Yom Kippur War

Yom Kippur War

President Nasser died of a heart attack in September 1970, as he concluded the negotiations designed to terminate the Black September developments. Anwar Sadat succeeded Nasser as President and developed a focus on Egypt’s domestic, economic, and social problems rather than on the conflict with Israel. Peace with Israel seemed to be his long-range objective, although this was not clear until after the Yom Kippur War.

The U.S.-initiated Middle East cease-fire of August 1970 was shattered by a coordinated Egyptian and Syrian attack on Israeli positions on the Suez Canal and the Golan Heights on October 6, 1973. The Yom Kippur War, which lasted 19 days, ended the efforts to achieve an Arab-Israeli settlement associated with the Six-Day War of 1967. Israel was at first shaken but then fought back aggressively. Neither Egypt nor Syria regained the territories each had sought, but the armies of both states performed far better than Israeli intelligence had expected.

Egypt inflicted heavy losses on the Israelis in the Sinai; Syria’s thrust into the Golan Heights in the first days looked unstoppable. Israel recovered, but its army did not appear to be invincible. In the last days of the war, tensions peaked between Washington and Moscow, the chief backer of Egypt and Syria, which brought all U.S. military forces to a DEFCON 3 alert. A cease-fire and the passage of UN Security Council Resolutions 338, 339, and 340 marked the end of hostilities.

The cease-fire finally took effect on October 25, 1973, and was soon followed by a meeting between Israeli and Egyptian officers at Kilometer 101 on the Cairo-Suez road to discuss implementation. The war ended with Israel still in control of the Golan Heights and most of the Sinai, but the military balance had shifted. The unusual configuration of the initial cease-fire lines provided the opportunity and need to negotiate a disengagement of military forces on both the Egyptian and Syrian fronts.

The discussions between Israel and Egypt soon gave way to a peace conference in Geneva, Switzerland, that involved representatives from Egypt, Jordan, and Israel under UN auspices and with the United States and the Soviet Union as cochairs.In January 1974, U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger began his first “shuttle diplomacy” and achieved an Egypt-Israel Disengagement of Forces Agreement. Later in the spring of 1974, Kissinger conducted another round of shuttle diplomacy, this time between Israel and Syria.

The disengagement agreement in this instance was signed in Geneva and called for Israel to relinquish its forward positions on the Golan Heights and to withdraw from the city of Kuneitra and return it to Syria. A DMZ was then monitored by a United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).The cease-fires of October did not end the hostilities.

A semi-war atmosphere, with the attendant mobilization of large numbers of reservists and tensions on the home front and at forward positions, continued for months after the war. Tension contributed to Israeli uncertainties and further affected the orderly pursuit of change. Only with the implementation of the disengagement accords was Israel able to concentrate fully on the reorganization and redeployment of the military, the acquisition of equipment, the reinfusion of morale, and the restructuring of the political environment.