Thesis: Yom Kippur War

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Yom Kippur War

The Long-Term Implications of the Yom Kippur War

As forces from Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq massed around Israel's borders in 1967, Israel launched a six-day air campaign which crippled the capacity of its opponents to wage war and which expanded its borders to well beyond the tract originally awarded to Zionists with the independence of 1948. Taking control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strips, Israel now held the fate of the exiled Palestinian people in its hands. In response to this condition, the United Nations Security Council attempted to draft a resolution demanding Israel's immediate withdrawal from its newly occupied territories. Here, the United States introduced that which would epitomize its policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by blocking the passage of any such resolution by the international governing body. Thence forward, the United States has taken a unilateral stance on the conflict, siding almost invariably with the Israeli government in its right to protect its borders by denying statehood to the disenfranchised Palestinian people. These are the conditions which are present today, and which as a point of fact, would also be at the root of the Yom Kippur War.

The nation of Israel, today continually at the center of territorial dispute, vehement ideological disagreement and violent daily conflict, was a state founded amidst circumstances of a similar nature in 1948. Its creation was severely opposed by its surrounding Arab states who viewed the establishment of Israel both as a weapon against pan-Arab control of the Middle East region and as a means to denying Palestinian Arabs the homeland promised them by British occupiers in the early part of the 20th century. As a result, Israel's existence, peace and security have balanced precariously atop a pervasive regional interest in dismantling these goals. To a large part, the Jewish National Homeland's strategy of preservation would be based on countering this regional interest through war and diplomacy. Its formation and its long history of defensive tactics culminated in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with two conflicts defining the future course for the region. Remarkably, this course has also had significant bearing on the rest of the world, with nations such as the United States and the Soviet Union taking a vested interest both in times of peace and conflict. The Yom Kippur War, which occurred in 1973, would be an act of strategic vengeance by the Arab states for the disgrace and political disenfranchisement provoked by their defeat in the Six Day War, which occurred in 1967. These events would create a political and geographical deadlock that remains in place today, and would also set the mold for the Middle East peace process, both in its successes and failures.

Israel's policy response, since its founding charter, has been to diplomatically engage its neighbors unilaterally, though diplomacy had rarely been the avenue explored by regional partners. Instead, war marked the year of Israeli independence, with Egypt banding with Syria and Jordan to invade the fledgling democracy. This attempt to undermine the creation of Israel backfired, with Israel's international support, particularly that of the U.S., helping it not only to vanquish its aggressors but to expand its granted borders by 50%. (Timeline, 1)

In the late 1950's, Egypt manned an economic response to what it perceived as an incursion of its borders, blocking Israeli utilization of the Suez Canal and the Strait of Tiran, both strategically crucial waterways for international trade. This ultimately led to the six-day war in 1967. Again, this marked an instance in which Israel was able to expand its borders in response to regional aggression. This was an expansion that would set into motion the bargaining chips for future peace agreements while simultaneously levying an occupation of the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank that would become the basis for major grievances by Arab States. Following its victory, Israel was met by "UN Resolution 242, which called for Israeli withdrawal" from the newly acquired territories. (Timeline, 1) This resolution would thenceforth define an Israeli impetus toward the eventuality of returning all of these lands, though the conditions have not yet been ideal for a thorough implementation of this impetus. In 1973, Egypt's then president Abdel Nasser, in a drive to extend his proclamation of the need and right for a Pan-Arab nation, attacked Israel on its holiest day, Yom Kippur. Though the surprise attack pushed Israeli borders back to pre-1967 proportions, American support again helped Israel conquer its assailant and reconstitute its parameters. Israel's consistent defeat of its most fortified enemy, in Egypt, would make diplomacy the only evident route to relations with the state. Thus, the impact of the Yom Kippur War in its immediate manifestation would be to denote that Israel could not continue to view its newly established borders as secure.

Here, we consider the implications of UN Security Council Resolution 242, which was intended to end hostilities in the wake of the expansion of Israel's borders.

Therefore, "on November 22, 1967, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 242, establishing the principles that were to guide the negotiations for an Arab-Israeli peace settlement. This resolution was a tortuously negotiated compromise between competing proposals. By examining what was discarded as well as the language that appears, it is possible to discern the Security Council's intent. The first point addressed by the resolution is the 'inadmissability of the acquisition of territory by war.'" (Jewish Virtual Library, 1) Thus, the resolution would make the argument that Israel was legally not entitled to retain its hold on the lands gained through the engagement of hostilities with its neighbors. In many ways, this aspect of the resolution would become a policy-point by which the Arabs would rally a future engagement against the Israelis, with the presumption being that a will did exist in the world community to see the Palestinian lands be removed from Israeli control.

If the Arab states were preparing to undertake another military strike against the Israelis, it can be deduced that there existed no expectation of outright defeat. The decisive and total reduction of Arab forces by the lone Israeli state would set a new tenor for the military balance in the region. Indeed, "Israel's preemptive attack in the 1967 war and its offensive military strategy in general stemmed from its small size and corresponding lack of defensible territory. Israeli leaders developed a doctrine which called for the attack as soon as practicable in order to carry the battle away from Israeli soil. This strategy, successful in 1956, became doctrine following the 1967 campaign.[20] the 1967 Six Days' War molded Israeli thought about themselves, their Arab foes, and the next war." (Jordan, 3) With considerable justification, the Israelis, in concert with American sponsorship in the form of armaments and tanks, would roll to a stunning victory in 1967, vanquishing foes on all borders. While its objectives had never included the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the implication of the '67 struggle was clear. Israel would need to expand its borders to insulate its people from military aggression. This would imply to the Israelis that there was some credible opportunity to prevent aggression on their own land, even ensconced by enemy territory as they are. And this would become the ambition of the state, in its continued occupation of these lands, particularly in the absence of any suitable agreement providing for said lands to be relinquished. Indeed, Resolution 242 would provide the basis for a mutual settlement to this issue that was never honored by the two conflicting sides, resulting in a basis for the 1973 attack.

As our research denotes, "the most controversial clause in Resolution 242 is the call for the 'Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.' This is linked to the second unambiguous clause calling for 'termination of all claims or states of belligerency' and the recognition that 'every State in the area' has the 'right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.'" (Jewish Virtual Library, 1) While the former parameter for disengagement would never be honored by Israel, so too would the Arab states resist the obligation of this resolution calling for an unconditional acknowledgment of Israel and its right to statehood. In large part, the failure of both sides to come to agreement on the honoring of terms composed by Resolution 242 would perpetuate the situation still in place to day. The situation would be very much a determinant factor in the conditions precipitous to and pursuant of the Yom Kippur War thereafter.

Importantly, the condition of Arab hostility toward Israel had intensified significantly in the space of time following the 1967 conflict. A wounded Arab psyche was inflamed by Israel's refusal to depart from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Great political motive underscored the growth in the pan-Arab Middle East. A brainchild of Egyptian President Abdel Nasser, the notion of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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