34B: Memcon between Nixon and Arab Foreign Ministers, Wednesday, October 17, 1973, 11:10 a.m., in the President's Oval Office Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 664, Middle East War Memos & Misc. Oct. 6-Oct 17, 1973 Earlier in the conflict diplomats of key Arab states with close political and/or economic ties with the United States had sought a meeting with Kissinger and Nixon to register their concerns about the U.S. position on a cease-fire based on the status quo ante and the possibility of U.S. resupply for Israel. By the time the meeting occurred, the cease-fire issue had shifted and the U.S. airlift was in progress. Kissinger wanted to persuade the diplomats that the U.S. position was balanced,
neither pro-Israeli nor pro-Arab, and that any action on the part of the Arab oil producers to use the oil weapon would "only hamper our efforts to play an effective peacemaking role." During the discussions, Foreign Ministers Saqqaf (Saudi Arabia), Benhima (Morocco), Bouteflika (Algeria), and Al-Sabah (Kuwait) argued that the fighting could not end until territory occupied in 1967 had been returned and the Palestinian problem solved. Nixon and Kissinger, however, refused to "make commitments we can't deliver on" and emphasized that the broader issues of a settlement had to be separated from a cease-fire, because if the fighting was prolonged it could lead to a "great power confrontation." The U.S. hoped to "improve the situation" but the fighting had to stop first. In the meantime, the airlift would continue to "keep the balance" in the region. Kissinger's line of reasoning did not wholly convince his audience; as Benhima observed, "It is difficult for [the ministers] to convey assurances on the US position to their chiefs of state at a time when the US is aiding Israel." Document 35: Thomas R. Pickering, Executive Secretary State Department, to George Springsteen, Acting Assistant Secretary for European Affairs, 17 October 1973, enclosing memorandum by Lawrence Eagleburger, 17 October 1973 Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL Fr-US As suggested earlier, U.S.-European tensions increased during the October War. Henry Kissinger's "Year of Europe" initiative had already produced trans-Atlantic disagreements over the newly-enlarged EC's decisionmaking processes, and Western Europe's close dependence on Middle Eastern oil supplies provided the basis for disagreements during the crisis. One of Kissinger's chief European critics, French Foreign Minister Michel Jobert, had been suspicious of the "Year of Europe" and dubious of Kissinger's détente strategy, which he believed was producing a superpower condominium at Europe's expense. On 17 October, during a speech at the National Assembly, Jobert assailed Israel for checking the peace process and the superpowers for fanning the flames of war with military supplies: "We see Mr. Brezhnev, the apostle of détente, and Dr. Kissinger, now a Nobel Peace Prize winner, shaking hands while sending thousands of tons of arms by air." (Note 39) The statement infuriated Kissinger who ordered a demarché to the French ambassador. Not only did the State Department find the references to Kissinger "offensive and unnecessary," it rejected any equivalence between the U.S. and Soviet positions, and found Jobert's statement "inconsistent with good relations between the two
countries." Things would get worse. Document 36A: Minutes, "Washington Special Action Group Meeting," 17 October 1973, 3:05 p.m. - 4:04 p.m. Source: NPMP, NSC Institutional Files, box H-117, WSAG Minutes (originals) 10-2-73 to 7-23-74 (2 of 3) Document 36B: Memcon, "WSAG Principles: Middle East War," 17 October 1973, 4:00 p.m. Source: NPMP, NSC Institutional Files, box H--92, WSAG Meeting Middle East 10/17/73, folder 6 Except for this transcript, all the minutes for WSAG meetings during the October War remain classified. At this meeting, the participants discussed key issues: planning for an energy crisis, the Arab-Israeli military situation and problems related to the airlift. During the review of plans for energy conservation in the event of an oil crisis, Kissinger showed some optimism that, during the present war, his diplomatic strategy would avoid Arab oil embargo, as he patronizingly observed: "Did you see the Saudi Foreign Minister come out like a good little boy and say they had very fruitful talks with us?" An hour into the meeting, Nixon called in the WSAG principles for a "pep talk." Mentioning what he saw at stake--"oil and our strategic position"--Nixon focused on the airlift and sealift of supplies to Israel, which he believed were essential for preserving U.S. "credibility everywhere" as well as for bringing Tel Aviv to a settlement. In a selfcongratulatory statement, Kissinger declared this was the "best-run crisis" of the Nixon administration, noting that despite the "massive airlift" TASS had issued only mild complaints while Arab foreign ministers were making "compliments in the Rose Garden." The congratulatory mood was premature because the Arab oil producers had not announced the oil boycott and production cuts that were a direct response to the airlift. Document 37: U.S. Interests Section in Egypt Cable 3167 to State Department, "Egyptian Military Situation," 18 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War 18 Oct. 1973 File No. 13 U.S. diplomats in Egypt reported on a battle "of major proportions" on the banks of the Suez Canal, a confrontation that may be showing that the "offensive has begun to move
into Israeli hands if only temporarily." Signs that "things did not go well for the Egyptians" were the lack of military announcements and delays on the request of a NBC News correspondent who wanted to go to the Suez front. Those who prepared this report did not know that the IDF was launching a plan to encircle Egypt's Third Army, a development that would quickly spark a major crisis. (Note 40) An NSC staffer who read this cable perceptively wrote "turn of tide?" on the document. Document 38: U.S. Embassy Kuwait cable 3801 Cable to State Department, "Atiqi Comment on OAPEC Meeting," 18 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War 18 Oct. 1973 File No. 13 Arab oil producers had met in Kuwait to discuss wartime oil supply policy where they decided, as this cable reported, to begin a "complete embargo on oil to the United States." The oil producers had decided, contrary to Kissinger, that action on energy policy would be conducive to negotiations, not an obstacle to them. They sought to warn the "United States and other consumers" that the producers were "as serious as front line fighters that Israel must give up occupied lands." Nevertheless, apparently the Saudis insisted that the OAPEC announcement not specifically mention the United States but countries that were "unfriendly" to the Arab cause. Document 39: U.S. Embassy United Kingdom Cable 12113 to State Department, "European Attitudes in Middle East Conflict," 18 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War 18 Oct. 1973 File No. 13 For the Nixon administration, one of the most disturbing elements in the October War was the attitude of West European governments. As former U.S. Ambassador to West Germany Martin Hillenbrand explained, Washington "complained vociferously about what it regarded as European lack of support." While key allies such as the United Kingdom discouraged the use of their bases for U.S. aircraft supplying Israel, the Nixon administration conducted virtually no "prior consultation" with NATO Europe about its decisions during the war. (Note 41) This cable, signed by the media magnate Walter Annenberg, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, sheds some light on the divergences. While Annenberg was clearly displeased that the Europeans
were "staying on the sidelines" and that European attitudes had the "effect of isolating" the United States from NATO, Conservative Member of Parliament and confidant of Prime Minister Edward Heath James Prior believed that cooperation was difficult because interests were divergent. He explained that the "Middle East war posed very difficult and serious problems for Britain" because of the importance of Arab oil and the UK's "economic and commercial interests in Arab states." Taking this stand plainly posed some risks for the Heath government because a "large majority of British public were sympathetic to Israel."
VI. "The Smell of Victory" and Search for a Cease-Fire
Document 40: Department of State, Operations Center, Middle East Task Force, Situation Report # 43, "Situation Report in the Middle East as of 0600 Hours EDT, Oct. 19, 1973" Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1173, 1973 Middle East War, 19 Oct. 1973-File No. 14 While the tank battle on the Sinai raged inconclusively, Israeli forces enlarged "their bridgehead" on the Canal's west bank with the presence of over 200 tanks. This, the Israelis believed, gave them the option of heading toward Cairo, thus increasing their ability to destroy the Egyptian army. "The Israelis feel they now have turned the corner in the war and that the initiative on both fronts is now in Israel's hands." That the "smell of victory" might make Tel Aviv unwilling to accept a cease-fire pointed to a dangerous problem: the impact on U.S.-Soviet relations if the Israelis devastated the army of one of Moscow's major clients. Document 41: Brezhnev to Nixon, 19 October 1973, handed to Kissinger 11:45 a.m. Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973) With the reversals on the Sinai, Sadat wanted a cease-fire and the Soviets treated this as an urgent matter. On the evening of 18 October, Dobrynin read to Kissinger the text of a proposed cease-fire resolution for the UN Security Council; the next morning, Brezhnev wrote Nixon about the crisis. (Note 42) The Soviets saw a "more and more dangerous situation" and a responsibility by "our two powers" to "keep the events from
going beyond the limits." Anxious to avoid a humiliating defeat for Moscow's Arab clients, worried about damage to relations with Washington, and determined to play a role in any post-war settlement, Brezhnev urged Nixon to send Kissinger to Moscow for talks on expediting the "prompt and effective political decisions" needed to stop the fighting. (Note 43) Document 42: Memcon between Kissinger, Schlesinger, Colby, and Moorer, 19 October 1873, 7:17 - 7:28 p.m. Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1027, Memoranda of Conversations - Apr-Nov 1973, HAK and President (2 of 5) Hours before flying to Moscow, Kissinger gave a briefing on Brezhnev's request and his planned trip to top defense and intelligence officials. As Kissinger explained, going to Moscow would delay a cease-fire resolution for a "few days," save face for the Soviets, and avoid a worse situation: Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko "coming here with tough instructions." Kissinger emphasized what he saw as the centrality of the U.S. role: "Everyone knows in the Middle east that if they want peace they have to come through us." Yet while he saw the Soviets failing politically in the region, ""we can't humiliate [them] too much." A-4s refer to Skyhawk attack aircraft. Document 43: Nixon to Brezhnev, 20 October 1973 Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973) No less than Brezhnev, Nixon saw much at risk if the fighting continued; he quickly instructed Kissinger to travel to Moscow to negotiate a cease-fire resolution. Given his assumption that a trip to Moscow was a way to buy time for further Israeli military advances, he was dismayed by Nixon's decision to grant him "full authority" to negotiate: "the commitments that [Kissinger] may make in the course of your discussions have my complete support." For Kissinger, too much freedom of action was not helpful; if he needed to delay, for example, to help the Israelis improve their position, he would not be able to use consultations with the President as an excuse. (Note 44) Document 44: Excerpts from Backchannel U.S.-Egyptian messages, 20-26 October 1973 Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 130, Saunders-Memorandum-
Sensitive Ismail also weighed in on behalf of a cease-fire in this message to Kissinger late in the evening of 20 October. Aware of Kissinger's plans to meet with Brezhnev in Moscow, he hoped that the discussions would reach agreement on a resolution to end the fighting at "present lines." In keeping with a speech that Sadat had given on 16 October, Ismail called for agreement on a peace conference that would reach a "fundamental settlement." Document 45A: State Department Cable 208776 to all Diplomatic and Consular Posts, "Middle East Situation," 21 October 1973, and Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 20 October 1973-File No. 15 Document 45B: Embassy in Saudi Arabia Cable 4663 to State Department, "Saudi Ban on Oil Shipments to U.S.," 23 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 23 October 1973-File No. 18 While Kissinger was beginning talks with Brezhnev, on 20 October, the IDF continued to advance across the Suez Canal with the fighting heaviest on the southern front. The Syrian front "was relatively quiet" and the Syrians were pressing King Hussein to supply more Jordanian forces. While Kissinger had seen the Saudi Foreign Minister as a "good little boy," the State Department had learned that Saudi Arabia had joined the Arab oil boycott and made the decision to cut production significantly. According to a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Jidda a few days later, the U.S. announcement of a $2.2 billion aid package for Israel had infuriated King Faisal, who took "umbrage" at the discrepancy between the "reassuring tone" of U.S. government communications and the announcement of the "incredible" volume of U.S. aid for Israel. Apparently, the King also called for a "jihad." More practically, the Saudis realized that if they did not join the other Arab oil producers, they would be in a politically vulnerable position. Nevertheless, the embassy reported that the Saudis "tend to confirm our assessment that [they wish to] minimize damage that present crisis could cause to US-Saudi relations." Decisions by the Arab oil producers to cut production would have a significant impact on oil prices in the weeks ahead.
(Note 45) Document 46: Memcon between Brezhnev and Kissinger, 20 October 1973, 9:15 - 11:30 p.m. Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 7 US/Kissinger Kissinger's and Brezhnev's first discussion showed no disagreements over the basic issue, the imperative of bringing about an end to the fighting. Nor did the Soviets dissent from Kissinger's basic proposition that there were "two problems"--ending the fighting and a political settlement--that had to be dealt with separately. Kissinger, however, was determined that Nixon's unwelcome grant of negotiating authority not force him into quick decisions that could undercut his goal of buying time for Israeli military advances. Therefore, he observed to Brezhnev: "If we come to some understandings, I will still want to check them with the President." He readily agreed with Brezhnev's statement about the importance of ending all "slanderous allegations" that Moscow and Washington sought to "dictate their will to others" in the Middle East. Kissinger also expressed general agreement with the Soviet suggestion for a cease-fire resolution although he observed that the Israelis would reject any references to Resolution 242. (Note 47) Document 47: Situation Room Message from Peter Rodman to Kissinger, TOHAK 20, 20 October 1973, transmitting memorandum from Scowcroft to Kissinger Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 39, HAK Trip - Moscow, Tel Aviv, London - October 20-23, 1973 TOHAK 1-60 After meeting with Brezhnev, Kissinger was shocked to receive a message from Scowcroft based on Nixon's dictation. Believing a "permanent Middle East settlement" to be a critically important goal, Nixon wanted a U.S.-Soviet agreement reached on "general terms" which would make it easier for both superpowers "to get out clients in line." Probably suspecting that Kissinger was too partial to Israeli interests, Nixon wanted his adviser to take a tough approach to both sides. As neither the Israelis nor the Arabs would approach "this subject … in a rational manner," Nixon believed that Moscow and Washington had to impose a settlement: to "bring the necessary pressures on our respective friends." Facing continued attack in the Watergate scandal and no doubt seeing great political advantage in a diplomatic success, Nixon wanted Brezhnev to know that if they could reach a settlement "it would be without question
one of the brightest stars in which we hope will be a galaxy of peace stemming from the Nixon-Brezhnev relationship." (Note 48) Document 48: Message from Kissinger to Scowcroft, HAKTO 06 [20 October 1973] Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 39, HAK Trip - Moscow, Tel Aviv, London - October 20-23, 1973 HAKTO, SECTO, TOSEC, Misc. Kissinger ignored Nixon's instructions. Already unhappy about Nixon's letter to Brezhnev on his negotiating authority and recognizing that Nixon was in no position to impose his will, Kissinger conveyed to Scowcroft his "shock." He argued that if he carried out the instructions it would "totally wreck what little bargaining leverage I still have." Nixon's vision of the superpowers imposing their will on wayward clients was wholly inconsistent with Kissinger's determination to extricate the Soviet Union from the Middle East peace process. (Note 49) Document 49: Memcon between Brezhnev and Kissinger, 21 October 1973, 12:00 noon - 4:00 p.m. Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 7 US/Kissinger The next Brezhnev-Kissinger meeting was scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on 22 October, but Brezhnev postponed it so the Politburo could discuss recent communications between the Egyptians and the Soviet ambassador in Cairo. Believing that his forces were in desperate condition, Sadat was "begging" for a cease-fire. By contrast, Assad no longer sought a ceasefire because he wanted to try to recapture the Golan Heights. Assad's concerns did not, however, influence the Soviet leadership which agreed that it was essential to reach a rapid agreement on a cease-fire in place, although they were careful not to divulge any secrets about the Egyptian position in the talks with Kissinger. The U.S.-Soviet meeting that followed drafted a cease-fire resolution with great dispatch. Despite Nixon's preferences for superpower co-operation to impose a settlement, Kissinger carefully steered the Soviets away from any language that could give them a central role in negotiating a post-war diplomatic settlement. Using language requested by Meir and the Egyptians, Kissinger argued that a cease-fire resolution had to include language about negotiations "between the parties under appropriate auspices." For the Soviets, as Brezhnev explained later in the discussion, "auspices" meant that Moscow and Washington would be
"active participants in the negotiations." Observing that "the Israelis will violently object to Soviet participation," Kissinger argued for a more qualified understanding. He stated that auspices would mean that the superpowers would not participate "in every detail, but in the opening phase and at critical points throughout." Determined to buy time for the Israelis, Kissinger reminded the Soviets several times that he had to check with Washington, prepare a memorandum, and consult with the President so that he understood and approved the agreement. Moreover, while Kissinger had agreed with Brezhnev that the resolution should be passed by midnight that evening, he sent UN ambassador John Scali a cable advising him to "proceed at a deliberate pace in the Security Council." "We do not have the same interest [as the Soviets] in such speed." (Note 50) Document 50: Memcon between Kissinger and Western Ambassadors, 21 October 1973, 6:30 - 6:45 p.m. Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 7 US/Kissinger Once the cease-fire resolution had been negotiated, it was essential to inform allies and others in order to secure UN agreement. As indicated in Document 44, Kissinger informed Ismail about the developments, couching the results in language--"fundamental settlement"--that would appeal to the Egyptians. Haig also called Dinitz telling him that the resolution was "etched in stone and could not be changed." (Note 51) Kissinger also met with key ambassadors of governments that were members of the Security Council-France, the United Kingdom, and Australia (Lawrence McIntyre, the Council's President, was an Australian). The meeting was brief, just enough time for a background briefing and discussion of diplomatic strategy. Kissinger emphasized that "anyone who is interested in a quick end to the fighting would presumably desist from trying to make amendments." Document 51: U.S. Embassy Soviet Union Cable 13148 to Department of State, 21 October 1973 Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 39, HAK Trip - Moscow, Tel Aviv, London - October 20-23, 1973 HAKTO, SECTO, TOSEC, Misc. Before he left Moscow, Kissinger oversaw the preparation of a number of urgent backchannel messages to foreign officials. Owing to a breakdown of the communication system, Kissinger had to use Moscow embassy channels, but under the special "Cherokee" control used to limit the dissemination
of communications from the Secretary of State. This delayed by several hours the messages to the Israeli government about the cease-fire. One of them, a top secret cable to Ambassador Dinitz, elucidates the crisis over Israeli encirclement of Egypt's Third Army that unfolded during 23-24 October. In light of the communications delay, but concerned that the Israelis accept the cease-fire plan, Kissinger wanted Dinitz to know that "we would understand if Israelis felt they required some additional time for military dispositions." Moreover, even though there would be a formal twelve-hour interval between a Security Council decision and the actual beginning of the cease-fire, Kissinger could "accept Israel's taking [a] slightly longer" time. How the Israelis interpreted "slightly longer" was out of Kissinger's hands but this was not the only time that he would give Tel Aviv leeway in interpreting the cease-fire. Later, when the dangers of this advice became clear, and the Israelis had launched a major offensive against Egypt's Third Army, Kissinger wrote that "[he] had a sinking feeling that [he] might have emboldened them." Whether Kissinger or Scowcroft shared this message with Nixon remains to be seen. (Note 52) Document 52: Department of State Operations Center, Middle East Task Force Situation Report # 52, "Situation Report in the Middle East as of 1830 EDT, 10/21/73" Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 21 Oct. 1973-File No. 16 While Kissinger and the Soviets were working out the details of the cease-fire resolution, analysts at the State Department pondered discrepant reports about the fighting on 21 October, with the Israelis claiming major gains on the Suez Canal's west bank and the Egyptians reporting a beleaguered Israeli force. If the Israeli reporting was accurate and the IDF would be in a position to cut off the Egyptian army from Cairo and the Suez, the Defense Intelligence Agency believed that Egyptian units on the east bank would "have only three to five days supplies remaining." Meanwhile, with the Saudis joining other Arab oil producers in the boycott, the loss of oil supplies to the United States could reach two million barrels per day. Document 53: Memcon between Gromyko and Kissinger, 22 October 1973, 8:45 - 9:45 p.m. Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL US-USSR The next morning, as news of the Security Council action on
what would be Resolution 338 was coming in (Note 53), Gromyko and Kissinger met for a relatively jovial breakfast discussion once they had taken two understandings: language on "auspices" and on the need for "maximum" effort to ensure the exchange of prisoners-of-war within 72 hours of the cease-fire. Kissinger's next destination--Tel Aviv--posed a delicate problem for the Soviets; as Gromyko observed, "Psychologically … it would be preferable if you not tell your destination from Moscow [laughing]." For his part, Kissinger saw no problem in getting the Israelis to accept the resolution; his visit to Israel was conditioned on Meir's support for the resolution. Document 54: Memcon between Meir and Kissinger, 22 October 1973, 1:35 - 2:15 p.m. Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 7 US/Kissinger Although Ambassador Keating had no notice about Kissinger's plans, the secretary of state arrived in Tel Aviv for consultations with Meir and her advisers. The jovial mood in Moscow was forgotten; as Israeli diplomat Ephraim Evron later remarked, "We were suffering. Henry noticed this right away." "It did not take him long to sense that the country did not want to go through this experience again." (Note 54) Nevertheless, there was a feeling of resentment about the U.S.-Soviet "dictate" and Kissinger found himself justifying Resolution 338's references to 242, which plainly displeased Meir. He argued that, given previous U.S. efforts on behalf of 242 in negotiations with the Soviets, it had to be mentioned but that it did no harm to the Israeli position because the language about "just and lasting peace" and "secure and recognized borders" "mean nothing" until they are negotiated. Essentially the talks were hand-holding sessions; Kissinger tried to assuage Meir's concerns about U.S. strategy, prisoners-of-war, the Egyptians, the continued U.S. airlift, and Syrian Jews. In his recent book, Crisis, Kissinger claims that he used the meetings with Meir to "establish the ceasefire" but the conversations show a far more ambiguous situation. Again, Kissinger gave the Israelis leeway in interpreting the cease-fire so they could gear-up military operations before it went into effect. He advised Meir that if Israeli forces moved "during the night while I'm flying" there would be "no violent protests from Washington." Once the Israelis violated the cease-fire, however, Kissinger would regret emboldening them, while Brezhnev became deeply suspicious that there had been a secret deal in Tel Aviv. (Note 55) On the airlift, Kissinger assured Meir that "I have given orders that it is to continue" and promised more Phantom jets
and a military aid request totaling $2.2 billion. He also filled her in on some of the side conversations with the Soviets, who had been "very nasty about the Arabs." On the fundamental issues, Kissinger used brutal language that he might have thought would satisfy his hosts: U.S. strategy was to "keep the Arabs down and the Russians down." Those goals had been achieved: "you have won, and I believe we have won." Whatever the Arabs thought of Israel and the United States, Kissinger claimed, "objective reality" forced them "to talk to us." Only Washington could help them reach a settlement. Document 55: Memcon of Luncheon for Kissinger's Party, 22 October, 2:30 - 4:30 p.m. Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 7 US/Kissinger While at lunch, Kissinger and the Israelis discussed substantive issues including timing of the cease-fire announcement, arrangements for POWs, the mechanism for implementing the cease-fire, Egyptian and Syrian fighting abilities, and prospects for a settlement. On the cease-fire mechanism, Sisco suggested that the Israelis "take the initiative to contact the Egyptian commanders directly," a suggestion that foreshadowed the Kilometer 101 talks that began on 28 October. The discussion of this important issue was inconclusive, however. On the fighting skills of their adversaries, General Dayan reported that they "fought better than in 1967"; in particular, the Syrians were "determined, fanatic. It was a sort of jihad." On the possibilities of negotiations, Kissinger was pessimistic: "the beginning of the process will be an historic event, even if it totally stalemates -- which I expect, frankly." Document 56: Memcon, "Military Briefing," 22 October 1973, 4:15 - 4:47 p.m. Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 7 US/Kissinger Taking place only hours before the cease-fire was to go into effect, Kissinger's last meeting in Tel Aviv consisted of briefings by the Army and Air Force Chief's of Staff and the director of military intelligence, with more assessments of Arab fighting skills. Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General David Elaza discussed the state of play in Syria and on the Sinai and, in a statement that anticipated the next phase of the crisis, wistfully noted that "we didn't manage to finish the [Egyptian] Third Army. We think it is possible to do it in two, maybe three days." The Israelis had been keeping the exact
location of their forces a secret for days so Kissinger kept listening, asking questions only about details. He may have later regretted that he had not made any cautionary remarks about the dangers of trying to "finish" the Third Army (Note 56); instead, he heard out assessments of Israeli strengths and weaknesses in dealing with Soviet-supplied arms, and Egyptian and Syrian losses. Document 57: Department of State Operations Center, Middle East Task Force Situation Report #55, "Situation Report in the Middle East as of 1800 EDT, 10/22/73" Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 23 Oct. 1973-File No. 14 This report shows that the Egypt-Israel cease-fire "went into effect" on 22 October at 13:12 Eastern Daylight Time (7:12 p.m. Cairo time), even though it was supposed to take hold 20 minutes earlier. While reports from the field were contradictory, the information from the Israelis suggested that the cease-fire left Egypt in a dangerously exposed position, with Israeli forces on the west bank of the Suez Canal straddling strategically important roads from Cairo to Ismailia and Cairo to Suez. The Third Army on the Suez Canal's east bank was in danger of being entirely cut off. On the Syrian front, the cease-fire was not yet in effect, however, because Damascus had not yet agreed to the resolution. Moreover, the Palestinean Liberation Organization had expressed its determination to continue fighting against Israel. In any event, within hours the Israelis claimed that the trapped Egyptian Third Army was violating the agreement. With the Egyptians arguing that no political talks with Israel would be possible until the Israelis had withdrawn forces from the Suez Canal's west bank, the prospects for the cease-fire were dire. Indeed, with the IDF surrounding the Third Army, the Israelis faced no obstacle between their forces and Cairo; they could easily have moved to the capital and unseated Sadat. (Note 57) Document 58: U.S. Embassy Israel cable 8513 to State Department, "Conversation with Prime Minister Meir," 23 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 23 Oct. 1973-File No. 18 The day after Kissinger left Tel Aviv, Ambassador Keating met with Meir to discuss the latest developments, including the exchange of POWs, the political opposition's rejection of
a cease-fire, British queries about U.S.-Israeli differences over the UN resolution (prompting a comment about "perfidious Albion" from Meir), and the possibility of military-to-military contacts to enforce a cease-fire. A discussion of alleged Egyptian violations of the cease-fire, reported by Israeli Defense Forces, led Keating to raise a "delicate" question about the likelihood that "some might view with some skepticism info from GOI sources and … would wonder whether or not the Israelis might not be taking initiatives in violation of the cease-fire in order to achieve certain military objectives." Meir acknowledged that her government was taking the cease-fire less than seriously: it had ordered "its troops to continue fighting until and unless the Egyptians stop." Keating reported his concern that the IDF would "shoot back" at the Egyptians and "launch an attack designed to wipe out the Egyptian Third Army." "If things reach this point [I'm] not sure what kind of a ceasefire will be left to build on."
