6th October – 24th October – Anniversary of the October War and lessons derived.
This year on this date marked the 36th anniversary of the October war of 1973, also known as the Ramadhan war (10TH Ramadhan) to the Arabs/muslims and the Yom Kippur war to Israel.
PACE would like to point out to a number of important lessons from this landmark event in the middle-east conflict. The October war of 1973 has opened a new chapter that redefined the equation in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Arab countries were still reeling from the outcome of the six day war in 1967, where East Jarusalem, Gaza and the West Bank were overran by the Zionist army. Apart from these, Egypt and Syria had also lost the Sinai Peninsular and the Golan Heights respectively in the war. The October war was the consequence of a joint Egyptian-Syrian effort to regain their territorial losses in the 67 war. The attack took Israel by surprise and the ability of the Egyptian army to breach the Bar-lev line, put the Zionist defenses off-guard. The victory scored by the Egyptian and Syrian army on both fronts were however shortlived. Israel counterstrikes as the war progressed have pushed back the Egyptian army to the Suez canal and gained more territories in the Golan heights from Syria. These victories however were achieved at a heavy cost, with close to 3,000 Israeli soldiers dead and estimated 9,000 wounded. Israel lost closed to 500 tanks and 200 aircrafts. The casualties on the Egyptian and the Syrian sides were many folds higher, but the earlier success of breaching Israel defenses was a considerable morale booster to the Arab world. The achievement of 6th October was so significant that both Egypt and Syria adopt the date as their National Day. Egypt also commemorated 6th October as the armed forces day.
The October war has far reaching consequence beyond territorial lost or gain. First it was a classic case of the collusion between Israel and the United States. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed Resolution 338 (14 – 0), largely negotiated by the US and the then USSR (Soviet Russia) that called for a complete ceasefire. Israel as would have been anticipated, violated the ceasefire and continued the push for the Suez canal. This lead to UNSC to convene the very next day (23rd October) and passed Resolution 339 to enforce the earlier resolution. It revealed the true colour of the US, which has established a track record of never agreeing to any resolution deemed not in the interest of Israel. Anticipating Israeli military setback, however the US agreed for a ceasefire to avoid a possible defeat of the Zionist entity. Instead of defusing the situation, President Nixon approved a major allocation of arm supplies and USD 2.2 billion in aid to Israel. This brought a reaction from Saudi Arabia that declared an oil embargo to the United States and other countries leading to the energy crises of 1973. It was a commendable effort by the Saudi King, al-Malik Faisal to challenge the US political hegemony in the Middle east – a move that should be emulated by the present Arab regime.
The stalemate of the October war was exploited by the US as a bargaining chip to remove Egypt as a potential threat to Israel. President Sadat objective of reclaiming Sinai was exploited to lure Egypt to normalize relation with Israel. Sadat’s official visit to Israel was a gesture of recognition of Israel. However, Menachem Begin, Israel Prime Minister seized the opportunity and declared Israel’s position on the status of Jarusalem. In his speech, Begin welcomed Sadat to Jarusalem, the ‘eternal capital’ of Israel, which came as a blow to the Palestinian cause and the Islamic world. The meeting has opened the way for the Camp David accord, first ever peace agreement between Israel and Arab country. The peace arrangement has cost the Palestinians and Egypt dearly. It is the background that explains the Egyptian insistence of closing the crossing at Rafah in the face of Gazans desperately seeking medical aid and food supplies today, as a result of the siege and Israeli attack late last year and early this year.
On the 6th October 1981, President Sadat was assassinated while attending a parade commemorating the 8th anniversary of the war…
Assoc Prof Dr Hafidzi Mohd Noor