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Egyptain Foreign Policy In Regards To israel & the United States.


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
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 t o 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 a n 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
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

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
land." Thus, the "War of Attrition" broke out, where Egypt
attacked, through artillery Israeli forced dug along the
canal. The result was Israeli air response which virtually
destroyed the Egyptian Artillery. 

During this time, the Israeli Military was supplied by the
Nixon Administration, because it supposedly regarded Israel
as a bulwark against Soviet expansion in the area. Nassar,
seeing that his chances were few, flew to Moscow and asked
the Soviet Union to establish an air defense system manned
by Soviet pilots and anti-aircraft forces protected by
Soviet troops. To obtain this aid, Nassar agree to grant
the Soviet Union control over a number of Egyptian
airfields as well as operational control over a large
portion of the Egyptian. Although recent and possibly
future analysis may see otherwise, it currently seems that
the Soviet Union took a calculated risk of possible
superpower confrontation over the Middle East. It seemed
possible at the time, that the two superpowers were using
these two countries as pawns in their larger game. But,
when Nasser returned, he and the Israelis accepted the
Rogers Plan, and in August of 1970, the fighting halted
along the Suez Canal, and a 90 day truce began. 

This truce was criticized once again by some of the Arab
powers, including the Newly formed PLO, who openly
advocated the removal of Nasser from power. This led to a
conflict between the PLO and Egypt, and many PLO members
were expelled from Egypt. During this time, Egypt desiring
a true, in conjunction with Jordan attacked PLO and other
territory bases in order that they would not jeopardize the
treaty. During this time, when Nassar was attempting to
bring the PLO together once again with the rest of the Arab
world, Nassar became sick and died. 

When Nasser died, it became apparent that his successor,
Anwar as Sadat, did not intend to be another Nasser. As
Sadat's rule progressed, it became clear that his priority
was solving Egypt's pressing economic problems by
encouraging Western financial investment. He wished to
regain relations the United State, hoping for US investment
into his country, and pushed the idea of peace as a means
for prosperity.
On February 4, 1971, Sadat announced a new peace initiative
with Israel, that called for peace in return for a partial
withdraw from Sinai. A timetable would then be set for
Israel's withdrawal from the rest of the occupied. Egypt
would reopen the canal, restore diplomatic relations with
the United. Sadat's initiative fell on deaf ears in Tel
Aviv and in Washington. According to sources at the time,
the State Department still viewed Egypt as a threat in the
cold war conflict.
Internally, the Egyptian economy was being steadily drained
by the confrontation with Israel. Economic problems were
becoming more serious because of the tremendous amount of
resources directed toward building up the military since
the June 1967 War, and it was clear that Sadat would have
to demonstrate some results from his new policy. In the
last half of 1972, there were large-scale student riots,
and some journalists came out publicly in support of the
students. Thus, Sadat felt under increasing pressure to go
to war against Israel as the only way to regain the lost

On October 6, 1973, Egyptian forces launched a successful
surprise attack across the Suez Canal. The Syrians carried
out an attack on Israel at the same time. For the Arabs, it
was the fasting month of Ramadan, and for Israel it was Yom
Kippur. The next day, President Nixon formally asked
Congress for emergency funds to finance the massive airlift
of arms to Israel that was already under way. During this
time, the Major Oil producers in the region cut back
production to the United States as an embargo because of
these actions.
Israel was able to counterattack and succeeded in crossing
to the west bank of the canal and surrounding the Egyptian
Army. Sadat appealed to the Soviet Union for help. On
October 22, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 338,
calling for a cease-fire by all parties within twelve hours
in the positions they occupied. Egypt accepted the
cease-fire, but Israel, alleging Egyptian violations of the
cease-fire, completed the encirclement Army to the east of
the canal. 

The Soviet Union was furious, believing it had been
double-crossed by the United States. On October 24, the
Soviet ambassador handed Kissinger a note from Brezhnev
threatening that if the United States was not prepared to
join in sending forces to impose the cease-fire, the Soviet
Union would act alone. Luckily the UN sent a force there to
enforce the cease-fire.
Meanwhile, Syria felt betrayed by Egypt because Sadat did
not inform his ally of his decision to accept the
cease-fire. Two days after Sadat, Syria accepted the
cease-fire as well. The Israelis, however, paid a heavy
price for merely holding their attackers to an inconclusive
draw. The war had a devastating effect on Israel's economy
and was followed by savage austerity measures and
drastically reduced living standards. For the first time,
Israelis witnessed the humiliating spectacle of Israeli
were seen on Arab television. Also, for the first time
captured Israeli hardware was exhibited in Cairo. 