VII. Collapse of the Cease-Fire
Document 59: Department of State Operations Center, Middle East Task Force Situation Report # 57, "Situation Report in the Middle East as of 1200 EDT, 10/23/73" Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 23 Oct. 1973-File No. 18 Whether the Egyptians or the Israelis made the first move remains unclear but IDF violations of the cease-fire on the night of 22 October were truly massive as it "pushed enormous quantities of equipment across the Canal" in order to encircle Egypt's Third Army. The Israeli claim that they had not initiated any military actions would anger Kissinger who understood, that it was the IDF, not the Egyptians, who were on the offensive. Meanwhile heavy fighting continued on the Syrian front and Syrian-Israeli forces engaged in an air battle with the Israelis losing 10 or 11 aircraft. (Note 58) Document 60: Message from Brezhnev to Kissinger as read by Minister Vorontsov to the Secretary on the telephone on October 23, 1973 at 10:40 a.m. Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973) At 4:00 a.m. on 23 October Kissinger received a call that the fighting had broken out again. In a first-time Brezhnev-to-
Kissinger message, the Soviets protested the "flagrant deceit on the part of the Israelis" to violate the cease-fire. From the accounts of Kremlin insiders, an angry Brezhnev had begun to suspect that Kissinger had "fooled us and made a deal when he was in Tel Aviv." Certainly if Brezhnev had learned of Kissinger's statement about moving military forces "during the night while I'm flying" he would have been infuriated. Nevertheless, as this document shows, Brezhnev was confident that U.S. leaders would "use all the possibilities they have and its authority to bring the Israelis to order." To help enforce the cease-fire he took up a suggestion from Sadat to make use of UN observers to separate Egyptian and Israeli forces. He also proposed a UN Security Council meeting to draft a resolution reconfirming 338, and demanding withdrawal of forces "to the position where they were at the moment of adoption" of the cease-fire decision. Kissinger was not impressed by the "ploy" to move the Israelis even further back but soon realized that action at the United Nations was essential. (Note 59) Documents 61A and 61B: Hotline Messages from Brezhnev to Nixon, 23 October 1973 Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973) During the afternoon, two messages from Brezhnev to Nixon were sent through the hotline, the first use of that instrumentality since the last Middle East War. Brezhnev demanded that "the most decisive measures be taken without delay" by Moscow and Washington to stop the "flagrant" Israeli violations. Again, Brezhnev urged new action at the Security Council. Brezhnev's language--"why this treachery was allowed by Israel is more obvious to you"--clearly suggested that he suspected that Washington was behind Israel's military moves. Through the CIA back-channel the Egyptians also got in touch with the White House expressing their worries, with Sadat for the first time directly asking Nixon to "intervene effectively even if that necessitates the use of force." Sadat spoke of U.S.-Soviet "guarantees" of the cease-fire which was more likely based on Soviet interpretations than on Kissinger's understanding of the Moscow talks. Replying the same day, Nixon told Sadat that Washington had only "guaranteed" efforts to reach a settlement, but that he had directed Kissinger to "make urgent representations" to Israel to comply with the cease-fire. (see Document 44). Apparently, worried that the IDF might advance further, seize Cairo, and put Sadat in perilous straits, Kissinger called Dinitz from the Situation Room and
demanded that the Israelis halt military action. According to the recollection of NSC staffer Robert McFarlane Kissinger "began exhorting [Dinitz]. `Jesus Christ, don't you understand?' Suddenly Henry stopped shouting and said, 'Oh.' I was later told that the Israeli calmly explained to Henry that his government might be more persuaded if he invoked a different prophet." (Note 60) Document 62: Nixon to Brezhnev, 23 October 1973, sent via hotline Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973) In a reply--probably prepared by Kissinger--to Brezhnev's hotline message sent early in the afternoon, Nixon coolly responded that the Egyptians might be at fault but noted that the White House had "insisted with Israel that they take immediate steps to cease hostilities". Nixon would not let the "historic" cease-fire agreement "be destroyed." Document 63: Transcript, "Secretary's Staff Meeting," 23 October 1973, 4:35 P.M. Source: Transcripts of Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger Staff Meetings, 1973-1977. Box 1 While Kissinger was trying to sort out the cease-fire, he met with his State Department senior staff to give them his assessment of the situation since the war broke out. This gave him a chance to vent some steam about issues that troubled him, such as the question of his advice on preemption and the attitude of West European allies who, he argued, were behaving like "jackals" because they "did everything to egg on the Arabs." Kissinger reviewed the immediate pre-war intelligence estimating on the Arab-Israeli conflict ("no possibility of an attack"), the "new elements" in Arab strategy, overall U.S. strategy, interpretations of Soviet conduct, the decision for a major U.S. airlift, U. S. early efforts toward a cease-fire, and Resolution 338. On the basic U.S.-Israeli relationship during the war, Kissinger explained his balancing act: "we could not tolerate an Israeli defeat" but, at the same time, "we could not make our policy hostage to the Israelis." Thus, "we went to extreme lengths to stay in close touch with all the key Arab participants." The progress of the war, so far had been a "major success" in part because it validated the importance of détente: "without the close relationship with the Soviet Union, this thing could have easily escalated." Washington, however, not Moscow, was in
the catbird seat; the Israelis had won, Soviet clients had lost, and a peace settlement depended on Washington. The United States was in a "position where if we behave wisely and with discipline, we are really in a central position." As for the current cease-fire problem, Kissinger put on a nonchalant face: it was a "little flap." He did not mention Brezhnev's hotline messages. Document 64: Kissinger to Brezhnev, 23 October 1973, Dispatched from White House at 5:15 p.m. Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973) Nixon and Kissinger soon agreed that Washington had to cosponsor with Moscow a new resolution at the Security Council to "make the cease-fire effective." That afternoon, the Security Council passed a new cease-fire resolution (339), which called on the parties to return to positions they had occupied when 338 went into effect and also provided for UN observers to supervise the Egyptian-Israeli cease-fire. (Note 61) With this message to Brezhnev, curtly addressed as "Mr. Secretary General," Kissinger explained that the administration wanted to "maintain unity" on the issue, but nevertheless had reservations with the resolutions' language calling upon the parties "to withdraw to the positions they occupied at the moment they accepted the cease-fire." Given that the actual positions were in doubt, Kissinger observed that Vorontsov and he had agreed that the Soviets "will show moderation when differences ensue between the parties, as to the positions in dispute." Kissinger also emphasized the importance of Moscow playing a helpful role in getting the Syrians to accept the cease-fire (they did later in the day) and pressing for the release of POWs. Document 65: Dobyrnin to Kissinger, enclosing letter from Brehznev to Nixon, 24 October 1973 Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973) By 8:30 that evening Kissinger had received a "solemn" pledge from the Israelis that they would stop shooting if the Egyptians did the same; he passed that on to Dobrynin asking him to "get the Egyptians to give another order to stop firing." (Note 62) Shooting continued, however. The morning of 24 October, Dobrynin read to Kissinger an angry letter from Brezhnev arguing that the Israelis were again defying the Security Council by "fiercely attacking … the Egyptian port
of Adabei" and fighting Egyptian forces on the Suez Canal's east bank. Expressing confidence in Nixon's power to "influence Israel" and put an end to "provocative behavior," Brezhnev asked for information on U.S. steps to secure Tel Aviv's "strict and immediate compliance" with the UN. Adding to the pressure was a private message from Sadat, followed by a public statement, calling for U.S. and Soviet troops or observers to help implement the cease-fire. (Note 63) Document 66: Scowcroft letter to Dobrynin, enclosing message from Nixon to Brezhnev, 24 October 1973, delivered to Soviet Embassy, 1:00 p.m. Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973) Nixon quickly replied to Brezhnev with information on steps that the United States had taken to stop the fighting including tough messages to the Israelis on the possibility of a "severe deterioration" of relations if "further offensive operations" took place. The Israelis, he wrote, had given "assurances" that they had made no advances since 7:00 a.m., that they had asked the UN observers to "move into place" so they could "ascertain no troop movements," and that they had "no intention of moving their forces" to the east bank of the Suez Canal. Nixon informed Brezhnev that the Israelis had a copy of a message from the Egyptian minister of war calling on the "forces to continue fighting" and promising "air support." Using Moscow's own language, Nixon concluded by asking Brezhnev for a Soviet "guarantee" that Cairo was "scrupulously observing" the cease-fire agreement. Document 67: Ray Cline, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, to Kissinger, "Cease-Fire Problems," 24 October 1973 Source: RG 59, SN 70-73 POL 27-14 Arab-Isr Whatever the truth of Israeli claims, INR chief Ray Cline saw Tel Aviv at fault. Analyzing the "precarious" nature of the cease-fire, he saw the Israelis violating the agreement so they could "definitively isolate the Egyptians' southern salient," the Third Army. Egyptian forces were "reportedly running short of supplies" and "will be under acute pressure to reopen their two main supply lines." Not only were there insufficient UN observers, the Israelis had "no real interest" in halting their action. Although the Syrians had not been "so eager" for a truce, the Egyptians had needed one so their forces could
"catch their breath" and reorganize. With Egyptian forces stuck, "the Arab world will soon realize that there will be no automatic Israeli withdrawal, and that glorious assertions of … Arab dignity [have] suddenly turned into another crushing defeat." Sadat might either have to resume the battle, step down, or claim that "irresistible" superpower pressure had imposed a bad situation. Document 68: Telcon [Record of Telephone Conversation] between Dinitz and Kissinger, 24 October 1973, 3:40 p.m. Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 136, Dinitz June 4, 1974 [sic]Oct. 31, 1973 One of the few Kissinger telephone call transcripts from October 1973 that have shown up in the National Security Council Files has Kissinger telling Dinitz that the Soviets continue to report Israeli violations of the cease-fire. (Note 64) Contradicting Moscow, Dinitz replied that he had heard that "all is quiet" (which did not mean that Egyptian forces were not hemmed in). Whatever the facts, Kissinger informed Dinitz that the U.S. was supporting the "strongest call for an observance of the cease-fire" and measures to strengthen UN observers. On the question of a "return to the original line," Kissinger had instructed Scali "to delay and confuse it." On Egyptian requests for U.S. and Soviet forces to enforce the cease-fire, "we will totally oppose." He would soon tell Dobrynin the same thing: "I will tell them not to propose it because we will oppose it." He asked for Dinitz's assurances that "you are not taking any military action." (Note 65) Document 69: Backchannel message from Nixon through Ismail to Sadat, 24 October 1973, dispatched 8:55 P.M., initialed by Lawrence Eagleburger Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 27-14 Arab-Isr Early in the evening, Kissinger learned from Dobrynin that the Soviets intended to support a resolution proposed by the neutrals calling for the introduction of U.S. and Soviet troops to support the cease-fire. After Kissinger urged the ambassador not to support such a resolution, he declared "if you want confrontation, we will have to have one. It would be a pity." To head off the movement for a resolution on U.S.Soviet troops, the White House sent this backchannel message to Sadat explaining why the United States would veto it. Outside forces would not "represent an effective counterweight" to local forces while the presence of U.S. and Soviet forces "would introduce an extremely dangerous
potential for direct great power rivalry in the area." The "rapid introduction" of UN observers would be a much better alternative to an "unnecessary confrontation." Most likely Kissinger and his staff prepared this message; Nixon may not have even seen it because he had other preoccupations that day. The House Judiciary Committee had initiated impeachment proceedings and the Senate Republican leadership was asking him to name a special prosecutor to replace Archibald Cox. Document 70: State Department Cable 210444 to all Diplomatic and Consular Posts, "Middle East Situation," 25 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 25 Oct. 1973-File No. 20 Based on information collected throughout 24 October, this cable reported on the military situation, Syria's announcement of a cease-fire, the movement of UN observers, and the oil embargo, among other developments. According to the IDF, units of the Egyptian Third Army had violated the cease-fire by trying to "break out" of their trapped position. The Israelis also reported "massive Egyptian air activities." By the end of the day, however, the situation on the Suez front and on the Golan front was reported to be "quiet."
Document 71: Message from Brezhnev to Nixon, 24 October 1973, received at State Department, 10:00 p.m. Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973) Just before 10:00 p.m., Dobrynin called Kissinger and dictated the text of this letter from Brezhnev to Nixon that the Soviet embassy had just received from Moscow. Nixon, overwhelmed by Watergate matters, did not see the letter until the next day and played no part in policy discussions that evening. (Note 66) Published in its entirety for the first time (Note 67), the letter began with Brezhnev emulating Kissinger's recent communication and addressing Nixon simply as "Mr. President." He indicted the Israelis for "brazenly" violating the cease-fire and continuing "to seize new and new territory from Egypt." To resolve the crisis, Brezhnev made a "concrete proposal": "Let us together … urgently dispatch to Egypt the Soviet and American military
contingents, to insure the implementation of the decision of the Security Council." Brezhnev would brook no delay. "I will say it to you straight that if you find it impossible to act jointly with us … we should be faced with the necessity urgently to consider the question of taking appropriate steps unilaterally." This strong letter, former Soviet insider Victor Israelyan later observed, was a Soviet "overreaction" based on Sadat's urgent pleas for help with the Israelis and a pessimistic assessment of the Egyptian military situation. Moreover, communications difficulties on the Soviet side preventing the flow of timely information may have accounted for disparities in U.S. and Soviet perceptions on military development in the Middle East. Where the Americans saw "quiet," Brezhnev saw onslaught. Hoping that he could pressure the Americans to cooperate and restrain Israel, Brezhnev personally added the sentence on unilateral action. No one in the Politburo intended any military moves in the Middle East or expected a U.S. military reaction to what amounted to a Soviet bluff. As Israelyan later remarked, "How wrong was our forecast…!" (Note 68) Document 72: Memcon between Kissinger and Huang Zhen, 25 October 1973, 4:45 - 5:25 p.m. Source: RG 59, Records of the Policy Planning Staff, Director's Files (Winston Lord), 1969-1977. Box 374. China Sensitive July 1973 - February 1974 The Soviet "overreaction" sparked an American "overreaction." (Note 69) Believing, fearing that the Soviets might actually intervene and misinterpreting a stand down of Moscow's airlift to Egypt as a portent of armed intervention, Kissinger decided it was necessary to "go to the mat." At a meeting of the WSAG that lasted into the early morning, Kissinger and his colleagues discussed Brezhnev's letter, its implications, and the U.S. response. Whatever the Soviets actually intended, the participants treated Brezhnev's letter as a significant challenge that required a stern response. NSC staffer William Quandt, who saw Brezhnev's letter as a bluff, later said that "we wanted to teach him a lesson." At 11:41 p.m., Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Thomas Moorer ordered U.S. military commands to raise their alert levels to DEFCON (Defense Condition) III which meant putting nuclear-armed units on the "highest state of peacetime alert" (DEFCON II would mean that nuclear forces were ready for imminent use). In addition, as the WSAG became aware of other Soviet military moves---the alerting of some East German units and the preparation of transport planes to fly to Egypt from Budapest--it reinforced the DEFCON III by
alerting the 82nd Airborne Division and ordering movements of aircraft carriers toward the Eastern Mediterranean. In this account of a meeting the next afternoon with PRC liaison office chief Huang Zhen, Kissinger provided a general account of the communications with the Soviets on 24 October and the actions taken by the WSAG during the night of 24/25 October. Interestingly, Kissinger treated Brezhnev's threat as a "bluff" although years later he stated that "I did not see it as a bluff, but it made no difference. We could not run the risk that [it was not] … We had no choice except to call the bluff." Besides trying to signal the Soviets, Kissinger may have also meant the DEFCON as a message to the Israelis: the United States could not tolerate violations of the ceasefire because of the danger to world peace. (Note 70) Document 73: Nixon to Brezhnev, 25 October 1973, delivered to Soviet Embassy, 5:40 a.m. Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973) Besides discussing alert measures at their 24/25 October meeting, the WSAG prepared a response to Brezhnev's letter that would go out under the president's name, but which Nixon did not see at the time. Delivered to the Soviet embassy very early in the morning and addressed "Mr. General Secretary," the letter rejected the proposal for U.S. and Soviet military contingents as "not appropriate," denied that the "cease fire is now being violated on any significant scale," stated "Nixon's" readiness to "take every effective step to guarantee the implementation of the ceasefire," and observed that the "suggestion of unilateral action" would be a "matter of the gravest concern involving incalculable consequences." Unilateral action, "Nixon" argued, would violate the "Basic Principles" of U.S.-Soviet relations that Brezhnev and Nixon signed in Moscow in May 1972, as well as Article II of the Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War. (Note 71) Significantly, the letter did not cite the language in the "Basic Principles" that "efforts to obtain unilateral advantage at the expense of the other" were inconsistent with détente; neither government, however, was abiding by that principle. (Note 72) As an alternative to sending military contingents, the letter suggested that it would be more useful if both governments exerted "maximum influence" on Cairo and Tel-Aviv "to ensure compliance" with the cease-fire. As an "extraordinary and temporary step," "Nixon" suggested the deployment of U.S. and Soviet non-combat personnel to augment the UN "truce supervisory force." Shortly after receiving the letter,
Dobrynin made what he later called an "angry" phone call to Kissinger demanding an explanation. "I did not see why the U.S. government was trying to create the impression of a dangerous crisis." Kissinger downplayed the U.S. military actions, made the misleading claim that "domestic considerations" had been key determinants, and assured Dobrynin that the DEFCON would be cancelled the next day. This conversation does not appear in Crisis. (Note 73) Document 74: Department of State Cable 210450 to U.S. Mission, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 25 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 25 Oct. 1973-File No. 20 After the WSAG had made its decisions on the DEFCON III and the letter to Brezhnev had been delivered, Kissinger provided Ambassador Rumsfeld with a brief outline of what had transpired, although not specifically mentioning the DEFCON change. Asking Rumsfeld to brief Luns and the Permanent Representatives ("PermReps") about the alert measures, he asked that NATO keep the information "totally confidential." The purpose of confidentially was to avoid a "public confrontation" with Moscow. When Kissinger wrote this, he believed that the DEFCON III alert could be kept secret. As the news of the alert spread quickly to the media, however, Kissinger learned that such alerts are very public events. (Note 74) Document 75: State Department Cable 211737 to U.S. Embassy France, "Koskiusko-Morizet Call on Secretary," 26 October 1973, with marginal comments by NSC staffer Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 26 Oct. 1973-File No. 21 On 25 October, during another WSAG meeting Kissinger shared his worries that the Soviets might exploit the situation, although Secretary of Defense Schlesinger observed that the Soviets might have genuine concerns about the Third Army's position and even "suspect American duplicity in egging the Israelis on." A few hours later, Kissinger gave a press conference where he explained the developments that led up to the alert, expressed public opposition to Soviet unilateral moves in the region, analyzed the complexity of U.S.-Soviet relations, noted the "quite promising" outlook for peace negotiations, and emphasized the necessity for all sides to make "substantial concessions." Early in the afternoon, the
UN Security Council passed Resolution 340 which called for an immediate and complete cease-fire and created a United Nations Security Force for the Middle East to secure its implementation. (Note 75) Apparently sometime before the UN action Kissinger found time to meet with French Ambassador Jacques Kosciusko-Morizet to discuss the war and U.S.-French relations. The conversation proved to be a testy one, with Kosciusko-Morizet criticizing the "lack of consultation during the crisis" either on the alert or the latest U.S. resolution at the Security Council. Kissinger tried to justify the rapid pace of U.S. decisions on the grounds that the Brezhnev letter was a "totally shocking thing." Kissinger acknowledged that "perhaps we should have told you but … our experience in this crisis with the Europeans is that they have behaved not as friends but as hostile powers. Not once did we get their support." As one reader of this document marginally noted 30 years ago, the statement about "hostile powers" was "pretty strong." For Kissinger, however, the key issue in the crisis was Soviet conduct, not the "Arab-Israeli problem." But as the NSC staffer noted, it was "hard" for the Europeans to separate those issues. They found it difficult to rally automatically to Washington when taking a hard line against the Soviets in the crisis had the connotation of leaning toward Tel-Aviv. Kissinger, however, would be getting more upset with the Europeans by the day. Document 76: Dobrynin to Kissinger, enclosing letter from Brezhnev to Nixon, 25 October 1973, received 15:40 hours Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973) Brezhnev's response came soon. Disregarding the controversy over unilateral action, Brezhnev denied the U.S. assertion that Israel had stopped making military moves. He argued that when he had received the U.S. letter, "Israeli aviation was bombing the city of Ismalia and the fighting was continuing in the city of Suez." In response to Sadat's request, Brehznev reported that he had sent 70 Soviet representatives to supervise the cease-fire. Assuming that Washington would do likewise, Moscow had requested its representatives to contact U.S. observers when they arrived in Egypt. Moreover, Moscow was "ready to cooperate" with Washington on "other measures … to ensure immediate and strict implementation" of the UN Security Council resolutions on the cease-fire. Kissinger treated Brezhnev's reply as "conciliatory" although he agreed with Dinitz that "the less of them [Soviet observers] that come the better." (Note 76)
Document 77: Department of State Operations Center, Middle East Task Force Situation Report # 66, "Situation Report in the Middle East as of 1200 EDT," 26 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 26 Oct. 1973-File No. 21 Despite Resolution 340, the fighting had not yet stopped. The Third Army remained hemmed in; during the morning of 26 October, it "attempted to break through surrounding Israeli forces." Rather than let the Third Army escape, Israeli air and ground forces "repulsed" the Egyptian attack. That morning, Sadat sent an insistent message to Nixon charging the Israelis with trying to force the Third Army to surrender and preventing U.N. personnel from reaching the area. Threatening unilateral action to open up supply lines, Sadat declared that the continued deadlock would jeopardize the possibility of "constructive" negotiations. Sadat's message forced Kissinger to focus on the problem of the embattled Third Army; he worried that if the Israelis did not relax their grip, it would run out of supplies, thus exacerbating the Middle East crisis. He made a series of increasingly tense phone calls to Ambassador Dinitz importuning him to convince Tel Aviv to make a proposal to resolve the crisis. But the first series of phone calls produced no concessions. Meanwhile, senior Defense Department officials made serious proposals for a U.S. resupply of the Third Army. (Note 77) Document 78: "Talking Points for Meeting with General Walters," initialed by PWR [Peter W. Rodman], 26 October 1973 Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 139, Palestinians Some months before the outbreak of war, the Palestinean Liberation Organization had initiated contact with Washington through U.S. Ambassador to Iran Richard Helms. Most of the documents on the contacts are still classified in the Nixon papers because they were conducted through CIA channels. According to Kissinger's account, Yasser Araft sent a message on 10 October expressing interest in talks. Arafat predicted defeat for Egypt and Syria but opined that they had achieved enough "face" to enter into negotiations with Israel. On 23 October, Arafat sent another message suggesting a meeting on 26 October. Kissinger turned this down but, wanting some "maneuvering room" during the crisis, arranged for an early November meeting between Deputy Director of Central Intelligence Vernon Walters and an Arafat
representative. In the meantime, Peter Rodman on Kissinger's staff prepared a position paper that suggested a narrow basis for communication. While making some noises about the importance of the Palestinian issue in regional negotiations and expressing gratitude that the PLO had taken a "responsible position" during the war, the U.S. would take no position on Palestinian political claims: Washington had "no proposals" on the "future political role of the Palestinians." And there was a warning: the United States "does not betray its friends." Hostile moves against King Hussein's Jordan were out of the question. And by implication, no threats to Israel, another U.S. friend, would be tolerated. For Kissinger, until the Palestinians were ready for a modus vivendi with Israel, substantive discussions were impossible. Although Kissinger would later comply with an Israeli demand that Washington not recognize or negotiate with the PLO, he would not close the door to informal contacts. (Note 78) Document 79A: U.S. Mission to NATO Cable 5179 to State Department, "U.S. Action Regarding Middle East", 26 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 26 Oct. 1973-Files No. 21 Document 79B: U.S. Mission to NATO Cable 5184 to State Department, "U.S. Action Regarding Middle East," 26 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 26 Oct. 1973-Files No. 22 While Kissinger tried to resolve the Third Army crisis, the North Atlantic Council held some strained discussions of the DEFCON III alert on 26 October. The point that André de Staercke had made, some ten days earlier, about the lack of consultation received wide expression during what Rumsfeld described as two "somewhat tense" sessions. While French Ambassador Francois de Rose was the most vocally critical, Paris was not alone in criticizing U.S. decisionmaking processes. Interestingly, Rumsfeld was responsive to European concerns; he reported sympathetically that "most of the allies felt embarrassed by not being even generally aware of what has been happening in the U.S.-Soviet discussions." They were "further surprised and made to feel irrelevant by the calling of the alert without prior notification until more than seven hours later." Rumsfeld personally recommended "actions soon to counteract this problem."
