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The 1973 Yom Kippur war




Unable to regain the territory they had lost in 1967 by diplomatic means, Egypt and Syria launched major offensives against Israel on the Jewish festival of the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. The clashes are also known as the Ramadan war.

Initially, Egypt and Syria made advances in Sinai and the Golan Heights. These were reversed after three weeks of fighting. Israel eventually made gains beyond the 1967 ceasefire lines.

Israeli forces pushed on into Syria beyond the Golan Heights, though they later gave up some of these gains. In Egypt, Israeli forces regained territory and advanced to the western side of the Suez Canal.

The United States, the Soviet Union and the United Nations all made diplomatic interventions to bring about ceasefire agreements between the combatants.

Egypt and Syria jointly lost an estimated 8,500 soldiers in the fighting, while Israel lost about 6,000.

The war left Israel more dependent on the US for military, diplomatic and economic support. Soon after the war, Saudi Arabia led a petroleum embargo against states that supported Israel. The embargo, which caused a steep rises in petrol prices and fuel shortages across the world, lasted until March 1974. In October 1973 the UN Security Council passed resolution 338 which called for the combatants "to cease all firing and terminate all military activity immediately... [and start] negotiations between the parties concerned under appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East".

 

Arafat's first UN appearance

In the 1970s, under Yasser Arafat's leadership, PLO factions and other militant Palestinian groups such as Abu Nidal launched a series of attacks on Israeli and other targets.

One such attack took place at the Munich Olympics in 1972 in which 11 Israeli athletes were killed.

But while the PLO pursued the armed struggle to "liberate all of Palestine", in 1974, Arafat made a dramatic first appearance at the United Nations mooting a peaceful solution.

He condemned the Zionist project, but concluded: "Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."



The speech was a watershed in the Palestinians' search for international recognition of their cause.

A year later, a US State Department official, Harold Saunders, acknowledged for the first time that "the legitimate interests of the Palestinian Arabs must be taken into account in the negotiating of an Arab-Israeli peace".

 

Israel's resurgent right wing

 

Hardline Irgun and Lehi groups may have been instrumental in the creation of Israel in 1948, but their heirs in the Herut (later Likud) party failed to win an Israeli election until 1977.

Until this time Israeli politics had been dominated by the left-wing Labour Party. Likud ideology focused on extending Israeli sovereignty in the whole of the earlier Britsh Mandate Palestine, as well as claiming Jordanian territory as part of the "Greater Israel" of Biblical times.

The new government, led by former Irgun leader Menachem Begin, intensified Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza with a view to creating "facts on the ground" to prevent any future territorial compromise over the areas captured in 1967.

Agriculture minister Ariel Sharon spearheaded this movement as chairman of the ministerial committee for settlements until 1981.

 


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