Menachem was a religious Jew


Martin Schäuble

To person

Martin Schäuble is a journalist and book author. He studied politics in Berlin, Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Today he lives as a freelance author and journalist in Berlin, travels to the Middle East for his research and is working on his doctorate.

Noah flight

To person

Noah Flug (born in Poland in 1925). He survived the concentration camp and emigrated to Israel in 1958. He is chairman of the umbrella organization of Holocaust survivors' organizations in Israel and president of the International Auschwitz Committee. He worked on the concept of the book "The History of the Israelis and Palestinians".

Israel was surprised by the Egyptian and Syrian attack on October 6, 1973. The euphoria of the 6-day war vanished quickly, the political leadership in Israel was under pressure: How could the attack be prepared without being noticed?

1973 - Yom Kippur war for some, Ramadan war for others

Israel was able to stop the advance of the Arab units. The Israeli army pushed them back into Syrian territory and the Sinai in Egypt. After the war, the occupied Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt. (& copy AP)

October 6, 1973, the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Yitzchak Feller was preparing for the morning walk to the synagogue. On their important holiday, many Jews attend church services, which last until sunset. After that, the fast is stopped and some eat and drink for the first time in 24 hours. Everything should be different on Yom Kippur 1973 - for Yitzchak Feller too.

"I was on my way to the synagogue and I heard the traffic on the street. It was around 9:30 am on the holiday. That was really strange. I thought there was too much going on in the streets for that day. After the service I saw more vehicles - military vehicles. Then there were sirens all over the country. "

What happened? The Egyptian army attacked Israeli soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula. Israeli troops were stationed there. At the same time, Syrian units marched into the Golan Heights. Israel has occupied both areas since the 1967 Six Day War. Israel found itself in a two-front war in a matter of hours. Neither in the Egyptian desert in the south nor in the mountainous region in the north was there adequate defense.

The 1973 war would go down in Israeli history books as the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Arabs, on the other hand, often speak of the Ramadan war, because it was also the Muslim month of fasting. The Egyptian army seemed to have prepared the attack for a long time. The soldiers quickly crossed the Suez Canal. The Egyptian and Syrian air forces had previously launched an attack on Israeli positions.

The aftermath of the 1973 war extended far beyond the borders of the Middle East. The Arab states used their rich oil reserves to increase the pressure on the western and more pro-Israeli states. Most of the previously known oil reserves are in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait. The Arab governments raised the selling price in 1973, which triggered an economic crisis in many Western countries. However, the war would soon be decided.

As in the first Arab-Israeli war, the Arab countries had different plans for the Palestinian territories. The Egyptian President Mohammed Anwar as-Sadat pledged the West Bank to the PLO. The Palestine Liberation Organization had been an archenemy of Jordan at least since "Black September" 1970. King Hussein therefore had other plans for the West Bank - he wanted to incorporate it into his kingdom, as he did after the first Arab-Israeli war.

The Israeli army was able to stop the advance of the Arab units and soon made land gains. The Jewish fighters penetrated deep into Syrian territory. The air force bombed the Syrian capital Damascus. In Egypt, Israeli soldiers crossed the Suez Canal and were approaching Cairo.

Around 2,700 Israelis and 20,000 Syrians and Egyptians died before the armistice with Syria on October 22nd and Egypt on October 24th, 1973. As with all Arab-Israeli wars, the respective data on the number of victims differed widely. What is certain is that the Israeli soldiers were better trained than their Arab opponents. They were more experienced, some had fought in 1948, in the Suez War in 1956 and in the Six Day War in 1967. In addition, there had been repeated missions in the occupied Palestinian territories since 1967. With the once top secret Israeli military documents now published, the number of Israeli casualties can be considered certain. When it comes to the number of Arab victims, historians have to rely on estimates.

The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 338 on October 22, 1973. It reads: "The Security Council resolves that immediately and simultaneously with the cessation of fire, negotiations between the parties involved will begin under appropriate auspices with the aim of establishing a just and lasting peace in the Middle East." At the same time, the states in the Middle East should begin to implement Resolution 242. This demanded the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the occupied territories; at the same time the Arab countries were asked to recognize the state of Israel.

After the fighting ended, Prime Minister Golda Meir and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan were the focus of public criticism and resigned. (& copy AP)
With the end of the fighting, the days of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir were numbered. She was the focus of public criticism in her country. How could Egypt and Syria prepare for this war undisturbed? Why did the Israeli foreign intelligence service Mossad have no information? The Israeli government was unable to answer these uncomfortable questions. Golda Meir resigned along with her defense minister, Moshe Dayan.