Document 80: Scowcroft to Dobrynin, 26 October 1973, enclosing message from Nixon to Brezhnev, 26 October 1973, delivered at 1:00 p.m. Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973) As the Security Council finished up work on a resolution, Nixon responded to Brezhnev's last letter. Noting the Security Council's "constructive action" to establish a UN security force to supervise the cease-fire, Nixon assured Brezhnev of Washington's intent to live up to the spirit and substance of the understandings that had been reached in Moscow. In response to Brezhnev's suggestion about observers, Nixon informed him that events had overtaken the earlier U.S. suggestion for a separate U.S.-Soviet supervisory force. The composition of the UN observer force should be left to the discretion of the UN secretary general. The letter, however, made no reference to the growing crisis over the status of the Third Army which was causing so much concern in the Pentagon that some officials proposed an emergency airlift of supplies to beleaguered Egyptian forces. (Note 79) Document 81: Department of State Cable 212618 to U.S. Embassy West Germany, "Secretary's Meeting with FRG Ambassador Von Staden, October 26," 27 October 1973 Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 7 US/Kissinger Kissinger's grievances against the West Europeans mounted and in a few days he was quoted as saying: "I don't care what happens to NATO I'm so disgusted." One incident that fed his anger concerned a West German protest on 26 October over the supply of munitions to Israel from West Germany. Bonn had resisted Arab pressures against the U.S. use of bases in Germany to conduct the airlift, but they changed their tack once the cease-fire had been arranged. The West Germans became especially apprehensive when they learned that Israeli ships docked at Bremerhaven were receiving U.S. munitions. While the West Germans could say they could not determine the destination of U.S. supply planes, it was a different matter when the Israelis received military supplies on West German territory. Washington had not bothered to inform the Germans of this and Bonn lodged a mild private protest; a West German diplomat inadvertently escalated the matter by releasing to the press an internal document which was stronger in tone. Given the West German policy that "weapons delivered using West German territory or installations from American depots in West Germany to one
of the warring parties cannot be allowed," if a reported third Israeli ship arrived in Bremerhaven, "we assume it will not be loaded." Late in the afternoon of 26 October, after telling Dinitz that he was going to "raise hell" with the Germans, Kissinger met Ambassador Von Staden. Declaring that he was "astounded" by Bonn's position, Kissinger argued that the West Europeans had "deliberately isolated" Washington. The Ambassador ably explained the West German position noting that the "FRG showed as much solidarity as it could" but that its "credibility in the Arab world was at stake." While Kissinger argued that the "total pattern of European behavior" had "disastrous potential consequences for the alliance," Von Staden, referring to the consultations issue, mentioned "the serious problem of communication which had developed in the last 14 days." When Von Staden observed that "if information were provided more promptly the policy adopted by the European allies was less likely to be divergent," Kissinger acknowledged "this was perhaps so, unless our underlying philosophies were divergent." (Note 80) Document 82: Memcon, "Meeting with Oil Company Executives," 5:30 p.m., 26 October 1973 Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, PET 6 Shortly after meeting with German Ambassador Von Staden, Kissinger met with a group of oil company chieftains (some of whom had attended the meeting with Kenneth Rush on 10 October). Privately disparaging of the political acumen of the oil executives and seeing them as pushing unduly for compromise with the Arab states, Kissinger nevertheless felt that their powerful position made it necessary to conciliate them. In the course of a presentation on the war and the expansion of U.S. influence in the region, Kissinger briefly discussed the crisis over the Third Army: "The problem will be to get the Israelis to give up some of their present military advantage. They cannot force an army to surrender under conditions of a UN supervised ceasefire." The main purpose of the meeting, of course, was to discuss the Arab oil embargo and the interrelationships between diplomacy and petroleum policy. Comments made during the meeting suggested the high level of anxiety the embargo had created: it could produce a "true disaster," a "possible breakdown of the economy." For Kissinger and the executives, the key problem on the "supply side" was King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Recognizing that Faisal was under pressure from "radical elements in his own country," Kissinger believed that resolving the oil crisis depended largely on efforts to "build bridges" to the monarch. Diplomatic successes in the Arab-
Israeli dispute were critically important in this respect. As Kissinger explained, with hope and uncertainty, "We will make every effort we can to try to avoid giving the oil producers reasons for further action." Getting a cease-fire in place was an important first step and as Kissinger made more efforts, "we will know more in three weeks whether what we are going to do diplomatically is enough to persuade the Saudis." What Kissinger wanted the executives to do was to "tell your Arab friends that we are serious about trying to achieve a peace settlement but that they have to make an effort to move from there to here." As it would take months to persuade the Arab oil producers to reverse the embargo and production cuts, Kissinger had his work cut out for him. Document 83: Hotline Message from Brezhnev to Nixon, 26 October 1973, complete translation received 29 October 1973 Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973) Just as Kissinger could not countenance a defeat for Israel, an Egyptian defeat had become just as intolerable, not least for the dangers of superpower intervention. Close to 9:00 p.m., Kissinger began to turn the screws. Telling Dinitz that he was speaking to him, not as secretary of state but "as a friend," Kissinger warned that if Israel did not resolve the crisis, "you will lose everything." Before he issued a virtual ultimatum, however, Brezhnev sent an urgent message to Nixon over the hotline. Citing Sadat's appeal to Nixon earlier in the day and alleging that Sadat had also requested that the Israelis allow Egyptian helicopters to deliver food, blood, and medical supplies to the Third Army, Brezhnev asked Nixon to exert "effective and immediate influence" on Israel to ensure compliance with those requests. He made no threats but observed that if Washington failed to influence the Israelis, "we will have the most serious doubts regarding the intentions of the American side" to carry out U.S.-Soviet understandings on the cease-fire. In his first reference to the U.S. alert, Brezhnev mentioned that it surprised him but argued that the U.S. move, which he saw as a "means of pressure on the Soviet Union," would fail to "intimidate us." To emphasize the urgency of Israeli cooperation, Kissinger sent Dinitz a copy of the Soviet message and then had a private "showdown" with him over the telephone. About 11:00 p.m., Kissinger advised Dinitz that if the Israelis had not made a decision by 8:00 a.m. to permit non-military supplies such as provisions to reach the Third Army, Washington would join with others on the UN Security Council to make the issue "an international matter." While
Kissinger had not pressed the Israelis to withdraw forces, he warned Dinitz that "You will not be permitted to destroy the army" and it was "inconceivable that the Soviets" would allow that to happen. Shortly after the phone call, Kissinger sent a cable to Ismail, urging direct Egyptian-Israeli talks on supplies for the Third Army. (Note 81)
IX. Crisis Resolved
Document 84: Nixon Hotline Message to Brezhnev, 27 October 1973, sent 2:18 a.m. Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973) In a quick but "polite and vague" reply to Brezhnev's message, (Note 82) Nixon assured the Soviets that Washington was treating "on an urgent basis" the matter of securing Israeli cooperation on the delivery of non-military supplies to the Third Army. He also agreed with Brezhnev on the importance of rapid positioning of UN Truce Supervisory Organization (UNTSO) staffers. In light of Brezhnev's desire to involve Soviet observers, Nixon offered some U.S. personnel to work in UNTSO, stipulating that no country's observers should operate outside the UN framework (as it turned out, Sadat rejected the presence of any U.S. or Soviet observers to monitor the cease-fire). As for Brezhnev's objections to the U.S. alert, Nixon declared that Washington had "taken seriously" the language in the 24 October letter about "taking appropriate steps unilaterally." In contrast to unilateral action, the establishment of a UN force was "a sensible course in our mutual interest." Document 85: State Department Cable 212588 to all Diplomatic Posts, "Egyptian-Israeli Cease Fire Situation," 27 October 1973 Source: NPMP, NSCF, box 1175, 1973 Middle East War, 26 Oct. 1973-Files No. 22 Despite U.S. pressure, Prime Minister Meir refused to make a proposal on non-military supplies for the Third Army, thus forcing Kissinger to impose a solution. In the meantime, Kissinger had been in contact with Sadat, via Hafez Ismail, who had accepted the U.S. proposal for direct EgyptianIsraeli talks to implement the cease-fire. The only condition that Sadat stipulated was that the Israelis permit a UN/Red Cross-supervised convoy to deliver non-military supplies to
the Third Army. Kissinger sent Ismail's message to the Israelis who accepted it at 6:20 a.m. (EDT). Minutes later, Kissinger informed Ismail that Israel had accepted Egypt's proposal and that the Israelis would be in touch with UN Major General Ensio Siilasvuo, the commander of the UN Emergency Force operating in the Sinai. Later on 27 October, in the cable reproduced here, Kissinger informed U.S. embassies about the developments, although not the gory details. (Note 83) Document 86: Scowcroft to Dinitz, 28 October 1973, enclosing message from Ismail to Kissinger Source: SN 70-73, POL 27-14 Arab-Isr After considerable confusion, Egyptian General Mohamad elGamasy and Israeli General Aharon Yariv met for the famous Kilometer 101 talks, held at the 101st kilometer on the CairoSuez road. Kissinger got a few initial details from Ismail who reported that the "meeting was dignified" despite disagreements on cease-fire implementation and exchanges of prisoners. (Note 84) Document 87: Memorandum for the Record by Brent Scowcroft, 29 October 1973 Source: NPMP, HAKO, box 136, Dinitz June 4 1974-October 31, 1973 Israeli embassy officer Shalev gave Scowcroft a report of the second meeting at Kilometer 101. According to the Israeli account, the talks proceeded normally, with the two sides discussing supply convoys for Egyptian forces, lists of POWs, exchange of the wounded soldiers, International Red Cross visits to the wounded and POWs, and a time table for exchanges of POWs. "The atmosphere of the meeting was fairly good." Document 88A: Memcon between Kissinger and Acting Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmi, 29 October, first draft Document 88B: Memcon between Kissinger and Fahmi, 30 October, 3:08 pm. Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL 27 Arab-Isr While the Egyptians and Israelis negotiated at Kilometer 101, Kissinger and Ismail Fahmi had a series of cordial and earnest discussions leading up to Kissinger's meeting with Sadat on 7
November. While much of the talk involved the rendition of rather partial accounts of wartime developments and decisions, for Fahmi the key issue was cease-fire implementation, especially the problem of non-military supplies for the Third Army. He was not familiar with the U.S.-Soviet understanding on the exchange of POWs and showed surprise that the issue had been part of the dialogue in Moscow. As Kissinger made clear, for the Israelis the POW issue was central to their agreement to a cease-fire in the first place. By the next day, Kissinger and Fahmi were close to an understanding: that if Egyptian and Israeli forces returned to the 22 October lines under UN supervision and non-military supplies were provided to the Third Army in the meantime, the Egyptians would agree to exchange POWs and lift the blockade of the Red Sea. Fahmi saw much at stake in these discussions: "We are about to begin a new chapter," he declared. Later, he promised that if an understanding was reached, Cairo and Washington would resume diplomatic relations. Document 89: Kissinger memorandum for the President's File, "Meeting with Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin on Tuesday, October 30, 1973, at 6:00 p.m., at Camp David Source: NPMP, HAK, box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 20 (October 12-November 27, 1973) A few hours after meeting with Fahmi, Kissinger flew to Camp David for a meeting between Nixon and Dobrynin. Alluding to the risk of the U.S. alert, Dobrynin observed that "it took a very difficult decision on the part of Brezhnev to preserve our good relations with each other." After Nixon suspiciously asked about a leak to John Scali and Dobrynin plaintively asked, "What kind of a relationship is this … if one letter produces an alert?" the conversation settled into a discussion of the Middle East situation. Significantly, Nixon continued to hold the view that Moscow and Washington could both play an "indispensable role … in getting a settlement in the Middle East." No doubt this statement pained Kissinger who was trying to steer U.S. policy in a different direction. Indeed, he would complain the next day to the British ambassador that Dobrynin's proposal for joint supervision of the cease-fire was a form of harassment. According to Dobrynin's later account, in early November Kissinger conveyed "regrets for the alert", observing that the White House "had made a rash move damaging AmericanSoviet relations." It was important to avoid "further mutual recriminations and offenses, just because we have admitted what could have been a gross miscalculation on our part."
Bent on pursuing a policy on marginalizing the Soviet diplomatic role in the region, Kissinger would, however, provide more occasions for "recriminations and offenses." (Note 85) Document 90: Memcon between Kissinger and the Earl of Cromer, British Ambassador, 31 October 1973, 9:05 - 9:40 a.m. Source: SN 70-73, POL UK-US While the British ambassador wanted to find about the talks with Fahmi were going, Kissinger wanted to make some complaints, especially that Nixon was "pained" by Prime Minister Heath's "refusal to endorse the alert." Kissinger quickly turned to his dismay over NATO Europe's conduct during the war, which he thought put "our alliance in jeopardy." Arguing that Western Europe saw the conflict not as an "East-West blow-up" but an "Arab-Israeli thing," Cromer suggested that U.S. policy went wrong by treating the crisis in East-West terms. This did not satisfy Kissinger who later observed that "the painful fact is that not one of the European allies said anything in support." Their inconclusive discussion turned to the Fahmi talks with Kissinger suggesting that he saw potential for a deal meeting Egyptian concerns about non-military supplies for the Third Army and Israeli concerns about POWs and the blockade of the Red Sea. During a discussion of Soviet naval activity during the war, Kissinger stated that "we have information that a Soviet ship carrying nuclear weapons passed through the Bosporus, and then came back without them." He told Cromer that he talked to the Russians about this development. Significantly, leaked reports about the Soviet ship and other nuclear weapons allegedly deployed to Egypt surfaced in the Washington Post during November. Some analysts later speculated that the purpose of the leaks was to "provide more muscle" for pressure on Israel to cooperate with the peace process. None of the intelligence reporting has been declassified, but the reports were ambiguous enough that when Kissinger was questioned about them on 21 November, he said there is no "confirmed evidence" about nuclear weapons arriving in Egypt. A few days later, after meeting with Nixon, Senator J. William Fulbright declared that there was "no confirmation" of the reports. (Note 86) Document 91A: Memcon between Kissinger, Meir, Dinitz, and General Yariv. 1 November 1973, 8:10 a.m. - 10:25 a.m. Document 91B: Memcon between Meir, Nixon, and
Kissinger, 1 November 1973, 12:10 p.m. Source: RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973-1977. Box 2. NODIS Action Memos, 1973-1976 A visit to Washington gave Golda Meir an opportunity to thank Nixon directly for U.S. military aid during the war. That she did, but her talks with Henry Kissinger on the ceasefire were strikingly acrimonious, in part reflecting the resentment over Washington's determination to ensure the Third Army's survival. (Note 87) Kissinger accused the Israelis of blindsiding him on their military plans: "You gave me good military reports but you didn't tell me what you intended. I had no reason to think twelve more hours, twentyfour more hours, were decisive. … Then you took on the Third Army after the ceasefire … Had I known about it, I would have done different things in Moscow." A few minutes later Meir complained: "Why believe the Egyptians? … Whatever Sadat says is the Bible?" What especially concerned Meir, however, was the return of Israeli POWs which, with Egyptian lifting of the Red Sea blockade, she tied to agreement over the ongoing supply of non-military goods to the Third Army. The more difficult point was the Israeli stance on the October cease-fire lines. Knowing how much importance the Egyptians placed upon the return of Israeli forces to the cease-fire line, Kissinger believed that the Israelis could not "avoid accepting in principle the October 22 lines." Nixon agreed but Meir urged him not to "press" it. For her the line was indeterminate and "separat[ing] the forces" made more sense. For Meir, that meant the withdrawal of Egyptian forces to the Canal's west bank, which Sadat would have rejected. During the Oval Office discussion, Nixon emphasized U.S. interest in getting "peace talks moving along" and asked Meir and the Israelis to "have some confidence" that Nixon and Kissinger will "do our best not only on the hardware [arms], but on the software side when it comes to negotiations." During the conversation, disagreements surfaced between Nixon and Kissinger on Moscow's role in the peace process. After Kissinger declared, "your policy, Mr. President, is to move the Soviets into a secondary position," Nixon observed "We have to take Soviet sensitivities into the act [account?] because we have other fish to fry with them." To that, Kissinger stated, "But de facto we are trying to reduce their influence." Kissinger's goal of reducing Soviet influence would, in fact, be the thrust of U.S. policy during the months that followed, as Brezhnev would learn to his dismay. Document 92A: Memcon between Fahmi and Kissinger, 1
November 1973. 5:30 p.m. Source: RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, box 24, Cat "C" Material November-Dec. 1973 HAK-Golda Meir Document 92B: Memcon between Fahmi and Kissinger, 2 November 1973, 8:19 p.m., Source: RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, box 1, Misc Docs, Tabs, 1973-77 In between the sessions with Golda Meir, Kissinger had more talks with Fahmi. Fahmi wanted Kissinger to be sure that he would be treated well in Cairo but the discussion got stuck on the cease-fire lines. From Fahmi's perspective, an agreement to stabilize the cease-fire had to include language about Israel "going back to the October 22 positions." Kissinger assured Fahmi that he was trying to "get you the principle of the return to the October 22 positions" but all that he had gotten so far from Meir was an understanding on exchange of prisoners and non-military supplies for the Third Army. Recognizing that "we will have a massive brawl with the Israelis on the question of the return to the October 22 positions," Kissinger suggested there were two possibilities: to have a brawl or to "tackle the bigger problem" of Israeli disengagement from the Sinai. On the latter, "only we can deliver." That seemed to please Fahmi who declared "That the United States will deliver the goods is what we want." Nonetheless, he still wanted Kissinger to get the Israelis to return to the October 22 positions. Document 93A: Memcon between Kissinger, Meir, and Party, 2 November 1973, 10:00 p.m. - 12:45 a.m. Source: RG 59, SN 70-73, POL Isr-US Document 93B: Memcon between Kissinger, Meir, and Party, 3 November 1973, 10:45 p.m. - 1:10 a.m. Source: RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973-1977. Box 3 Kissinger told Fahmi that he would not see Meir until the next evening but he met with her only minutes later at Blair House; they would hold more discussions the next evening. A telling comment by Kissinger during the Friday night meeting (2 November) suggested his awareness that Brezhnev believed that Kissinger had worked behind his back during the cease-fire negotiations: "Our only concern about the Third Army is that from Brezhnev's point of view the agreement on the cease-fire with a fixed deadline, plus my trip to Tel Aviv, plus your moving afterward -- makes him look like a fool. That's our dilemma. They assume collusion." The tense and
emotionally charged discussions continued to focus on ceasefire arrangements. It wasn't exactly a "brawl" but Kissinger, apparently believing that it was necessary to try, vainly continued his effort to extract a concession from Meir about "agreement in principle" on the 22 October cease-fire lines. While Kissinger may have thought he had convinced the Israelis on the evening of 2 November, the meeting held the next evening showed otherwise. For Kissinger, language about "in principle" would be necessary as a "face-saving formula" to appease the Egyptians, but Meir denied that necessity. When Kissinger suggested the "need for a wise decision," Meir angrily replied: "You're saying we have no choice." Despite interesting comments about Egypian flexibility by General Yariv, temporarily called away from the Kilometer 101 talks, Kissinger may not have understood that the Israelis were far more fully briefed than he on the state of the military-to-military talks. Meir and her colleagues probably found the concession sought by Kissinger unnecessary. Indeed, she presented elements of what would become known as the "six-point agreement" that Kissinger and Sadat would later discuss, including language on a return to the 22 October cease-fire lines in the context of disengagement and separation of forces. Kissinger was skeptical that Sadat would accept the points--"my judgment is there is next to no chance"--while General Yariv declared that Sadat "has an interest to pay quite a lot." "We'll have to see," Kissinger replied. (Note 88) Document 94: Scowcroft to President, "Meeting with Sadat," 7 November 1973, with Nixon's annotated "congratulations" Source: NPMP, HAKO, boxc 132, Egypt - Vol. VIII November 1-December 31, 1973 Four days after his talks with Meir, Kissinger was in Cairo meeting with Sadat. They met without notetakers and no detailed record of their discussion has surfaced apart from Kissinger's account in Years of Upheaval. Like Fahmi, Sadat believed that Kissinger would "deliver the goods" and after some discussion he signed off on the proposal that Meir had discussed during the meeting of 3 November, and which reflected the Kilometer 101 talks. Thus, there was no controversy over the matter of agreement "in principle" on the 22 October positions: the issue of the cease-fire lines was folded into a "framework on the disengagement and separation of forces." While Kissinger had doubted that Sadat would go along with general language about the cease-fire lines, Sadat had no basic objection to the meaning of the agreement: that the Third Army would stay in place, but
supplied, pending the outcome of negotiations to disengage forces from the former theater of battle. The more sensitive problem was the Egyptian blockade of the Red Sea; consistent with the Fahmi-Kissinger talks an understanding was reached that Egypt would "ease" the blockade. To ensure that the six point agreement had Israeli assent, Kissinger sent Joseph Sisco and Harold Saunders to brief Meir. Although there were some snags in Tel Aviv and Cairo, on 11 November, el-Gamasy and Yarif signed the agreement. In the meantime, Egypt and the United States restored diplomatic relations. During the coming months, Kissinger would serve as the go-between for "Sinai I," the January 1974 EgyptianIsraeli disengagement agreement on thinning out forces east of the Suez Canal, a UN buffer zone, and the reopening of the Suez Canal (closed since 1967). Fundamental issues would remain, especially the Golan Heights and the Palestinian question, but Sadat was determined first of all to reach a negotiated solution to Egypt's security problems.
1. Richard Ned Lebow and Janice Gross Stein, We All Lost the Cold War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994); William P. Quandt, Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict Since 1967 (Washington, D.C.Berkeley, CA: Brookings Institution-University of California Press, 1993); Kenneth Stein, Heroic Diplomacy: Sadat, Kissinger, Carter, Begin, and the Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace (New York: Routledge, 1999). For the proceedings of a major conference on the October War involving scholars and major players from all sides, see Richard Parker, ed., The October War: A Retrospective (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2001). For a recent history, oriented toward a more general readership, see Walter J. Boyne, The Two O'clock War: the 1973 Yom Kippur Conflict and the Airlift That Saved Israel (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2002). 2. On the Israeli side, much of the the IDF's secret history of the war may not be available for decades. See "Ya'alon: Full Yom Kippur War report only in 20 years," by Amos Harel, Haaretz, 30 September 2003, at <http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/345513.html> 3. Readers of Crisis should be aware that Kissinger turned
over his telcon collection to the State Department and the National Archives only after lawyers from those agencies had asked him to do so. Although Kissinger, at p. 1, uses language about his desire for the "general availability" of these documents, that had not been a consideration for nearly 30 years until the National Security Archive prodded the National Archives and the State Department into taking action. For background on these developments, see <http://www.nsarchive.org/news/20010809/> and <http://www.nsarchive.org/news/20020211/>. 4. Walter Issacson, Kissinger: A Biography (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), pp. 004 and 521. 5. The discussion in the following paragraphs draws on accounts of the 1967 war and ensuing developments provided by Quandt, Peace Process, pp. 25-148, and Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, pp. 49-68. For a map of territorial boundaries after the Six Day War, see <http://www.mideastweb.org/israelafter1967.htm>. 6. For "impertinent," see Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 50. 7. For discussion of Sadat and Assad's goals and interrelations, see Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, pp. 4-17, Mose Ma'Oz, Syria and Israel: From War to Peacemaking (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), pp. 128-129, and Patrick Seale, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), pp. 194-200. For the Saudis and the oil weapon, see Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 67. 8. For casualty figures, see Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 91. 9. See document 36B. 10. For Kissinger's "commanding position," see Quandt, Peace Process, at pp. 180-181. 11. Uri Bar-Joseph, "Israel's 1973 Intelligence Failure," in R.M. Kumaraswamy, ed., Revisiting the Yom Kippur War (London: Frank Cass, 2000), pp. 10-11 12. Parker, The October War, pp. 113-116; Stein, Heroic Diplomacy (quoting Sadat), p.68 13. Quandt, Peace Process, pp. 137-139; Parker, October War, pp. 3, 77, and 79-81; Bar-Joseph, "Israel's 1973 Intelligence Failure," in R.M. Kumaraswamy, ed., Revisiting
the Yom Kippur War (London: Frank Cass, 2000), p. 11. Harold Saunders, Kissinger's senior Middle East expert, later observed that a "lot more … could have been offered in those meetings in the way of a U.S. framework for dealing with the issues." See Parker, October War, at p. 54. 14. Walter Isaacson, Kissinger: A Biography (Simon & Schuster, 1992), pp. 210, 286, 475-476, 503, and 511. 15. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States Richard Nixon containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President 1973 (Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1975), p. 735. 16. For the career of Simcha Dinitz, see obituary in Jerusalem Post, 24 September 2003. A career Foreign Service Officer, Dinitz had just completed work as Meir's political secretary, making him the Prime Minister's personal envoy to Washington. 17. According to Stein, Kissinger had put the Arab-Israeli issue on the "back burner." Heroic Diplomacy, p. 72. 18. For significant accounts of Israeli intelligence activities and estimates prior to the war, see Ephraim Kahana, "Early Warning Versus Concept," Intelligence and National Security 17 (Summer 2002): 81-104, and Bar-Joseph, "Israel's 1973 Intelligence Failure," in R.M. Kumaraswamy, ed., Revisiting the Yom Kippur War (London: Frank Cass, 2000), pp. 10-35. See also Parker, October War, pp. 86-88. Bar Joseph's forthcoming book on the intelligence failure, The Watchman Slept, will be a significant contribution. (Updated 16 October 2003) 19. Galia Golan's,"The Soviet Union and the Yom Kippur War," in Kumaraswamy, Revisiting the Yom Kippur War, p. 129. Golan's account is helpful for understanding Soviet policy during the war as is Victor Israelyan's revealing account, Inside the Kremlin During the Yom Kippur War (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995). For an overview of Soviet policy, see Anatoly Dobrynin, In Confidence: Moscow's Ambassador to American's Six Cold War Presidents (1962-1986) (New York: Times Books, 1995), pp. 287-301. 20. Quandt, Peace Process, p. 542, note 10 citing Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, pp. 465-466. For the copy provided to Dobrynin, see HAKO, box 68, Dobrynin/Kissinger Vol. 19
July 13, 1973-Oct., 11, 1973. 21. Kahana, "Early Warning Versus Concept," pp. 95-96; Parker, October War, p. 99; Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 71. 22. See Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, p. 453, for his guarded treatment of the preemption issue. For the record of the phone call with Shalev, Dobrynin, Nixon, and others, see Crisis, p. 15 ff. 23. Quandt, Peace Process, p. 152. 24. For Cline quotation, see document 63. For U.S. intelligence analysis prior to 6 October, see Quandt, Peace Process, pp. 150-151, and Parker, October War, p. 127, where former INR official Philip Stoddard recounts the thenprevailing "general belief in the superiority of Israeli intelligence." 25. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 72; Golan, "The Soviet Union and the Yom Kippur War," in Kumaraswamy, Revisiting the Yom Kippur War, pp. 129-130. 26. Patrick Seale, Asad, p. 202. For maps--prepared by the Mid-East Web Group--giving an overview of the fighting, see <http://www.mideastweb.org/octoberwarmapegypt.htm> and <http://www.mideastweb.org/octoberwarmapsyria.htm>. See also a map prepared for a history course at the University of California, Santa Cruz, at <http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~davidyag/octoberwarmap.jpg> 27. Kissinger has published the transcript of this conversation, but the reference to "precipitate" would be obscure without reference to Eagleburger's memorandum. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 32, 62. For "lean," see conversation with Haig at page 43. For the Soviets and a cease-fire, see Golan, "The Soviet Union and the Yom Kippur War," in Kumaraswamy, Revisiting the Yom Kippur War, p. 130. 28. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, pp. 75-77. 29. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 110-111. 30. Avner Cohen, "Nuclear Arms in Crisis Under Secrecy: Israel and the Lessons of the 1967 and 1973 Wars," in Peter R. Lavoy, Scott D. Sagan, and James J. Wirtz, eds., Planning the Unthinkable: How New Powers Will Use Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000), esp. pp. 117-119. For the latest
revelations, see Avner Cohen, "The Last Nuclear Moment," New York Times, 6 October 2003. For earlier accounts, see Seymour Hersh, The Samson Option (New York: Random House, 1991), pp. 225-230, and Isaacson, Kissinger, pp. 517522. (updated 16 October 2003) 31. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 153-154. 32. Israelyan, Inside the Kremlin, pp. 56-58; Stein and Lebow, We All Lost the Cold War, pp. 185-187. 33. Stein and Lebow, We All Lost the Cold War, pp. 201-205; Israelyan, Inside the Kremlin, p. 83; Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 80. For "blunder," see Dobrynin, In Confidence, p. 291. 34. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 77; Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 217-221; Isaacson, Kissinger, pp. 517-522; Lebow and Stein, We All Lost the Cold War, p. 189; Parker, October War, p. 121. For Schlesinger's account of the airlift decisionmaking process, see Parker, The October War, pp. 153-160. 35. For "pained," see Quandt, Peace Process, p. 167. 36. For the Egyptian offensive and Asad's pressure, see Seale, Asad, pp. 211-212. 37. Quandt, Peace Process, p. 163. 38. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 81. 39. Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, pp. 709-710. 40. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 82. 41. Martin J. Hillenbrand, Fragments of Our Time: Memoirs of a Diplomat (Athens, Ga: University of Georgia Press, 1998), pp. 327-328. 42. Kissinger, Crisis, p. 286. 43. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 83. 44. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 85. 45. See also Quandt, Peace Process, pp. 167 and 178. 46. For Kissinger's account of the Moscow talks with Brezhnev, see Years of Upheaval, pp. 548-559
47. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 86. 48. For Kissinger's account of the Nixon message and his reply, see Years of Upheaval, pp. 550-551 49. Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, p. 416. 50. Lebow and Stein, We All Lost the Cold War, p. 212; Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, pp. 84, 87-90. 51. Ibid., p. 89. 52. Isaacson, Kissinger: A Biography, pp. 526-528; Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, p. 418, citing Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, at page 569. Kissinger does not mention the message to Dinitz in his memoirs, although he does acknowledge that the communications difficulties "reduced the time Israel had available for gearing its last-minute military operations to the imminent cease-fire." See Years of Upheaval, pp. 556-557. 53. For the resolution, see <http://www.un.org/documents/sc/res/1973/scres73.htm>. 54. For Kissinger's account of his meetings with the Israelis, see Years of Upheaval, pp. 559-586. For the Ephrom quote, see Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 91. 55. Kissinger, Crisis, p. 306; Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, p. 419. According to Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, at p. 90, the Israelis were "incensed" by the U.S.-Soviet imposition of a cease-fire. 56. Lebow and Stein, We All Lost the Cold War, at p. 217, note Kissinger's failure to warn. 57. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 87. 58. Ibid. p. 92; Isaacson, Kissinger, p. 528. See also Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, p. 420. 59. Lebow and Stein, We All Lost the Cold War, pp. 243-244; Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 92; Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 306307. 60. Michael K. Bohn, Nerve Center: Inside the White House Situation Room (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, Inc., 2003), p. 74.
