Immediately after the Six-Day War, Israel renewed its quest for a peace agreement with the Arab States. From the outset, its policy was clearly stated by Prime Minister Eshkol: The cease-fire agreements should be replaced by a permanent peace to be negotiated directly between the parties. So long as the Arab States persisted in their belligerency, Israel would stand fast on the cease-fire lines; these would be replaced only by secure, agreed and recognized borders anchored in peace treaties. To those borders, negotiated directly between Israel and the Arab States, the Israel Defence Forces would withdraw (Document 1). The Arab response came shortly afterwards in the Khartoum Declaration of 1 September 1967. It barred peace with Israel, recognition of Israel and negotiations with Israel.
Already in July 1967 there were shooting incidents along the Suez Canal, and when the Israeli destroyer Eilat was sunk by Russian-made missiles in October 1967, this was interpreted as an indication of Egyptian determination to go on with the war and be deaf to appeals for negotiations. Israel fully subscribed to the formula of President Lyndon Johnson, who, in his 19 June 1967 speech, stated:
"The nations of the region have had only fragile and violated truce lines for twenty years. What they now need are recognized boundaries that will give security against terror, destruction and war ... There are some who have urged. ... an immediate return to the situation as it was on 4 June (1967) ... This is not a prescription for peace but for renewed hostilities".
But as more clashes with Egypt occurred, it appeared that Israel would require additional American military aid. In order to deepen the understanding with the United States and be assured of continued American support, Premier Eshkol travelled to The United States for a meeting with President Johnson. At the conclusion of the meeting, a joint communiqu was issued that mentioned America's agreement to study with sympathy Israel's arms needs, arms which Israel urgently sought in view of the massive airlift of Soviet weapons which flowed to Egypt and Syria from the USSR. The Johnson Administration also declared itself fully behind Security Council Resolution 242 and expressed the hope that Ambassador Gunnar Jarring would succeed in his endeavours, which were then getting under way.
Even before Dr. Jarring arrived in the Middle East, basic differences in interpreting Security Council Resolution 242 developed. Israel held that the Resolution was a framework of principles within which both sides must arrive at mutual agreement, freely negotiated, on the matters provided for in the Resolution. The two principal issues were the establishment of permanent peace and an agreement for the first time on the delineation of secure and recognized boundaries.
The Arab States held that the Resolution was self-executing: that it did not require negotiations between the parties, and, if necessary, was to be imposed. They argued that the Resolution demanded the withdrawal of Israeli troops from all the territories occupied in the war, its central provision being, therefore, the restoration of the status quo ante, and once this was attained, the other provisions might be discussed through third parties.
An authoritative interpretation of the Resolution was later provided by its author (Document 2).
Meanwhile, the first phase of the Jarring Mission began. On 27 December 1967, upon Ambassador Jarring's appointment as the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative, Foreign Minister Eban conveyed to him elaborate proposals on an agenda for peace discussions. Mr. Eban's letter suggested informal exploration with the Egyptian Government and invited comments and counter-proposals. On 7 January 1968, a similar document was conveyed to Jordan. Egypt and Jordan replied "that there could be no question of discussion between the parties until the Israeli forces had been withdrawn to the positions occupied by them prior to 5 June 1967" (Document 3).
On 12 February 1968, Israel notified Ambassador Jarring that it was prepared to negotiate on all matters included in the Resolution. There was no response from the Arab side. In March 1968, the Israel Government responded affirmatively to Ambassador Jarring's proposal for the convening of a conference. Egypt rejected the proposal, while Jordan failed to notify acceptance. A statement by the Permanent Representative of Israel in the Security Council of I May 1968, offering to seek agreement with each Arab State, was "not regarded as acceptable by the Arab representatives" (Document 3). Israel thereupon went further and stated that it did not stand on procedure, and would be prepared for informal separate discussions on the "Rhodes precedent" and confidential exchanges. Again there was no response.
Attempts by Jarring to get negotiations going remained to no avail. To avoid even the semblance of contact, or even of undue weight attached to the Mission, the Arab States engaged in protracted altercation on formalities, such as the venue and level of contacts with Jarring. In March 1969, Jarring undertook a last attempt to elicit replies that might enable him to continue his mission, by means of a questionnaire. The attempt was unsuccessful. Egypt and Jordan continued to insist on prior withdrawal. On specific questions, the Arab replies indicated additional difficulties. Questioned about their concept of "secure and recognized boundaries", the replies referred to the borders of 1947. Nor were Egypt and Jordan prepared to sign a multilateral document. (Answers to Questions 5 and 14 of Ambassador Jarring's questionnaires of 5 and 8 March 1969). Upon receipt of the replies, the mission was suspended.
