chapter  11
15 Pages

Attrition, and the October War

The June 1967 War was fought by the countries in the MiddleEast for the possession of land. It was a Middle Eastern war and the Great Powers stood aside. As soon as it was over the Middle East once again became an area of Great-Power rivalry. Within eighteen months Russia had made good the military losses of the Arab states. To the United States this seemed to challenge Western interests. In the end Washington was always prepared to back Israel, but under the influence of the State Department it also tried to woo the Arabs. Moscow saw the chance to establish a permanent Russian fleet in the Mediterranean, and probably hoped that its support of the Arab cause would give Russia access to a warm-water port. Britain, though involved in the international diplomacy, was only engaged in the sidelines: British paramountcy in the area had passed two decades earlier. France, with the Algerian War over, tried to cultivate the friendship of the Arabs. Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon’s White House adviser, attributed the British and French position to the ‘deplorable’ American attitude during the Suez crisis of 1956: the American humiliation of its allies had shattered their confidence, and awareness of a global role had left a vacuum in the Middle East which the United States had had to fill.1 Israel fought the June 1967 War in a favourable climate of world opinion. Its extension of Israeli sovereignty to Arab Jerusalem, and the picture of poor Arab refugees crossing from the West Bank into Jordan – even though Israel offered to have those new refugees back – soon dispelled this.2