61. Quandt, Peace Process, p. 172. 62. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 322, 324. 63. Ibid., pp. 330-331; Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, p. 423. 64. For the published version, see Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 331332. 65. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 335-337. 66. Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, p. 425, including footnote 78. Apparently, Nixon had been drinking heavily that evening. 67. Kissinger reproduces the main body of the text, without the language on Israel, in Years of Upheaval, p. 583. 68. For "overreaction," see statement by Victor Israelyan in Parker, The October War, pp. 224-225. See also Golan, "The Soviet Union and the Yom Kippur War," in Kumaraswamy, Revisiting the Yom Kippur War, pp. 147-148; Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, p. 428; Lebow and Stein, We All Lost the Cold War, pp. 237-238, 245-246, and Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 94. Also helpful on the Politburo discussions is Dobrynin, In Confidence, p. 205. 69. For a provocative critique of the Defcon III alert, see Stein and Lebow, We All Lost the Cold War, pp. 246-258. 70. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 343, 349-352; Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, p. 95; Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, pp. 432-433. 71. For the texts of these agreements, see, respectively <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/nixon/i/20706.htm>, document 116, and <http://www.fas.org/nuke/control/prevent/text/prevent1.htm> . 72. For thoughtful analysis of the implications of the "Basic Principles" and the Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War for superpower conduct during the October War, see Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, pp. 434-441. 73. For Dobrynin's account, see In Confidence, p. 297. 74. Parker, The October War, pp. 175-176
75. Quandt, Peace Process, pp. 175-176. For resolution 340, see <http://www.un.org/documents/sc/res/1973/scres73.htm>. 76. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 362, 369. 77. See Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 370-381. 78. Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, pp. 626-629; Parker, The October War, p. 282. 79. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 392-393. 80. For background on this flap and the quote from Kissinger, see Hillenbrand, Fragments of Our Time, pp. 328-329. For "raise hell," see Kissinger, Crisis, p. 380. 81. Ibid., pp. 387, 393-97; Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, p. 609. 82. For "polite and vague," see ibid., p. 609. 83. Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 398-401. For background on General Siilasvuo, see <http://www.sinibarettiliitto.fi/lehti/1_03/summary.htm>. 84. For a detailed account of the talks, see Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, pp. 97-116. 85. For Kissinger's "regrets," see Dobrynin, In Confidence, p. 300. For later "recriminations," see Kissinger's account of his March 1974 conversations with Brezhnev on the Middle East, in Years of Upheaval, at p. 1022. 86. For further discussion, see Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation, pp. 424-425; Seymour Hersh, The Samson Option, pp. 234-235. For the suggestion about "muscle" and information on the press reports, as well as the Kissinger and Fulbright quotes, see Yona Bandmann and Yishai Cordova, "The Soviet Nuclear Threat Toward the Close of the Yom Kippur War," Jerusalem Journal of International Relations 5 (1980): 94-110. 87. Kissinger's account of the talks with Meir downplays the tension; see Years of Upheaval, pp. 619-624. 88. Stein, Heroic Diplomacy, pp. 105-106.
1973 October War (Yom Kippur War) - Egyptian Front
In October 1973, Egypt and Syria launched another war against Israel, after the Israeli government headed by Golda Meir rebuffed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's offers to negotiate a settlement. The Egyptians crossed the Suez Canal on the afternoon of October 6, Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish religious calendar. The Israeli government had ignored repeated intelligence warnings. They were convinced that Israeli arms were a sufficient deterrent to any aggressor. Sadat had twice announced his intention to go to war, but nothing had happened. When the intelligence reports were finally believed, on the morning of the attack, PM Meir and Defense Minister Dayan decided not to mobilize reserves. The Israelis were caught by surprise in more ways than one. Egyptians poured huge numbers of troops across the canal unopposed and began setting up beachhead. The Israel Army had neglected basic maintenance tasks and drill. As troops mustered, it became apparent that equipment was missing and tanks were out of commission. The line of outposts built as watch posts along the Suez canal - the Bar Lev line, was used instead as a line of fortifications intended to hold off the Egyptians as long as possible. A tiny number of soldiers faced the Egyptian onslaught and were wiped out after stubborn resistance. The Soviets had sold the Egyptians new technology - better surface to air missiles (SAM) and hand held Sager anti-tank weapons. Israel had counted on air power to tip the balance on the battlefield, and had neglected artillery. But the air-force was initially neutralized because of the effectiveness of SAM missiles, until Israel could destroy the radar stations controlling them. Futile counterattacks continued in Sinai for several days as Israeli divisions coped with traffic jams that prevented concentration of forces, and with effective Egyptian resistance. Egyptians crossed the Suez canal and retook a strip of the Sinai peninsula. Initial Israeli attempts to oppose the Egyptians without artillery support were fruitless. SAMs took a heavy toll of Israeli air power. After sustaining heavy losses, Israeli forces rallied and, with artillery support in place and the radar controlling the SAMs neutralized, Israeli troops crossed the canal. General Ariel Sharon, disobeying the orders of cautious superiors, ran ahead of logistics and support to develop the bridgehead on the Egyptian side of the Suez canal, and to cut off the entire Egyptian third army. Encouraged by this success, Israeli troops tried to advance and conquer Suez city, an adventure which proved to be disastrous. The map shows the Egyptian attacks and counter attacks. Map adapted from Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, 2000.
"The past isn't dead; it isn't even past." William Faulkner. "No two historians ever agree on what happened, and the damn thing is they both think they're telling the truth." Harry S. Truman.
History, and different perceptions of history, are perhaps the most important factors in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Accounts of history, interpreting history in different ways, are used to justify claims and to negate claims, to vilify the enemy and to glorify "our own" side. Dozens of accounts have been written. Most of the accounts on the Web are intended to convince rather than to inform. This very brief account is intended as a balanced overview and introduction to Palestinian and Israeli history, and the history of the conflict. It is unlikely that anyone has written or will write an "objective" and definitive summary that would be accepted by everyone, but it is hoped that this document will provide a fair introduction. It would be wrong to try to use this history to determine "who is right," though many "histories" have certainly been written by partisans of either side, with precisely that purpose in mind. Those who are interested in advocacy, in collecting "points" for their side, cannot find the truth except by accident. If they find it, and it is inconvenient, they will bury it again. This account intends to inform, and nothing more. Two separate documents explain how I think we should gather facts and learn about the conflict, and the importance of words in making Middle East history, as well as in understanding it. A timeline provides details of many events not discussed in this history, and source documents provide additional background. Serious students will also refer to the bibliography for more information and different viewpoints, and will always seek out primary source documents to verify whatever claims are made about those documents or about quotes from those documents. Click here for a brief overview of issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Click here for a perspective on the changing nature of the Israeli - Palestinian/Zionist - Arab/ Jewish-Muslim conflict.
Geography and Early History of Israel and Palestine
The land variously called Israel and Palestine is a small, (10,000 square miles at present) land at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. During its long history, its area, population and ownership varied greatly. The present state of Israel occupies all the land from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean ocean, bounded by Egypt in the south, Lebanon in the north, and Jordan in the East. The recognized borders of Israel constitute about 78% of the land. The remainder is divided between land occupied by Israel since the 1967 6-day war and the autonomous regions under the control of the Palestinian autonomy. The Gaza strip occupies an additional 141 square miles south of Israel, and is under the control of the Palestinian authority. Palestine has been settled continuously for tens of thousands of years. Fossil remains have been found of Homo Erectus, Neanderthal and transitional types between Neanderthal and modern man. Archeologists have found hybrid Emer wheat at Jericho dating from before 8,000 B.C., making it one of the oldest sites of agricultural activity in the world. Amorites, Canaanites, and other Semitic peoples related to the Phoenicians of Tyre entered the area about 2000 B.C. The area became known as the Land of Canaan. (Click here for historical maps and some details of early history) (Click here for books about Israel & Palestine before 1918 )
The Jewish Kingdoms of Ancient Judah and Israel
The archeological record indicates that the Jewish people evolved out of native Cana'anite peoples and invading tribes. Some time between about 1800 and 1500 B.C., it is thought that a Semitic people called Hebrews (hapiru) left Mesopotamia and settled in Canaan. Canaan was settled by different tribes including Semitic peoples, Hittites, and later Philistines, peoples of the sea who are thought to have arrived from Mycenae, or to be part of the ancient Greek peoples that also settled Mycenae. According to the Bible, Moses led the Israelites, or a portion of them, out of Egypt. Under Joshua, they conquered the tribes and city states of Canaan. Based on biblical traditions, it is estimated that king David conquered Jerusalem about 1000 B.C. and established an Israelite kingdom over much of Canaan including parts of Transjordan. The kingdom was divided into Judea in the south and Israel in the north following the death of David's son, Solomon. Jerusalem remained the center of Jewish sovereignty and of Jewish worship whenever the Jews exercised sovereignty over the country in the subsequent period, up to the Jewish revolt in 133 AD. The Assyrians conquered Israel in 722 or 721 B.C. The Babylonians conquered Judah around 586 B.C. They destroyed Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, and exiled a large number of Jews. About 50 years later, the Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylonia. Cyrus allowed a group of Jews from Babylonia to rebuild Jerusalem and settle in it. However, a large number of Jews remained in Babylonia, forming the first Jewish Diaspora. After the reestablishment of a Jewish state or protectorate, the Babylonian exiles maintained contact with authorities there. The Persians ruled the land from about 530 to 331 B.C. Alexander the Great then conquered the Persian Empire. After Alexander's death in 323 B.C., his generals divided the empire. One of these generals, Seleucus, founded a dynasty that gained control of much of Palestine about 200 B.C. At first, the new rulers, called Seleucids, allowed the practice of Judaism. But later, one of the kings, Antiochus IV, tried to prohibit it. In 167 B.C., the Jews revolted under the leadership of the Maccabeans and either drove the Seleucids out of Palestine or at least established a large degree of autonomy, forming a kingdom with its capital in Jerusalem. The kingdom received Roman "protection" when Judah Maccabee was made a "friend of the Roman senate and people" in 164 B.C. according to the records of Roman historians.
Palestine From Roman to Ottoman Rule
About 61 B.C., Roman troops under Pompei invaded Judea and sacked Jerusalem in support of King Herod. Judea had become a client state of Rome. Initially it was ruled by the client Herodian dynasty. The land was divided into districts of Judea, Galilee, Peraea and a small trans-Jordanian section, each of which eventually came under direct Roman control. The Romans called the large central area of the land, which included Jerusalem, Judea. Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, Judea, in the early years of Roman rule. Roman rulers put down Jewish revolts in about A.D. 70 and A.D. 132. In A.D. 135, the Romans drove the Jews out of Jerusalem. The Romans named the area Palaestina, at about this time. The name Palaestina, which became Palestine in English, is derived from Herodotus, who used the term Palaistine Syria to refer to the entire southern part of Syria, meaning "Philistine Syria." Most of the Jews who continued to practice their religion fled or were forcibly exiled from Palestine, eventually forming a second Jewish Diaspora. However, Jewish communities continued to exist in Galilee, the northernmost part of Palestine. Palestine was governed by the Roman Empire until the fourth century A.D. (300's) and then by the Byzantine Empire. In time, Christianity spread to most of Palestine. The population consisted of Jewish converts to Christianity and paganism, peoples imported by the Romans, and others who had probably inhabited Palestine continuously.
During the seventh century (A.D. 600's), Muslim Arab armies moved north from Arabia to conquer most of the Middle East, including Palestine. Jerusalem was conquered about 638 by the Caliph Umar (Omar) who gave his protection to its inhabitants. Muslim powers controlled the region until the early 1900's. The rulers allowed Christians and Jews to keep their religions. However, most of the local population gradually accepted Islam and the Arab-Islamic culture of their rulers. Jerusalem became holy to Muslims as the site where, according to tradition, Muhammed ascended to heaven after a miraculous overnight ride on his horse Al-Buraq. The al-Aqsa mosque was built on the site generally regarded as the area of the Jewish temples. The Seljuk Turks conquered Jerusalem in 1071, but their rule in Palestine lasted less than 30 years. Initially they were replaced by the Fatimid rulers of Egypt. The Fatimids took advantage of the Seljuk struggles with the Christian crusaders. They made an alliance with the crusaders in 1098 and captured Jerusalem, Jaffa and other parts of Palestine. The Crusaders, however, broke the alliance and invaded Palestine about a year later. They captured Jaffa and Jerusalem in 1099, slaughtered many Jewish and Muslim defenders and forbade Jews to live in Jerusalem. They held the city until 1187. In that year, the Muslim ruler Saladin conquered Jerusalem. The Crusaders then held a smaller and smaller area along the coast of Palestine, under treaty with Saladin. However, they broke the treaty with Saladin and later treaties. Crusade after crusade tried unsuccessfully to recapture Jerusalem. The crusaders left Palestine for good when the Muslims captured Acre in 1291. During the post-crusade period, crusaders often raided the coast of Palestine. To deny the crusaders gains from these raids, the Muslims pulled their people back from the coasts and destroyed coastal towns and farms. This depopulated and impoverished the coast of Palestine for hundreds of years. In the mid-1200's, Mamelukes, originally soldier-slaves of the Arabs based in Egypt, established an empire that in time included the area of Palestine. Arab-speaking Muslims made up most of Palestine's population. Beginning in the late 1300's, Jews from Spain and other Mediterranean lands settled in Jerusalem and other parts of the land. The Ottoman Empire defeated the Mamelukes in 1517, and Palestine became part of the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish Sultan invited Jews fleeing the Spanish Catholic inquisition to settle in the Turkish empire, including several cities in Palestine. In 1798, Napoleon entered the land. The war with Napoleon and subsequent misadministration by Egyptian and Ottoman rulers, reduced the population of Palestine. Arabs and Jews fled to safer and more prosperous lands. Revolts by Palestinian Arabs against Egyptian and Ottoman rule at this time may have helped to catalyze Palestinian national feeling. Subsequent reorganization and opening of the Turkish Empire to foreigners restored some order. They also allowed the beginnings of Jewish settlement under various Zionist and proto-Zionist movements. Both Arab and Jewish population increased. By 1880, about 24,000 Jews were living in Palestine, out of a population of about 400,000. At about that time, the Ottoman government imposed severe restrictions on Jewish immigration and land purchase. These were evaded in various ways by Jews seeking to colonize Palestine. The Rise of Zionism - Jews had never stopped coming to "the Holy land" or Palestine in small numbers throughout the exile. Palestine also remained the center of Jewish worship and a part of Jewish culture. However, the Jewish connection with the land was mostly abstract and connected with dreams of messianic redemption. In the nineteenth century new social currents animated Jewish life. The emancipation of European Jews, signaled by the French revolution, brought Jews out of the Ghetto and into the modern world, exposing them to modern ideas. The liberal concepts introduced by emancipation and modern nationalist ideas were blended with traditional
Jewish ideas about Israel and Zion. The marriage of "love of Zion" with modern nationalism took place first among the Sephardic (Spanish and Eastern) Jewish community of Europe. There, the tradition of living in the land of the Jews and return to Zion had remained practical goals rather than messianic aspirations, and Hebrew was a living language. Rabbi Yehuda Alcalay, who lived in what is now Yugoslavia, published the first Zionist writings in the 1840s. Though practically forgotten, these ideas took root among a few European Jews. Emancipation of Jews triggered a new type of virulent anti-Jewish political and social movement in Europe, particularly in Germany and Eastern Europe. Beginning in the late 1800's, oppression of Jews in Eastern Europe stimulated emigration of Jews to Palestine. The Zionist movement became a formal organization in 1897 with the first Zionist congress in Basle, organized by Theodor Herzl. Herzl's grandfather was acquainted with the writings of Alcalay, and it is very probable that Herzl was influenced by them. The Zionists wished to establish a "Jewish Homeland" in Palestine under Turkish or German rule. They were not concerned about the Arab population, which they ignored, or thought would agree to voluntary transfer to other Arab countries. In any case, they envisioned the population of Palestine by millions of European Jews who would soon form a decisive majority in the land. The Zionists established farm communities in Palestine at Petah Tikva, Zichron Jacob, Rishon Letzion and elsewhere. Later they established the new city of Tel Aviv, north of Jaffa. At the same time, Palestine's Arab population grew rapidly. By 1914, the total population of Palestine stood at about 700,000. About 615,000 were Arabs, and 85,000 to 100,000 were Jews. (See population figures). Additional information about Zionism and British Zionism Click here for books about Zionism. Photo history of Zionism Zionism and the Creation of Israel World War I - During World War I (1914-1918), the Ottoman Empire joined Germany and Austria-Hungary against the Allies. An Ottoman military government ruled Palestine. The war was hard on both Jewish and Arab populations, owing to outbreaks of cholera and typhus; however, it was more difficult for the Jews. For a time, the Turkish military governor ordered internment and deportation of all foreign nationals. A large number of Jews were Russian nationals. They had been able to enter Palestine as Russian nationals because of the concessions Turkey had granted to Russian citizens, and they had used this method to overcome restrictions on immigration. They had also maintained Russian citizenship to avoid being drafted into the Turkish army. Therefore, a large number of Jews were forced to flee Palestine during the war. A small group founded the NILI underground that fed intelligence information to the British, in order to free the land of Turkish rule. The Turks eventually caught members of the NILI group, but the information they provided is said to have helped the British invasion effort. Britain and France planned to divide the Ottoman holdings in the Middle East among themselves after the war. The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 called for part of Palestine to be under British rule, part to be placed under a joint Allied government, and for Syria and Lebanon to be given to the France. However, Britain also offered to back Arab demands for postwar independence from the Ottomans in return for Arab support for the Allies and seems to have promised the same territories to the Arabs. In 1916, Arabs led by T.E. Lawrence and backed by Sharif Husayn revolted against the Ottomans in the belief that Britain would help establish Arab independence in the Middle East. Lawrence's exploits and their importance in the war against Turkey were somewhat exaggerated by himself and by the enterprising publicist Lowell Thomas. The United States and other countries pressed for Arab self-determination. The Arabs, and many in the British government including Lawrence, believed that the Arabs had been shortchanged by the British promise to give Syria to the French, and likewise by the promise of Palestine as a Jewish homeland. The Arabs claimed that Palestine was included in the area promised to them, but the British denied this.
The British Mandate for Palestine
The Balfour Declaration - In November 1917, before Britain had conquered Jerusalem and the area to be known as Palestine, Britain issued the Balfour Declaration. The declaration was a letter addressed to Lord Rothschild, based on a request of the Zionist organization in Great Britain. The declaration stated Britain's support for the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine, without violating the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities. The declaration was the result of lobbying by the small British Zionist movement, especially by Dr. Haim Weizmann, who had emigrated from Russia to Britain, but it was motivated by British strategic considerations. Paradoxically, perhaps, a major motivation for the declaration may have been the belief, inspired by anti-Semitism, that international Jewry would come to the aid of the British if they declared themselves in favor of a Jewish homeland, and the fear that the Germans were about to issue such a declaration. After the war, the League of Nations divided much of the Ottoman Empire into mandated territories. The British and French saw the Mandates as instruments of imperial ambitions. US President Wilson insisted that the mandates must foster eventual independence. The British were anxious to keep Palestine away from the French, and decided to ask for a mandate that would implement the Jewish national home of the Balfour declaration, a project that would be supported by the Americans. The Arabs opposed the idea of a Jewish national home, considering that the areas now called Palestine were their land. The Arabs felt they were in danger of dispossession by the Zionists, and did not relish living under Jewish rule. Arabs lobbied the American King-Crane commission, in favor of annexation of the Palestine mandate area to Syria, and later formed a national movement to combat the terms of the Mandate. At the instigation of US President Wilson, the King Crane commission had been sent to hear the views of the inhabitants. At the commission hearings, Aref Pasha Dajani expressed this opinion about the Jews, "Their history and their past proves that it is impossible to live with them. In all the countries where they are at present, they are not wanted...because they always arrive to suck the blood of everybody..." By this time, Zionists had recognized the inevitability of conflict with the Palestinian Arabs. David Ben Gurion, who would lead the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine) and go on to be the first Prime Minister of Israel, told a meeting of the governing body of the Jewish Yishuv in 1919 "But not everybody sees that there is no solution to this question...We as a nation, want this country to be ours, the Arabs as a nation, want this country to be theirs." Click here for books about: The British Mandate Zionism < Palestine & Palestinians The Zionists and others presented their case to the Paris Peace conference. Ultimately, the British plan was adopted. The main issues taken into account were division of rights between Britain and France, rather than the views of the inhabitants. In 1920, Britain received a provisional mandate over Palestine, which would extend west and east of the River Jordan. The area of the mandate (see map at right) given to Britain at the San Remo conference was much larger than historic Palestine as envisaged by the Zionists, who had sought an eastern border to the West of Amman. The mandate, based on the Balfour declaration, was formalized in 1922. The British were to help the Jews build a national home and promote the creation of self-governing institutions. The
mandate provided for an agency, later called "The Jewish Agency for Palestine," that would represent Jewish interests in Palestine to the British and to promote Jewish immigration. A Jewish agency was created only in 1929, delayed by the desire to create a body that represented both Zionist and non-Zionist Jews. The Jewish agency in Palestine became in many respects the de-facto government of the Jewish Yishuv (community). The area granted to the mandate was much larger than the area sought by the Zionists. It is possible, that as Churchill suggested in 1922, the British never intended that all of this area would become a Jewish national home. On the other hand, some believe that Britain had no special plans for Transjordan initially. In his memoirs, Sir Alec Kirkbride, the British representative in Amman, wrote that "There was no intention at that stage  of forming the territory east of the river Jordan into an independent Arab state." (Kirkbride, Alexander, A crackle of thorns, London, 1956 p 19) However, Abdullah, the son of King Husayn of the Hijaz, marched toward Transjordan with 2,000 soldiers. He announced his intention to march to Damascus, remove the French and reinstate the Hashemite monarchy. Sir Alec Kirkbride, had 50 policemen. He asked for guidance from the British High Commissioner, Herbert Samuel, and Samuel eventually replied that it was unlikely Abdullah would enter British controlled areas. Two days later, Abdullah marched north and by March 1921, he occupied the entire country. Abdullah made no attempt to march on Damascus, and perhaps never intended to do so In 1922, the British declared that the boundary of Palestine would be limited to the area west of the river. The area east of the river, called Transjordan (now Jordan), was made a separate British mandate and eventually given independence (See map at right) . A part of the Zionist movement felt betrayed at losing a large area of what they termed "historic Palestine" to Transjordan, and split off to form the "Revisionist" movement, headed by Benjamin Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky. The British hoped to establish self-governing institutions in Palestine, as required by the mandate. The Jews were alarmed by the prospect of such institutions, which would have an Arab majority. However, the Arabs would not accept proposals for such institutions if they included any Jews at all, and so no institutions were created. The Arabs wanted as little as possible to do with the Jews and the mandate, and would not participate in municipal councils, nor even in the Arab Agency that the British wanted to set up. Ormsby-Gore, undersecretary of state for the colonies concluded, "Palestine is largely inhabited by unreasonable people."
