Israel Record

Arab-Israeli Conflicts

Before the Creation of the State of Israel
The War of Independence

The 1956 Sinai Campaign
The 1967 War
After the 1967 War
The 1973 Yom Kippur War
The Israeli-Egyptian Peace
The Lebanon War
The West Bank and Gaza


Israel Record Contents

Seal of State of Israel

THE 1973 YOM KIPPUR WAR

In an effort to force Israel to unilaterally surrender captured lands, Egypt and Syria jointly attacked Israel on October 6, 1973, on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Other Arab states contributed troops and financial support. Caught by surprise, Israel suffered severe losses in human life and equipment. Following an Egyptian refusal to accept a cease-fire and a Soviet airlift to the Arab states, the U.S. sent an airlift to Israel enabling her to recover from earlier setbacks. Saudi Arabia then led the Arab world in an oil embargo imposed on the United States and other western nations.

Following a cease-fire, the war officially ended on October 22, 1973 but fighting continued on the Egyptian-Israeli front and the U.S. and the Soviet Union were nearly dragged into a full-scale superpower confrontation. Such a confrontation was avoided and when hostilities finally ended, Israel held an additional 165 square miles of territory from Syria, and had encircled the Egyptian Third Army on the west bank of the Suez Canal. Egyptian forces held two areas of Israeli territory along the east bank of the canal. Israel, Egypt and Syria all held prisoners of war.

On October 22, 1973, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 338, calling on all parties to begin "implementation of Security Council Resolution 242 in all its parts" through negotiations.

In late December, at the request of the Soviet Union, a Middle East peace conference opened in Geneva. Insisting that Israel first evacuate from territory gained during the war, Syria refused to attend. The conference quickly adjourned in failure.

U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger then directed his energies toward achieving bilateral, rather than comprehensive agreements. After months of what has been coined "shuttle diplomacy," he successfully coordinated troop disengagement agreements between Israel and Egypt in January 1974 and between Israel and Syria in May 1974. These agreements were not peace treaties but limited agreements on the withdrawal of Israeli and Arab forces from specific areas. Israel withdrew from all the area it had acquired from Syria during the 1973 war in addition to some area gained in 1967. The Egyptian-Israeli agreement called for Israeli withdrawal from parts of the Sinai. Prisoners of war were exchanged. The Arab world ended its oil embargo.

In the years following the 1973 war, Israel's enemies realized that they could not defeat Israel on the battlefield. They turned therefore to diplomatic warfare and sought to weaken Israel's international diplomatic position. Due to pressure from the Arab world, most African and third world countries broke diplomatic relations with Israel. In 1975, the Soviet-Arab-Third World bloc at the United Nations succeeded in passing the infamous "Zionism equals racism" General Assembly resolution which was an attempt to delegitimize the right of the Jewish people to return to their ancestral homeland. The resolution was not revoked until December 1991.

Within Israel, the October 1973 war intensified the debate about the future of Israel's control over the 1967 territories. Some interpreted the war as further evidence of the need to populate and strengthen these areas for security and strategic reasons. As a result, Israeli settlements in the 1967 areas increased. The government permitted and at times, encouraged, Jews to live in the territories. Other Israelis viewed the territories -- the West Bank in particular -- in religious and messianic terms. Members of Gush Emunim, the Bloc of the Faithful, also increased their presence in the area.

Even the name of these areas has stimulated debate. Some use the term "West Bank and Gaza" with West Bank referring to the west bank of the Jordan River. Others say that "West Bank" is inappropriate because it falsely suggests that the area belongs to Jordan. Some prefer to call the areas "Judea and Samaria" the names used to refer to these areas in biblical times.

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