Al-Ahram Weekly Online   9 - 15 October 2008
Issue No. 917
Focus
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Israeli strategy in Sinai after 1967


FOLLOWING the 1967 war, Israel was convinced that the defeat it had delivered to the Arabs had established once and for all its absolute and inviolable military superiority. Arab military formations, they believed, were impotent against the rapid manoeuvrability of the Israel artillery forces.

Israel then proceeded to formulate its political objectives in line with these conclusions. It sought to impose the legitimacy of its existence in the region by compelling the Arabs to recognise Israel, normalise relations and thus ensure that its expansionist designs remained unhampered. In strategic terms this meant that it had to prevent the Arab governments and the Palestinian resistance from regaining any of the territories it had occupied by force.

With respect to the Egyptian front, Israel therefore developed a five-point military strategy: firstly, to establish a level of military superiority that would inhibit Egypt from even contemplating a renewal of hostilities; secondly, to keep the Suez Canal as Israel's western border in light of the strategic advantages of that unique water barrier; thirdly, to plan for preemptive strike operations at the first sign of any Egyptian assault preparations, relying on the Israeli airforce as a long-range deterrent; fourthly, to control the straits at Sharm El-Sheikh and so secure naval communications to the Red Sea; and, finally, to develop advanced intelligence and radar systems capable of providing sufficient early warning to enable quick and comprehensive mobilisation.

In line with this strategy, from 1967 to 1973 Israel concentrated its efforts on reinforcing its combat forces and major armaments systems. It concluded deals for M-60 tanks and M-113 armoured vehicles and it rearmed the 14 artillery battalions with American-supplied equipment including 175, 155 and 203 calibre guns and howitzers. The Israeli navy obtained new models of missile boats and radar equipment, while the airforce was fitted out with new Phantoms and Sky Hawks which were the most advanced fighter planes of the day.

The Israeli army concentrated 65 per cent of its fighting power on the Egyptian front, where it was fully prepared to wage war if it felt that the balance of power was being altered in favour of Egypt.

Israeli strategic planners had five defence objectives in the Sinai. They decided to maintain minimum mobilisation in the area to counter limited operations or resist the first wave of an offensive operation. Secondly, they sought to optimise the use of the water barrier in order to forestall an Egyptian crossing as long as possible so as to permit the mobilisation of reserves. Thirdly, they wanted to ensure the cohesion of the front line fortified positions and to rally their back-up defences to enable their forces to hold out for long periods against Egyptian attempts to gain a foothold on the eastern bank of the canal. Fourthly, they had to ensure they could coordinate their various reserves so that they could be redirected swiftly to other locations. Finally, they sought to optimise the natural barriers -- the mountain passes -- in the strategic depth of the Sinai as their last fallback defences.

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