Arab Riots and Jewish immigration - In the spring of 1920, spring of 1921 and summer of 1929, Arab nationalists opposed to the Balfour declaration, the mandate and the Jewish National Home, instigated riots and pogroms against Jews in Jerusalem, Hebron, Jaffa and Haifa. The violence led to the formation of the Haganah Jewish self-defense organization in 1920. The riots of 1920 and 1921 reflected opposition to the Balfour declaration and fears that the Arabs of Palestine would be dispossessed, and were probably attempts to show the British that Palestine as a Jewish National home would be ungovernable. The major instigators were Hajj Amin El Husseini, later Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and Arif -El Arif, a prominent Palestinian journalist. The riots of 1929 occurred against the background of Jewish-Arab nationalist antagonism. The Arabs claimed that Jewish immigration and land purchases were displacing and dispossessing the Arabs of Palestine. However, economic, population and other indicators suggest that objectively, the Arabs of Palestine benefited from the Mandate and Zionist investment. Arab standard of living increased faster in Palestine than other areas, and population grew prodigiously throughout the Mandate years. (see Zionism and its Impact). The riots were also fueled by false rumors that the Jews intended to build a synagogue at the wailing wall, or otherwise encroach upon the Muslim rule over the Temple Mount compound, including the Al-Aqsa mosque. The pogroms led to evacuation of most of the Jewish community of Hebron. . The British responded with the Passfield White Paper. The white paper attempted to stop immigration to Palestine based on the recommendations of the Hope Simpson report. That report stated that in the best case, following extensive economic development, the land could support immigration of another 20,000 families in total. Otherwise further Jewish immigration would infringe on the position of the existing Arab population. However, British MPs and the Zionist movement sharply criticized the new policy and PM Ramsay McDonald issued a "clarification" stating that Jewish immigration would not be stopped. Jewish immigration swelled in the 1930s, driven by persecution in Eastern Europe, even before the rise of Nazism. Large numbers of Jews began to come from Poland owing to discriminatory laws and harsh economic conditions. The rise of Hitler in Germany added to this tide of immigration. The Jewish Agency made a deal, the Hesder, that allowed Jews to escape Germany to Palestine in return for hard currency that the Reich needed. The Hesder saved tens of thousands of lives. Arab Revolt and the White Paper - In 1936 widespread rioting, later known as the Arab Revolt or Great Uprising, broke out. The revolt was kindled when British forces killed Izz al din El Qassam in a gun battle. Izz al Din El Qassam was a Syrian preacher who had emigrated to Palestine and was agitating against the British and the Jews. The revolt was coopted by Husseini family and by Fawzi El Kaukji, a former Turkish officer, and it was possibl financed in part by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Thousands of Arabs and hundreds of Jews were killed in the revolt, which spread rapidly owing to initial unpreparedness of the British authorities. About half the 5,000 residents of the Jewish quarter of the old city of Jerusalem were forced to flee, and the remnant of the Hebron Jewish community was evacuated as well. The Husseini family killed both Jews and members of Palestinian Arab families opposed to their hegemony. The Yishuv (Jewish community) responded with both defensive measures, and with random terror and bombings of Arab civilian targets, perpetrated by the Irgun (Irgun Tsvai Leumi or "Etsel,"). Etsel was the military underground of the right-wing dissident "revisionist group" headed first by Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky, who seceded from the Zionist movement, and later by Menachem Begin. The Peel commission of 1937 recommended partitioning Palestine into a small Jewish state and a large Arab one. The commission's recommendations also included voluntary transfer of Arabs and Jews to separate the populations. The Jewish leadership considered the plan but the Palestinian and Arab leadership, including King Saud of Saudi Arabia , rejected partition and demanded that the British curtail Jewish immigration. Saud said that if the British failed to follow Arab wishes in Palestine, the Arabs would turn against them and side with their enemies. He said that Arabs did not
understand the "strange attitude of your British Government, and the still more strange hypnotic influence which the Jews, a race accursed by God according to His Holy Book, and destined to final destruction and eternal damnation hereafter, appear to wield over them and the English people generally." In response to the riots, the British began limiting immigration and the 1939 White Paper decreed that 15,000 Jews would be allowed to enter Palestine each year for five years. Thereafter, immigration would be subject to Arab approval. At the same time, the British took drastic and often cruel steps to curtail the riots. Husseini fled to Iraq, where he was involved in an Axis-supported coup against the British and then to Nazi Germany, where he subsequently broadcast for the Axis powers, was active in curtailing Jewish immigration from neutral countries and organized SS death squads in Yugoslavia. (More about he Arab Revolt or Great Uprising). The Holocaust - During World War II (1939-1945), many Palestinian Arabs and Jews joined the Allied forces. though some Palestinian and Arab leaders were sympathetic to the Nazi cause. Jews had a special motivation for fighting the Nazis because of Nazi persecution of Jews and growing suspicions that the Nazis were systematically exterminating the Jews of Europe. These suspicions were later confirmed, and the extermination of European Jews came to be known as the Holocaust. The threat of extermination also created great pressure for immigration to Palestine, but the gates of Palestine were closed by the British White Paper. In 1941 the British freed Jewish Haganah underground leaders in a general amnesty, and they joined the British in fighting the Germans. Illegal Immigration - The Jews of Palestine responded to the White Paper and the Holocaust by organizing illegal immigration to Palestine from occupied Europe, through the "Institution for Illegal Immigration" (Hamossad L'aliya Beth). Illegal immigration (Aliya Bet) was organized by the Jewish Agency between 1939 and 1942, when a tightened British blockade and stricter controls in occupied Europe made it impractical, and again between 1945 and 1948. Rickety boats full of refugees tried to reach Palestine. Additionally, there were private initiatives, an initiative by the Nazis to deport Jews and an initiative by the US to save European Jews. Many of the ships sank or were caught by the British or the Nazis and turned back, or shipped to Mauritius or other destinations for internment. The Patria (also called "Patra") contained immigrants offloaded from three other ships, for transshipment to the island of Mauritius. To prevent transshipment, the Haganah placed a small explosive charge on the ship on November 25, 1940. They thought the charge would damage the engines. Instead, the ship sank, and over 250 lives were lost. A few weeks later, the SS Bulgaria docked in Haifa with 350 Jewish refugees and was ordered to return to Bulgaria. The Bulgaria capsized in the Turkish straits, killing 280. The Struma, a vessel that had left Constanta in Rumania with about 769 refugees, got to Istanbul on December 16, 1941. There, it was forced to undergo repairs of its engine and leaking hull. The Turks would not grant the refugees sanctuary. The British would not approve transshipment to Mauritius or entry to Palestine. On February 24, 1942, the Turks ordered the Struma out of the harbor. It sank with the loss of 428 men, 269 women and 70 children. It had been torpedoed by a Soviet submarine, either because it was mistaken for a Nazi ship, or more likely, because the Soviets had agreed to collaborate with the British in barring Jewish immigration. Illegal immigration continued until late in the war, apparently without the participation of the Mossad 'aliya Bet. Despite the many setbacks, tens of thousands of Jews were saved by the illegal immigration. The Biltmore Declaration - Reports of Nazi atrocities became increasingly frequent and vivid. Despite the desperate need to find a haven for refugees, the doors of Palestine remained shut to Jewish immigration. The Zionist leadership met in the Biltmore Hotel in New York City in 1942 and declared that it supported the establishment of Palestine as a Jewish Commonwealth. This was not simply a return to the Balfour declaration repudiated by the British White Paper, but rather a restatement of Zionist
aims that went beyond the Balfour declaration, and a determination that the British were in principle, an enemy to be fought, rather than an ally. Assassination of Lord Moyne - On November 6, members of the Jewish Lehi underground Eliyahu Hakim and Eliyahu Bet Zuri assassinated Lord Moyne in Cairo. Moyne, a known anti-Zionist, was Minister of State for the Middle East and in charge of carrying out the terms of the 1939 White Paper - preventing Jewish immigration to Palestine by force. The assassination did not change British policy, but it turned Winston Churchill against the Zionists. Hakim and Bet Zuri were caught and were hanged by the British in 1945. The Season ("Sezon") - The Jewish Agency and Zionist Executive believed that British and world reaction to the assassination of Lord Moyne could jeopardize cooperation after the war, that had been hinted at by the British, and might endanger the Jewish Yishuv if they came to be perceived as enemies of Britain and the allies. Therefore they embarked on a campaign against the Lehi and Irgun, known in Hebrew as the "Sezon" ("Season"). Members of the underground were to be ostracized. Leaders were caught by the Haganah, interrogated and sometimes tortured, and about a thousand persons were turned over to the British. Displaced Persons - After the war, it was discovered that the Germans had murdered about six million Jews in Europe, in the Holocaust. These people had been trapped in Europe, because virtually no country would give them shelter. The Zionists felt that British restriction of immigration to Palestine had cost hundreds of thousands of lives. The Jews were now desperate to bring the remaining Jews of Europe, about 250,000 people being held in displaced persons camps, to Palestine. United Resistance - In the summer of 1945, the Labor party came to power in Great Britain. They had promised that they would reverse the British White Paper and would support a Jewish state in Palestine. However, they presently reneged on their promise, and continued and redoubled efforts to stop Jewish immigration. The Haganah attempted to bring immigrants into Palestine illegally. The rival Zionist underground groups now united, and all of them, in particular the Irgun and Lehi ("Stern gang") dissident terrorist groups, used force to try to drive the British out of Palestine. This included bombing of trains, train stations, an officers club and British headquarters in the King David Hotel, as well as kidnapping and murder of British personnel. In Britain, newspapers and politicians began to demand that the government settle the conflict and stop endangering the lives of British troops. The US and other countries brought pressure to bear on the British to allow immigration. An Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry recommended allowing 100,000 Jews to immigrate immediately to Palestine. The Arabs brought pressure on the British to block such immigration. The British found Palestine to be ungovernable and returned the mandate to the United Nations, successor to the League of Nations. The report of the Anglo-American Committee provided a detailed summary of the British mandate period and the security situation in Palestine, as well as a report on the effects of the Holocaust and the condition of European Jewry.
Partition - The United Nations Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) recommended that Palestine be divided into an Arab state and a Jewish state. The commission called for Jerusalem to be put under international administration The UN General Assembly adopted this plan on Nov. 29, 1947 as UN Resolution (GA 181), owing to support of both the US and the Soviet Union, and in particular, the personal support of US President Harry S. Truman. Many factors contributed to Truman's decision to support partition, including domestic politics and intense Zionist lobbying, no doubt. Truman wrote in his diary, however, "I think the proper thing to do, and the thing I have been doing, is to do what I think is right and let them all go to hell." The Jews accepted the UN decision, but the Arabs rejected it. The resolution divided the land into two approximately equal portions in a complicated scheme with zig-zag borders (see map at right and see Partition Map and detailed partition map). The intention was an economic union between the two states with open borders. At the time of partition, slightly less than half the land in all of Palestine was owned by Arabs, slightly less than half was "crown lands" belonging to the state, and about 8% was owned by Jews or the Jewish Agency. There were about 600,000 Jews in Palestine, almost all living in the areas allotted to the Jewish state or in the internationalized zone of Jerusalem, and about 1.2 million Arabs. The allocation of land by Resolution 181 was intended to produce two areas with Jewish and Arab majorities respectively. Jerusalem and environs were to be internationalized. The relatively large Jewish population of Jerusalem and the surroundings, about 100,000, were geographically cut off from the rest of the Jewish state, separated by a relatively large area, the "corridor," allotted to the Palestinian state. The corridor included the populous Arab towns of Lod and Ramla and the smaller towns of Qoloniyeh, Emaus, Qastel and others that guarded the road to Jerusalem. (Click for Large Detailed Map) It soon became evident that the scheme could not work. Mutual antagonism would make it impossible for either community to tolerate the other. The UN was unwilling and unable to force implementation of the internationalization of Jerusalem. The Arab League, at the instigation of Haj Amin Al-Husseini, declared a war to rid Palestine of the Jews. In fact however, the Arab countries each had separate agendas. Abdullah, king of Jordan, had an informal and secret agreement with Israel, negotiated with Golda Meir, to annex the portions of Palestine allocated to the Palestinian state in the West Bank, and prevent formation of a Palestinian state. Syria wanted to annex the northern part of Palestine, including Jewish and Arab areas.
Click here for books about Modern Israel The War of Independence - 1948 War (the 'Nakba') - The War of Independence or 1948 War is divided into the pre-independence period, and the post-independence period. Clashes between Israeli underground groups and Arab irregulars began almost as soon as the UN passed the partition resolution. During this time, Arab countries did not invade, though the Jordan legion did assist the in the attack against Gush Etzion, a small block of settlements in the territory allocated to the Palestinian state, south of Jerusalem.
Pre-Independence - During the period before Israeli independence was declared, two armies of Arab irregular volunteers, let by Haj Amin El Husseini in the Jerusalem area, and by Fawzi El Kaukji in the Galilee, placed their fighters in Arab towns and conducted various aggressive operations against the Jewish towns and village under the eyes of the British. Kaukji and his irregulars were allowed into Palestine from Syria by the British, with the agreement that he would not engage in military actions, but he soon broke the agreement and attacked across the Galilee. The Arab irregulars were met by the Zionist underground army, the Haganah, and by the underground groups of the "dissident" factions, Irgun and Lehi. In Jerusalem, Arab riots broke out on November 30 and December 1 1947. Palestinian irregulars cut off the supply of food, water and fuel to Jerusalem during a long siege that began in late 1947. Fighting and violence broke out immediately throughout the country, including ambushes of transportation, the Jerusalem blockade, riots such as the Haifa refinery riots, and massacres that took place at Gush Etzion (by Palestinians) and in Deir Yassin (by Jews). Arab Palestinians began leaving their towns and villages to escape the fighting. Notably, most of the Arab population of Haifa left in March and April of 1948, despite pleas by both Jewish and British officials to stay. The British did little to stop the fighting, but the scale of hostilities was limited by lack of arms and trained soldiers on both sides. Initially, the Palestinians had a clear advantage, and a Haganah intelligence report of March, 1948 indicated that the situation was critical, especially in the Jerusalem area. It is generally agreed that April 1948 marked a turning point in the fighting before the invasion by Arab armies, in favor of the initially outnumbered and outgunned Jewish forces. To break the siege of Jerusalem, the Haganah prematurely activated "Plan Dalet" - a plan prepared for general defense that was supposed to have been implemented when the British had left. It required use of regular armed forces and army tactics, fighting in the open, rather than as an underground. It also envisioned the "temporary" evacuation of Arab civilians from towns in certain strategic areas, such as the Jerusalem corridor. This provision has been cited as evidence that the Zionists planned for the exodus and expulsion of Arab civilians in advance. The Haganah mounted its first full scale operation, Operation Nahshon, using 1,500 troops. It attacked the Arab villages of Qoloniyah and Qastel, occupied by Arab irregular forces after the villagers had fled, on the road to Jerusalem and temporarily broke the siege, allowing convoys of supplies to reach the city. Qastel fell on April 8, and the key Palestinian military commander, Abdel Khader Al-Husseini was killed there. Qoloniyeh fell on April 11. In the north, Fawzi El-Kaukji's "Salvation Army" was beaten back at the battle of Mishmar Haemeq on April 12, 1948. These successes helped convince US President Truman that the Jews would not be overrun by Arab forces, and he abandoned the trusteeship proposal that the US had put before the UN earlier. Following attacks by Arab irregulars, the Irgun attacked the Arab town of Jaffa, just south of Tel Aviv. Palestinians fled en masse despite the pleas of the British to remain. The Arab Invasion - The governments of neighboring Arab states were more reluctant than is generally assumed to enter the war against Israel, despite bellicose declarations. However, fear of popular pressure combined with fear that other Arab states would gain an advantage over them by fighting in Palestine, helped sway Syria, Jordan and Egypt to go to war. While officially they were fighting according to one plan, in fact there was little coordination between them. On May 14, 1948, the Jews proclaimed the independent State of Israel, and the British withdrew from Palestine. In the following days and weeks, neighboring Arab nations invaded Palestine and Israel (click here for map). The fighting was conducted in several brief periods, punctuated by cease fire agreements ( truces were declared June 11 to July 8, 1948 and July 19- October 15, 1948).
In the initial stage, notable successes were scored by the Egyptian and Syrian armies. In particular, the Egyptians, backed by tanks, artillery, armor and aircraft, which Israel did not have, were able to cut off the entire Negev and to occupy parts of the land that had been allocated to the Jewish state. In his book, "In the Fields of Phillistia," Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery recounts how the Egyptian army attempted a massed armored strike against Tel Aviv. Palestinian attempts to set up a real state were blocked by Egypt and Jordan. Jordan kept to its agreement not to invade areas allocated to the Jewish state, but Syria and Egypt did not. The strike was turned back by a few recently arrived Messerchmidt aircraft, bought from Czechoslovakia. The Syrians made some advances into the territory that had been allotted to the Palestinian state. While Jordan did not invade Jewish territory, the Arab Legion blocked convoys to besieged Jewish Jerusalem from its fortified positions in Latroun. Jerusalem was to have been internationalized according to UN General Assembly Resolution 181 and UN General Assembly Resolution 303.The Jordanian positions at Latroun (or Latrun) could not be overcome despite several bloody attacks. To get around it, the Israelis ultimately built a "Burma Road' that was completed in June of 1948 and broke the siege of Jerusalem. The first cease fire and the Altalena - A cease fire in June gave all sides time to regroup and reorganize. This marked a critical stage in the fighting. The Arab side made a crucial error in accepting the truce. The Israelis took advantage of the cease fire to reorganize and recruit and train soldiers. They were now able to bring in large shiploads of arms, despite the treaty terms, and to train and organize a real fighting force of 60,000 troops, giving them a real advantage in troops and armament for the first time. The truce probably saved Jerusalem, which had been on the brink of starvation. During the long truce, the underground armies of the Haganah, Palmah, Irgun and Lehi were amalgamated into a single national fighting force, the Israel Defense Force (IDF). The revisionist Irgun movement attempted to bring a shipload of arms into Israel on a ship called the Altalena, in order to maintain a separate fighting force. Israeli PM Ben Gurion ordered the IDF to sink the Altalena when Irgun leader Menahem Begin refused to give up its cargo of arms. The Palestinians and Arabs did not use the time well. A large shipment of arms intended for the Palestinians was blocked by the IDF/Haganah and never reached Syria. Arab states were reluctant to commit more men to the struggle or to spend more money. Resumption of the war - The war with the Egyptians had been static, as they were isolated in the "Falluja" pocket in central Israel. After the cease fire expired, Israel took the war with the Egyptians to their territory and entered the Sinai peninsula. The IDF was forced to withdraw after encounters with British aircraft. In the center, the IDF cut a swath of land to open the "corridor" between Jerusalem and the rest of Israel. During the "ten days" period of fighting between the two truces, they invaded the Arab towns of Lod and Ramla that had been blocking the road to Jerusalem and expelled most of the Palestinians living there, after killing a large number. They destroyed numerous small Palestinian villages surrounding Tel-Aviv, so that virtually no Palestinians were left in central Israel. (Click here for a map of Palestine before 1948) The Arab defeat and the birth of the refugee problem - Despite initial setbacks, better organization and intelligence successes, as well as timely clandestine arms shipments, enabled the Jews to gain
Map of the Israel "Green
a decisive victory. The Arabs and Palestinians lost their initial advantage when they failed to organize and unite. When the fighting ended in 1949, Israel held territories beyond the boundaries set by the UN plan - a total of 78% of the area west of the Jordan river. The UN made no serious attempt to enforce the internationalization of Jerusalem, which was now divided between Jordan and Israel, and separated by barbed wire fences and no man's land areas. Click here to view a map of the UN plan for Jerusalem and Jerusalem as divided under the armistice agreements. The rest of the area assigned to the Arab state was occupied by Egypt and Jordan. Egypt held the Gaza Strip and Jordan held the West Bank. About 726,000 Arabs fled or were driven out of Israel and became refugees in neighboring Arab countries. The conflict created about as many Jewish refugees from Arab countries, many of whom were stripped of their property, rights and nationality, but Israel has not pursued claims on behalf of these refugees (see Jewish refugees of the Arab-Israel conflict). The Arab countries refused to sign a permanent peace treaty with Israel. Consequently, the borders of Israel established by the armistice commission never received de jure (legal) international recognition. Arabs call the defeat and exile of the Palestinian Arabs in 1948 the Nakba (disaster). The UN arranged a series of cease-fires between the Arabs and the Jews in 1948 and 1949. UN GA Resolution 194 called for cessation of hostilities and return of refugees who wish to live in peace. Security Council Resolution 62 called for implementation of armistice agreements that would lead to a permanent peace. The borders of Israel were established along the "green line" of the armistice agreements of 1949. (Click here for a map of the armistice lines (so called "green line") . These borders were not recognized by Arab states, which continued to refuse to recognize Israel. Though hostilities ceased, the refugee problem was not solved. Negotiations broke down because Israel refused to readmit more than a small number of refugees. The USSR, initially in favor of the Zionist state, now aligned itself with the Arab countries. Despite continued US support for the existence of Israel, US aid to Israel was minimal and did not include military aid during the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were equipped with surplus arms purchased third hand and with French aircraft and light armor. The Arab countries, especially Syria and Egypt, began receiving large quantities of Soviet military aid. The Arab League instituted an economic boycott against Israel that was partly honored by most industrial nations and continued in force until the 1990s.
The Sinai Campaign - Following the overthrow of King Farouk of Egypt by the free officers headed by Naguib and Nasser, Egypt made some moves toward peace with Israel. However, in 1954, an Israeli spy ring was caught trying to blow up the US Information agency and other foreign institutions in Egypt. The goal was to create tension between the US and Egypt and prevent rapprochement. In Israel, both Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon and Prime Minister David Ben Gurion disclaimed responsibility for the action, and blamed each other. This incident came to be known variously as "the Lavon affair" and "the shameful business." (click here for details). Egypt became suspicious of Israeli intentions, and began negotiating to purchase large quantities of arms. When they were turned down by the West, the Egyptians turned to the Eastern bloc countries and concluded a deal with Czechoslovakia. Egyptian President Gamal Nasser also closed the straits of Tiran and Suez Canal to Israeli shipping. Israeli strategists believed that Egypt would go to war or force a diplomatic showdown as soon the weapons had been integrated, and began looking for a source of arms as well. Israel concluded an arms deal with France. A series of border incursions by Palestinians and by Egyptians from Gaza evoked increasingly severe Israeli reprisals, triggering larger raids. The assessment of Israeli "activists" like Moshe Dayan was that Israel should wage preventive war before Egypt had fully integrated the new weapons. In the summer of 1956, Israel, France and Britain colluded in a plan to reverse the nationalization of the Suez canal. Israel would invade the Sinai and land paratroopers near the Mitla pass. Britain and France would issue an ultimatum, and then land troops ostensibly to separate the sides. The plan was carried out beginning October 29, 1956. Israel swiftly conquered Sinai. The US was furious at Israel, Britain and France. UN General Assembly Resolution 997 called for immediate withdrawal. Israeli troops remained in Sinai for many months. Israel subsequently withdrew under pressure from the UN and in particular the United States. Israel obtained guarantees that international waterways would remain open to Israeli shipping from the US, and a UN force was stationed in Sinai.
Sinai Campaign - Map
The beginning of the Fatah - Yasser Arafat, an Egyptian Palestinian who grew up in the Gaza strip and had been a member of the Ikhwan (Muslim Brothers) and the Futuwwah or Futtuwah (officially called "Nazi Scouts" according to Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, 1999, page 124, Palestinian armed faction of Grand Mufti Hajj Amin El Husseini) was recruited by Egyptian intelligence while studying in Cairo in 1955, and founded the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS). In 1957 he moved to Kuwait and together with Khalil Al Wazir (Abu Jihad) Farouq Qadumi, Khalid al Hassan and others founded the Palestine Liberation Committee, later renamed the Fatah
(reverse acronym for Harakat Tahrir Filistin - the Palestine Liberation Movement) modeled on the Algerian FLN. The 1967 6-Day War - Tension began developing between Israel and Arab countries in the 1960s. Israel began to implement its National Water Carrier plan, which pumps water from the Sea of Galilee to irrigate south and central Israel. The project was in accordance with a plan proposed by US envoy Eric Johnston in 1955, and agreed to by Arab engineers. Arab governments refused to participate however, because of the implied recognition of Israel. In secret meetings, Israel and Jordan agreed to abide by the water quotas set by the plan. The newly formed Palestinian Fatah movement seized on the Israeli diversion as an "imperialist event" that would catalyze their revolution, and Yasser Arafat began calling for war to eliminate Israel. In the Fatah newspaper, Filistinunah, ("our Palestine") Arafat ridiculed Egyptian President Nasser and other Arab leaders for their impotence, and called for effective action against Israel. Nasser decided to found the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a "tame" alternative to the Fatah, and placed Ahmed Shukhairy, an ineffective and bombastic diplomat at its head. The Syrians, who had broken with Nasser's pan-Arabism, countered by supporting Fatah and attempted to take over the Fatah group. Syrian army intelligence recruited terrorists for actions against Israel, giving credit for the operations to Fatah. The first of these actions was announced on December 31, 1964, an attack on the Israel water carrier at Beit Netopha, but in fact no attack had taken place. A second attempt was made on January 2, 1965, but the explosives charge was disarmed. However, successful attacks soon followed on January 14 and February 28. These minor terrorist activities received great publicity in the Arab world, and were contrasted with the lack of action and bombastic talk of Gamal Nasser, challenging Nasser's leadership. This ferment is considered the catalyst of the events that brought about the 6-day war. It is a moot point whether it is to be attributed to Syrian rivalry with Nasser, or as Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians claim, to the Fatah movement. Faced with the "heroic" deeds of the Palestinians under Syrian tutelage, Nasser was pushed to an increasingly bellicose stance. In several summit conferences beginning in 1964, Arab leaders ratified the establishment of the PLO, declared their resolve to destroy Israel, and decided to divert the sources of the Jordan river that feed the Sea of Galilee, to prevent Israel from implementing the water carrier plan. The Syrians and Lebanese began to implement the diversions. Israel responded by firing on the tractors and equipment doing the work in Syria, using increasingly accurate and longer range guns as the Syrians moved the equipment from the border. This was followed by Israeli attempts to cultivate the demilitarized zones (DMZ) as provided in the armistice agreements. Israel was within its rights according to the armistice agreements, but Moshe Dayan claimed many years later that 80% of the incidents were deliberately provoked. The Syrians responded by firing in the DMZs (Click here for a map of the demilitarized zones). When Israelis responded in force, Syria began shelling Israeli towns in the north, and the conflict escalated into air strikes. The USSR was intent on protecting the new Ba'athist pro-Soviet government of Syria, and represented to the Syrians and Egyptians that Israel was preparing to attack Syria. As tension rose, Syria appealed to Egypt, believing the claim of the USSR that Israel was massing troops on the Syrian border. The claim was false and was denied by the UN. Against this background, in Mid-May, 1967, Egyptian President Gamal Nasser began making bellicose statements. On May 16, 1967, a Radio Cairo broadcast stated: "The existence of Israel has continued too long. We welcome the Israeli aggression. We welcome the battle we have long awaited. The peak hour has come. The battle has come in which we shall destroy Israel." On the same day, Egypt asked for the withdrawal of the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) from Sinai and the Gaza Strip. UN Secretary General U Thant agreed to remove the troops on May 18. Formally, the troops could only be stationed in Egypt with Egyptian agreement. However, for a long
time it was believed that Nasser had really hoped U Thant would not remove the troops, and that he could use the presence of the UN troops as an excuse to do nothing. On May 23, Nasser closed the straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. The United States failed to live up to its guarantees of freedom of the waterways to Israel. A torrent of rhetoric issued from Arab capitals and in the UN. At the UN, PLO Chairman Ahmed Shukhairy announced that "if it will be our privilege to strike the first blow" the PLO would expel from Palestine all Zionists who had arrived after 1917 and eliminate the state of Israel. In a speech to Arab Trade Unionists on May 26, 1967, Nasser justified the dismissal of the UNEF, and made it clear that Egypt was prepared to fight Israel for Palestinian rights. He also attacked the Jordanians as tools of the imperialists, stepping up the constant pressure on Jordan's King Hussein. Despite the bellicose rhetoric, analysts such as Avi Shlaim (The Iron Wall) and others believe that each country was dragged into the conflict by inter-Arab rivalry and did not contemplate a war. Nasser never intended to attack Israel according to Shlaim. He had been dragged into the conflict by Soviet maneuvers and Syrian fears and his need to claim leadership of the Arab world according to them. Be that as it may, according to Michael Oren, recently declassified documents reveal that the Egyptians in fact planned to attack Israel on May 28, 1967. The plan, codenamed operation Dawn, was discovered by Israel. The Israelis told the Americans. US President Johnson told Soviet Premier Kosygin, and Kosygin wrote to Nasser. Nasser understood that he had lost the element of surprise and called off the attack. Nonetheless, on May 29, 1967, Nasser was still speaking of confrontation with Israel. He told members of the Egyptian National Assembly, "God will surely help and urge us to restore the situation to what it was in 1948." IDF officers began pressuring the civilian establishment to declare war, because it was considered that an Arab attack might be imminent, and because Israel's ability to maintain its army fully mobilized is limited, but Prime Minister Eshkol was reluctant to take action, and Foreign Minister Abba Eban opposed unilateral action, which he believed would be against the wishes of the United States. Ariel Sharon now admits that he and others, including Yitzhak Rabin, had discussed the possibility of a sort of coup, in which government officials were to be locked in a room, while the army started the war, but the idea never got passed the stage of thinking out loud. On May 30, Jordan signed a defense pact with Egypt, readying itself for war. King Hussein stated: "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." On June 4, Iraq likewise joined a military alliance with Egypt and committed itself to war. On May 31, the Iraqi President Rahman Aref announced, "This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear--to wipe Israel off the map." US and Israeli assessments were that Israel would win any war handily, despite the huge superiority in armor, aircraft, and troops favoring the combined forces of the Arab countries. Prior to 1967, Israel had gotten almost no military aid from the United States. Egypt and Syria were equipped with large quantities of the latest Soviet military equipment. Israel's main arms supplier was France. On paper, Israel had almost as many aircraft as the Egyptians, but the Israeli aircraft were mostly old, and even the Super-Mirages were no match for the Mig-21 fighters acquired by Egypt from the USSR. On paper, the IDF had a large number of "tanks" matching or almost matching the arms of the Arab countries. However, while Syrians and Egyptians were equipped with late model Soviet heavy tanks, many of the Israeli "tanks" were in fact tiny French
AMX anti-tank vehicles, and the heavy tanks were refurbished WWII Sherman tanks fitted with diesel engines. Israel had also been allowed to purchase about 250 M-48 Patton tanks from Germany in 1965. Most of these tanks were being refitted with Diesel engines in 1967, and the US refused an Israeli request for 100 Pattons to replace the ones that were out of service. The Israeli and Jewish public, and some in the government, believed that there was a mortal threat to Israel. Ten thousand graves were dug in Tel Aviv public parks in anticipation of the heavy casualties. The Israeli government probably did not want war, and some at least were fearful of war. Ben Gurion berated Chief of Staff Itzhak Rabin for making aggressive statements that had, according to him, escalated the conflict and gotten Israel into trouble. Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol appeared hesitant, and stuttered in a dramatic radio speech to the nation. Under great public pressure from opposition parties, a unity government was formed. Foreign Minister Abba Eban tried in vain to obtain from the US a guarantee that they would reopen the straights of Tiran. At first, President Johnson promised an international flotilla, and warned Israel not to attack on its own. However, the US was unable to initiate any international action, and reversed its position, hinting broadly that Israel would have to handle the problem itself. Israel could not maintain total mobilization indefinitely. When it became apparent that Egypt would not stand down, Israel attacked the Egyptians beginning on June 5, 1967. In the first hours of the war, Israel destroyed over 400 enemy aircraft to achieve total air superiority. Israeli troops quickly conquered the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza. Jordanian artillery began firing at Jerusalem on the first day of the war, despite a warning by Israeli PM Levi Eshkol to stay out of the war, and then the Jordan Legion advanced and took over the headquarters of the UN (Governor's house - Armon Hanatziv ) in Jerusalem. After warning King Hussein repeatedly to cease fire and withdraw, Israel conquered the West Bank and Jerusalem. During the first days of the war, Syrian artillery based in the Golan Heights pounded civilian targets in northern Israel. After dealing with Egypt, Israel decided to conquer the Golan heights, despite opposition and doubts of some in the government, including Moshe Dayan, who had been appointed defense minister. (see map of territories occupied in 1967) and despite the fact that the UN had already called for a cease fire. Israel agreed to a cease fire on June 10, 1967 after conquering the Golan Heights. UN Resolution 242 called for negotiations of a permanent peace between the parties, and for Israeli withdrawal from lands occupied in 1967. More details here: Six day war 1967 Six Day War Timeline (chronology)
The aftermath of the war - The 1967 6-Day war changed the perceived balance of power in the Middle East and created a new reality. Israel had acquired extensive territories - the Sinai desert, the Golan heights and the West Bank, that were several times larger than the 1948 borders. (Click here to view a map of Israeli borders after the 6 day war). Nasser had been able to attribute the Egyptian defeat in 1956 to British and French support of the Israelis. Though he tried to blame the 1967 defeat on support supposedly given by the US Sixth fleet, this was clearly untrue. According to analysts such as Fouad Ajami, the disastrous defeat of the Arabs spelled the end of the Pan-Arab approach advocated by Gamal Abdul Nasser and contributed to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. It should be remembered however, that Nasser and the pan-Arabists always viewed themselves as heads of the Islamic world as well as the Arab world. While Israel had acquired territories and a military victory, it also marked a new day for Palestinian aspirations. The defeat brought about a million Palestinian Arabs under Israeli rule. After the war, the fate of the Palestinians came to play a large role in the Arab-Israeli struggle. The Fatah organization (The Movement for Liberation of Palestine) was founded about 1957 (though it was formalized much later), and the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) was founded in 1964. Both had the declared aim of destroying Israel. After the 6-day war, Ahmad Shukairy, who had headed the PLO, was replaced as chairman by Yasser Arafat who headed the Fatah. Fatah and the PLO now had freedom of action, without the restraints of the discredited Arab regimes. Since all parts of Palestine were now under Israeli control, Fatah actions did not directly threaten Arab governments. In time, the Palestine Liberation Organization became recognized by all the Arab states and eventually by the UN as the representative of the Palestinian people. PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat addressed a session of the UN General Assembly in 1974. Israel strongly opposed the PLO because of its terrorist acts against Jews and because of its charter aims of destroying the state of Israel and expelling Jews who had arrived after 1917.