The Israel position was set out in detail by Foreign Minister Eban in his statement before the General Assembly on 8 October 1968 (Document 4). In that statement, Mr. Eban also dealt with the Arab refugee issue. In the course of the Six-Day War, and in the weeks following the hostilities, about a quarter of a million Arabs left refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza. In August 1967, Israel offered to repatriate many of them from the East Bank, where they had relocated themselves. The repatriation scheme was started in the middle of August 1967, and, by the end of 1968, some 25,000 Arabs had returned to the West Bank. After having been sealed off in the Gaza Strip for almost twenty years under the Egyptian military administration, which denied them the right to travel, about 35,000 Arabs from the Gaza Strip left for Jordan and other Arab States in the first year after the Six-Day War. Israel also launched a plan of summer visits to the West Bank and later extended the plan on a year-round basis.
A massive artillery barrage, which began on 8 September 1968, signalled the beginning of the second phase in Egypt's efforts to undo the defeat of the Six-Day War. In the fall of 1968, Nasser proclaimed a new strategy based on three phases: the first was to stand fast; the second to deter Israel; the third, a war of liberation. In the first phase, stress would be laid on the reconstruction of the destroyed Egyptian army with the help of Soviet weapons and instructors. The second phase would be marked by a preventive defence which would ultimately lead to the crossing of the Suez Canal and a victory over Israel. The Egyptian effort was aimed mostly at preventing Israel from building a defence line along the east bank of the Canal. Strafing, sniping and occasional shelling in the course of 1968 were designed to disturb Israel's entrenchment works. But, as time went on, it emerged that Egypt was also aiming at undermining the morale of the Israeli forces, and telling the world that the situation had become intolerable for Egypt, thus hoping to generate international pressures on Israel to withdraw from the administered areas. At the end of March 1969, Nasser proclaimed that the cease-fire was dead and that a third phase was in progress (Documents 7 and 8).
In late 1968 Israel began the construction of a line of defence known later as the Bar-Lev line, and began to strike back at Egypt with its air force, at first in the Canal zone and afterwards, in the beginning of 1970, deep inside Egypt. Israel also carried out amphibious raids across the Red Sea, and in the process won superiority in the air and on the ground. In the course of this War of Attrition, the main cities on the west bank of the Canal were destroyed and about a million inhabitants had to be evacuated deep into Egypt.
Along the Israel-Jordan and Israel-Syria cease-fire lines, there was a systematic effort by the regular forces of Jordan and Syria, as well as by Palestinian terrorists, to assault Israel. For almost three years, from 1967 to the summer of 1970, life along the Beit She'an Valley was acutely affected by terrorist activity from Jordan. Bazooka and Katyusha missiles were fired from close range into cities and villages, and long-range Jordanian artillery shelled the area. The IDF launched a number of operations across the Jordan and the shelling of Irbid by Israeli artillery in June 1968 brought some relief to this front. At the same time, constant patrolling of the border and the construction of an electronic fence along the 100-mile river line resulted in a steady diminution. of terrorist acts from across the river. The failure of the terrorists to win shelter, food and information, or to arouse a substantial following in the administered areas, lessened their menace. Their efforts to create bases inside Israel and inside the administered areas, or to turn the border zones of Jordan into "liberated areas", failed. Much of the failure of the terrorists to disrupt life inside Israel was due to effective control by Israeli security personnel and, above all, to a liberal administration expressed in the Open Bridges policy, as well as to a gradual process of economic benefits. The normalization of life in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and on the Golan Heights was achieved with minimal interference in the life of the areas. In the summer of 1970, the Government of Jordan itself was threatened, and took action to get rid of the Palestinian terrorists, driving many of them into Syria and southern Lebanon.
