The Jewish state lost almost 3,000 soldiers and more than 8,000 others were injured. It lost 1,000 tanks and other destructive machinery, while 100 military aircrafts also went down. The Jewish state lost possession over one of the biggest lands it seized six years prior in a rather easy and opportunistic war. This is a brief overview of the October 1973 war.
Wars are the result of political activities, and the aim of war is not to simply take down the enemy. The war’s outcomes? It has changed perceptions on both sides of the Suez Canal.
Israel is a strong and advanced state. It possesses a strong and dangerous military and expansion project. The state was embodying an endless feeling of assured superiority ever since winning the war in 1967. However, the elements in this formula were changed in the October war.
To this very day, Israel’s mission is to protect whatever it has gained from the six-day war. Israel has learned its lesson and so did Egypt; however, some Arabs haven’t. They are the ones you see in Qatar, Iran and remaining torn regimes in Syria and Iraq.
Perhaps the Sinai Peninsula and the Suez Canal would not have returned to Egypt without the 1973 war. Perhaps Israel’s hunger for expansion would not have been put to an end without that defeat.
The October War resulted in a major difference in relations between both sides as it adjusted the power balance. After that, both sides knew that there is no such thing as guaranteed victories. The October War dismissed several beliefs in Israel, however, it failed to enlighten Arab states opposing Egypt – states which misunderstood the war and its outcomes.
Former Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat remains as one of history’s most prominent figures politically and militarily. This war is only one of his many works.
Egypt entered the war in critical political and military circumstances; only six years after their defeat in June – a war which stripped Egypt of its arsenal and enthusiasm. There is no doubt that Sadat’s advisors attempted to dismiss the pursuit of such a dangerous mission against a state holding a massive arsenal of advanced weaponry.
It is wrong to compare both countries in terms of size and population, as some commentators have gotten accustomed to doing. Despite Israel hosting a smaller population when compared to Cairo alone, it has a bigger army. This is because most Israelis are trained and qualified soldiers for war. So, if we factor in the army back-ups, as the state demands that all those between the age of 17 and 49 fight, you’re looking at more than 1.5 million individuals today.
This makes their numbers greater than the Egyptian army who stood at half a million at the time. Despite the difference in numbers, Israel lost. The war came as a victory for faith, a victory over arrogance and superiority, a victory spurred for the first time a sense of insecurity among Israelis. The victory echoed conviction of humility and retreat after a constant desire for expansion.
After the 1973 war, Israel did not wage an expansionist war again. The dream for a “Greater Israel” was over. The following wars that Israel engaged in were about defending itself against the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon, then against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
In the October War, Egypt was victorious over Israel, while Israel rose victorious over the Syrian front. During that victory, Israel seized more territory which it returned via negations in its agreement with the late Syrian President, Hafez al-Assad.
The agreement was not on separating forces and reordering borders as was described, but an end to the direct war between Damascus and Tel Aviv. Even so, Baathists launched a false propaganda war against Egypt because it signed the Camp David Accords.
Sadat was a realist politician, he was different from them. He took the victory to greater heights. If it weren’t for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s regime threats, or the Assad regime in Syria, the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would have been part of the accords.
Also, that war could have come to a final peaceful agreement if it weren’t for Syria, Iraq and Libya’s conspiracy against Egypt. The peaceful agreement was also not possible due to the treason of Islamic groups in their assassination of Sadat – the man who set them free of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Naser’s cage.
Egypt won in the October War, yet it is quite unfortunate that the Arabs lost it as an opportunity to capitalize on their only victory over Israel. To this day, there are those who are trying to distort the war’s history and the events that followed to cover up their defeats, and their political stances, which later proved futile.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.