Map of Israel-Arab Cease Fire Lines 1967
The Israeli government was undecided concerning its plans for the territories. The United States pressured Israel to make a statement calling for withdrawal from the conquered territories in return for peace. On June 19, 1967, the government decided to offer Egypt and Syria return of the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights for a peace settlement to be negotiated directly. The offer apparently did not include the Gaza strip, and called for demilitarization of Sinai. In the Golan, Israel offered to withdraw to the international border rather than the 1949 armistice lines, not including the territory conquered by Syria in 1948. J ordan and the West Bank were not mentioned. The offer was transmitted in secret through the United States, but was turned down. Egypt and Syria refused to negotiate with Israel. At the request of Jordan's King Hussein, Ya'akov Herzog met with him in the offices of his physician in London, on the evening of July 2, 1967. According to Herzog's notes of
the meeting, Hussein discussed the reasons why he had been forced to go to war at length. He said that if there were to be peace, there would have to be peace with honor, however he did not ask for peace. He did not reply when Herzog asked him if he was offering peace, but said he would reply in time. Israel did not have a concrete peace proposal for Jordan. Herzog offered his private view, that there should be an economic confederation. (This meeting is documented in Segev, Tom, Israel in 1967 (1967: Veharetz shinta et paneiha - in Hebrew only), 2005, pp 530-536). Religious and nationalist groups began agitating for annexation and settlement of areas in the West Bank and Golan heights. Some government ministers including Pinchas Sapir, Zalman Aran of the Labor party and the NRP's Yaakov Shimshon Shapira feared the demographic problems that would arise from conquering all those Arabs. Shapira also pointed out that annexing the West Bank would lend credence to claims that Israel was a colonialist enterprise. Menachem Begin and Yigal Alon favored annexation. Moshe Dayan proposed that the Arabs of the West Bank should be given autonomy, but Menachem Begin, who was later to favor the plan, objected. He believed large numbers of Jews could now be brought to Israel to settle the territories, and the Arabs would be given a choice between becoming citizens or leaving. The Mossad had proposed a Palestinian state under Israeli protection in a report dated June 14, 1967 (Segev, 1967, pp 537-538), but this was not accepted. According to some sources, in the summer of 1967, Moshe Dayan received a delegation of notables who proposed self-rule for the West Bank, but he rejected the offer. By July 1967, Yigal Alon had submitted his "Alon Plan" which called for Israeli retention of large parts of the West Bank in any peace settlement for strategic reasons. An increasing number of settlements were established as it became evident that Arab states would not negotiate with Israel. A decisive turning point was the Khartoum Arab summit, in August and September of 1967, which seemed to shut the door on the possibility of negotiations with Israel or recognition of Israel in any form. The Khartoum resolutions may not have been an insurmountable barrier to peace. In 1970, King Hussein of Jordan supposedly offered to make peace in return for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and return of the holy places, but the offer was politely turned down. A second landmark was the "Zionism is Racism" resolution passed by the United Nations in 1975, which gave credibility in Israel to claims of Israeli extremists that opposition to settlements was opposition to Israel, and that Israel was essentially alone in a hostile world and could expect no justice. The resolution was repealed in 1991, but similar sentiments surfaced at a UN conference in Durban in 2001. Likewise in November 1975, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Harold H Saunders, told a US House Committee that the US now recognized the importance of the Palestinian national issue in the conflict, and hinted broadly that the US would be willing to facilitate a solution that took account of Palestinian rights, if the PLO would recognize the relevant UN resolutions, including Israel's right to exist, and would be amenable to a reasonable compromise. This policy was to bear fruit eventually in the Oslo Peace Process, after PLO Chairman Arafat announced PLO acceptance of UN Resolution 242 in 1988. Meanwhile however, settlement expansion became official Israeli policy after the opposition revisionist Likud party came to power in 1977, and continued during the Oslo accords. As of 2003, about 220,000 Israelis had settled in areas of the West Bank and Gaza, and an additional 200,000 were settled in areas of Jerusalem and environs conquered in 1967. About 15,000 Jews were settled in the Golan heights taken from Syria. (Click for Map of Israeli West Bank Settlements-2002) The War of Attrition - After the 6-Day war, Egyptian president Nasser launched the war of attrition on the Suez canal, breaking the cease fire. In Israel, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol had died and was replaced by the hawkish Golda Meir. The sides fought to a standstill in increasingly bloody exchanges that included participation by Soviet pilots
on the Egyptian side. Under US pressure, a second cease fire was signed in August 1970, with both sides declaring officially their acceptance of UN Resolution 242. Nasser died shortly thereafter, and was replaced by Anwar Sadat. Sadat tried repeatedly to interest Israel in partial peace deals in return for partial Israeli withdrawal, and the US and UN tried to mediate peace through the offices of Gunnar Jarring. Nothing came of these peace efforts, partly owing to the stubborn attitude of Israeli PM Golda Meir, who insisted that Israeli troops would not budge until there was a peace agreement in place. Sadat continued to alternate peace plans with threats of war, but he was not taken seriously in Israel. Israeli army intelligence as well as the government were convinced that Israel had absolute military superiority and that Egypt would not dare to attack until it had rebuilt its army. Therefore, the best course seemed to be to wait until the Arab countries met Israel's terms. The October War (Yom Kippur War) - In October 1973, Egypt and Syria launched another war against Israel, after the Israeli government headed by Golda Meir rebuffed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's offers to negotiate a settlement. The Egyptians crossed the Suez Canal on the afternoon of October 6, Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish religious calendar. The Israeli government had ignored repeated intelligence warnings. They were convinced that Israeli arms were a sufficient deterrent to any aggressor. Sadat had twice announced his intention to go to war, but nothing had happened. When the intelligence reports were finally believed, on the morning of the attack, PM Meir and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan decided not to mobilize reserves. The Israelis were caught by surprise in more ways than one. Egyptians poured huge numbers of troops across the canal unopposed and began setting up a beachhead. The Israel Army had neglected basic maintenance tasks and drill. As troops mustered, it became apparent that equipment was missing and tanks were out of commission. The line of outposts built as watch posts along the Suez canal - the Bar Lev line, was used instead as a line of fortifications intended to hold off the Egyptians as long as possible. A tiny number of soldiers faced the Egyptian onslaught and were wiped out after stubborn resistance. The Soviets had sold the Egyptians new technology - better surface to air missiles (SAM) and hand held Sager anti-tank weapons. Israel had counted on air power to tip the balance on the battlefield, and had neglected artillery. But the air-force was initially neutralized because of the effectiveness of SAM missiles, until Israel could destroy the radar stations controlling them. Futile counterattacks continued in Sinai for several days as Israeli divisions coped with traffic jams that prevented concentration of forces, and with effective Egyptian resistance. Meanwhile, less than 200 Israeli tanks were left guarding the Golan heights against far superior numbers. Syrians made serious and at first unopposed inroads in the Golan as Egyptians crossed the Suez canal and retook a strip of the Sinai peninsula. After suffering heavily losses, Israel reconquered the Golan. Click for map of Syrian Front In Sinai, Israel troops crossed the canal. General Ariel Sharon, disobeying the orders of cautious superiors, tried to run ahead of logistics and support to develop the bridgehead on the Egyptian side of the Suez canal. This small force was reinforced after bridges were put across the canal, and the Israelis cut off the entire Egyptian third army. (Click for map of Egyptian front ) Cease-fires ended most of the fighting within a month. About 2,700 Israeli soldiers and 8,500 Arab soldiers died in the war As a result of the war, the Golda Meir was forced to resign as Prime Minister of Israel, making way for Yitzhak Rabin, who had been Israeli ambassador to the US and previously Chief of staff of the IDF. Click for details of the Yom Kippur War Oil Embargo - In the aftermath of the Yom Kippur war, Arab states led by Saudi Arabia declared an oil embargo, targeting the United States and the Netherlands in particular for their support for Israel. Oil production was reduced by 340 million barrels from October to December of 1973. Prices soared from $3 to over $11 a barrel, due to panic stockpiling as well as actual shortages. Oil sold to European countries eventually
made its way to the United States and the Netherlands in any case, but there were nonetheless long lines for gasoline and overnight price increases. The embargo continued until March of 1974. The embargo heightened the perception that Arab countries could exercise political leverage by controlling the oil supply. It probably helped motivate European diplomatic moves that were conciliatory to the Arabs, and played a part in the invitation of Yasser Arafat to address the UN General Assembly, granting of a permanent observer status at the UN to the PLO and passage of the Zionism is Racism resolution in 1975. Peace With Egypt - Subsequent shuttle diplomacy by US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger resulted in partial Israeli withdrawals from the Sinai peninsula, under much less favorable terms than could have been obtained before the war. Right-wing opposition leader Menahem Begin was adamant in his opposition to any withdrawals. However, in 1978, Egypt led by Anwar Sadat, and Israel, now led by Menahem Begin, signed the Camp David framework agreements, leading to a Peace treaty in 1979. Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982. The PLO in Lebanon and the Lebanese Civil War - Lebanon became increasingly unstable as Maronite Christians found their once--dominant position threatened by demographic changes which gave Muslims an increasingly large majority. Tensions between different religious groups were exacerbated by clan rivalry. Lebanon also has a relatively large population of Palestinian refugees, who incurred the animosity of native Lebanese, especially the Christians. A revolt by the PLO against the Jordanian government led to the expulsion of the PLO from Jordan in 1970. PLO fighters streamed into Lebanon, incited tension between Muslims and Christians and turned Lebanon into a base for attacks on Israel. In 1975, an attack by Christian Phalangist militias on a bus carrying Palestinians ignited the civil war. the Christian Phalangists and Muslim militias massacred at least 600 Muslims and Christians at checkpoints, beginning the 1975-1976 civil war. Full-scale civil war broke out, with the Palestinians joining the Muslim forces, controlling an increasingly lawless West Beirut. Lebanese political and social life descended into chaos, characterized by a grim routine of car bombs, assassinations and harassment and killing of civilians at roadblocks set up by warring militias. On January 20, 1976, PLO fighters, possibly reinforced by a Syrian PLO contingent that had entered Lebanon in 1975, destroyed the Christian towns of Jiyeh and Damour, massacring about 500 people. In March, Major Saad Haddad formed the Southern Lebanese Army (SLA), a militia intended to protect Christian residents of southern Lebanon, which was allied with Israel In June, 1976, with the Maronites on the verge of defeat, President Elias Sarkis called for Syrian intervention. With the agreement of the Americans and the Israelis, the Syrians entered Lebanon ostensibly to protect the Christians and the fragile Lebanese multi-ethnic multi-religious constitution, but also to further long-standing Baathist ambitions to make Lebanon as part of Greater Syria. On August 13, 1976, under the protection and with the probable active participation of the Syrian army, the Christian Phalangist militia attacked the Tel al-Za'atar refugee camp and killed as many as 3,000 civilians. After an attack on a bus on the Haifa-Tel-Aviv road, in which about thirty people were killed, Israel invaded Lebanon in March 1978. It occupied most of the area south of the Litani River in Operation Litani. In response, UN Security Council resolution 425 called for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces and the creation of an UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), charged with maintaining peace. Israeli forces turned over positions inside Lebanon along the border to the SLA. The SLA and Israel set up a 12-mile wide security zone to protect Israeli territory from attacks across the border, and to protect local residents from the PLO, which had been occupying their villages and using them as bases for shelling Israel. This southern area became an "open border" area separated by the "good fence," allowing Lebanese residents to find work in Israel. Attacks and counter attacks along the
northern border of Israel continued. In July of 1981 a cease-fire between Israel and the PLO was brokered by the US. It was generally honored by both sides. Nonetheless, the PLO continued to gather strength and dig in in southern Lebanon. The 1982 War in Lebanon (Peace for the Galilee) - On June 3 1982, terrorists of the Abu Nidal faction, not controlled by the PLO, shot Israeli Ambassador Shlomo Argov in the head in London. In response, Israel invaded Lebanon in force. Most analysts believe that the shooting of Argov served only as an excuse for an operation planned by defense Minister Ariel Sharon with the tacit approval of the US administration. The Iranian Islamist regime sent its Pasdaran revolutionary guards, who had previously organized the takeover of the US embassy in Teheran, into Lebanon, and began organizing a resistance movement, The Hizb Allah (party of Allah) or Hizbolla. The Israel invasion resulted in expulsion of the PLO from Lebanon to Tunis in August. The war aroused furor in Israel as the army exceeded the official war aims. On September 14, 1982, the Lebanese President-elect, Bashir Gemayel, an Israeli ally, was killed by a large bomb that was apparently planted by Syrian intelligence. Ostensibly to maintain order, the Israeli government decided to move into West Beirut. They allowed or sent their Lebanese Phalangist Christian allies into the Sabra and Shatilla Palestinian refugee camps. The Phalangists committed a massacre in Sabra and Shatilla, killing about 700 people and exciting the wrath of the international community as well as the Israeli public. An Israeli commission of inquiry led by judge Kahan indirectly implicated Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and several others in the massacres, noting that they could have foreseen the possibility of the violence and acted to prevent it. The Kahan report resulted in the resignation of Sharon as defense minister. Israel subsequently extricated itself slowly from Lebanon. As Israel withdrew, Lebanon became increasingly lawless. Beirut life came to be characterized by gunfire, kidnappings and bombings. Attempts by the US to restore order failed owing to large scale suicide bombings of a marine barracks and the US embassy. The US withdrew and Lebanon, especially Beirut, deteriorated into chaos. Order was restored only after Lebanon became essentially a satellite of Syria. Israel continued to maintain a presence in south Lebanon until 2000, when the last Israeli troops were withdrawn by PM Ehud Barak. The Pollard Affair - In November 1985, Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish-American employee of the US Naval Anti-Terrorist Alert Center was arrested for spying for Israel. He pleaded guilty in a plea bargain deal, but the US government apparently reneged on the deal and Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987, an exceptional sentence relative to similar cases. The affair was a severe embarrassment to USIsraeli relations and raised the specter of "double loyalty" accusations for American Jews. At the same time, Pollard became a cause celebre of the Zionist right, who pointed out that he had been used and abandoned by the Israeli government, which did little to secure his freedom. The First Intifada - While the fortunes of the PLO waned, Palestinians in the occupied territories took their fate into their own hands. Beginning in 1987, a revolt called the Intifadeh began in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The revolt was initiated by local residents and involved mostly low-level violence such as rock throwing, winning sympathy for the struggle of the Palestinians against the Israeli occupiers. By 1991 however, the Intifadeh had all but ended.
The Oslo Peace Process
Following the Gulf war, US pressure, the ongoing break up of the USSR and favorable international opinion made it possible to convene negotiations toward settlement of the Palestinian problem. In 1993 and 1995, Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo Declaration of Principles and The Oslo Interim Agreement. which created the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), a supposedly temporary entity that would have the power to negotiate with Israel and to govern areas of the West Bank and Gaza evacuated by Israel. Israel
and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994. The peace process with the Palestinians led to the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip and most cities and towns of the West Bank by early 1996. In January 1996, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian-controlled parts of the West Bank elected a legislature controlled by the Fatah faction, with Yasser Arafat as Chairman (titled "Rais" - "President" by the Palestinians) to administer these areas. As the Israelis withdrew, Palestinians took control of these areas. About 97% of the Palestinians in these areas were nominally under Palestinian rule, but the area controlled by the Palestine National Authority amounted to about 8% of the land. Israel embarked on an accelerated settlement program, building thousands of housing units in the West Bank, and doubling the number of settlers there by 2004. Though the PLO had agreed to end forego violence in the Oslo declaration of principles, attacks on settlers continued. Ominously, even before the Oslo declaration of Principles, on April 16, 1993, a Hamas suicide bomber exploded a car bomb at Mehola in the West Bank, killing himself and one Israeli. On February 25, 1994, a disgruntled right-wing settler, Baruch Goldstein, opened fire on worshippers in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, killing 30 people before being killed himself. In retaliation, the Hamas carried out several suicide attacks in Israel beginning in April of 1994. The peace process became increasingly unpopular in Israel. On November 4, 1995, Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a young right-wing fanatic, Yigal Amir, at a peace rally. He was replaced by Shimon Peres, who oversaw the signing of the Oslo Interim agreement. A rash of Hamas suicide bombings in the spring of 1996 and inept campaign strategy caused Peres to lose the election held in May of 1996 to Likud party head Benjamin Netanyahu, who was an opponent of the Oslo process. Nethanyahu decided to complete a controversial underground tourist attraction in Jerusalem by opening a gate between two tunnels. Arab sources spread the false rumor that the gate endangered the foundations of the Al-Aqsa mosque. This caused several days of rioting and numerous casualties. Despite Nethanyahu's opposition to the Oslo process, in January of 1997 Israel and the PNA signed an interim agreement on Hebron. The IDF withdrew from most of Hebron, leaving an enclave of about 500 settlers living in the middle of an Arab city, protected by the IDF. Negotiations at the Wye River Plantation in October of 1998 produced agreements on further withdrawal of Israeli troops and renewed Palestinian commitments to prevent terror and incitement. However, most of the provisions of the agreement were not carried out by the Palestinians, and the Israelis did not withdraw as stipulated in the Wye agreements while Netanyahu was in office. In May of 1999 Benjamin Netanyahu was voted out of office, and Labor party head Ehud Barak became Prime Minister. Barak continued settlement expansion programs, but he vowed to pursue peace negotiations actively. Barak first tried to renew negotiations with Syria, but Syrian President Hafez Assad rejected an offer related through US President Clinton, which would have given Syria most of the Golan heights except for access to the sea of Galilee. Barak turned his attention to the Palestinians. Israel made the troop withdrawals mandated by the Wye agreements, and negotiators began working toward a final settlement. Barak offered to turn over Abu Dis, a suburb of Jerusalem, to be used as the Palestinian capital. However, this offer was withdrawn in the wake of violence that broke out in mid-May of 2000. Recent Events The Second Intifada
Negotiations for a final settlement at Camp David in the USA, in July, 2000 ended in deadlock. Palestinians insisted that refugees should have the right to return to Israel, which would produce an Arab majority in Israel. Israel insisted on annexing key portions of the Palestinian areas and on leaving most settlements intact, and offered only a limited form of Palestinian statehood. Palestinians claim that the only offers made at Camp David included cantons or "Bantustans" that would make up the Palestinian State. This apparently characterizes initial Israeli proposals. However, in his book, The Missing Peace, 2004, Dennis Ross presents a map, shown at right, that supposedly reflects the US compromise proposal at Camp David, to include about 91% of the territory of the West Bank. Both sides agreed on Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Palestinian violence erupted on September 28, 2000, triggered by a visit of Ariel Sharon to the Temple mount in Jerusalem. This location, called the Haram as Sharif in Arabic, is also the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque, holy to Muslims. False rumors spread that Sharon had entered the mosque, helping to fan the unrest. The US called a summit conference in Sharm-El Sheikh in October, in order to bring about an end to the violence. Both sides vowed to put an end to the bloodshed and return to negotiations. At the conference, it was also agreed to set up a US led investigative committee that would report on the causes of the violence and make recommendations to the UN. This eventually resulted in the Mitchell Report. Shortly thereafter, however, Arab leaders and Yasser Arafat met in an extraordinary Arab League Summit in Cairo, and issued a belligerent communique praising the Intifada and calling for an international investigative commission rather than the one agreed upon in Sharm El Sheikh. About two weeks later a suicide bombing in Jerusalem put an end to the truce. Time was running out for negotiations, as Israeli PM Ehud Barak faced elections and US President Clinton had completed his term of office. Negotiations in Washington in December of 2000 failed to produce an agreement. President Clinton provided Bridging proposals and requested that the sides agree to the them by December 27. The outcome has been deliberately obscured by many, but Dennis Ross, chief US negotiator, was unequivocal in his memoir (Dennis Ross, The Missing Peace, 2004, pp 753-755). According to Ross's summary, (and as published in the Bridging proposals) Clinton's proposal gave the Palestinians about 97% of the territory of the West Bank and sovereignty over their airspace. Refugees could not return to Israel without Israeli consent. An international force would remain in the Jordan valley for six years, replacing the IDF. Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and the Haram as Sharif (temple mount) would be incorporated into Palestine. Saudi Arabian ambassador Prince Bandar Ibn Sultan said, "If Arafat does not accept what is available now, it won't be a tragedy, it will be a crime." (Ross, The
Click for larger map
Missing Peace, 2004, p.748). The Israeli government met on December 27 and accepted the proposals with reservations, which according to Ross, were "within the parameters." The Palestinians equivocated. The deadline passed, and no definitive Palestinian reply was forthcoming. According to Ross, on December 29, he told Abu Ala (Ahmed Qurei): Mark my words, they [the US] will disengage from the issue and they will do so at a time when you won't have Barak, or Amnon or Shlomo, but at time when you will have Sharon as Prime Minister. He will be elected for sure if there is no deal, and you 97% will become 40-45 percent; your capital in East Jerusalem will be gone; the IDF out of the Jordan Valley will be gone; unlimited right of return for refugees to your own state will be gone. Abu Ala replied: "I am afraid it may take another fifty years to settle this issue." (Dennis Ross, The Missing Peace, 2004, p. 755) The map at right was presented by Ross in The Missing Peace. It illustrates the approximate boundaries of the Palestine state under the Clinton bridging proposals, omitting land to be ceded by Israel to Palestine. At a memorial dinner held in November 2005 in memory of Yitzhak Rabin, President Clinton said that Chairman Yasser Arafat had made a "colossal historical blunder" in refusing the terms, causing the breakdown of the peace process. (Haaretz, Nov. 14, 2005). Palestinian negotiators present a different version. On November 13, 2005, the Palestinian Authority International Press Center related these remarks of Palestinian Minister of Information, Nabil Sha'at, on the anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat: He also set out that Israel has never endeavored to reach a final solution during the second Camp David negotiations, putting to rest the rumor which tells that Israel proposed for the Palestinians a state with 97% of the West Bank and 10% of the Jordan Valley. He went ahead as saying, "all what was circulated that Israel proffered to the Palestinian side great concessions is incorrect," asserting that Israel rejected to give back Jerusalem to the Palestinian, and above all it kept adamant to annex the settlements blocs to the city of Jerusalem. Minister Sha'at made clear that this point led the negotiations of Camp David II to a gridlock. What was suggested by Ehud Barak, the former Israeli prime minister, was only to give Arafat a presidential headquarters in the Old City of Jerusalem, but the late president rebuffed this suggestion roundly, he added.
