In 1967, Russian intelligence told Egyptian President Abdul Nasser that Israel was massing troops on its northern border in preparation for a full-scale invasion of Syria. This was a complete lie, but it was all the excuse Nasser needed to start preparing for a war, aided by Syria and Jordan. Israel chose to attack first, however, and six days later the would-be attackers were left bleeding and broken, with almost all of Egypt’s air force wiped out, and massive losses of Arab soldiers and territory.
Russia had hoped to gain leverage and influence in the Mideast.
Arab losses were so humiliating that in August of 1967, Arab leaders met in Khartoum, Sudan and signed a treaty that bound them to “no peace, no recognition and no negotiation” with Israel.
Fast forward to October of 1970, when Egyptian president Nasser died. His successor was Anwar Saddat, “considered little more than a figurehead.” Russian General General Kirpichenko said “Those in Nasser’s circle thought they could steer policy on the course set by Nasser. And they were confident that Saddat would follow the party line.”
Egypt was a Soviet client state, yet in 1972, Sadat expelled thousands of Soviet military advisors from Egypt. Several different motives have been attributed to Sadat for this act, but this seems the most relevant fact to me: the day of his predecessor’s funeral, Sadat met secretly with Elliott Richardson, head of the US delegation to Nasser’s funeral. Sadat told Richardson that “he wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to turn a new page, [have] a new relationship between our countries.”
Why? Apparently because Sadat wanted to cast himself as the Arab leader who regained the territory lost in the Six Day War. He wanted to be a national hero of colossal proportions. And to do that, he hoped to negotiate with Israel to regain the lost Sinai territory.
But, drat and double dog-gone, there was that troublesome Arab treaty in which Egypt was pledged never to make peace with or recognize Israel or to negotiate with Israel. So to achieve national hero status, Sadat could not negotiate with Israel. Egypt had been a Russian “client state”, and Sadat considered Israel to be an American client state.
So he expelled thousands of Russian military advisors in a bid to gain US favor, and asked the US to negotiate with Israel for him to regain all the land lost in the Six Day War. Sadat had reason for hope: Moshe Dayan, Israel’s Defense Minister, had publicly said that the Sinai Desert should eventually be returned to Egypt.
For Egypt, negotiation would obviously be preferable to war, considering the walloping Arab nations had taken the last time they tangled with Israel.
Kissinger blew him off, and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir demanded that Sadat negotiate directly with Israel. She was fighting for recognition for her nation and would not give in.
Marshal Shazli, Egypt Chief of Staff, said, “Saddat told me that Kissinger had said, ‘If all you have is a problem, I cannot deal with it. But if it becomes a crisis, then I can intervene.’ That’s a “trigger” statement if I ever heard one. Go to it, boys, get into a war and then we’ll “intervene”.
Sadat made diplomatic offers. One was to re-open the Suez Canal (which Egypt had closed after the Six Day War) even to ships trading with Israel, if Israel would just move back a few miles from the canal.
To Golda, that must have sounded like an indication that hard bargaining would give Israel the desired recognition. But she still insisted on direct negotiations, and though she was right to do so, that was a deal-breaker for Sadat. He literally could not do that, or he’d have been assassinated a lot sooner than he was.
The US, of course was right there causing confusion and dismay. Joe Cisco, US State Department, said that Nixon instructed him, “Joe, press Golda. Press her hard, but don’t cause a major donnybrook between Israel and the United States.”
Cisco met with Golda and her entire staff, and discovered that every member of her staff had been instructed not to say one word. Finally, Cisco asked Golda if he was permitted to ask Defense Minister Moshe Dayan one question. He asked Dayan, “If we don’t do anything, what do you think will happen?”
Dayan replied that it would lead to war, because he could not conceive of any nation enduring a foreign force staged so close to its capital city.
Sadat’s failure to produce results came close to getting him removed from office. So to save his position, his dream of Arab hero status, and maybe his life, in 1972 he announced to the Egyptian Parliament, “War is now inevitable. Whatever the price, whatever the sacrifice, we will not back down. We will not give up one centimeter of Arab land.”
I don’t know who was more unreasonable, Sadat or the Arab population. No, war was not inevitable. Continuing the status quo would have been wiser, but unfortunately Sadat had built up the hopes of the entire Arab world, and they would rather blame him and Israel than accept that their immoral attempt to annihilate Israel had cost them the Sinai. Saving face, even at the cost of a war. How incredibly stupid.