Sadat's prestige grew tremendously. The war, along with the
political moves Sadat had made previously, meant that he
was totally in control and able to implement the programs
he wanted. He was the hero of the day. In 1977 the outlook
for peace between Israel and Egypt was not good. Israel
still held most of Sinai, and negotiations had been at a
stalemate since the second disengagement agreement in 1975.
Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin was a hard-liner and
a supporter of Israeli expansion. He approved the
development of settlements on the occupied West Bank and
reprisal raids into southern Lebanon. After the food riots
of January 1977, Sadat decided that something dramatic had
to be done, and so on November 19, 1977, in response to an
invitation from Begin, Sadat journeyed to Jerusalem, and
agreed upon peace.
Many Egyptians accepted peace with Israel if it meant
regaining Egyptian territories. Of the Arab countries, only
Sudan, Oman, and Morocco were favorable to Sadat's trip. In
the other Arab states, there was shock and dismay. The
Arabs felt that Sadat had betrayed the cause of Arab
solidarity and the Palestinians. In spite of Sadat's
denials, the Arabs believed that he intended to go it alone
and make a separate peace with Israel. 

In fact, that is what happened. In December 1977, Egypt and
Israel began peace negotiations in Cairo. These
negotiations continued on and off over the next several
months, but by September 1978 it was clear that they were
deadlocked. President Jimmy Carter had become closely
involved in the negotiations. In an effort to break the
deadlock, Carter invited Sadat and Begin to Camp David. The
negotiations were tense and almost broke down several
times. On September 17, however, Carter announced that the
Camp David Accords had been reached. They consisted of two
parts, the Framework for Peace in the Middle East and the
Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between
Israel and Egypt. 

The Camp David Accords made Sadat a hero in Europe and the
United States. The reaction in Egypt was generally
favorable, but there was opposition from the left. In the
Arab world, Sadat was almost universally condemned. Only
Sudan issued an ambivalent statement of support. The Arab
states suspended all official aid and severed diplomatic
relations. Egypt was expelled from the Arab League, which
it was instrumental in founding, and from other Arab
institutions. Saudi Arabia withdrew the funds it had
promised for Egypt's purchase of American fighter aircraft. 

In the West, where Sadat was extolled as a hero and a
champion of peace, the Arab rejection of the Camp David
Accords is often confused with the rejection of peace. The
basis for Arab rejection was opposition to Egypt's separate
peace with Israel. Although Sadat insisted that the treaty
provided for a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli
conflict, the Arab states and the PLO saw it as a separate
peace, which Sadat had vowed he would not sign. The Arabs
believed that only a unified Arab stance and the threat of
force would persuade Israel to negotiate a settlement of
the Palestinian issue that would satisfy Palestinian
demands for a homeland. Without Egypt's military power, the
threat of force evaporated because no single Arab state was
strong enough militarily to confront Israel alone. 

The Camp David Accords brought peace to Egypt but not
prosperity. With no real improvement in the economy, Sadat
became increasingly unpopular. His isolation in the Arab
world was matched by his increasing remoteness from the
mass of Egyptians. While Sadat's critics in the Arab world
remained beyond his reach, increasingly he reacted to
criticism at home by expanding censorship and jailing his
opponents. In addition, Sadat subjected the Egyptians to a
series of referenda on his actions and proposals that he
invariably won by more than 99 percent of the vote. For
example, in May 1979 the Egyptian people approved the
Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty by 99.9 percent of those

Sadat's handpicked successor, Husni Mubarak, was
overwhelmingly approved in a national referendum on October
24. Mubarak's main concern in regard to the Israeli
conflict was concerned to regain the Sinai Peninsula for
Egypt and to return his country to the Arab fold. One of
Mubarak's first acts was to pledge to honor the peace
treaty with Israel. In April 1982, the Israeli withdrawal
from Sinai took place as scheduled. A multinational force
of observers took up positions in Sinai to monitor the
peace. Egypt was allowed to station only one army division
in Sinai. Since then, Egypt has had a decent relationship
with Israel and the United States, and it has been seen by
many Arab Countries as the traitor in many circumstances.
It is perceivable that without the influence of the United
States the peace in Israel would have been different, if
not sooner. The United States, in order to push the cold
war policies saw Israel and Egypt as pawn in their global
game of politics. Especially in the early years, neither
country saw the United States as a enemy nor as a ally, and
thus depended on it for little. Yet, both countries saw the
possibility of gaining resources from the great western
power, or at least its enemy the USSR. 

Under Carter, however the United States, perhaps for the
first time, played a peace-making role in the Middle East.
Perhaps Carter was being the peaceful President, or more
likely he realized the need for peace in the middle east in
order to lower the gas prices, and for the US to harness
the immense resources of the region.


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