Photo Credit: Jewish Press

In the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, repeated Egyptian violations of the October 22, 1973 Israeli-Egyptian cease-fire led to growing tension and international concern regarding the resumption of unrestrained hostilities and a possible broadening of the conflict.

In response, the United Nations Security Council whipped into action – by issuing Resolution 340, which demanded that Israeli forces withdraw to the October 22, 1973 lines, thereby freeing Egypt’s Third Army from Israeli encirclement, keeping Israeli military forces from capturing Cairo, and stripping Israel of an imminent military victory.

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Israel’s refusal to comply with the one-sided resolution engendered intensive intervention by the United States, as President Nixon sent Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Egypt to talk with President Anwar Sadat and sent Undersecretary of State Joseph Sisco to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Golda Meir and her staff.

With strong American encouragement, Israeli Assistant Chief of Staff Gen. Aharon Yariv and Egyptian Chief of Operations Gen. Mohamed el-Gamassi engaged in the first direct negotiations between the two countries since the establishment of Israel in 1948.

The “Six-Point Agreement,” which became the basis of the First Egyptian-Israeli Disengagement Agreement (the “Sinai I Accord,” signed in January 1974), was signed on November 11, 1973 at Kilometer 101 on the Cairo-Suez road.

The six points agreed to by Israel and Egypt included:

  1. The scrupulous observation of the UN Security Council ceasefire.

  2. Discussions between the two nations to commence immediately under UN auspices to settle the question of the return to their respective October 22 positions.

  3. The town of Suez to receive daily supplies of food, water and medicine, and all wounded civilians in the town will be evacuated.

  4. Israel may not erect any impediment to the movement of non-military supplies to the East Bank of the Suez Canal, where it had besieged the Egyptian Third Army.

  5. UN checkpoints will replace Israeli checkpoints on the Cairo-Suez road.

  6. Israel and Egypt will exchange prisoners of war as soon as the Cairo-Suez road checkpoints are established.

Pursuant to the United Nations Security Council Report:

UN General Assembly S/12896

Security Council Distribution

Thirty-third session, Agenda item 30

THE SITUATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST SECURITY COUNCIL Report of the Secretary-General Six-point agreement of 11 November 1973

On 9 November the Secretary of State of the United States informed the Secretary-General (S/11091) that the Governments of Egypt and Israel were prepared to accept a six-point agreement under which the two parties would scrupulously observe the cease-fire and would immediately begin discussions to settle the question of the return of forces to the positions that they had occupied on 22 October 1973 in the framework of agreement on the disengagement and separation of forces under the auspices of the United Nations. The Secretary of State also indicated that the parties would hold a meeting under the auspices of the Commander of UNEF to sign this agreement and to provide for its implementation.

On 11 November, the six-point agreement was signed by the military representatives of Egypt and Israel and by the Commander of UNEF, Lieutenant-General Ensio Siilasvuo, as witness, at a meeting held at kilometre marker 101 on the Cairo-Suez road. Discussions on the implementation of the agreement began immediately thereafter under the auspices of the United Nations, and on l4 November the parties reached an accord providing for an exchange of prisoners of war, the supply of the Egyptian Third Army by United Nations convoys and the replacement of Israeli checkpoints by UNEF checkpoints on the Cairo-Suez road. Further discussions were held during November for the purpose of bringing about a disengagement of Egyptian and Israeli forces (S/llO56/Add.4-6).

During his mission to Israel, Undersecretary Sisco obtained the autographs of the principals of the Israeli government in Hebrew and English on the title page of volume I of Chronicles News of The Past, In the Days of the Bible. Displayed here is that truly historic document, which includes signatures by:

  • Golda Meir (prime minister)
  • Moshe Dayan (defense minister)
  • Shimon Peres (minister of transport and communications)
  • General Motta Gur (military Attaché to the United States)
  • Abba Eban (minister of foreign affairs)
  • Yitzhak Rabin (previous ambassador to the U.S. and then-adviser to Golda Meir)
  • Simcha Dinitz (ambassador to the United States)

 