It gets worse: General Gamasy, Head of Operations: “The High Command met at Saddat’s house in Giza. Saddat told us, ‘There is no hope of a peaceful solution. And I will not surrender to Israel. So our only option is war.’ ”
“Surrender to Israel”? Who in blue blazes said anything about a surrender?
So war it was. But Sadat, naturally, didn’t intend for Egypt to carry the entire burden. He made an agreement with Syria to get them to advance on the Golan Heights (which they had lost to Israel in the Six Day War) at the same time as Egypt began to advance into the Sinai.
Sadat promised to move deep into the Sinai, which would keep a lot of Israel’s forces there, so Syria wouldn’t have to face a massive Israeli counterattack.
But Sadat never planned to move more than a few miles into Sinai, because that was as far as their antiaircraft guns could protect them from Israel’s air force. Sadat lied to his own allies!
And then both Sadat and Assad met with King Hussein of Jordan and told him that Israel was planning to attack Egypt and Syria by moving through Jordan. And lied to another ally!
Hussein remembered the last time he had fought alongside Egypt and Syria – and lost a pretty goodsized piece of his own nation, when the Israelis kicked every tail in sight. So he flew alone to Israel and personally told Golda Meir what he suspected was about to happen.
She didn’t believe him. She “wasn’t convinced the information was 100% reliable.”
So four hundred and fifty Israeli soldiers – that’s right, the entire Israeli garrison at the Suez Canal – were sacrificed to find out. And in the Golan Heights, 600 Syrian tanks “rolled over” Israel’s defenses and recaptured the Golan heights.
General Gamasy, Head of Operations: “Our troops crossed the [Suez] canal. They were shouting, ‘God is great! God is great!’ We wanted them [Egyptian troops] to think we were expecting an attack from Israel.”
The generals of Egypt lied to their own soldiers!
Much of the tank battle on the Golan Heights was fought in darkness, and they didn’t have advanced night vision equipment back then.
General Avigdor Kahalani, Commander of the 77th Armored Battalion, said: “I found myself 25 meters in front of [the rest of] my tanks … it was like a knife battle …” [because it was so close] … like a western movie … you have to shoot very fast … you’re so scared you don’t think …”
“Syrian tanks right in front of us firing at us … it was the first time I felt like it was a real war, not just an exercise like we were used to … on my left and right friends were getting killed …”
The Israeli defense was fierce, as you would expect from honorable men fighting for their lives, their friends’ lives, and the life of their nation.
One brigade commander split his force, attacked a Syrian tank Brigade head-on with the smaller element, and the larger group sneaked up behind a Syrian tank brigade and wiped them out in about six hours.
An unnamed soldier stated: “In the first engagement … it was really a contest among the tank soldiers who could knock out more tanks. My tank in the first battle knocked out only 15 tanks …”
And the enemy exhibited less than complete commitment. One Syrian tank commander came to a bridge on a road that would have let his brigade drive straight into the heart of Israel, but it was dark, and he could tell the bridge was a perfect ambush spot, so he waited until dawn. By which time the Israelis had moved up enough troops to stop him. (The Syrian commander was executed after the war for his poor judgment.)
Many Israeli tank commanders died because, in the darkness, they took the chance of guiding their tanks standing in the open turrets. Highly vulnerable!
The Israelis took heavy losses but “they held on and contained one of the most fearsome attacks ever made against the nation.” There were at least 600 Syrian tanks in the attack on the Golan Heights.
Make what you will of this 6:53 video of an Israeli patrol officer describing what he feels was a visit from an angel disguised as a dove. I can’t help but smile when I think that God works in mysterious ways. God, in fact, in some ways, is highly unpredictable:
“Since we had that ‘angel’ protecting us, none of my company soldiers was killed or wounded, and we were involved in very intensive battles. It’s not that we stood in the rear, or we sat there. We were involved in the middle of the most bitter battles, but she was there.”
If you decide to fight God’s Chosen People, make your will and buy your burial plot first.
Next Israeli war: the incredible Six Day War. One nation against three. (Is that beginning to sound familiar?)
Tune in next week, same time, same station. And may God be with you till we meet again.
Have a blessed Friday all, and hope you’ve got your RED on.
To all our Troops, God bless, be safe and thank you all for your service!