The causes of the failure to prepare could be found in the aftermath of the Six Day War. Hardly anyone in Israel seemed to think another attack was possible after the quick victory over the Arab attackers - especially not after such a short time.

Israel downsized again after the war. The occupied Sinai Peninsula was returned to the Egyptian state in 1982. The Israeli government, on the other hand, did not want to return the Golan Heights to Syria. UN soldiers secure the border with the neighboring country. The withdrawal of Israeli forces from Egypt had many causes. One of them was the behavior of Anwar as-Sadat. The Egyptian president was responsible for the surprise attack on Yom Kippur on Israel. But in November 1977 the former falcon showed itself as a dove of peace. As-Sadat was ready to do anything to regain the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. He wanted to make peace with Israel and even offered to address the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. The Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin took al-Sadat at his word and invited him to Jerusalem.

The speech by the Egyptian President made an impression not only on the Israeli MPs. For the first time since the founding of the state of Israel, an Arab statesman spoke of peace with his Jewish neighbors. "All of us in this land of God - Muslims, Christians and Jews - all praise God and nobody else. And God's teaching and demand are: love, sincerity, peace. They want to live with us in this part of the world. I explain to you in all Seriousness: We welcome you among us. We refused you. We had our reasons and our claims. (...) But today I tell you - and I tell the whole world - that we want to live with you in a lasting, just peace. "

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, US President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin sign the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty at Camp David. (& copy AP)
US President Jimmy Carter intervened and invited the Egyptian President and the Israeli Prime Minister to further peace negotiations. On his country estate in the US American Camp David, the once greatest opponents as-Sadat and Begin negotiated for days. The result was the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in March 1979. Menachem Begin and Anwar as-Sadat had already received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts the year before.

The Egyptian president made many enemies in the Arab world with his pro-Israel policies. His greatest critics have included Palestinians and radical Muslims who denied Israel the right to exist. On October 6, 1981, Anwar -as-Sadat was assassinated. A member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad shot the President dead in a military parade in Cairo.

The Islamization of society did not stop at the Gaza Strip and the West Bank either. Many sought in faith what reality no longer offered - the hope for a better future. Members of the Islamic Jihad were recruiting young people in the refugee camps in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In Israel, too, many did not want to return to everyday life at the end of the 1970s. The euphoria of the victorious Six Day War quickly passed.

Israel under Menachem Begin: from the Israeli settlement of the Palestinian territories to the 1982 Lebanon war

The Israeli soldiers occupied the Palestinian territories after the Six-Day War of 1967. A short time later, civilians began to settle in the country. Jewish settlers moved with their families to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They built their own housing estates, factories and shops. They still drive around Palestinian places on roads built especially for the settlers. Palestinians who wanted their own state in this area saw this as a provocation from the start.

The Israeli government spoke at the settlements of fortified villages. The places served the army as military bases. Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Jigal Allon presented a settlement plan after the Six Day War. The densely populated part of the West Bank was to be given to Jordan, including cities like Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin. Areas in the Jordan Valley as well as the Dead Sea and all of East Jerusalem should be incorporated into the State of Israel and would thus be available for Israeli settlement.

From 1974 onwards, the religious justification played more of a role than the military situation: Jewish fundamentalists founded Gush Emunim, which is Hebrew for the loyal block. There were no Palestinian territories for the members, only a Jewish Greater Israel. The Jewish settlers referred to passages in the Torah. There the names of places appear in what is now the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank. The ultra-religious members of Gush Emunim are building settlements there with government help.

Settlement for religious reasons was a sufficient argument for very devout Jews. The Christian and Muslim Palestinians living there had and do not understand this. Rather, the settlements restricted their freedom of movement. Two movements, one Jewish and one Palestinian, benefited most from the settlement projects: the political right in Israel saw its dream of a Greater Israel without Palestinians drawing nearer; therefore they supported the settlers. The political groups in the Palestinian Territories, on the other hand, could be sure of many new members; because PFLP and Fatah declared war on the settlers.

From the perspective of the United Nations, the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories have "no (international) legal validity". According to UN Resolution 446 of 1979, these settlements are "a serious obstacle to establishing a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East". The settlement policy also violates the Fourth Geneva Convention. There it says: "The occupying power may not deport or send parts of its own civilian population to the area it occupies."

From 1977 onwards, the settlers found more political support in their own country. The Israeli politician Menachem Begin came to power. Menachem Begin did not speak well of the Palestinian people. The politician was a co-founder of the Cherut party (Hebrew for freedom), which envisaged a Greater Israel without Palestinian territories. According to this idea, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem belonged to the Israeli state.

