The History of the conflict in the Middle East is long and well documented. To both, and to many biased observers the history of the Egyptian/Israeli conflict is very one sided, with one government, or one people causing the continued wars between the two neighboring states. But, as any social scientist of any reputation will state, all international conflicts have more than one side, and usually are the result of events surrounding, and extending over the parties involved. Thus, using this theory as a basis, we must assume that the conflict between Israel and Egypt is more complicated than a partial observer would see it. For the purpose of this paper, we are going to examine the basic factors of Egypt’s Involvement and conflict with Israel, with some emphasis on the involvement of the United State, and the Western Nation in this conflict. Also, I wish to pay particular attention to the question of who, or what brought these countries into conflict.
Were they both victims of their situation, or did they become actively involved in promoting conflict, or perhaps a third party source, such as the US pushed them into conflict? In 1948, the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel was read by David Ben-Gurion in Tel Aviv. The Egyptians, like most of the Arab states saw this as a creation of a Western State, backed by the British Empire, and thus an imperialistic entity in the Arab homeland. Considering the past 20 years of the Egyptian state, and of most of the Arab nations, was a continual conflict again imperial powers, the Egyptian were naturally weary and afraid of any new imperialistic powers developing in the Middle East. In September 1947, the League of Arab States decided to resist by force the plan for the partition of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish State, and when the Jewish state was created, the armies of the various Arab states entered into Palestine to save the country for the Arabs again “Zionist” aggression. The Arabs were defeated and the Arab Countries saved a small amount of land, the Transjordon, and the West Bank. Similarly Egypt saved strip of territory around Gaza.
The causes of this war, and Egypt’s involved can be examined in several ways. Obviously, the creation of the State of Israel by Ben-Gurion and his supporters provided a excuse for the Arab Nations, and Egypt to attack the Jewish population in Israel. As mentioned, the Egyptians saw the formation of Israel as an Imperialist state, and they were defending the land for the Palestinians, and more importantly for the newly developing arab unity. While the United States was not actively involved in the war, either by providing arms or providing much assistance, their actions did create an interesting and volatile atmosphere. As soon as the state of Israel was created, the United State quickly recognized the state and started diplomatic relations with the newly formed government.
At the same time, the USSR recognized Israel, not wishing the US to be seen as the champion for the newly found state. Although there is no definitive proof, one can assume that Egypt, and the rest of the Arab nations felt the need to quickly react to the situation, in almost a type of fear that powers outside their Arab influence, such as the United States were quickly impeding on their territory, by using Israel as a means of their peaceful aggression. Still, Egypt was clearly the main aggressor in this instance, and was not defending their own territory, but instead attempting to obtain territory, which they did succeed in acquiring, through the Gaza Strip. The Egyptian actions quickly set the tone of conflict in the Middle East, giving the Israelis no option but the take an initial purely military response in defense of their newly formed state. In the minds of the Israeli leaders, Egypt was nothing but a threat to the existence of the Jewish state, and thus, perhaps rightly, should only be dealt with as an enemy.
From the outcome of this poorly prepared war emerged Gamal Abdul Nasser, who commanded an Egyptian Army in Palestine. He organized a clandestine group inside the army called the Free Officers. After the war against Israel, the Free Officers began to plan for a revolutionary overthrow of the government. In 1949 nine of the Free Officers formed the Committee of the Free officers’ Movement and in 1950 Nasser was elected chairman. In 1952, the Free Officers Movement led a revolution in Egypt and took power, under the newly formed Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) , with Muhammad Naguib as president and commander in Chief.
Almost all leader in the RCC were soldiers, many who had fought in the 1948 war and this seriously affected the outlook of them towards Israel, and their policies towards Israel as a state. Most of them had some type of conflicts with the British and were totally, and completely against colonial power in the Middle East, of any kind. While Naguib was the head of the RCC and the government, Nasser was the real power behind Egypt. Although the first 2 years of the RCC’s existence was a struggle of power, Nasser eventually won, and the Egyptian foreign policy was dictated by him. Within a few months Naguib officially began prime minister, minister of war, commander in chief and the president of the RCC.