Though ostensibly jointly drafted by the United States, Egypt, and Israel, the Kilometer 101 Agreement was criticized by supporters of Israel as driven by the United States and directed by Egypt with Russian prompting. They maintained the agreement was forced on Israel by Nixon and Kissinger who, eager to reduce Russian geopolitical influence over Egypt, were determined to promote an Israeli-Egyptian settlement, which they believed could only go forward if Sadat were appeased. Many of Israel’s important gains in the Yom Kippur War were largely nullified by the world’s reaction and, finding itself essentially isolated internationally, it had particular need of American support – which explains, in significant part, the bad deal it struck in yielding to American pressure.

Notwithstanding the Nixon administration’s proclamation that it had helped Israel to finally obtain a signed agreement with Egypt after direct negotiations – in fact, Israeli and Egyptian delegations had met face-to-face at Rhodes when they signed the armistice ending Israel’s War for Independence (1949) – the agreement was heavily weighted in Egypt’s favor.

For example, Egypt obtained the return of 7,800 prisoners of war while returning only 350 to Israel (far below Israeli expectations, and a ridiculous 22:1 ratio). Moreover, and notwithstanding misleading American pronouncements to the contrary, Egypt did not agree to an immediate exchange of ambassadors with Israel. Perhaps most important, Egypt won the right to resupply its Third Army, which Israel had surrounded and was about to crush.

Significantly, the Kilometer 101 Agreement also failed entirely to address Egypt’s blockade of the narrow straits of Bab el Mandeb, the southern entrance to the Red Sea that connects it with the Indian Ocean and, by definition, international waters. Though Golda Meir put pressure on Kissinger to obtain an agreement from Sadat to lift the blockade, she was eventually forced to settle for an “oral agreement” from the Egyptians to do so which, as they say in the vernacular, was not worth the paper it was written on.

A November 12, 1973 CIA report, which was not publicly released until January 5, 2004, notes that Egypt “sidestepped the question of the blockade of the Bab al-Mandab.”

Egypt’s failure to lift the blockade meant that Israel’s shipping out of Eilat, its pipeline to the Mediterranean – and its ability to import oil – would continue to be obstructed, and Egypt could continue with impunity to choke Israel’s critical trade lifelines to Africa, the Persian Gulf and the Far East.

Moreover, the agreement, largely the result of Kissinger’s personal “shuttle diplomacy,” evidenced Kissinger’s perfidy in trying to ultimately force Israel to agree to his master plan for the Middle East, which included Israel ceding the Golan Heights to Syria, Sharm el Sheikh to Egypt, and the internationalization of Jerusalem, essentially stripping Israel of all its substantive gains won during the 1967 Six-Day War.

In exchange, Israel would receive generalized American promises of support – including a promise that UN forces would not be withdrawn from the Sinai without Israel’s consent – which were, at best, highly suspect after America’s fresh defeat in Vietnam and the reticence of both the American government and its people to commit military forces to the Middle East (or anywhere else). Kissinger put particular pressure on Israel to permit supplies to go through to the Egyptian Third Army, going so far as to threaten Meir that Israel’s failure to do so would result in a “showdown” with America.

General Yariv emphasized the Israeli view that the agreement was not merely an end to the Yom Kippur War but, rather, constituted an important first step toward a broad settlement of the permanent state of hostility between Israel and the Arabs. Nonetheless, and not surprisingly, the Egyptians wasted little time after the agreement was signed before opening fire on Israeli troops at their front lines. Also not surprisingly, UN truce observers took no action with respect to Israeli complaints that Egypt had breached the agreement.

On the positive side, the direct negotiations between Egypt and Israel that facilitated the Six-Point Agreement ultimately led to Sadat’s November 19, 1977 visit to Jerusalem and the March 26, 1979 ceremony on the White House south lawn less than two years later, where Sadat and Begin signed the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty that still endures nearly 40 years later.

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Saul Jay Singer serves as senior legal ethics counsel with the District of Columbia Bar and is a collector of extraordinary original Judaica documents and letters. He welcomes comments at at sauljsing@gmail.com.