1973 Yom Kippur War Thesis

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Yom Kippur war can be said to have rooted in the death of Nasser in September 1970 which had taken the Middle East by surprise. Equally surprising was the war itself which had come as a complete shock to Israelic intelligence agencies who had succumbed to a general concept that although there "was a possibility that Egypt and Syria would start a war against us [they would] not start a war as long as counterweight to our military advantage" did not exist. Israel's military and political leaders "accepted the concept that the chance of war in October 1973 was low." Anwar Sadat who succeeded Nasser as Egyptian leader was at first not as strong a figure as his predecessor. But his strong personality emerged later and soon he turned out to be forceful, outwitting his opponents and gaining full control of the government, including policy in the Arab-Israel conflict. He believed that for Egypt's political, military and economic well-being, to regain self-confidence at home as well as respect in the world community, it was crucial to wipe out the disgrace and humiliation of the 1967 defeat. At first Sadat tried diplomacy, extending the Rogers plan and offering to reopen the Suez Canal if Israel withdrew to the Mitla and Gidi passes in the Sinai peninsula. He also offered to restore diplomatic relations with the United States, declare a cease-fire and sign a peace with Israel based on full implementation of Resolution 242.

Sadat's offers encouraged the United States and the Soviet Union to reactivate the Jarring mediation mission between Egypt and Israel. Israel bluntly stated that it would not withdraw to the pre-June 5, 1967, armistice lines, bringing the Jarring mission to a halt again. By the end of 1971, Sadat began to lose faith in diplomacy, and he warned that 1971 would be the "year of decision" in the conflict, implying that war might be necessary to regain the lands lost in 1967. He repeated warnings about the year of decision in 1972 but took no radical action. By the end of 1972, Israelis, Americans and even many Arabs considered Sadat's pronouncements empty threats, not to be taken seriously.

While calling for diplomatic approaches to the conflict, Sadat was also preparing for a two-front war against Israel with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad. Under cover of talks about a Libyan scheme for a Federation of Arab Republics (Egypt, Syria, Libya and Sudan), military staffs held several planning sessions. Egypt was still dependent on the Soviet Union for modern weapons; an assured supply was necessary if war were to be waged. But Sadat suspected that Moscow was deliberately slowing down the arms flow as part of the Soviet-American detente. Angered by Russia's failure to respond to his demands, Sadat surprised the international community in July 1972 by expelling all 21,000 Soviet military advisors and personnel serving in Egypt. Many in the West believed this would delay the war. Instead the Soviet Union stepped up arms deliveries to both Egypt and Syria to regain Sadat's favor.

In a last attempt at a political settlement during July 1973, Sadat persuaded eight members of the U.N. Security Council to introduce a resolution reiterating the call for territorial withdrawal by Israel and underscoring Palestinian rights. The resolution was vetoed by the United States because it undermined Resolution 242, "the one and only agreed basis" for a settlement. The U.S. veto and failure of Presidents Nixon and Brezhnev to mention the Middle East in their June summit meeting convinced the Arab states that only war could resolve the conflict. But still Israel was not certain that war would actually take place. At the foreign Minister Meir's office, it was know that Egypt and Syria might consider war as an option but "the probability of war breaking out was regarded as the lowest of the low."

In Israel positions had hardened since the 1967 victory. The country emerged from the war as the strongest military power in the region, stronger than any combination of Arab states. The new boundaries appeared to guarantee national security for the foreseeable future. Differences among political parties over the future of the occupied territories concerned their political status rather than whether or not to return them. The Likud bloc (a coalition of right-wing parties led by Menachem Begin and successor to the Gahal party) opposed withdrawal from any occupied territories for both security and ideological reasons; many in Likud and among other militant nationalists called for annexation. The glue that held Likud together was the belief that all of mandatory Palestine belonged by right to the Jewish people; Sinai and the Golan could not be returned because of security.

