Title: Policy background.
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Title: Policy background.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00072554
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Source Institution: The Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica
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POLICY B A C .K C R 0 U N D


THE EGYPTIAN BARRAGE ALONG THE SUEZ CANAL


THE EMBASSY OF ISRAEL
Washington, D.C.


March 10, 1969


P 0 LI C


B A C K G R 0 U, N D






THE EGYPTIAN BARRAGE ALONG THE SUEZ CANAL


1. Arab capitals led by Cairo have calculatedly sought to impress upon
world opinion the notion that a Mideast war is imminent. Terrorism is
endowed with fictional proportions; each border flare-up becomes the
spark that will inevitably explode "the tinder-box;" rumors of impend-
ing Israeli offensives are liberally disseminated; and a flow of heated
war communiques all add up to the illusion that the war in all its
ferocity is a matter of weeks, if not of days. Arab policy is dedi-
cated to cultivating this impression for its own political ends. The
initiation by Egypt of intensive artillery barrages along the length
of the Suez Canal sector over the weekend of March 8 and 9 is a part
of the pattern.


The Egyptian Barrage
2. The artillery attack by Egypt last weekend came in the wake of in-
cessant sniping over a period of several weeks directed against Israeli
positions along the Suez Canal. Israeli forces had largely refrained
from returning fire. The attacks were the subject of numerous reports
by General Odd Bull, Chief of the UN observer forces in the Suez Canal
area, and the UN Secretary General, in his reports of February 11 and
February 28, 1969, expressed concern over their continuation.
In addition to the sniping, the Egyptians intensified terror war-
fare operations against Israel, and in particular, mining raids across
the Canal. These acts of aggression were the subject of letters
addressed by Israel to the President of the Security Council on Feb-
ruary 12 and 13, 1969.


3. On the afternoon of March 8, 1969, the Egyptian armed forces esca-
lated their attacks into a full-scale artillery barrage along the entire
length of the Suez Canal sector. Israel held its return fire for some
thirty minutes before responding in kind. Despite repeated attempts
by the UN military observers to arrange a cease-fire, the Egyptian
attack continued without respite until the night.
It was preceded by a reconnaissance incursion into the Sinai air-
space by four Egyptian Mig 21 planes, one of which was shot down by
Israeli aircraft. The Egyptian pilot, though wounded, succeeded in
bailing out and is presently hospitalized in Israel.
On the morning of March 9, Egyptian artillery resumed large-scale
shelling on a wide front. Repeated cease-fire proposals by the UN
observers were accepted by the Israel forces who held fire at the
designated times, only to be met by a continuing barrage. At 10:40 p.m.
local time, the Egyptian shelling ceased.
Israeli casualties over the two days of shelling were three killed
and fourteen wounded. One light Israeli Piper Cub reconnaissance
plane was downed.







POLICY BACKGROUND


Political Motive of Eqyptian Action
4. The Egyptian attack constitutes a most serious breach of the cease-
fire agreement. It has, however, to be appraised more for its manifest
political intent than for its restricted military effectiveness. It is
a further measured.act to raise tensions in the area. It is aimed at
convincing the West that the war will orupt tomorrow, next week, next
month, unless the U.S. joins with the Soviet Union and France in pres-
suring Israel to withdraw from the areas occupied in the June 1967 war,
and force Israel to accept an arrangement on Arab terms. That the
attack coincided with arrival in the area of the UN peace representa-
tive, Ambassador Gunnar Jarring, underlines the political motivation of
the Egyptian action.


5. In terms of inter-Arab relations, the Egyptian purpose is to drive
home the supremacy of Nasser as the dominant voice in Arab councils,
and that active belligerency against Israel is not restricted to ter-
rorist organizations alone.


War Not Imminent
6. Israel is capable of withstanding and containing the Egyptian
aggression, which has neither the power nor the momentum of escalation
into full-scale war. President Nasser is not ready for such a war.
Examination of the state of affairs in the area and the positions of
the parties involved, emphatically suggest that war will not erupt in
the Middle East in the near future. It will not erupt at all if
President Nasser is deprived of the option of launching one.
To entertain notions to the contrary, to view the existing status
quo as so tenuous as to be on the brink of collapse, is to play into
the hands of those parties whose object is not a final peace in the
Middle East. Their aim is a political arrangement that will compel
Israel to withdraw without genuine peace. As Israel sees it, such a
doctrine of palliative, intermediate arrangements short of peace,
enshrines.the sure seeds of war in time to come. The one prospect
for peace is the creation of a situation that leaves President Nasser
with the single choice of a continuation of the status quo or nego-
tiated peace. What President Nasser hopes to achieve by actions of
the kind that took place over last weekend along the Suez Canal is
to panic the West into resorting to the makeshift doctrine of a tem-
porary settlement, preserving the roots of the conflict in tact.
Herein lies the goal of Cairo policy.


-3-


March 10, 1969




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