Let’s take a moment to consider probably the most profound and least discussed episodes in the Jewish State’s short history – America’s refusal to honor its commitment to enforce the 1970 Egypt-Israel ceasefire.
A refusal that was ultimately responsible for the Yom Kippur War.
The last time I can recall that a national leader saw fit to allude to this terrible series of events was then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s 30 September 2001 address at the main memorial service for those who died in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Sharon noted that Israel was surprised in that war by Egypt because the Egyptians did not honor the 1970 cease-fire agreement and thus the lesson of the Yom Kippur War is that one must always pay attention when agreements are not honored.
For reference below is the 13 August 1970 statement by the Defense Minister Dayan on the immediate Egyptian violation of the 7 August cease-fire agreement.
Now we know the following:
#1 The Egyptians moved anti-aircraft missiles close to the Suez Canal the very moment that the cease-fire went into effect.
#2 The US had a spy plane that flew over the area that first day and photographed the violations. They were aware that first day that the Egyptians had violated the agreement. It should be noted that at the time the US asked Israel to provide evidence and for several days said it was waiting for evidence of violation.
#3 Whereas before the agreement was signed, the US promised Israel that if the Egyptians moved up their missiles that the US would press the Egyptians to pull them back, when they finally had to face up to the violation, the US explained that they could not pressure Egypt.
#4 The US ultimately compensated Israel with “black boxes” for Israeli aircraft that were meant to offset the damage to Israel’s security caused by the Egyptian violation.
#5 Those same anti-aircraft missiles ultimately provided invading Egyptian forces protection from the Israeli Air Force at the opening of the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
#6. Without the anti-aircraft cover, the invasion would have been quickly repulsed.
#7. In point of fact, in all likelihood, Egypt would have never tried to cross the Suez Canal if the anti-aircraft missiles hadn’t been deployed in the Canal area.
Simply put, if the United States had honored it’s word in 1970 and insisted that Egypt pull back the anti-aircraft missiles to their pre-truce positions the Yom Kippur War would never have taken place.
There is certainly much to be learned from the events of 1970 and the nightmare that followed in 1973.
Much that is extremely relevant to our own times.
Israel paid dearly in 1973 for accepting the Egyptian violation of the 1970 agreement.
And the Jewish State may yet again pay dearly if it continues to accept the ongoing security violations of Oslo in the Gaza Strip.
================= Statement to the Knesset by Defence Minister Dayan, 13 August 1970: [From the Foreign Ministry of Israel Website]
On the night when the cease-fire between Israel and Egypt came into effect, the Egyptians, with Soviet help, began to move SA-2 and SA-3 missiles into the standstill zone, embarked on the construction of new missile sites, and moved missile deployments closer to the Canal in flagrant violation of the cease-fire. On 13 August, the Minister of Defence made a statement to the Knesset:
The Minister began by citing the full text of the agreement as follows:
A. Israel and the UAR will observe a cease-fire effective at 2200 hours GMT Friday 7 August.
B. Both sides will stop all incursions and all firing, on the ground and in the air, across the cease-fire lines.
C. Both sides will refrain from changing the military status quo within zones extending 50 kilometres to the east and the west of the cease-fire line. Neither side will introduce or construct any new military installations in these zones. Activities within the zones will be limited to the maintenance of existing installations at their present sites and positions and to the rotation and supply of forces presently within the zones.
D. For the purposes of verifying observance of the cease-fire, each side will rely on its own national means, including reconnaissance aircraft, which will be free to operate without interference up to 10 kilometres from the cease-fire line on its own side of the line.
E. Each side may avail itself as appropriate of all United Nations machinery in reporting alleged violations by each other of the cease-fire and of the military standstill.
F. Both sides will abide by the Geneva Convention of 1949 relative to the treatment of prisoners of war and will accept the assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross in carrying out their obligations under that Convention.
The Minister then explained how the agreement was drafted and accepted by the parties:
This agreement was reached on the initiative and through the mediation of the United States Government. We were first shown a draft. We made our comments, and we later received this text, which was handed to us by US representatives and which was agreed to by Egypt. That was the US representatives’ share in drafting this agreement. We did not talk with the Egyptian representatives directly, but, as I have just said, representatives of the US Government brought us the proposed agreement, we made our comments, and we were afterwards told by them -and I have no doubt accurately so – that the matter had been brought before the Egyptian Government for final drafting, and that this text that we have here was agreed upon by both sides.
In this text, the third paragraph covers what is called in the Hebrew version a “freeze” and in the English original a “standstill”. This is a central provision of the very first importance.
On the first night of the cease-fire, and after that, the agreement was violated in its standstill provision by the bringing forward of missile sites – sites for Soviet-Egyptian ground-to-air missiles – on the Egyptian side of the Canal, a move of very considerable military significance. It is not something marginal, not an odd burst of firing.
Moreover, we ought not to, and cannot, allow ourselves to ignore the fact that not only is this moving forward of these sites of considerable military significance and not only is this standstill provision a central provision of the agreement, but the entire agreement is a very important part of the American peace initiative, of the “talking” that comes within the compass of this initiative.
There are three things that I wish to stress in the name of the Government: that the violation is of importance; that the provision violated is of importance; and that the agreement is of importance in the context of the “talking” under the American peace initiative known by that name.
When we learnt of this infringement, we turned to the United States, and use was also made of the fifth provision about reporting violations to the UN apparatus. But first of all we turned to the US Government and faced it with the facts, with the violation that had taken place, and we asked that the US representatives have things put back correctly the way they were, have those launching sites that were brought up after zero hour put back where they were before. That is how things stand at the moment. The matter is being discussed between us and the US Government on the basis of our insistence on the return of the launching sites to their previous positions because their being brought forward was and is a violation of the agreement.
As for the Government of Israel, the matter is before it. I do not want any mistaken conclusions to be drawn from this. At this stage the Government regards the matter as being before it for consideration, but this does not mean that the matter is being considered without or instead of referring to the Americans, whom in the context of this agreement – which has come into being in the framework of the “talking” under the American peace initiative – we see as more than one-time mediators whose good offices brought the parties to agree upon a given agreement; we see them as carrying a heavier responsibility than that in this matter, and we do so mainly on the basis of what they themselves said when they came and proposed this agreement to us. They informed us that this agreement, including the standstill provision – and chiefly the standstill provision, was the suggestion of the Soviets, who, as is known, have a considerable part in the deployment of ground-to-air missiles in Egypt.
About the Author: Dr. Lerner is the Director of IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis).
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