The arrival of thousands of terrorists in late 1968, and especially in 1970, presented the Government of Lebanon with a grave situation. Beirut became the open centre of terrorist groups: they were able to move freely there, armed and in defiance of local authority. When raids were launched from southern Lebanon into Israel, the IDF took action and, on occasion, destroyed terrorist centres. Beirut also became the departure-point for saboteurs on their way to Europe on missions to attack Israeli personnel and offices. In response to an attack on an Israeli airliner in Athens airport in December 1968, Israeli soldiers destroyed 13 civilian planes at Beirut airport, without causing the loss of a single life. In November 1969, the Lebanese Government signed an agreement with the leaders of Al-Fatah (the so-called Cairo Agreement) which permitted the terrorists to operate against Israeli targets from across the border. Israel announced that it would not tolerate such attacks and that Lebanon would be held accountable for any attack originating in its territory. From Beirut came the terrorists who killed innocent travellers at Lod airport in May 1973, assassinated Israeli athletes in the Olympic village at Munich in September 1972 and carried out many other attacks on Israelis in Europe. Most of the hijackers of civilian airliners came from Beirut, which was the scene of an IDF attack in 1972 in which a number of terrorist leaders were killed.
On the diplomatic front, there was no sign of any progress in the Jarring Mission. In early 1969 France proposed a Four-Power conference on the Middle East, and in April 1969, the United Nations Ambassador's of the Four Powers - the United States, France, Britain and the Soviet Union - began a series of consultations in New York. The two super-Powers soon assumed the decisive role. Most of the Powers feared an increase of military tension in case of failure of the Jarring Mission and held that the talks might prevent the War of Attrition from developing. But the contrary proved to be true. The hope of the Powers imposing a settlement encouraged the Arab States to believe that their belligerence would bear fruit, that they could achieve by diplomatic pressure what they were unable to gain on the battlefield.
Israel was opposed to an imposed settlement, which was bound to create unsurmountable grievances and carry with it the seeds of a new conflict. Likewise, Israel objected to any move that might result in the change in Jarring's mandate and grant the Powers the status of a body authorized to dictate terms to the UN envoy. Furthermore, as long as the illusion was maintained that a solution was possible without negotiations, the cause of peace was not being advanced. Nevertheless, at the turn of the year and in the early months of 1970, it became evident that no common ground existed between the Two Powers. The main stumbling bloc was the question of negotiations:
"The Soviet Union tried to draw a final political and territorial blueprint, including final boundaries, instead of launching a process of negotiation " (President Richard Nixon's Report to Congress of 9 February 1972).
The continued Soviet military build-up and refusal to consider an agreement on armscontrol to the Middle East added to the disagreement:
"The Great Powers also have a responsibility to enhance, not to undermine, the basic conditions of stability in the area ... Injecting the global strategic rivalry into the region is incompatible with Middle Eastern peace. . . " (ibid.).
Meetings between the representatives of the Powers became sporadic in 1970 and lost their significance.
Prime Minister Eshkol died suddenly on 26 February 1969. He was succeeded by Mrs. Golda Meir, who pledged herself to carry out the policies of her late predecessor (Document 9). Shortly after assuming office, the new Premier paid a visit to Washington and held talks with President Nixon and senior members of his Cabinet. She re-asserted Israel's willingness to enter into Rhodes-type conversations with the Arab States. The Egyptian Foreign Minister declared in Washington on 25 September that his country was willing to adopt something like the Rhodes formula, but his words were soon disavowed by Cairo. Egypt still declined to enter into any kind of negotiations with Israel.
Meanwhile, as the War of Attrition was being fought with aircraft, missiles, artillery and commando units, the United States took an initiative. On 9 December 1969, Secretary of State Rogers presented a plan for an Israel-Egypt settlement (Document 10); it was the same plan that the US submitted to the Soviets on 28 October. A day later, the Government of Israel rejected the plan because it disregarded the essential need to determine secure and agreed borders through the signing of peace treaties by direct negotiations (Documents 11 and 13). On 18 December, the US submitted proposals for an Israel-Jordan settlement to the Four Powers. Israel declined to accept this plan, as well.
In early 1970, the Two-Power and the Four-Power talks were stalemated by basic differences of view among the Powers. The Soviet Union was, by then, fully committed to Egypt, and in the first months of 1970, Soviet pilots began to fly Egyptian aircraft and Soviet ground personnel manned Egyptian anti-aircraft missile batteries mounted some forty miles from the Suez Canal. In April 1970, Soviet pilots were flying operational missions over Egypt (Document 13). American efforts to reach an accord with Moscow on the basis of the Rogers Plan, efforts that began in September 1968, failed. Attempts to reach an agreement with the Soviets on the control of arms and new border lines in the Middle East also failed. As the military situation was becoming precarious for Egypt, Nasser told the United States Government, through Assistant Secretary Sisco, that he would be willing to welcome new diplomatic moves from Washington. Israel, too, was willing to explore new ideas. On 19 June 1970, Secretary Rogers announced a new plan. It contained an acceptance by Israel and Egypt of a 90 days cease-fire and of a military standstill zone on each side of the Suez Canal; Israel, Egypt and Jordan would again seek Ambassador Jarring's good offices to reach an agreement based on Resolution 242 (Document 15). After obtaining further clarification, Israel accepted the idea in principle (Document 16). It was also accepted by Egypt and Jordan and the cease-fire went into effect on the midnight of 7 August, (Documents 17, 18, 19).