However, Palestinians have never disputed the published version of President Clinton's bridging proposals in which it is quite clear that the Palestinians would have sovereignty over Arab East Jerusalem, including the Haram as Sharif (temple mount). In last minute negotiations at Taba on January 21-27 2001, under European and Egyptian patronage, the sides failed to reach a settlement despite further Israeli concessions. Though both sides agreed to a joint communiqué saying they had never been so close to agreement, substantive disagreements remained about the refugee issues and final settlement maps. Israeli PM Barak broke off negotiations on January 28, 2001, suspending them until after the elections. Barak had hoped to reach a deal he could present to the Israeli public, and was angry and disappointed. Negotiations were terminated because Barak, who had furthered the peace process, was voted out of office at the beginning of February and replaced by a right wing government headed by Ariel Sharon. No official maps were actually presented by or to the sides during the negotiations. Following the failure of the negotiations, the Palestinians continued to claim that Israel had offered only "Bantustans" in the West Bank. The Israeli government did not publish any maps. Dennis Ross, who headed the US negotiating team, summarized the proposals presented by the USA in the maps presented above. The Gush Shalom group and the Foundation for Middle East Peace also published a map of an offer made by the Barak government at Taba (Click here for details of the different maps). One of the major outstanding questions was the refugee problem. U.S. President Clinton had believed there were only differences of wording between the Israeli and Palestinian approaches. Clinton's Bridging proposals called for allowing refugees to return from abroad to the Palestinian state. They could return to Israel only with the agreement of Israel. However, at Taba, the Palestinian proposal called for eventual return of all the refugees to Israel. This proposal was unacceptable to Israel as it would create an Arab majority in Israel and put an end to Jewish exercise of the right to selfdetermination. Violence continued into 2001 and 2002, despite attempts by the Mitchell commission and others to restore calm. The terror attack on the World Trade Center in the US on September 11, 2001, had direct repercussions for the Israel-Palestine conflict. On the one hand, Arab and Islamic countries tried to leverage on the need for their cooperation in the war against terror to win concessions for the Palestinians. On the other, many Americans began to view terrorist actions in a new light, as organizations such as Hamas and Hizbulla came to be linked with the Al-Qaeda group of Osama BinLaden. Particularly damaging for the Palestinians were the demonstrations held in favor of Bin Laden, and evidence linking a boatload of illegal arms intercepted by Israel, the Karine A, with Iranian support for the PNA. The boat was intercepted on January 3, 2002, on the day that US envoy Anthony Zinni arrived to attempt to arrive at a settlement. Against this background, the US and EU seemed to give Israel wider latitude for action against the Palestinians. Israel made increasing incursions into Palestinian areas, and confined PNA Chairman Arafat to his compound in Ramalah. but the Palestinians stepped up attacks on soldiers as well as suicide bombings. The Saudi Peace Proposal and the Palestinian State Resolution - Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah made a dramatic proposal to end the long Arab war against Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories, withdrawal in the Golan and appropriate arrangements regarding Jerusalem and the refugees. This proposal, modified to be more specific about refugee issues, was adopted by a meeting of the Arab League, and eventually became incorporated in the quartet roadmap plan. On March, 12, 2002 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1397, calling on the sides to stop the violence once again, mentioning the peace plan of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, and for the first time since 1947 calling for creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Operation Defensive Wall
Meanwhile however, terror and suicide attacks and Israeli reprisals continued. Yasser Arafat declared a cessation of violence several times, but this did not seem to affect the frequency or severity of suicide bombings and ambushes. The Israelis, for their part, continued with their policy of assassinating wanted men in the Palestinian areas. During the last week in March, as General Zinni was again coming to the Middle East, the Palestinians launched a successful suicide attack almost every day, in addition to many unsuccessful ones. A blast at the Park Hotel in Nethanya killed 27 people as they were celebrating Passover. Israel launched a massive raid, operation Defensive Wall, intended to root out terror infrastructure, including reoccupation of Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarm and other towns. Israel claimed that only about 50 were killed in the Jenin refugee camp, mostly members of the Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs suicide brigades. Palestinians charged that the Israelis had committed a massacre in the Jenin refugee camp, killing over 500 people. These charges were repeated by most news sources in Europe, though they were later retracted. Human rights groups who entered the Jenin refugee camp after the Israeli invasion reported that there was a great deal of damage and that the IDF had probably committed war crimes by preventing medical aid, but that only about 50 people had been killed, more than half of whom were terrorists, confirming the Israeli version of events. Suicide attacks abated, but did not stop. During the course of the fighting, Israel captured numerous documents providing evidence that Yasser Arafat had personally approved the organization of terror cells, and that the PNA treasury had approved payments for suicide-bomber explosive belts. The Israelis captured or killed numerous persons suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. The IDF also destroyed records, building, roads and other innocent civilian infrastructure of banks, NGOs and other organizations clearly not involved in terror. Later in the fighting, the IDF managed to locate Marwan Barghouti, head of the Fatah Tanzeem, and to capture him. Israel claimed it has evidence of complicity by Barghouti in numerous terrorist acts, and it eventually put him on trial, condemning him to five life sentences for complicity in murder. Critics argued that it would be impossible to put an end to terror by military activity in the absence of progress toward a peaceful solution. However, following Defensive Wall, the number and frequency of successful terror attacks began to decline, as the Israeli security forces made better and better use of intelligence gathered during the operation to detect and stop attacks. The number of attempted attacks did not decrease noticeably however. During the aftermath of operation Defensive Wall, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who needed quiet in Israel and Palestine to leave the US free hand to organize an alliance against Iraq, arrived to try to end the violence. Powell's mission did not accomplish anything. He was unable to get the Israelis to withdraw completely from the areas they had reoccupied, nor could he get the Palestinians to agree to a cease fire. Demonstrations and public outrage in Arab countries, fueled by charges of a massacre, prompted UN action. UN resolution 1402 directed that Israel withdraw from the territories immediately. By the time Powell had left, Israel had withdrawn from some towns, but Yasser Arafat was still imprisoned in Ramallah, and the Israelis were besieging the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where armed Palestinians had sought refuge from the IDF. The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1403, expressing dismay that resolution 1402 had not been implemented. On April 19, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1405, calling for an an impartial investigative team to be send to determine the truth of Palestinian allegations. Israel objected to the composition of the team. Israel at first agreed to the investigation, but later backtracked and blocked it, claiming that the composition and procedures of the investigation would be unfair to Israel, and that the UN had reneged on initial agreements about the investigation. Opposition to the investigation was fueled by Israeli memories of the recent Durban conference as well as by the infamous Zionism is Racism resolution of the UN, which was recalled repeatedly in public debate. Israeli PM Ariel Sharon visited the US in May of 2002, under pressure from the US administration to advance a peace program that could be acceptable to Palestinians
and the Arab states. The two discussed plans for a regional summit to be held later in 2002, and the Israelis presented documents that they claim prove the involvement of Yasser Arafat and the PNA in terrorist activities. News of a suicide bombing committed by the Hamas came while Bush and Sharon were meeting, causing the Israeli PM to cut the visit short and return to Israel. The sieges of Muqata and Church of Nativity were also resolved in May 2002. Militants in the Church of Nativity were exiled to Cyprus and Europe. Some of the wanted men in the Muqata compound in Ramallah were jailed in Jericho, but others apparently remained in the Muqata. The head of the PFLP allegedly coordinated a suicide attack from his cell in Jericho. At the end of May, under pressure for democratic reform, Yasser Arafat signed into law the Basic Law or constitution of the Palestinian transitional state. The law states that Palestinian law will be based on the principles of Islamic law (Sha'ariyeh). In June, following another wave of Palestinian suicide attacks, Israeli forces essentially reoccupied all of the West Bank. The Israeli government was quick to claim that the reoccupation would not continue indefinitely, but later indicated otherwise. President Bush made a long awaited speech on Middle East policy calling for a Palestinian state, but insisting on democratic reform of the Palestine National Authority. In August and September 2002, several attempts at Palestinian cease fire initiatives were foiled by refusal of extremist groups to participate and by Israeli acts such as the killing of Salah Shehadeh, head of the military wing of the Hamas in a missile attack on Gaza that cost the lives of 13 civilians. Shehadeh was replaced by Mohamed Deif. August and September witnessed a six week respite from major suicide and terror attacks, facilitating an Israeli-Palestinian plan to return full Palestinian authority in Gaza and Bethlehem first. However, this fizzled after several violent attacks in Gaza. At the beginning of September, Israeli security forces foiled several suicide attack attempts and detected a truck laden with 1300 pounds of explosives and gas tanks, that was to be used by Palestinians in a suicide attack. The PLC convened in September to approve the new cabinet chosen in line with reform efforts. PLC cabinet members refused to ratify the cabinet until Yasser Arafat would allow a Prime Minister to share power. Instead, Arafat agreed to elections in January, 2003, despite Israeli occupation. Arafat's popularity was at a nadir. The elections never took place. The period of relative calm came to an end with suicide bombings in Umm El Fahm and in a Tel-Aviv bus. The Israeli government proceeded with an attack on Gaza including entry into Gaza city and besieged Yasser Arafat and an estimated 200 others in the Muqata compound in Ramala. Israel demanded that Palestinians give up wanted persons who had taken refuge in the Muqata including Palestinian preventive security boss Tawfiq Tirawi. Arafat remained defiant. Israel destroyed all buildings in the compound except the main one, promising not to harm Arafat. After a rumor was spread that Israel was about to blow up the Muqata, widespread demonstrations took place in the West Bank and Gaza, resulting in four deaths. The USA exerted pressure on Israel to stop destroying buildings in the Muqata and to withdraw. Despite a UN resolution, Israel continued the siege. Arafat's popularity with Palestinians soared. Eventually, the siege was lifted, but Arafat remained confined to Ramalla and isolated. A second siege was reinstituted in the fall. (Click here for commentary on the Muqata Siege) In April of 2002, the US government initiated a series of consultations with a group of diplomats that became known as the "Quartet." The quartet evolved a roadmap for a settlement, including Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and establishment of a Palestinian state.
In October of 2002, the Labor party withdrew from the Israel unity government. PM Ariel Sharon initiated immediate elections, to be held January 28. Ariel Sharon's Likud Party won a sweeping mandate to continue hard line policies against the Palestinians. The Israel Labor party refused to form a unity government. Israel continued to occupy most of the West Bank. During this period, the US continued to mass forces for an invasion of Iraq, and the US and quartet partners continued to advance the quartet road map for middle east peace. The quartet partners and especially the US pressured the Palestinians to commit to a thoroughgoing reform of their government that would eliminate corruption and support for terror. It was proposed that Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen) would assume the post of Prime Minister, overshadowing and displacing the still-popular Yasser Arafat. The Iraq War, the Roadmap and Palestinian Reform On March 20, 2003, US, British and Australian forces invaded Iraq. The Palestinians had supported Saddam Hussein and his regime had provided payments for families of suicide bombers, as well as sheltering Palestinian militants. US forces entered Baghdad on April 9, and President Bush declared the war over on May 1. The war produced an upheaval in the Middle East and especially affected the Palestinians. Arabs were astounded by the swiftness of Iraq's collapse. Arab governments including the Palestinians hurried to make conciliatory gestures and talk of democracy, at the same time criticizing the US occupation of Iraq, which generated a great deal of resentment. Mahmud Abbas was elected Palestinian PM on April 29, however the violence did not abate. Israelis made bloody raids in Gaza and elsewhere on the day of his election. A few hours later, Fateh and Hamas perpetrated a suicide attack at a Tel Aviv night club, and the next day Israel began extensive raids in the territories. In violation of the roadmap, Yasser Arafat put himself in charge of organizing a new unified security force. As it had promised the Palestinians, the US released an updated road map on April 30 immediately after the election of Abu Mazen. (Click here for commentary on the roadmap). At a festive summit held on June 4 in Aqaba, Israeli PM Sharon and Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas (Abu-Mazen) pledged to fulfill the conditions of the road map and shook hands in the presence of US President George Bush. Abu Mazen called for an end to violence. Click here for more commentary on the roadmap. Islamist extremist Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders vowed to continue violence. Soon after the summit, four Israeli soldiers in Gaza were killed in a joint operation that included not only the Islamist extremists but also the Fatah movement of Abu Mazen. Israel began dismantling about ten of the 100 illegal outposts, but dismantled only uninhabited ones. On June 10, Israel tried to assassinate Hamas leader Ahmed Rantissi, kindling fury among Palestinians and eliciting criticism from the US. On June 11, a Hamas suicide bombing killed 16 Israelis in a bus on the main street of Jerusalem. On August 20, a suicide bombing killed 21 people on a bus in Jerusalem. The following day, Israel assassinated Hamas leader Ismail Abu Shanab, possibly in retaliation. Israel also announced that the lives of all Hamas leaders were forfeit, and made several assassination attempts, some unsuccessful against Hamas leaders, including the aged and crippled "spiritual leader" of the Hamas. As the Hudna (truce) unraveled, there were threats and rumors of attempts on the life of PNA PM Mahmud Abbas by Palestinian extremists. In the following days, Israel moved into the West bank for a security clean up intended to last several days. Abbas and his Gaza Security Chief Mohamed Dahlan began to move against Palestinian terrorists as required by the roadmap, whereupon Yasser Arafat moved to replace Dahlan with Gibril Rajoub and to put security and the interior ministry in the hands of his supporters. Abbas announced that he would not act against terrorists on September 4, but this did not save his political career. Abbas resigned on September 6, and Ahmed Qureia ("Abu Ala"), an Arafat supporter, was appointed PM in his stead. Qureia vowed
a tough line against Israel. On September 8, EU leaders moved to ban the political wing of the Hamas and prevent monetary contributions to it. On the evening of September 10, 2003, twin suicide bombings in Jerusalem and outside the Tzrifin Army base near Rishon Le Zion claimed a total of 15 lives. A period of quiet was broken by a suicide bombing in a Haifa restaurant on October 4, attributed to Islamic Jihad. Palestinian PM designate Ahmed Qurei and the PA condemned the bombing, but refused to commit to taking action against terror groups. In retaliation, Israel invaded Gaza as well as Jenin, and on October 5 they struck at a base in Syria that Israel claimed was training Palestinian terror groups. This was the first Israeli attack on Syrian territory since the Yom Kippur (Ramadan) war in 1973. A long period of relative abatement in Palestinian attacks ensued, but Israel continued attacks on Palestinian targets with considerable loss of civilian life. Suicide attacks continued from time to time, done by either the Hamas and Islamic Jihad Islamist factions or by the Fatah Al Aqsa brigades, a faction of Yasser Arafat's Fatah group over which the PNA has apparently lost control. Suicide bombings were carried out December 25 2003, January 14, 2004, January 29, 2004, and February 22, by the "moderate" Fatah Al Aqsa brigades as well as by the Hamas and by the Popular Front for the liberation of Palestine. Geneva Accord - Israeli opposition political leaders and Palestinian leaders announced an agreement in principle on conditions for a final settlement. The agreement, which has come to be known as the Geneva Accord, proposed historic concessions by both sides. Israel would give up sovereignty in Arab portions of Jerusalem, while the Palestinians would explicitly renounce the right of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel. Though it has no formal standing at present, the agreement has gotten widespread publicity, including support from US Secretary of State Colin Powell, and warm words from PNA Chairman Yasser Arafat. The Israeli government has denounced the agreement and the people involved in it, and tried to block advertisements for the agreement in the public media. Likewise, Palestinian extremists and their allies have denounced the agreement. The Security Barrier (also called "Security Fence" "Apartheid Wall") - A major issue of the 2003 Israel election campaign had been the erection of a security barrier (fence, wall) advocated by dovish Israel Labor party. The barrier was to be erected along the Green line and would help to prevent suicide attacks in Israel. A similar barrier in Gaza had reduced infiltration to zero. The right, including Ariel Sharon's Likud party, opposed the barrier, because it would create a de-facto border as they thought, dividing Jerusalem, and putting most of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank outside the protection of the security arrangements. Sharon and the Likud won the election by a landslide majority, sending the Labor party and the leftist Meretz party into total disarray. During 2003, PM Ariel Sharon adopted and adapted the barrier concept, changing the route to include major Israeli settlements and including a projected eastern portion that would envelope the Palestinians in two enclaves. As the barrier went up, it became evident that it would trap many Palestinians who would be cut off from their fields and places of work, some on the Israeli side of the 1948 armistice Green Line, and some on the Palestinian side. In populated areas where it is most visible, the barrier is in fact a forbidding cement wall, though it is a fence over most of its extent. Palestinian groups and Israeli peace groups began an intense protest campaign. On December 8, 2003, the UN General Assembly met in Emergency session and adopted resolution ES-10/14, which asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague for an advisory opinion on the legality of the barrier. The ICJ began its hearings on February 24. Israel boycotted the hearings, but submitted a brief saying that the court should not rule on the matter. About 30 other countries including the United States and several EU countries, submitted briefs saying that the court should not rule on the matter because it was a political question rather than a legal one, and likewise did not attend the hearings. Most of these countries also criticized the barrier as illegal or a hindrance
to peace negotiations. Zionist and Israeli groups organized demonstrations at the Hague, and Palestinians organized counter demonstrations. The Israelis brought a bombed out bus and stressed that the wall prevents suicide attacks. The Palestinians used the hearings as a platform for de-legitimizing the occupation. ( Click here for maps and details about the security barrier/fence/wall) On July 9, the International Court of Justice delivered its advisory opinion on the Israeli security barrier. The court ruled that the barrier violates human rights and that Israel must dismantle it. Israel announced that it would not abide by the court decision, but it did plan changes in the route of the barrier to satisfy requirements of the Israeli High Court. Israeli Corruption Scandal - Ever since Ariel Sharon's election in 2003, a pall of suspicion had fallen over him and other Likud party members owing to allegations of bribery and underworld influence. In January 2003, David Appel, a close associate of Israeli PM Ariel Sharon, was indicted for bribery charges. The charge sheet alleged that he had bribed Sharon, Sharon's son and Deputy PM Ehud Ohlmert. The obvious question was whether or not Sharon would be indicted (see commentary for details). Controversial Prisoner Exchange - After many months of negotiations through a German intermediary, Israel and the Lebanese Hizbollah movement agreed to an exchange of prisoners on very one-sided terms on January 29, 2004. Israel freed over four hundred live Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners and returned a large number of bodies in return for the bodies of three Israeli soldiers kidnapped by the Hizbullah and killed, and one civilian, reserve army officer Elhanan Tannenbaum, a shady "businessman" who lied about the way in which he was kidnapped, and gave the Hizbullah a free commercial on El-Manara Television. (see commentary for details). Assassination of Sheikh Yassin - Israel had been targeting Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin for assassination for many months. Following a suicide attack in the port of Ashdod, the IDF stepped up operations against Islamists in Gaza, and announced again that all Hamas leaders were targets for assassination. On March 22, Israeli intelligence ascertained that Ahmed Yassin, founder and leader of the Hamas Islamist movement, had gone to prayers without his wife and children, and the green light was given to assassinate him. The assassination of the crippled old man, who was nonetheless responsible for instigating the deaths of hundreds of people, and for sabotaging the peace process, drew protests from most of the world, and vows of revenge from Hamas. The assassination probably had little strategic value, and was carried out to bolster the failing popularity of Israeli PM Ariel Sharon. (see commentary and sources for details).
Disengagement Plan and Letter of Assurance from George Bush
A proposal of the Israel Labor Party, led by Amram Mitzna, during the 2003 election campaign, was that if negotiations with the Palestinians fail, Israel should withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza strip and perhaps from parts of the West Bank, and try to live its life behind the security barrier. Ariel Sharon and the Likud damned this proposal as defeatism, but toward the end of 2003, Sharon himself announced that he was drawing up a unilateral withdrawal plan, to be carried out "in 6 months" (a date later postponed). The plan for withdrawing from all of Gaza met with intense opposition from fellow Likud party members and from settlers. Reports in late February indicated that Israel was still confiscating land to build security barriers for Gaza settlements, even though Sharon had supposedly earmarked the settlements for evacuation. In April, 2004, Israeli PM Ariel Sharon traveled to the US and on April 14 he met with US President George Bush, to get American backing and assurances for Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan. Bush provided a letter stating that the the US accepts the disengagement plan and that the roadmap remains the only peace plan backed by the United States. In addition, to help Sharon gain popularity for the plan in Israel, Bush stated that the US believes Palestinian refugees should be settled in the new Palestinian state, rather
than Israel, that in his view, Israel should not have to withdraw to the borders of the 1949 armistice, and that the US acquiesces in the Israeli security fence. Sharon reiterated Israeli commitment to the roadmap and pledged that the security barrier was a temporary expedient and not a final border. Bush's letter carried little weight in future negotiations, and reiterated stands taken by former President Clinton on refugees and borders. Nonetheless, it created an uproar throughout the Muslim world. The disengagement plan was defeated in a Likud party referendum on May 2, 2004, whereupon Sharon proposed a modified version of the plan. Also in May, Israel conducted extensive military operations in Gaza in Operation Rainbow, killing over 40 persons, leaving thousands homeless, and arousing international ire. In late October, the Israeli parliament (Knesset) passed the first reading of the disengagement law, ultimately causing the right-wing National Religious Party to leave the government, and reducing the government to a minority of 55 seats. Assassination of Abdel Azis Rantisi - On April 17, 2004, the IAF killed newly elected Hamas leader Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantissi. Dr. Mahmoud Zahar was apparently elected in his place, but no official announcement was made for fear of Israeli retaliation. Zahar is reportedly the last of the seven founders of the Hamas still alive. The others were all assassinated by Israel. Government of Ahmed Qurei - On November 12, 2003, after a long period of negotiations, Palestinian PM Ahmed Qurei formed a permanent government and moves began to institute a cease fire and renew negotiations with the Israelis. However, very little came of these moves. On November 19, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1515, endorsing the quartet road map for peace and calling upon the sides to fulfill their obligations to the road map plan. However, the Israeli incursions continued, and for their part, the Palestinians seemed unwilling or unable to control terrorist groups. Prospective meetings between Ahmed Qurei and Israeli PM Ariel Sharon were announced, rumored, vaunted and then evaporated. For a time, Qurei announced that he would not meet with Sharon until Israel stopped building its security barrier (see below). However, when Sharon announced his unilateral disengagement plan and it appeared to be in earnest, Qurei became concerned that the withdrawal without any negotiations would be a victory for the Hamas and Islamic Jihad, political rivals of the PLO who run the PNA, and who are grooming themselves to inherit leadership of the Palestinians. Qurei then announced that he would be ready to meet with Sharon, and that a meeting would definitely take place by the end of February. However, negotiations to set the agenda of this meeting were postponed for various reasons, including suicide bombings and Israeli assassinations. Chaos in Gaza -Meanwhile, it became evident that Qurei was not really able to govern, despite some successes in improving financial transparency as demanded by the EU and USA. By the beginning of 2004 there were several reports of chaos, disunity and lawlessness in the Palestinian territories. At the end of February, ex-security-chief Mohamed Dahlan indicated that the Palestinian Authority could not rein-in the dissident Fatah Al-Aqsa brigades that had been responsible for several suicide bombings. Attempts to unify the security forces, blocked by Arafat, ended in dissension and bitter recriminations. On February 26, Chairman Arafat promised to hold long-postponed elections, but many Palestinians did not believe he would keep his promise. In Nablus, lawlessness reigned and the Mayor resigned. On the weekend of July 18, 2004 violence broke out in Gaza between factions of the Fatah. One group kidnapped police chief Ghazzi Jibbali and several French nationals, and later released them, on condition that Jibbali will stand trial. Yasser Arafat reorganized security, appointing his nephew, Musa Arafat, to be in charge of Palestinian security forces. Opposition forces reacted by storming Musa Arafat's headquarters. Subsequently, PM Ahmed Qurei announced his resignation, which was not accepted by Arafat, but Qurei insisted he would resign anyway. Arafat announced that he is withdrawing the appointment of Musa Arafat, but then announced that Musa will remain in charge of security in Gaza. Subsequent agitation for reform elicited more
declarations from Arafat, but when these were not implemented, Palestinian legislators announced that they would adjourn in protest. Security situation in 2004 - During the spring and summer of 2004 there were no successful major terror attacks within Israel, despite numerous attempts. Israelis and Palestinians attributed the relative quiet to the partially constructed separation barrier and better Israeli intelligence. Israel continued to arrest and kill Palestinians belonging to terrorist organizations, and to occupy Palestinian cities in the West Bank. On August 31, 2004, Hamas perpetrated a double suicide attack in Beersheba, in revenge for the killings of their leaders. The attackers came from the area south of Hebron in the West Bank, where no fence had been built. The attack accelerated construction of the barrier, and Israel took bloody revenge by bombing a Hamas training camp in Gaza. In October of 2004 Israel conducted operation Days of Repentance to overcome Palestinian rocket fire on Israeli towns. The operation killed many civilians and left many others homeless.
Syrian Israeli Peace Talks
Syrian-Israeli Peace Talks - Following the Madrid peace conference, Syria and Israel initiated peace talks, and by May of 1995 they had supposedly completed a fairly detailed peace agreement that would involve Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, which Israel had occupied in 1967 and later annexed. The Syrians in return would recognize Israel, allow normal trade and allow an Israeli early warning station on Syrian territory. The Israeli promise to retreat from the entire Golan was given indirectly by PM Yitzhak Rabin to US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, as a "deposit" to be presented to the Syrians if they agreed to all other Israeli terms. This deposit was also termed the "pocket," since allegedly, Rabin told Christopher to "keep this in your pocket" until all other conditions are met. During the negotiations, Christopher violated the understanding with Rabin and told Assad about "the pocket." During the period when negotiations were continuing, Rabin often repeated the slogan. "The depth of of the withdrawal will be equivalent to the depth of the peace," indicating that in return for real peace, Israel would be willing to withdraw to the armistice lines.
This map shows the actual Israeli offer conveyed to President Assad in March of 2000 by President Clinton and refused out of hand. The offer was based on the borders of June 4, 1967 with very minor deviations. From Dennis Ross, The Missing Peace, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004, Map 10.
However, negotiations with the Rabin administration were not pursued, and Rabin was assassinated on November 5, 1995. Negotiations were renewed by PM Ehud Barak in January of 2000. These negotiations broke down finally on March 27, 2000. Syria insisted on beginning negotiations from the point at which they had left off, including the "deposit" of PM Rabin. Rabin had in fact promised the June 4 lines in the "deposit," but Barak was unwilling to meet those demands. Nonetheless, under US pressure, Barak agreed to honor the pledge to retreat to the line of June 4, 1967 with minor modifications. US President Clinton presented Assad with an Israeli proposal to withdraw to June 4 lines based on mutually agreed borders, according to the map at right. The proposal was in accord with previous agreements made with the Syrians. Nonetheless, Assad refused. On June 10, 2000, Hafez Assad died, and was replaced by his son Bashar. The SyrianIsraeli peace track faded into the background. Syria, which had opposed Iraq in 1991 and cooperated with the US, cooperated with Saddam Hussein in the 2003 Iraq war.
After the war, Syria hosted Iraqi exiles and apparently sheltered insurgent groups. The US became increasingly unhappy with Syria's real or alleged role in the Iraq insurgency, and administration officials began pressuring Syria to stop insurgents from crossing from Syria into Iraq, and to stop supporting terrorist groups including the Hizbollah in Lebanon and the Hamas, which has offices in Damascus On December 12, 2003, President Bush signed into law the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003. These called for
Renewed Peace feelers from Syria - Following the passage of the Syria Accountability Act in the United States, Syria announced that it was ready to renew negotiations with Israel over a peace treaty, without preconditions, but stated that the negotiations should continue where they had been interrupted. Syria renewed the call at various times through November of 2004. In some versions, the proposal was for negotiations "without conditions" while in other cases the Syrians called for negotiations "without conditions based on the deposit" (the promise of Yitzhak Rabin to withdraw to the cease fire lines of 1949). Israel's response to these overtures has been cool, since no pressure emanated from the US regarding renewal of negotiations, and President Assad's government continued to shelter the Hizbullah and Palestinian "resistance" groups. (See commentary Here and Here). Though President Katzav called for pursuing the Syrian peace initiative, PM Ariel Sharon and the foreign ministry insisted that before talks begin, Syria must stop support for terrorist organizations. Israel assassinated Hamas leader Izz El-Deen Al-Sheikh Khalil in Syria on September 26, 2004, and apparently attempted to assassinate another Hamas leader in Damascus in December. Death of Yasser Arafat Palestinian Authority Chairman and long-time leader Yasser Arafat died November 11, 2004 leaving an uncertain future. Some signs indicated that the death of Arafat had opened up new possibilities for peace, as well as for reform and democracy in the Palestinian authority. Preparations for Palestinian elections began in an orderly way, with Mahmoud Abbas the leading candidate. Fatah el-Aqsa brigades leader Marwan Barghouthi, jailed by Israel for his involvement in multiple terror attacks, announced his candidacy as an independent, but later withdrew under pressure from the Fatah in mid-December. During his campaign, Abbas promised repeatedly to continue to fight for a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, and for right of return of Palestinian refugees. However, he also told the London newspaper As Sharq al Awsat that the violent Intifada was a mistake, and that Palestinians must pursue their goals by diplomatic means. Incitement against Israel in Palestinian media was toned down on the directive of Abbas. There were no successful violent attacks against civilians within Israel during this period, but mortars were fired on Israeli settlements in Gaza and terrorists blew up an Israeli army border post at the Gaza-Egypt border. Israel continued to arrest and assassinate Palestinian terrorist leaders, to occupy Palestinian West Bank cities, to raid targets in Gaza in reaction to Palestinian actions, to destroy homes and olive groves and to harass Palestinians at checkpoints. Several Palestinian children were killed during these raids. The Israeli army was criticized in Israel and abroad for carelessness with civilian lives and possible war crimes. Relations with Egypt - Following the death of Arafat, Israeli-Egyptian relations improved, and Egyptian President Mubarak had warm words for Israeli PM Ariel Sharon. In the beginning of December, Egypt released an Israeli, Azzam Azzam, who had been in jail for eight years on espionage charges that he denied. At the same time, Israel released six Egyptian students who were accused of plotting to kill Israeli soldiers, and later Israel freed a number of Palestinian prisoners as a "gesture to Egypt," though Israeli and Egyptian actions were supposedly unrelated. In midDecember, Egypt, Israel and the US signed a Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ) treaty that would give Egypt trade advantages in the USA for cooperative ventures with Israeli participation. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman visited Jerusalem. Despite the improved relations, the Egyptians did not return their ambassador, who had been recalled following the outbreak of violence in 2000.
