The war of attrition

After the Six-Day War, the Arab hostilities against Israel continued. Across the entire stretch of the Suez Canal, bloody artillery battles were fought between Israeli and Egyptian troops.At that time, the Nixon administration expended considerable effort to broker a cease-fire between the two sides. During the lengthy negotiations the Rebbe warned Israel against entering into any agreement, explaining that Egypt wanted a cease-fire only to begin preparing for the next war. “Before the ink is dry on the agreement,” the Rebbe warned, “the Egyptians will violate it. And who knows how many lives will be lost in the next war because of these violations.”The Israelis had the upper hand. Their armies were at the banks of the Suez Canal and by preventing its use put a stranglehold on the Egyptian economy. Nevertheless, in the negotiations, the Egyptians made demands with bravado. At first the Israelis hesitated, but as the negotiations continued, the Israel acceded to every one of the Egyptian demands.What was the agreement’s saving grace for the Israelis? There was to be a cease fire: although the Israelis would pull back, the Egyptians solemnly promised not to move any heavy guns across the Suez.What actually happened? The day after the treaty was signed the Egyptians violated it, moving their artillery and anti-aircraft batteries across the Suez and entrenching them in the Sinai Peninsula. The transfer of equipment was photographed and publicized by news media throughout the world.What did the Israelis do? They lodged a few feeblehearted protests and then carried on as if nothing had happened. They could have launched an artillery attack that would have destroyed the Egyptian guns before they could be positioned. No one in the world could have protested, for the Egyptians had flagrantly violated the agreement before its ink had dried. But Israel’s army was silent, and even her diplomats did not voice constant and outspoken protests.What was the rationale motivating the Israelis? First of all, the hope that the agreement would be a first step toward peace, and second, the perception that signing this treaty would win American favor and enable Israel to receive American arms.Neither of these perceptions had any basis in reality. To imagine that Nasser could have been at all prepared for peace with Israel, one would have had to be an incorrigible dreamer. Yet when the parents of the soldiers who had been killed in the three previous years asked the government why the concessions to the Arabs were being made, this is the answer that was given them.Nor was it necessary to make these concessions to receive American arms. America did not desire Israel’s position to be weakened. Just as she expected the Arabs to make demands she expected Israel to reject them, because they were harmful to her security. How was she to know that Israel would capitulate to every single Arab demand?What happened as a result of the Israeli redeployment mandated by the treaty? The Egyptians were able to cross the Suez without difficulty in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and their anti-aircraft batteries in the Sinai inflicted losses on Israeli planes. Although the treaty did give the Israelis a temporary respite from battle, in the long run it cost many more lives.And most importantly, had Egypt not been given these strategic positions, it is very possible that the Yom Kippur War would never have been waged. It was only because Egypt had been granted a foothold in the Sinai that she had the position and the confidence to launch an attack.
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