This month (September, according to the Hebrew calendar) marks the anniversary of two major historical events in the Middle East. Both of these events have had major repercussions on the region and in Israeli-Palestinian relations. Forty-five years ago, on October 6, 1973, the armies of Egypt and Syria launched an attack on Israel during the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur. Israeli military intelligence cautioned against a rush to war. Major-General Zaira, Israel’s Chief of Intelligence, with an over-confident attitude, dismissed reports of Egyptian forces concentrating along the Suez Canal front as the same old Egyptian maneuvers. Prime Minister Golda Meir, conscious of what might be the western reaction to Israeli military mobilization, and in particular, wary of a negative U.S. reaction, declined to order full mobilization, even when the Mossad Chief Zvi Zamir brought her a tip from an Egyptian double-agent (President Sadat’s son-in-law) that the Egyptians would attack on Yom Kippur. As a consequence of the delay in Israel’s mobilization, and Egypt’s surprise attack, the Israeli fortification along the Suez Canal fell, albeit after a heroic fight by the defenders. The lack of preparedness on the part of Israel as a result of over-confidence stemming from the Six-Day War, cost the lives of almost 3,000 Israeli soldiers. Ultimately, Israel triumphed in spite of the early setbacks.
Twenty five years ago, on September 13, 1993, the Oslo Accords were formally signed on the White House lawn, with a grinning President Bill Clinton overseeing the historical handshake between Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) chairman. The signing of the Oslo Accords launched what we now know as the “peace process.”