Picking up where we left off:
As the battle for Jerusalem was ending, the war now took on a different tone.
It was no longer lone, little Israel trying to find a way to avoid annihilation by the surrounding Arab states, but rather a cleaning up of the actions in the Jordan valley and in the Sinai.
As day 4 came and went, The IDF, despite common myths to the contrary, had little success stopping the retreat of the Egyptians. There was an attempt to do an end run, which was only partially successful.
In any case, the policy had been, because of the overwhelming number of POW’s, to hold only officers and release the common soldiers.
Israel began to consolidate hold on the Sinai, and then made the move down to free the Straits of Tiran to reopen their port that had been closed by the Egyptians.
They also seized the Sinai and the Suez Canal. While the canal would be returned immediately, it was not reopened by the international community for several years as the distrust of the Egyptian purposes remained.
The Sinai, of course, would be the key to the 1978 Camp David Accords (more about that later).
More importantly, the route of Egypt led to the eventual resignation of Nasser – he actually resigned immediately but after demonstrations, pledged to remain in office until dignity could be restored.
More on this later as well, but Sadat, now firmly in control of the Egyptian army, and very familiar with the Israeli’s engineered the turnaround that allowed the Egyptians, however briefly, to gain the upper hand in 1972’s Yom Kippur war. Despite the Israeli triumph, this war is celebrated in Egypt as a victory (imagine my surprise on my first trip to Cairo to be toured around the monument in downtown celebrating the Arab victory!).
On June 7th, Sharm el Sheikh was taken and the next day, the 8th, the capture of the Sinai was complete.
In the West Bank, there was some talk of proceeding through the Jordan River and proceeding to Amman, but the Americans put an end to this idea.
In the United States, what would become resolution 242 (which should be read as it’s requirements are not solely on the Israeli’s and do NOT require full return of captured territory) was already formed in Lyndon Johnson’s head.
Suddenly the Israeli’s were not just one of a handful of potential allies in the region, but rather viewed as a regional power that would benefit the US by allying with.
In the north, the Syrians had been partially drawn in by the false reports that General Amer had been broadcasting of the rapid advance of Egyptian troops into Israel. The capture of Tel Aviv seemed inevitable.
As mentioned in an earlier post, Assad even took “credit” for starting the war.
But, as it had done only a few months earlier, the IAF easily wiped out the Syrian air force and their contingent of Soviet equipment.
The Syrians are content to sit on the Golan heights and shell Israeli positions. The Golan Heights are so named for a good reason. As the terrain rises from the Sea of Galilee, you must climb upward to reach the plateau that to this day contains a UN outpost separating the Syrian and Israeli border.
There is a famous story of perhaps the most successful spy of the 20th century, Eli Cohen. A Jew born in Cairo, he was recruited by the Israeli Intelligence services to infiltrate the Syrian government.
He did this to such affect that at the time of his capture and public hanging, he was the third in charge, behind only Hafez Assad.
It is said that he suggested to the Syrians to plant eucalyptus trees around the Syrian bunkers in the Golan in order to disguise them.
The Syrians failed to consider that the eucalyptus was not native to the region, and the IDF and IAF saw these plantings and knew where to focus their attacks.
The IAF created a situation where 4 Israeli brigades were able to create a pincer move up the heights and to surround the Syrians. However, the Syrians withdrew so quickly that most of the forces were able to escape. However the Heights were taken.
Finally, on June 10th at the UN a ceasefire was signed and agreed to. Hostilities to stop the next day. Those 24 hours gave the Israelis the opportunity principally to consolidate their gains in the North.
In the immediate aftermath of the war, two critical facts emerged, both of which are overlooked in today’s common knowledge.
First was the Israeli’s maintaining, in the case of Muslim sites, and establishing, in the case of Christian sites, control by the respective religions of their own holy sites.
The second, was the declaration on June 19th, one week after the end of the war, by the Israeli Knesset (legislature) to return most territories (Gaza was not addressed as no one wanted it).
The Knesset required only demilitarization of the Golan, and the Sinai.
Of course, the West Bank was offered to Jordan, which had controlled it since 1948. Important to note that there had NEVER been any Palestinian claims to this land before.
Finally, the Arab league met in Khartoum Sudan, in September. It was then that they issued their famous 3 “NO’s”
1) No recognition of Israel
2) No Peace with Israel
3) No negotiations with Israel
It has been the guiding force in Arab policy since.
In the latter stages of the war, the US had actually turned an aircraft carrier around to head toward the area. This was done in case hostilities spread, in case the Soviets became involved (which they threatened internally to both the Syrians and Egyptians at different points) and to support the Israeli’s if necessary.
The ship never went there and it ended up causing, what Defense Secretary Robert McNamara declared teh worst crisis in Soviet US relations since the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis.
Of course, the Sinai WAS returned, in the 1978 Camp David accords with Egypt.
In the aftermath of the war, the Egyptians realized that their dependence on the Soviet Union had been ill placed. Sadat systematically began removing Egypt from the Soviet sphere. THe signing of the accords guaranteed Egypt almost dollar for dollar aid with Israel from the US and made them the US titular ally.
This money, in Egypt has been used exclusively for military purposes, and it is my opinion, that it is this, and not even Iran, that poses the greatest threat to the US and Israel in the region.
Relationships have never progressed where it was envisioned and have systematically worsened as Hosni Mubarak has battled fundamentalism in his country.
The Egyptians have now violated Camp David, both re militarizing it, and training specifically to fight another war with the Israeli’s.
The difference this time is that they will both be fighting with American equipment.
As to the Soviets.
Recent documents released indicate that their role in fomenting the crisis may have been greater than earlier believed. Strangely, that they hoped to hightlite the close West German Israeli relationship to drive certain countries from democracy.
Of course, it also served as the first real full scale test of Soviet military might versus a Western (although not US) nation.
The total annihilation of Soviet equipment began the process of revealing the relative inadequacy of the Soviet Union’s military might.
Perhaps most importantly, and with the greatest significance, was the total humiliation of the Arab political culture.
The secular states would be no more. Politics in the Middle East quickly bacame a breeding ground for radicalism, terror and religious fundamentalism.
The single event which opened the flood gates to this was perhaps the assassination of Anwar Sadat by the Muslim Brotherhood.
But never again, would there be Pan Arabism in a secular way. The ties that bind are now religious.