The governing Labor Party generally accepted the principle of "territory in exchange for peace," although it adamantly opposed return of all the occupied lands, asserting that for security reasons, Israel would have to remain in substantial areas. Sadat's failure to follow through after his proclamations about the "year of decision" in 1971 and again in 1972, led the Israeli general staff to conclude that the country was safe from an Arab attack. This "conception," founded on the assumption that the IDF was invulnerable and that the Bar-Lev line along the banks of the Suez Canal was impenetrable, took Israel's army commanders by surpirse. Israeli intelligence misjudged the deployment of forces along the canal in the days before the war as part of military exercises, unlikely to escalate into an actual attack.

The two-front war began on October 6, 1973, the Jewish Day of Atonement, so in Israel it was called the Yom Kippur War. It also was the Muslim month of fasting; thus the conflict was called the Ramadan War by the Arabs. Egyptian forces quickly crossed the canal and overran the Bar-Lev line. In the north, Syria moved into the Golan Heights nearly reaching the pre-1967 border with Israel. The IDF was outnumbered almost 12 to 1 when the fighting began because it had not yet fully mobilized, but within the next few days rapid call-up of reserves redressed the balance.

The fighting was the fiercest since 1948, with major losses of manpower and material on both sides. The numbers of tanks, planes and artillery destroyed was larger than in any battle fought between World War II and 1973. Losses were so great that each side had to be rearmed in the midst of the fighting. Huge U.S. Galaxie transport planes rushed tons of spare parts and equipment to the IDF; when reaching Israel, supplies were immediately unloaded and brought directly to the front lines. The Soviet Union provided similar assistance to Syria and Egypt.

During the first days of the war, the Israelis feared that Arab forces, especially the Syrians in the north, might penetrate the pre-June 1967 borders. Within a week, however, Israeli counter-offensives had turned the tide of battle. The Syrians were beaten back on the Golan Heights, and Israeli forces crossed the Suez Canal and began a push toward Cairo.

The war precipitated a tense international crisis when the Soviet Union responded to an urgent appeal from Cairo to save the Egyptian Third Army surrounded by the IDF in Sinai. Despite Security Council cease-fire orders, Israeli troops continued to attack, in an attempt to destroy the Egyptian forces remaining in Sinai. When Moscow threatened to send troops to assist the Egyptians, the United States declared a worldwide military alert. The crisis ended when all parties agreed to negotiate a safe retreat for the Egyptians.

By the time the combatants accepted a cease-fire on October 22, Israeli forces had regained control of Sinai and crossed to the west side of the Suez Canal. Israel recaptured most of the Golan and occupied some 600 square kilometers of Syrian territory beyond. Both Egypt and Israel claimed success, Egypt because it crossed the Canal into Sinai and Israel because it finally scored a military victory. The price, however was steep. Nearly 3,000 Israeli and more than 8,500 Egyptian and Syrian soldiers were killed, and 8,800 Israelis and almost 20,000 Egyptians and Syrians were wounded. Israel lost 840 tanks; the Egyptians and Syrians, 2,550. The cost of the war equaled approximately one year's gross national product for each of the combatants. Expenditures for the October War drained funds for development programs in Egypt and Syria, despite massive financing from Saudi Arabia, and began a serious downturn in Israel's economy, making it more dependent on U.S. military and economic aid. Egypt and Syria now had to turn to the Soviet Union to restock their arsenals.

The October War also had severe international economic repercussions. It emboldened the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to double prices for oil. The Arab members now insisted on tying the sale of oil to support from its customers in the war against Israel. The Arabs also called for a reduction of 5% in oil production each month until Israel restored the territory it captured in 1967 and respected the rights of the Palestinians. Saudi Arabia cut production by… [END OF PREVIEW]

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1973 Yom Kippur War.  (2008, July 14).  Retrieved February 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/1973-yom-kippur-war/4573

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"1973 Yom Kippur War."  Essaytown.com.  July 14, 2008.  Accessed February 19, 2019.
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