On August 8th year, the shooting war effectively stopped along the battlelines between Israel and neighbouring Arab states.
On August 8th year, the shooting war effectively stopped along the battlelines between Israel and neighbouring Arab states. Despite renewals, the ceasefire ran out earlier this year. But the guns stayed silent.
This is the first of three features taking a look at the Middle East situation on the anniversary of the original ceasefire. Here, the emphasis is on the continuing Arab-Israeli confrontation -- the arms race, the efforts of the palestinian commandos to disrupt the peace talks, and the ceasefire violations that succeeded in breaking up negotiations. The most dramatic violation was possibly the claim that Soviet-made missiles had been moved into the Egyptian stand-still zone. U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers confirmed Israeli claims of the violation:
There's also coverage of the sudden upswing in U.S.-Arab relations earlier this year, when Rogers toured the Middle East in an effort to get the suez Canal opened, and in the accompanying rift between the Americans and Israelis.
The second and third instalments of this feature series will concentrate on the threats to Arab unity during the year of the ceasefire, and will take a closer look at the situation in Israel during the same period.
SYNOPSIS: On August 8th, 1970, the gun fall silent along the Middle East battlelines. Arabs and Israelis had finally seized upon the slender peace initiative engineered by the Americans. During the ensuing year, the fortunes of the peace talks have fluctuated. Tension continues at a high level. The propaganda war rages on. But at least the guns have stayed silent. The original ceasefire, twice extended, finally ran out in March this year. Technically, a state of war returned. The obvious reason for the stalemate is the failure of Arabs and Israelis to reach a territorial agreement. The Israelis, with an eye to recent history, demand secure frontiers. To many Israelis, that means the Suez Canal or the River Jordan. The Arabs feel that the Israelis are more interested in territorial aggrandizement than in a peaceful settlement. They, naturally, want to see the Israelis withdraw to the frontiers occupied before the 1967 war and the recognition of Palestinian rights.
But during this year of the ceasefire, the Palestinians cause has lost grounds ??? bitterly renounced the ceasefire from the outset. Then they tried disruptive tactics. The hijack of three aircraft and four-hundred passengers to North Jordan lost the Palestinians much popular support. As the commandos attempted to hold many of the European passengers to ransom bloody fighting erupted in Amman and was to continue until this summers's purge of the commandos.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian refugee problem continues as a major source of disagreement. The Arabs want patriation or compensation for all Palestinians who left Israel or the occupied territories during the 1948 and 1967 wars. Israel has offered some compensation and limited resettlement, but insists that Israel must retain her Jewish majority.
Besides territorial disagreement, another major cause of continuing tension is the arms race. As the peace talks started, the Israelis produced evidence purporting to show the movement of Soviet-made missiles into the Egyptian ceasefire stand-still zone. U.S. Secretary of State Rogers commented on the alleged ceasefire violation:
But lack of agreement wasn't limited to the Israelis and the Arabs. This summer, a major rift developed between the Israelis and the Americans. Demonstrators in Tel Aviv protested against Mr Rogers' visit. Part of the rift was due to the Israeli desire to maintain the arms balance with American fighter-bombers: part was due to the American desire to secure an Israeli withdrawal from the East Bank of Suez -- and get the Canal reopened. So when Mr. Rogers flew to the Middle East in May, it was his visit to Egypt and Saudi Arabia that was hailed as historic.
In one respect, the Israelis -- with or without American arms -- have a unique advantage over their neighbours. The Arabs simply haven't achieved the solidarity of Israel. Few modern nations have. And during the year of the ceasefire, Arab unity has been increasingly under pressure.