Interestingly enough, Nasser took no direct actions during the next few years against Israel, but instead focused on internal colonization, by trying to get the British out. It should be mentioned that around this time, the great contracts against the USSR were formed and implemented. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Southeast Treaty organization were supposed to contain the Soviet Union in the west and east. The Baghdad pact, brought Britain, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Iraq to form a barrier on the USSR’s south borders. It seems that Nasser failed to see this importance, even when Britain initially refused to talk about leaving Egypt until Nasser agreed to an alliance.
This decision affected him later, when he sough foreign aid.The United States seeing the growing cold war conflict in this region sought to use the conflict between Israel & Egypt to its advantage. While they didn’t wish to offend either side, at the time, they couldn’t yet pledge allegiance to either side. When in 1955, after the British had agree to eventually leave the Canal Area, Nasser started to become convinced once again that Egypt had to arm to defend itself against Israel. Still, the first attack in 1955 was Israel, when they attacked Egyptian Military outposts in Gaza. Quickly, realizing his possible situation, Nasser sought western aid only to find that neither the U.S., France or Britain was willing to help. Because Nasser had refused to join an anti-USSR alliance, he was seen as a threat, especially by people such as the Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Nasser, then turned to the USSR and accepted soviet weapons, which put them directly against the western push for influence in the Middle East. This decision effected Nasser influence on the Western powers for it made sure than in later years that Israel, and not Egypt would get assistance from the United States or Britain.
Yet, they he had no choice, except to arm himself in this manner. In Secret Britain, the United States and Israel agreed to allow Israel to attack the Canal from across the Sinai Desert. When Israel neared the canal, Britain and France would issue an ultimatum for an Egpytian and Israeli withdrawal from both sides of the Canal, and Anglo-French force would then occupy the canal and prevent further fighting, and keep in open for shipping. Israel did not agree to this plan, unless first Britain and France agreed to destroy the Egyptian Air Force. British Bombing did destroy the Egyptian Airforce and Israel occupied Sinai.
The United States was angered because it had not been informed by its allies of the invasion, and realized that it could not allow the Soviet Union to appear as the champion of the Third World against Western Imperialism. Thus, the US put pressure on the British and French to withdraw. While France and Britain withdrew, Israel was very reluctant. Eisenhower placed a great deal of pressure on Israel with withdraw from all of its territorial acquisitions, and even threatened sanctions if Israel did not comply. The Israelis did withdraw, but carried out a scorched earth policy destroying everything they passed. For the first time in a while, Egypt saw the United States as a possible friend to their cause, and realized that the US would not always support Israel.
Nasser began to look at the United States as a possible ally against Israel, if his connections with the USSR failed, and saw the possible opportunity of gaining this through the superpower conflict. Similarly, Nasser realized that his new found status as the champion of the Arab nations against the Imperial powers made him a more powerful figure than before. During the mid-1960’s the Tension between Israel and Egypt increased. In November 1966, Egypt signed a 5 year defense pact, and Israeli forces crossed into the West Bank of Jordan and destroyed the village of As Samu. IN 1967 Israeli leaders threatened to invade Syria, and serious Air Battle Begain.
Soon after, Egypt attacked place troops on the border, but did not strike (although Nasser’s commanders urged him to). Then, when in June 5, Israel launched a full-scale attack and defeated all of Egypt’s forces within 3 hours. After the 1967 war, the first move of the Arabs was to hold a summit in Khartoum in September 1967. At that meeting, Saudi Arabia agreed to give Egypt the financial aid needed to rebuild its army and retake land lost to Israel. At this conference the Arab leaders were united in their opposition of Israel and proclaimed what became known as the three “no’s” of the Khartoum summit: no peace with Israel, no negotiations, no recognition.
At the UN in November, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 242 which provided the framework for the settlement of the June 1967 War. This resolution called for Israel to withdraw”from territories occupied in the recent conflict”, for the termination of the state of belligerency and for the right of ALL states to exist in that region. In 1968 Egypt agreed to accept the resolution if Israel agreed to evacuate all occupied areas. By accepting this agreement, for the first time Egypt recognized the State of Israel. The rest of the Arab nations, not agreeing with this plan, saw the Egyptian government as being a sell out. Sadly, Israel rejected the agreement, and Nasser believed that since Israel refused to support resolution 242, while Egypt accepted it, he had no choice”but to support courageous resistance fighters who want to liberate their l …