Israel After the War: 1 Peace With Egypt?
ANY discussion of the current prospects for peace between Israel and the Arab countries has to begin by rehearsing the history of the Middle East between the Six-Day War of June 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of October 1973. Efforts to reach a peace settlement in those seven years were protracted, highly complicated, and ultimately futile. All the many plans that were proposed-the Rogers plan, the Jarring plan, and the nameless others-seem now of merely academic interest (although it is entirely possible that one or another of them will be disinterred for future use). The story of these negotiations is a melancholy one, not least for the question it raises of possible opportunities missed by the various parties to the conflict, especially Israel. Not that Israel ignored any genuine peace overture from the Arabs; there was none. But it is another matter whether an interim accommodation might not have been reached with Egypt alone, based on a demilitarization of the Sinai, and whether such an arrangement would not have lessened the likelihood of a new round of fighting.
After the Arab attack of October 1973 it was noted in Israel that the strategic depth offered by the Sinai was in fact a lifesaver; had the attack been launched from the pre-June 1967 lines it would have threatened Israel’s very existence. This is very true. But the argument assumes that the 1967 borders were the only feasible alternative to the Bar Lev line, when in fact a demilitarized Sinai might have functioned as a more effective warning zone than did the Suez Canal. Nor can it be taken for granted that the attack itself was inevitable, since Egypt faced a great many problems at home and abroad, and had some sort of interim agreement been reached on the Sinai, the Egyptians might not have felt such an overriding urgency to recover all the lost territories.
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