Abbas Succeeds Arafat
On January 9 2005, Mahmoud Abbas was elected President of the Palestine National Authority, receiving about 61 percent of the vote. Mustafa Barghouthi, his closest rival, received about 20% of the vote. Over 60% of eligible voters participated, despite difficulties owing to the Israeli occupation and a boycott of the elections by the Islamist groups (See commentary here). US President George Bush invited Abbas to Washington, after several years during which Palestinian leaders had not been welcome in the White House, and Israeli PM Ariel Sharon announced that he would call Abbas and plan a meeting. Unity government in Israel - Owing to disaffection of the Israeli right with the disengagement plan of PM Ariel Sharon, the National Religious Party left the government, and dissenting members of Sharon's Likud party tried to block formation of a unity government with the Labor party. The center Shinui party was forced out of the government, and instead a coalition was formed with the Israel Labor party and the small United Torah Judaism party. This government was approved by a narrow margin (58 to 56) with several Likud members abstaining. Sharm El Sheikh Conference - Following his election, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Palestinian factions to end the violence and negotiated a truce agreement. Palestinian police were deployed throughout Gaza with explicit orders to prevent terror attacks. The sides agreed to meet at a summit conference hosted by Egypt in Sharm El Sheikh on February 8, 2005. At the conference, attended by Jordan's King Abdullah and Egyptian President Mubarak as well as the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, both sides announced an end to the violence. Israel would be releasing over 900 Palestinian prisoners and gradually withdrawing from Palestinian cities according to newspaper reports. Egypt and Jordan announced that they were returning their ambassadors to Israel. The Intifadah was deemed to be officially over. (see commentary.) However, following the pattern of previous conferences of this type, the peace was soon shattered by a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on February 25, apparently perpetrated by an Islamic Jihad group controlled from Damascus. Israel announced it was freezing the planned handover of Palestinian towns to PNA security. Mahmud Abbas condemned the bombing and the PNA made some arrests. (see commentary) Disengagement Decision - Shortly after the Sharm El Sheikh conference, the Israeli Knesset, followed by the Israeli cabinet on February 20, approved the disengagement plan , which calls for unilateral evacuation of 21 settlements in Gaza and 4 in the West Bank by the summer of 2005. The disengagement was to be coordinated with the Palestinian Authority. Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Prime Minister, promised to help ensure quiet during the evacuation. Click for Map London Conference - on March 1, 2005, a conference hosted by Great Britain was held in London. The purpose of the conference was to organize financial support for the Palestinian government and to assist in organization of Palestinian security. Israel did not attend the conference, and bilateral issues were not touched upon directly. However, Palestinian President Abbas said that ending the occupation and achieving peace was a priority goal for the Palestinians. Cairo Conference and Tahidiyeh - In mid March, Palestinian militant groups met in Cairo and agreed to a tahidiyeh (lull in the fighting) - less than a full truce or hudna. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups began moving to rejoin the PLO and the Hamas announced its intention to participate in the May elections of the Palestine Legislative Council. Israel withdrew from Jericho, and a week later, from Tulqarm. Israel held up withdrawal from a third Palestinian city later in the month, because it claimed the Palestinian Authority was not disarming terrorists as it should have been under the roadmap. Israel continued to catch militants planning attacks or smuggling arms during this period, but Palestinian Authority forces also spotted and stopped terrorist activities. At the end of March, rebellious militants of the Al-Aqsa brigades, discontent with changes in the Palestinian Authority, fired on Abbas's headquarters in Ramallah.
Though at first authorities announced a hard line against the extremists, Abbas later reconsidered and decided to try and smooth over the differences. Tawfik Tirawi, head of Palestinian Intelligence in the West Bank, resigned because, he wrote, little was being done to implement the rule of law. Arab Summit and Peace Proposal - An Arab summit in Algiers ignored most of the pressing issues in the Arab world, and turned down a fresh peace initiative by King Abdullah of Jordan. Instead, it reiterated its support for the version of the Saudi Peace Plan passed in 2002 in Beirut that had been rejected by Israel. Israel indicated that the proposals are now outdated due to changes in the reality of the Middle East. Illegal Outposts - In March 2005, the Israeli government accepted a report on Illegal outposts prepared at the request of the government by Talia Sasson. The report investigated the status of a large number of illegal outposts, built without proper permits and government authorization in the West Bank since March of 2001. It described systematic lawlessness and diversion of funds used to finance the outposts. There are about 20 or 30 such outposts that were supposed to have been evacuated under the roadmap peace plan . Repeated government decisions and attempts to evacuate these outposts have not availed. The government appointed a committee to study the report, but no action was taken. Settlement Controversy - Palestinians were upset by the advancing Israeli security barrier, which isolates Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem, and by announced Israeli plans to build several thousand new housing units in the E1 area, near the settlement of Ma'aleh Edumim, east of Jerusalem. Under the Geneva Accord, Ma'aleh Edumim would be included in Israel, but the roadmap peace plan forbids construction in settlements. In his letter to Ariel Sharon in reply to Sharon's formal statement of the disengagement plan, President Bush had stated that the borders of the final settlement would take into account changes due to large Israeli population concentration in the occupied territories. The Israeli announcement may have been designed to test this statement, and to bolster Sharon's flagging popularity among right-wing supporters. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ambassador Dan Kurtzer first condemned the Israeli announcement. This reaction elicited a hail of ridicule from rightwing critics of Sharon and from former PM Ehud Barak, who claimed it was proof that the U.S. promise was worthless. Rice and Kurtzer then reversed themselves and denied that there were any differences of opinion with Israel over the settlement plans. Motion in no direction - During April and May, both Ariel Sharon and Mahmud Abbas visited with the President of the United States. Symbolically, this visit was very important, because it signaled that the US was ending the isolation of the Palestinian Authority that it had begun when Arafat failed to take action against terrorists. President Bush promised the Palestinians $50 million in direct aid in addition to larger sums already allocated for aid through NGOs, and stated that the borders of the 1949 armistice were the basis for any agreement. This last statement caused some controversy in Israel for some reason, but turned out to consistent with the wording of the letter Bush had given Ariel Sharon in April, 2004. Despite the fanfare, neither the meeting with Sharon nor the meeting with Abbas produced any visible change in Israeli unwillingness to make concessions to the Palestinians or in Palestinian unwillingness to take decisive steps to end terror by outlawing terrorist groups, disarming the terrorists, actively combating attacks, arresting wanted men and collecting illegal arms. The Israelis released about 400 prisoners as a good will gesture to Abbas. This number included, for the first time, prisoners "with blood on their hands," who had been involved in attacks that resulted in bloodshed. However, the Palestinians belittled this gesture as meaningless, since most of the prisoners were near the end of their sentence, and a large number of prisoners remain in Israeli jails. The Palestinians pointed out that none of the prisoners held from before 1994 had been released, so the prisoner release did not fulfill the conditions agreed upon in Sharm El Sheikh.
Attempted and successful Palestinian attacks, and particularly mortar and missile attacks on Gaza settlements and Negev towns continued. Palestinian President Abbas traveled to Gaza and secured a half-hearted commitment from extremist factions to honor the "Tahidiyeh" as long as Israel did, but repeated Palestinian attacks and Israeli reprisals and arrests of wanted men continued. Israeli forces caught a 15 year old boy suicide bomber at a checkpoint in the West Bank and later caught a young woman en route to carry out a suicide bombing attack on an Israeli hospital, sent by the Fatah ElAqsa brigades. According to Palestinian statistics, Israel killed about 40 Palestinians in the period, wounded 411 and arrested nearly a thousand civilians, many for illegally staying in Israel. Most of the dead were wanted men or were in the course of carrying out an attack. In late June, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived, met with the sides and announced that the sides had agreed to destroy the houses of Gaza settlers after Israeli withdrawal. On June 21, 2005, Sharon and Abbas met in a long-awaited summit, but nothing at all appeared to result from the meeting, other than an announcement by Ariel Sharon that he had attained Palestinian consent to coordination of the Gaza pullout. Israel would make no concessions on security unless the Palestinians acted against terrorists, and the Palestinians would not act decisively against terrorists. No communique was issued and the Palestinian leadership announced its profound disappointment. Palestinians announced that a large number of wanted terrorists had agreed to join the Palestinian police, while the Israelis announced they had convinced US AID to donate $500 million in medical equipment to Palestinian hospitals. For its part, the US ended its ban on diplomatic visits to Gaza that had begun 18 months previously, when AID officials were killed in a terrorist attack, resuming visits of US diplomatic personnel. As violence flared following the summit, Israel launched air attacks against rocket launchers in Gaza, killed several Islamic Jihad terrorists and also announced it was resuming its policy of targeted killings of Islamic Jihad terrorists. In Palestine, demonstrations and even armed attacks continued against the leadership. The popularity of the Hamas, now a contender in legislative elections, continued to rise, perhaps abetted by rumored and actual meetings between EU officials and Hamas representatives and repeated calls in the US for recognition of the Hamas. Both the British and PM President Abbas called on Hamas to end violence and join the political process, but Hamas initially refused, while accepting a short term truce. President Abbas announced that legislative elections would be delayed for several months in order to implement changes in the election law. At the beginning of July Abbas invited the Hamas and Islamic Jihad to join a unity government. The impasse during this period is attributable to several factors. Neither side is politically strong enough to offer concessions on final status. Such negotiations are pointless as long as Ariel Sharon insists that Jerusalem cannot be divided and Abbas insists that Jerusalem must be the Palestinian capital and that there will be no "compromise" on the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. Abbas must produce a Fatah win in the legislative elections and cannot do anything that will antagonize extremist sympathizers. On the other hand, Sharon has staked everything on the disengagement process, leaving him with little support for any other concessions. If any concessions are followed by Palestinian violence, that may be used as a reason to stop the disengagement. As Palestinian attacks against Israeli settlements continued, and as right-wing agitation against the disengagement escalated, Israel support for the withdrawal move dwindled from over 65% to about 50%.However, the new IDF chief of staff, Dan Halutz, indicated that no military exigency would stop the disengagement. It could only be stopped by a political decision. Israel also warned that if necessary it would take drastic steps to ensure that settlements and soldiers were not attacked during the evacuation. Disengagement Protests - Settlers protesting the disengagement carried out increasingly aggressive protests, which including blocking roads in Israel, violence
against Palestinians, police and IDF soldiers, and calls for soldiers to refuse to participate in evacuating settlers. At the end of June, settler-supporters who took up residence in Maoz Yam, an abandoned Gaza hotel, attempted to take over Palestinian houses and attacked an 18 year old Palestinian youth. Israeli police raided the hotel and removed the settlers by force. On July 13, the Israeli government closed the Gaza strip to Israeli citizens who were not residents of the settlements, to foil a planned march organized by the Yesha (settlers') council. The truce is broken - On July 13 a terrorist of the Islamic Jihad originating in Tul Karm carried out a suicide bombing in Netanya, resulting in the deaths of five people. The IDF reoccupied to Tul Karm, arrested several Islamic Jihad members and killed a Palestinian policeman who opened fire on them. The Hamas in Gaza retaliated with a rain of rocket fire on Gaza settlements and Israeli towns, killing one. The IDF in return launched rocket attacks in Gaza and a manhunt for Hamas military leaders in the Hebron area, resulting in the deaths of 8 or more Hamas members, some of them killed while on their way to launch fresh rocket attacks. On July 15, a violent battle broke out between Palestine National Authority forces trying to restore order and Hamas members in Gaza. Two Palestinian civilian bystanders were killed in the attack. Implementation of Disengagement - Israeli evacuation of Gaza settlements and four West Bank settlements began on August 15 and was completed August 24. Despite threats of civil war and demonstrations by right-wing Zionist groups, the evacuation was completed without major violence. One woman set herself on fire in protest and died of her wounds. Some protestors threw unidentified substances that may have included paint, turpentine and caustic soda at police. After completing the evacuation, IDF killed 5 wanted Islamic Jihad men in Tul Karm. The disengagement was completed ahead of schedule. As Israel withdrew there were increasing omens of impending chaos. Former PNA official Moussa Arafat, a relative of Yasser Arafat, was murdered by Palestinians angry about corruption. On September 11, the last Israeli soldiers left Gaza. On September 12, the settlements were officially handed over to the Palestinians. Subsequently a passage was opened between Gaza and Rafah in Egypt to ensure that Palestinians are not cut off from the world. Egyptians, Palestinians and EU representatives monitor the passage to prevent smuggling of arms, but Israelis claim that Palestinians are smuggling in substantial qualities of arms. Under pressure from the United States, Israel agreed to implement safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank using busses, but did not implement it. Qassam rockets continued to be fired on Sderot and were now also fired on Ashqelon just north of Gaza. Israel responded with air strikes to create a buffer zone On January 4, 2006, Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke, leaving the leadership of Israel and the new Kadima party in the hands of Ehud Olmert Olmert appeared to take some vigorous action against settler lawlessness, denouncing the destruction of olive trees, calling for evacuation of illegal outposts, and at the end of January, IDF and police forces staged a confrontation with settlers who had infiltrated part of the Arab Suq in Hebron and destroyed property there. The settlers evicted the Arabs, claiming that the land was owned by a Jewish Yeshiva and that they were the lawful inheritors. However, the IDF had not given them permission to occupy the properties. After a dramatic confrontation however, the government appeared to back down, compromising on peaceable removal of the settlers in return for a promise that they could soon return to the properties "lawfully." Hamas Victory - In elections held January, 26, 2006, the radical Hamas movement won an upset victory over the Fateh. Hamas won about 74 of the 133 seats in the Palestine Legislative Assembly. The movements that had led the Palestinians for about 40 years, the Fateh and the PLO seemed to be on their way to the opposition. Under the Palestinian constitution, Mahmoud Abbas remains President with broad powers. European and American leaders pledged not to negotiate with Hamas and not to
provide aid to the Palestinians until Hamas agreed to disarm and recognize Israel. Hamas spokesmen sent mixed signals, but vowed never to recognize Israel and never to give up their claim to all of Palestine, though a majority of Palestinians apparently want them to follow the path of peace. The Hamas-led government was sworn in on March 29, 2006. The Fatah refused to join the coalition because Hamas would not recognize the PLO as the representatives of the Palestinian people, and would not agree to honor past agreements of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, including the Oslo agreements that recognize the existence of Israel and which form the basis of legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority. Israeli Elections - In elections held March 28, 2006, the Kadima party led by Ehud Olmert gained 29 seats, more than any other party, while the right-wing Likud, formerly the governing party, got only 12 seats, signaling the end of the domination of Israeli politics by settler ideology Hamas in power - The international community suspended aid to the Hamas-led PNA government, causing an acute financial crisis. Iran and Russia freed funds for use of the Hamas, and Hamas politicians smuggled cash into Gaza under the eyes of European monitors in Rafah, in order to pay salaries of Palestinian security forces and workers. International donors eventually agreed on a mechanism for disbursing funds through Palestinian NGOs and for paying salaries directly to employees, and on June 24, EU donors announced a 105 million Euro aid package that would be distributed by this method. By the end of June however, Palestinians had apparently received only some partial salary payments from the cash smuggled by the Hamas. Hamas formed a new security militia headed by Jamil Abu Samhadana, leader of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees. This security force was declared illegal by President Mahmoud Abbas, who organized yet another Fatah-based militia. Fighting between Hamas and Fatah broke out, including killings and kidnappings of officials on both sides. Life in Gaza became increasingly chaotic, as Palestinian rights organizations documented a steady stream of internecine political violence, criminal violence and random killings. Samhadana was killed in an Israeli air-raid in early June, apparently as he was reviewing a rehearsal for a terrorist attack. Palestinians continued an almost daily rain of Qassam rockets on Israeli towns within the green line, in particular, the little town of Sderot. At the same time, Israel continued arrests and targeted killings of terrorist leaders whom it claimed were planning attacks, and in return the Islamic Jihad and Hamas vowed revenge. About 1000 Qassam rockets fell up to June 2006. The Qassam rockets grew in size and range, and the attacks had killed at least 9 to 11 people in all, including 5 residents of Sderot. Israel responded with artillery fire into empty fields and other psychological warfare, and then took to attacking the launching sites. At approximately the time of one such attack, several members of a Palestinian family were killed on a beach in Gaza, though Israel denied that their attack was responsible. Subsequent Israeli attacks missed their targets and killed civilians. On June 25th, just as PNA announced the conclusion of an agreement on a truce with Israel, Hamas attacked an Israeli army border outpost at Kerem Shalom, killing two soldiers and capturing a third. Hamas offered to trade the soldier for Palestinian prisoners. Israel refused to negotiate and began a siege of Gaza and later invaded in operation "Summer Rains" in an attempt to force Palestinians to return the soldier alive and stop the rain of Qassam rockets. (updated to July 8) Palestinian Prisoners' Document- Palestinians of various factions approved a document May 11 calling for national unity. The document called for right of return of the refugees and continued violent resistance against Israel, the latter in violation of provisions of the Roadmap for Middle East Peace. It also called for establishment of a Palestinian state in the boundaries of the West Bank and Gaza Strip prior to the 1967 war, and for negotiations with Israel to be conducted by PNA President and PLO chairman
Mahmoud Abbas. Many believed that the document implied recognition of Israel. A crisis was precipitated when Abbas demanded that Hamas accede to the document or accede to results of a referendum to approve the document. Hamas and Fatah gunmen carried out various acts of violence. A revised version of the Palestinian Prisoners Document was approved Hamas made it clear that it would not recognize Israel. The revised document also limited the historic PLO acceptance of UN Resolution 242 (guaranteeing the right of all states to exist in peace) by excluding any provisions that might violate Palestinian "rights." Hezbollah attack and Israeli response - Operation Just Reward - On the morning of July 12, Hezbollah terrorists crossed the blue line border from Lebanon to Israel and attacked an Israeli army patrol, killing 3 and capturing 2 soldiers. An additional soldier died the following day and several were killed when a tank hit a mine, while pursuing the captors. At the same time, Hezbollah began a series of rocket and mortar attacks on northern Israel. This incident may have been timed to coincide with the meeting of the G-8, which was to examine the issue of the Iranian nuclear development program. It also occurred against the background of the earlier fighting in Gaza. Subsequently, Israel carried out massive but selective bombing and artillery shelling of Lebanon, hitting rocket stores, Hezbollah headquarters in the Dahya quarter of Beirut (see Beirut Map) and al-Manara television in Beirut, and killing an estimated 900 persons in total, many of them civilians. Hezbollah responded by launching thousands of rockets on Haifa, Tiberias, Safed and other towns deep in northern Israel, killing about 40 civilians (See Map of Hezbollah Rocket Attacks ). About 120 soldiers were killed in the fighting. A Hezbollah Iranian supplied C-802 missile hit an Israeli missile cruiser off the coast of Beirut, killing 4. Hezbollah rockets also sank a Cambodian ship and damaged an Egyptian one. The G-8 democratic industrial powers, meeting in St Petersburg, issued a statement calling for an end to violence, return of the soldiers and compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1559 UN Security Council Resolution 1680, which call for disarming militias. (See statement of the G-8 on the Lebanon-Israel Crisis ). After Israeli air-attacks proved ineffective at stopping Hezbollah rocket attacks or producing a satisfactory cease-fire resolution, Israel launched a limited ground invasion of Lebanon, making halting and indecisive moved coupled with aggressive rhetoric by Israeli public figures. Efforts continued to broker a cease fire that would be satisfactory to both sides. Key Israeli demands were implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559 and 1680 - that is, disarming the Hezbollah, and moving the Lebanese army up to border, to take control of south Lebanon from the Hezbollah, as well as return of the kidnapped soldiers. Israel and the US also wanted a strong international force that would oversee disarmament of the Hezbollah. Key Lebanese demands were embodied in a seven point plan that included deployment of the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon, but did not include disarmament of Hezbollah. Lebanese also insisted on return of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel, and immediate Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory. Lebanon also demanded the Sheba farms territory from Israel. In 2000, the UN had ruled that Sheba farms, in the Golan Heights, is part of Syria. Syria, for its part, had refused to demarcate its border with Lebanon formally but said it supported the Lebanese demand. The desultory Israeli offensive was stepped up on August 11 when efforts to broker a cease-fire appeared to be at an impasse, and Israeli troops began advancing in force toward the Litani river, 30 KM north of the Israel-Lebanon border. At the same time however, the UN Security Council met and approved Resolution 1701, calling for cessation of hostilities, and deployment of the Lebanese army in Southern Lebanon, but with ambiguous wording about the various issues. Both sides stopped the fighting on August 14, 2006. The poor conduct of the war raised a storm of criticism in Israel, and the Israeli attack roused widespread resentment in the Arab world. International human rights groups and the UN condemned Israel for the alleged war crime of using cluster bombs in Southern Lebanon. Cluster bombs have not been
outlawed by international conventions and have been used in previous conflicts. They also alleged that Israel had deliberately targeted civilians. However, an Israeli NGO report issued in December found that Hezbollah had hidden among civilian population and that nearly 700 of the casualties were Hezbollah fighters. Some human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, also later condemned the Hezbollah for indiscriminate rocket fire. However, the UN Human Rights Council, which issued a total of eight condemnations of Israel in 2006, failed to condemn the Hezbollah or Hamas for egregious violations. The two Israeli soldiers captured by the Hezbollah. remained in captivity and in December it was revealed that they had been wounded when captured and that their medical condition was uncertain. The border remained quiet, though Hezbollah was being rearmed by Syria at a heavy pace. On November 21, assassins gunned down anti-Syrian politician Pierre Gemayel. On the first of December, after the Seniora government approved a motion calling for an international tribunal to try the murderers of Rafiq Hariri, Hezbollah ministers walked out of the Lebanese government, and large crowds of Hezbollah supporters were organized to besiege the Prime Minister's office and bring down the Lebanese government. The demonstrators were said variously to demand one third representation for pro-Hezbollah ministers, or reform of the constitution in order to provide equitable representation for Shi'ites or a unity government. Gaza Violence - During and after the Israeli offensive in Lebanon, IDF operations continued unabated in Gaza as Palestinians continued to rain down Qassam rockets on the Western Negev and the Hamas insisted solemnly that it was keeping a truce. The Hamas government continued to be supplied with money from Iran and Arab states, brought into Gaza under the not too watchful eyes of European monitors in Rafaj (Rafiah), while some 30 tons of arms were estimated to have been smuggled into Gaza through tunnels built from the Egyptian side of the border. Egypt did little to stop these activities. During October and November, Palestinians shot a relentless rain of Qassam missiles on the Western Negev and in particular the town of Sderot, killing three Israelis. IDF operations in Rafah uncovered extensive tunnels used for smuggling, but IDF operations in the north of Gaza, intended to stop the firing of Qassam missiles, were terminated under increasing international pressure, as Israelis had killed over 50 Palestinians, including several civilians. The operations in the north were intended to stop the firing of Qassam missiles, but had no effect. During one raid, terrorists had hidden in a mosque, and escaped with the help of women who volunteered to be used as human shields. IDF killed several of these women. On November 8, following the Israeli withdrawal, an especially heavy barrage of Qassam fire prompted an Israeli shelling response. The shells missed their target, hitting a residential neighborhood and killing about 20 Palestinian civilians. Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for the return of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit remained stalled as Palestinians demanded the release of over a thousand prisoners. Truce - On November 26, the Palestinians and Israelis announced a surprise truce that was to apply only to the Gaza strip. Despite continuation of Qassam fire by the Palestinians for several days thereafter, Israel held to the truce. On the day following the truce announcement, November 27, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert announced a new Israeli diplomatic initiative offering peace to the Palestinians and other other neighbors along the lines of the Arab Peace Initiative. This was the first time that an Israeli leader had referred to the initiative in a positive way. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the speech, while Hamas leaders and Israeli extremists condemned it. From the United States, the Iraq Study Group report, which recommended active US involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, also gave rise to talk of peace negotiations.
The truce was violated repeatedly in Gaza by barrages of Qassam rockets fired at Israeli towns. The dissident Islamic Jihad claimed that it would not adhere to the truce unless it was extended to the West Bank. However, it was revealed that the Hezbolla were paying thousands of dollars for each Qassam rocket fired. The Syrian government, attempting to recover the Golan and to break out of the isolation imposed on it because of its role in violence in Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian conflict, offered to negotiate peace with Israel "without conditions." However, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, citing continuing Syrian support for terror groups, rejected the offer. Abbas - Olmert Summit - On December 23, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert finally met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and announced some concessions to make life easier for the Palestinians including release of tax funds frozen by Israel and removal of a number of checkpoints. A plan to release prisoners for the Eid al Adha holiday was abandoned however. Following the meeting, Israel agreed to a large transfer of weapons to the Fatah group loyal to President Abbas from Egypt. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni hinted at a new peace initiative in press interviews. These moves were seen as attempts to support President Abbas in his rivalry with the Hamas-led government of Ismail Hanniyeh. Palestinian Unity Government and Anarchy - Following the release of the Palestinian Prisoners letter, negotiations continued to form a Palestinian unity government that could, it was hoped, recognize the existence of Israel, cease violent activity, get recognition from the West and allow Western governments to resume funding of the Palestinian authority. President Mahmoud Abbas repeatedly set two week "deadlines" that were postponed and forgotten, but the negotiations failed. On December 16, Mahmoud Abbas announced that he was dissolving the government and calling for new elections, unless Hamas agreed to a unity government. but he did not set a date for the elections. This proposal led to renewed violence between Palestinian factions, with Hamas charging that Fatah had tried to assassinate Palestinian PM Hanniyeh. An attempted truce failed, and Gaza schools were closed in the rising anarchy. However, on February 8, 2007, under the aegis of the Saudi monarchy, the sides concluded an agreement to form a unity government. The agreement did not explicitly declare Palestinian recognition of Israel or meet demands of the quartet to disarm militant groups. A trilateral summit between President Mahmud Abbas, Israeli P.M. Ehud Olmert and US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on February 19 failed to produce any change in Abbas's stance or any concessions to the Palestinians. Temple Mount/Al Aqsa Construction sparks riots - Israel began rebuilding a fallen rampway to the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem along a new route. The ramp had collapsed in 2004. The new route would run about 80 meters from the mosque. Though the Muslim Waqf agreed to the construction originally, Sheikh Raed Salah of the Israeli Islamist movement claimed that the construction was damaging the mosque and threatened to begin another Intifadah. Israel denied that the construction was harming the mosques. Following protests from the Arab and Muslim world, Israel suspended work on the bridge, but continued archeological salvage operations. It installed Web cams to show the operations and invited the Turkish government to inspect the site. (Updated February 19, 2007)
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