But on that night, aided and abetted by the Soviet Union, Egypt began to move heavy weapons and constructed new sites for SA-2 and SA-3 missiles in the area declared to be a standstill military zone within 50 Kilometres to the east and west of the Canal. This was a flagrant and extremely grave violation of the cease-fire. On 13 August, Defence Minister Dayan informed the Knesset of it (Document 20). Israel complained to the US which, on 19 August, announced that there had been a forward deployment of missiles, but it was not until 3 September that the Department of State confirmed that there had been breaches of the cease-fire and standstill agreement. On 6 September, Israel announced that in view of the new situation created along the Suez Canal, it was suspending its participation in the Jarring talks (Document 21). By then it was clear that no amount of diplomatic activity would rectify the new military consequences, whose gravity was seen in the first days of the Yom Kippur War.
President Nasser died in September 1970 and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat, who, in November, agreed to an extension of the cease-fire by three months. By then, the United States, having re-examined the balance of power in the Middle East, and following a visit by Prime Minister Meir to Washington, announced that Israel would get additional fighter bombers and that the Nixon Administration was seeking an appropriation of 500 million dollars as credit to Israel to enable it to purchase arms in the US.
On 28 December 1970 - after renewed Israel-US consultations - Israel declared its readiness to resume its participation in the Jarring talks (Document 22). On February 1971, Jarring made another attempt to break the deadlock created by Arab refusal to negotiate, even indirectly, prior to obtaining an Israeli withdrawal. He requested a commitment (a) from Israel to withdraw completely to the British Mandatory border; (b) from Egypt to enter a peace agreement with Israel. Israel was willing to enter into talks looking toward agreement on secure and recognized boundaries but not to agree in advance to withdraw to the former international border. Israel reiterated its desire on 26 February - to sign binding peace treaties and requested that now that both sides had stated their basic position they should "pursue their negotiations in a detailed and concrete manner without prior conditions".
The Egyptian agreement of 15 February was made contingent on the automatic implementation of the 22 November 1967 Resolution. This referred particularly to the implementation of total withdrawal. In vital respects, the Egyptian interpretation of the Resolution, as spelled out in the Egyptian reply, was simply a restatement of the' position taken by Egypt before the 1967 war. Thus the question of free passage through the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aqaba and the refugee question:
Egypt undertook to ensure "the freedom of navigation in the Suez Canal in accordance with the 1888 Constantinople Convention" and that of navigation in the Straits of Tiran "in accordance with the principles of international law" * The refugee problem should be settled "in accordance with United Nations resolutions" (Document 26).
There were other points of this nature. Not a single issue contained in the Resolution was mentioned in the Egyptian letter as being subject to negotiation.
In view of this stalemate, the Jarring Mission was again suspended.
Efforts were now concentrated on reaching a partial solution for the reopening of the Suez Canal. The idea had been raised by Israel as early as 1968, but Egypt opposed it.
On 4 February 1971, when announcing Egypt's agreement to a final extension of the cease-fire for a period of 30 days, President Sadat made the following statement:
"We demand that during this cease-fire period there should be a partial Israeli withdrawal along the east bank of the Suez Canal. This should be the first stage in a time-table which will later be drawn up for the implementation of the other paragraphs of the Security Council Resolution. If this is carried out in this period, we shall be ready to immediately commence clearing the bed of the Suez Canal in preparation for reopening it to international shipping and to serve the national economy. "
In a policy statement in the Knesset on 9 February 1971, Prime-Minister Meir outlined the Israel position as follows:
"We are in favour of opening the Suez Canal to free navigation and would even willingly discuss proposals aimed at normalization of civilian life in that area and mutual de-escalation of the military line-up" (Document 25).
Early in May 1971, when US Secretary of State Rogers visited the area, the Egyptians elaborated their position. The principal points were:
a. The Egyptian initiative for opening the Suez Canal was still in force, but the partial withdrawal was not a separate solution and not a partial solution.
b. Immediately following the beginning of partial withdrawal, Egypt was ready to clear the Canal and to agree to a cease-fire of a limited period to allow Jarring to prepare a time-table for full withdrawal
c. The Egyptian armed forces will cross the Suez Canal.
d. The purpose of the limited cease-fire which Egypt agrees to was to allow Jarring to bring about full Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territories.
