The Yom Kippur War and the Shape of Today’s Middle East

October 6, 2023

RFI President Eric Patterson authored a piece published yesterday in WORLD titled, “The Yom Kippur War and the Shape of Today’s Middle East.” In the piece, Patterson examines how the Yom Kippur War 50 years ago solidified U.S.-Israeli relations and Israel’s long-term security. Patterson writes:

1948. 1956. 1967. 1973. Israel defended itself once-a-decade during its early years, but after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel has not suffered a major attack from its Arab neighbors. As we reflect on the 50th anniversary of that war, we can look back on how the outcomes of the Yom Kippur War shaped today’s Middle East.

Until 1973, the United States was not a consistent supporter of Israel. Although Britain called for a Jewish homeland in the Balfour Declaration (1917), it took three decades and the Nazi Holocaust for the United Nations to call for Jewish and Arab (Palestinian) states in the formerly Ottoman region. Then, President Harry S. Truman recognized the new State of Israel (1948) over the objections of his own State Department. From day one Jews had to defend themselves to build a Jewish state, and the United States, like much of the West, was ambivalent about providing weapons and intelligence.

It is well known that Jews defended themselves in 1948, establishing the State of Israel, and then went to war with assistance from France and Britain in 1956 after Egypt closed the Suez Canal to shipping. After battlefield victories in 1948 and 1956, despite small numbers and inferior weapons, Israel had to fight Egypt, Syria, and Jordan again in 1967 in the Six Day War. At no point during this time was Israel a client-state of the United States. Indeed, Israel looked as much to Communist countries as to the West for supplies, because many Western countries sought to maintain the flow of oil and special post-colonial relationships with Arab governments.

In October 1973 the Jewish high holy days, including the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), coincided with Ramadan. Few would have expected Arabs to attack during Ramadan, but experts did note the massing of Syrian and Egyptian troops on Israel’s borders. As late as Oct. 6, the day the Arab armies attacked Israel, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger reportedly told Tel Aviv to avoid preemptive strikes or no Western aid would be come.

Read the full article: “The Yom Kippur War and the Shape of Today’s Middle East.”