The October 1973 War: How it led to the first Arab recognition of Israel

Fifty years after the Arab-Israeli war, Israel continues to occupy the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

Egypt's chief of staff, Saad el-Shazly (left), President Anwar Sadat (centre) and minister of war' Ismail Ali (right) review battlefield developments
Egypt's chief of staff, Saad el-Shazly (L), President Anwar Sadat (C) and minister of war' Ismail Ali (R) review battlefield developments in the October 1973 War. [Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images]

The October 1973 Arab-Israeli War lasted for barely three weeks but it shook the world economy and culminated in the Camp David Accords that saw Egypt become the first Arab country to establish diplomatic ties with Israel.

The war, known to Israelis as Yom Kippur and to Arabs as the October War, started when Egypt and Syria launched a two-front attack on Israel to regain their territories lost in the 1967 Six Day War when Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt and Syria’s Golan Heights.

Israel also seized large parts of historic Palestine, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in 1967. The defeat of Arabs and Palestinians is known as the “Naksa”, meaning setback or defeat.

Egypt regained control of Sinai but Syria’s Golan Heights remains occupied by Israel.

The aftermath of the war contributed to the shifting political dynamics between Arab nations and the United States.

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(Al Jazeera)

Here are some of the key events that took place in the wake of the war:

The 1973 oil crisis

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) led by Arab countries imposed an oil embargo on the US after accusing Washington of supplying weapons to Israel in the war that ended in a stalemate.

The aim was to use the oil embargo to pressure the US to resolve the Palestinian issue.

They pledged to maintain this until all the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 were relinquished and the rights of Palestinians were restored.

Oil prices shot up around the world, causing the US to reassess its support for the war.

Even though Israel did not pull out from the occupied Palestinian territories, the embargo on the US was lifted in 1974 following peace talks.

The oil crisis was a shock to economies worldwide, causing the oil price to quadruple from around $2.90 a barrel before the embargo to about $11.65 a barrel in January 1974.

To avoid a future shock, the International Energy Agency (IEA) was created as a response. The Paris-based intergovernmental organization works to ensure the security of oil supplies.

Camp David Accords

Former US President Jimmy Carter brokered a series of peace talks between Egypt’s then-President Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, the former Israeli Prime Minister.

These secret discussions that took place in Camp David, a country retreat for the US President near Washington, DC, spanned over 13 days.

The accords laid out conditions for an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, and a framework for Israeli-Palestinian peace using Resolution 242, which called for a withdrawal of Israel from territories occupied during the Six Day War in 1967.

Israel agreed to pull out its forces and civilians from Sinai in exchange for diplomatic ties with Egypt and access to the Suez Canal after the Camp David Accords signed in 1978.

While Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979, the framework never materialised.

Egypt suspended from the Arab League

Egypt was expelled from the Arab League, and all Arab countries broke diplomatic relations with Cairo following its normalisation with Israel.

Egypt was accused of disregarding the Palestinian cause, but 50 years on more Arab countries are eager to establish ties with Israel relegating the Palestinian issue to the side.

Jordan followed Egypt in signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 while several countries, including the United Arab Emirates, recognised Israel as part of the so-called Abraham Accords in 2020.

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Cairo was brought back to the Arab League in 1989.

Fifty years after the Arab-Israeli war, Israel continues to occupy the Palestinian territory of West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. The US continues to see the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

Source: Al Jazeera