Israel, too, amplified its position in discussions with Mr. Rogers in the beginning of May. At their conclusion, it was clear that disagreement regarding the interim agreement reflected disagreement on the fundamental issues regarding the overall settlement. To Egypt it was linked to the final recovery of all territories. It was part of its execution, the remainder being left to modalities to be worked out by Jarring. To Israel it was only acceptable if it did not confirm that territories would be returned without negotiations on secure borders. The US position was that an interim agreement offered the most effective chance for progress, if it could remain unconnected with the contentious fundamental issues.
This view was given expression in President Nixon's Report to Congress of 9 February 1972. In the section on "Issues for the Future", he said: "The interim approach, if it is to succeed, must find a way to make progress on practical and partial aspects of the situation without raising all the contentious issues that obstruct a comprehensive solution." This position was reiterated by Secretary of State Rogers in a speech delivered in New York on 18 January 1973 when he said that 1973 was "a favourable time for negotiations", that the American proposal (on an interim agreement) would be but "a first decisive step" to reaching the final settlement of the Arab-Israel conflict, but that an interim step was needed first and "the most realistic approach, we continue to believe, would be to begin with negotiations on an interim Suez agreement. We will be active in ascertaining if and how we can help the parties initiate a genuine negotiating process" Despite Egyptian reticence, Israel has consistently announced that in its view an interim agreement would have a wholesome effect on the situation and that it was ready to make every effort to achieve it. At the same time, Israel remained prepared to engage in peace negotiations with every Arab State that indicated its willingness.
In the meantime, there had been a radical change in the situation in other Arab States. Jordan was able to fight off the Palestinian groups that menaced the regime and in another round, in the summer of 1971, the remnants were driven off to Syria and Lebanon. Terrorist activity against Israel and Israeli personnel and installations in Europe and Latin America increased. No Arab State was ready to dissociate itself from the many crimes committed by the Black Septmeber and other organizations. On the contrary, the terrorists were aided materially and morally by Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria and Iraq. But there had been few acts of terror inside Israel or the administered areas since late 1969. The Jarring mission having bogged down, and Israeli policy in the administered areas achieving noted success, King Hussein was moved, in March 1972, to announce a new plan for a federation between Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip when the Israeli occupation should end. But the plan did not mention any peace with Israel (Document 34). On 16 March, Prime Minister Meir told the Knesset that the king must deal with Israel, and only then could he proceed to discuss new territorial and political arrangements (Document 35).
In the course of 1971-73, President Sadat entrenched his position. In spite of a fifteen-year mutual defence treaty between Egypt and the Soviet Union, relations between the two States grew cooler. Sadat's demands for assault weapons were not always met, and his incessant threats to start hostilities against Israel did not provoke the pressures he had hoped would be exerted upon Israel. He realized that important changes were occurring on the international scene. The United States policy of rapprochement with China and the Soviet Union ushered in a new era of dtente and the solution of conflicts by negotiation and recognition of new realities. The two super-Powers tried their utmost to avoid another war in the Middle East and a possible confrontation between them. At the Soviet-American summit in Moscow in May 1972, President Nixon and Party Secretary Brezhnev issued an appeal to the parties to renew the Jarring mission and seek a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Following the summit, President Sadat announced in July 1972 that he had asked the Soviet Government to recall most of its technicians and advisers from Egypt. This move prompted Prime Minister Meir to renew her appeal to Sadat to seek peace (Document 36).
There was little diplomatic activity in 1973. Israel's major concern became the fight against terror. Israeli leaders began to formulate their views on the Palestinian issue (Documents 38 and 39). In the summer of 1973, while Israel was engaged in an election campaign, Presidents Sadat and Assad were already completing plans for the resumption of the war. Israel had called up reserves in May 1973 because of an alert which proved to be false. Repeatedly, Israel was asked by the United States not to take any pre-emptive action to forestall an attack on it. By late summer, the Syrian and Egyptian forces were deployed in battle positions along the Suez Canal and the Golan Heights cease-fire lines. On 22 September 1973, Sadat informed Party Secretary Brezhnev of his intention to renew the war on 6 October. As Israelis were observing the Day of Atonement, Egypt and Syria struck - the Yom Kippur War had begun.