A Reflection: October 6, 1973 Marked the Beginning of the Yom Kippur War



October 6, 1973 was the date in which Israel got a rude awakening. At 2 p.m., Syria crossed the Golan Heights and attacked Israel’s northern settlements in an all out war. Egypt crossed the Suez Canal to recaptured parts of western Sinai.

Israel immediately fought back to regain territory that was already lost. They also moved forward to capture more Arab land. On October 25th, 1973 Israelis begrudgingly accepted a ceasefire.

Once the shooting finally ended there stood Israeli soldiers–25 miles outside of Damascus and 63 miles outside of Cairo.

Since the Six Day War in 1967, Israel was convinced that Egypt would not attack again without more power backed by the Soviets, and that Syria wouldn’t attack with out Egypt. Due to this complacency, the October 6th attack came to Israel as a shock. Yom_Kippur_War_map

The Defense Minister if Israel, Moshe Dayan, ignored the warning signs earlier that morning. Skepticism blinded him and he could not believe that Sadat would begin an all-out war. In fact, it was only until a the expertly hidden spy, Ashraf Marwan told the head of Israeli intelligence that the attacks would begin in Yom Kippur. This news only came six hours before the first assault.

As the Huffington Post says: “Never dismiss your enemy, never assume something that was once true will always be true.”

Arabs call the 1973 war the Ramadan War, and it’s history is far more complex than believed. 40 years after the war, it ha been learned that once the Sinai had been returned to Egypt, negotiations led to a peace treaty set in Camp David which is still in place today. Along the coast of Golan Heights remains an armistice, regardless of the problems Syria is currently dealing with. Even though Jordan only played a miniscule role in the 1973 attacks, Israel signed a peace treaty with them as well.

Even with peace treaties in place, there is still very little trust among the nations. Israelis are skeptical about a lasting peace with it’s neighboring nations. Israel, itself, is divided. The right doesn’t trust a two-state solution to the conflict and the left struggles with having their opinions known. There is only one thing that the Israelis have learned, and that is to trust no one but themselves.

Arab nations, however, are not so hesitant. They view the 1973 war as a small victory. Although the Syrians faced setbacks in battle, the main goal was achieved. This goal was to end the deadlock with Israel and making negotiations for the Sinai to be returned to Egypt. Hafez al Assad from Syria was still in power.

Egyptians felt as though the war against Israel was unable to be won. Though Egyptian officers had grown rick and powerful, they hadn’t fought Israel in 40 years. The problems Egyptians faced weren’t in Israel, they were at home in Tahrir Square and Sinai.

The 1973 war made it clear to Arabs that the nation of Israel was not going anywhere. Palestinians rose from the war as the authority of any possible future independent, sovereign Palestinian state. This became an official status in 1974 during the Rabat summit conference that followed the war the previous year.

The war between Egypt, Israel and Syria would be felt around the world. The Soviet Union and the United States had their new and non-hostile agreement tested and survived. Europe felt the backlash of an organized Arab oil embargo. The United States is dubbed an indispensable figure when it comes to negotiating peace in the Middle East.

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE