In six days of war, four of them fought on the Egyptian front, Israel achieved a decisive military victory. The IDF reached Suez and completed its mopping up operations to secure its hold on Sinai, and the Egyptian army was annihilated with most of its formations crippled, and it lost between 10,000 and 15,000 men killed and more than 4,000 men captured. Egypt lost 90% of its air power (100% of its long
range bombers), 65% of its tanks and suffered large losses in other components.245 A ceasefire was declared on the Egyptian front on 8 June.
After the war, Egypt underwent a transitional period of political turmoil with the half-hearted resignation of Nasser, the forced resignation of the heads of military services, and bitter recriminations between Nasser and Amer which ended with the announcement of Amer‟s suicide and installation of a new military command. Despite these chaotic events, Egypt took military and political measures to lessen the effects of defeat.
Militarily, a new policy of restoring its lost fighting power was adopted, but the urgent task was to restore much of the lost equipment as soon as possible, especially in the field of air power, to re-organize the collapsed ground formations and form a hasty defence line west of the Suez Canal. Low scale active defence operations began as early as 1 July in Ras-Al Esh near the only Egyptian pocket east of Suez in Port Fuad. Another small air battle occurred on 14 and 15 July.
However, the most important military encounter was naval. On 21October, the Israeli destroyer “Eilat”, which had entered Egyptian territorial waters, was attacked and sunk by two Egyptian rocket boats.246 These operations, albeit very limited militarily and started by Israeli initiatives, had a strong effect, especially with the magnifying effect of propaganda, in restoring some of the morale among the army and the population.
Politically, Nasser used the defeat to rally Arab support. Although he lost much of his prestige, he gained more Arab support than expected and his ordeal in Yemen, as well as the serious enmity with Faisal, the King of Saudi Arabia, was ended at the Khartoum Conference, of the League of Arab States. The conference sanctioned the famous “Three Nos” declaration: no legitimizing Israel, no direct negotiation with it, and no peace with it. It also sanctioned extensive military and financial aid to Egypt.
Gamasy, Memoirs: the 1973 War, pp.151-154.
Relations with the US were formally cut, and Egypt moved totally into the Soviet camp. An early visit after the defeat by some of the Soviet political and military leadership set the scene for a new era in which military aid was expanded in all aspects: weapons, organisation, education and training, and advisory roles.247 Only a few months after the war, Egypt had restored its armed forces.
In terms of the outcome of the war, however, Egypt had not achieved any of its policy aims and had experienced huge damage politically, militarily, economically and in terms of human life. Nevertheless, it did not yield its political will to Israel‟s political aims whether in security and restoring deterrence, or in accepting a disadvantageous peace, or even an interim agreement for non-aggression.
On the Israeli side, three scales of political aims and the ability to achieve them
should be acknowledged.
The political motivation for launching the war was restoring the power of deterrence and security, avoiding another war soon, and this aim underpinned all political and military discussions before the decision to go to war. This aim clearly was not achieved as two major wars were to follow the 1967 War and the front was never silent.248 Although Israel‟s post-war policy, solidifying her occupation of Sinai and other territories and the annexation of Jerusalem, played a role in this escalation, the military outcome and its scale, as discussed earlier, left no choice for the Egyptians. Secondly, a further political aim mentioned in the government decision to go to war was to “release the tightening pressure which was forming around Israel”. Hence, this aim was just to avert the exterminating offensive against Israel and it was clearly achieved. However, as has been explained, this aim was a product of the feeling of existential danger which suffused both the people and the propaganda and was
247 A full account of this visit and its political results especially can be found in the memoirs of Mahmoud Riadh
who was the Egyptian Foreign Minister, The Struggle for Peace in the Middle East, was translated into English from (Arabic) (Beirut: Arabic Institution for Publishing, 1987) p. 94-96.
This was in contrast to the euphoric and illogical claim of Sharon just after the war “the Egyptian Army is destroyed. My generation will not fight again!”, quoted in Avi Shlaim, “Israel: Poor Little Samson”, p.55.
helped intentionally by the government and the military for mobilization and diplomatic purposes. All contemporary Israeli and US estimates though predicted a clear military victory in any military exchange with Arab forces. The new and intensified Egyptian deployments in Sinai and the Egyptian-Jordanian pact were indications of a heavier potential price to be paid for any future Israeli offensive. But they could never have been seen as an existential threat.
Thirdly, there was a set of desired, and possible, political end states for the war which ranged from crippling Nasser‟s regime, an aim perhaps shared by the US, reaching an interim agreement for non-aggression or even a comprehensive regional peace as the Israeli leadership seems to have expected naively after the decisive military outcome -- as illustrated by Dayan‟s famous comment “we are expecting a phone call from Arabs.”249 These aims were not, it should be stressed, formally adopted before launching the war and, obviously, they were not achieved by this war.
To conclude, Egypt did not achieve any political aim and, while it managed to prevent Israel attaining many of the political aims it had hoped to achieve, it paid an enormous price. Israel, on the other hand, did not achieve the motivating political aim of the war or its theoretically and implicitly political resolution aims. On the other hand, she achieved two aims: relieving the existential danger, and preserving the right of navigation in Aqaba. This outcome would count as low strategic
advantage for Israel.
The causal link tracing results in a slightly diverted link. Low advantageous ability for Israel (lower medium Israeli practical ability versus low Egyptian) would give her a relative superiority but she had low strategic advantage. This
resulted, as we indicated earlier, from the strategic leverage of early operational decisiveness favouring Israel. But weak strategic ability itself prevented Israel from translating this exceptional decisiveness on the battlefield, into a political winning. Rather, it even invited another two wars of a major scale.