Its various names—the Yom Kippur War, the October War, the Ramadan War and the 1973 War—reveal that the Arab–Israeli war of October 1973 had and continues to have different meaning and symbolism for the belligerent sides. For the Israelis, the war represents a national trauma that will be forever ingrained in the collective psyche, but for the Arabs, and particularly the Egyptians, the war represented a victory. The myth of total Israeli military superiority, largely reinforced by the Six-Day War, was smashed and the Arab forces managed to penetrate Israel's territory, both in the north and south of the country. For the Egyptians, the war would also lead to both a return of the Sinai and a certain restoration of Arab military, political and national pride. Thomas W. Lippman very ably reveals the contours of President Anwar Sadat, a central character to this period of Middle Eastern statecraft, who took on the Arab world in his quest for peace with Israel and challenged the superpowers' assumptions about policy-making, both domestically and on the world stage. Lippman asserts that by 1975 Sadat's aims were becoming clear: restore Egyptian national pride, sign a peace deal with Israel and forge an alliance with the United States after the failure of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser's Soviet alignment. With these three aims, Sadat was to carve himself a political niche surpassing regional boundaries, which would, in due course, release the extremist forces that killed him. Of particular interest is Lippman's detailing of the Israeli intelligence failure in the buildup to the war. A flawed paradigm in both Jerusalem and Washington resulted in the assumption that the Arab world had no interest in a military confrontation with Israel, particularly after 1967—such thinking would be tantamount to political and military suicide. This miscalculation by both Israel and the US led directly to the Nixon administration placing US forces around the globe on nuclear alert as it became clear that the Soviets might intervene on the side of their Arab clients, thereby preventing another trouncing of Soviet military hardware and doctrine. Another entry worthy of mention is the author's depiction of UN Security Council Resolution 242. Lippman correctly points out that the omission of the definite article in the text of the resolution has allowed the Israelis and their patrons to maintain that they are not required to withdraw from the territories, or, for that matter, all territories acquired by Israel in June 1967. The Arab side, along with its patrons, has focused on the stipulation in Resolution 242 that the acquisition of territory by war is inadmissible. With a land for peace deal seemingly the only game in town for the Palestinians and Israelis, Resolution 242 will continue to divide, rather than unify. Lippman points out that former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger called the resolution an example of constructive ambiguity. That may be so, but the ambiguity has far exceeded the constructiveness. Finally, a leitmotif running through the work is the feeling of inevitability that Sadat's actions in his quest for peace with Israel would be his downfall. Indeed, the fact that he signed a separate deal with Israel—thereby rejecting the chance to forge a regional, comprehensive deal and failing to entrench a Palestinian treaty with Israel through the Camp David Agreements—sealed his fate. His visit to Jerusalem was palpable proof for Islamists, if one were needed, that Sadat had betrayed his country and his religion. Lippman reveals that, at the end of his life, Sadat regretted the benevolence he had afforded the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, the rise of Islamism after Sadat's death is a sad and somewhat unfair legacy for a man who gave his all for a new era. This is a well-written and thoroughly researched book and is suitable for all levels of interest and understanding. I have no doubt that it will become a core text for scholars of the Middle East. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Royal Institute of International Affairs. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
International Affairs – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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