In 1973, Menachem Begin's party became the Likud Bloc (Likud is the Hebrew word for covenant). It was an amalgamation of different parties that wanted to expand the territory of Israel. With the election victory of the Likud bloc in 1977, the settler movement had good prerequisites to expand its territories. Menachem Begin massively promoted the expansion of the settlements. State subsidies also made life in the Palestinian Territories attractive to Israelis for economic reasons. In the ten years after he took office, the number of settlers increased from 5,000 to 65,000.

After just a few years of the Israeli occupation, economic dependency developed. The Israeli authorities imposed high tariffs on imports from other countries. As a result, the Palestinians resorted to the much cheaper Israeli products. Conversely, Israel became the number one export country for Palestinian goods. Not infrequently they produced Israeli companies in the Palestinian territories, because the wages of the Palestinians employed there were many times below the Israeli level. At the same time, over a third of the Palestinian workers were working in Israel; they earned far more in Tel Aviv or Haifa than in Ramallah or Gaza City. At the same time, Israeli settlers and tourists streamed into Palestinian cities, where it was possible to shop and eat for comparatively little money.

Many of the Palestinian workers worked on Israeli construction sites. Most of them were on Israeli soil, but some were also in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Some Palestinians thus helped with the large-scale and inexpensive construction of the Israeli settlements. Some of the residential areas and infrastructure were built on the confiscated Palestinian land. In the 1980s, some of these settlements took on the size of cities.

Very few residents of such places only live there for religious reasons. Rather, cheaper rents and convenient connections to metropolises such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are attractive. Building a single-family home in major Israeli cities is far too expensive for normal wage earners. Real estate prices force many large families to stay in small rental apartments. Densely built-up districts with high apartment blocks are not only evidence of this in Haifa and Tel Aviv.

The internationally controversial settlement policy hardly caused any problems for Menachem Begin in his own country. However, the effects of the imminent war would soon end his term in office. Attackers from Lebanon, the neighboring country in northern Israel, provoked the Jewish state. Radical Lebanese allied themselves there with Palestinians, most of them refugees. Around 100,000 Palestinians fled to Lebanon from cities such as Akko, Haifa and Nazareth during the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948/1949.

At the same time, numerous PLO activists lived in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. After the Jordanian king expelled the Palestine Liberation Organization from the country in 1970, the members organized their attacks from Lebanon. The PLO smuggled Palestinian fighters across the Lebanese border into Israel. There they carried out attacks in the late 1970s and attacked Israeli locations. With the help of Arab states, the PLO activists got Katyusha rockets. With the Soviet rocket launcher, they were able to reach targets in northern Israel.

On June 6, 1982, the Israeli army launched Operation Peace for Galilee. Galilee is the name of the area in northern Israel. Israeli warplanes bombed Beirut, where the PLO had its offices, and targets in southern Lebanon. Weeks of artillery fire went hand in hand with the advance of Israeli soldiers. The army fought the PLO activists and Syrian units who fought alongside the Palestine Liberation Organization. The Israeli army forced the PLO to flee to Tunis, the Tunisian capital. The headquarters of the Arab League was already there.

The Christian militias in Lebanon used the Israeli invasion to unleash their anger against the Palestinians. They carried out a massacre in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps from September 16 to 18, 1982.

The Israeli army seemed overwhelmed with the situation in Lebanon. The Israeli soldiers found themselves in the midst of a clash between various political and religious groups. Prime Minister Menachem Begin, along with his Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, faced severe criticism.It was disputed whether the Israeli soldiers did not want to, could not or were not allowed to intervene in the Sabra and Shatila massacres.

The Israeli government set up the Kahan Commission at the end of September 1982 to investigate the behavior of its soldiers. What the group, chaired by the President of the High Court, Yitzchak Kahan, found out did not reflect well on Ariel Sharon. According to the Commission, the then Defense Minister had acted negligently. Ariel Sharon had to resign. A group of soldiers refused to fight in Lebanon. These Israelis founded the organization Yesch Gvul, which is Hebrew for "There is a border". They later also refused operations in the occupied Palestinian territories. Most of the Israeli soldiers stationed in Lebanon left the country in 1985. Only in the south should Israeli units remain in a so-called security zone until May 2000.

Iran promoted the building of a new anti-Israel movement in Lebanon; it called itself the Party of God, Hezbollah in Arabic. The goal of this group was the liberation of Lebanon from Israeli troops and the destruction of the State of Israel. Hezbollah made itself particularly popular with the socially disadvantaged in the country, as it ran its own schools and hospitals. This led many Palestinians from the Lebanese refugee camps into the arms of the radical group. Hezbollah recruited young Palestinians in the refugee camps to prepare for the next war with Israel.

Martin Schäuble, Noah Flug: The History of the Israelis and Palestinians
© Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich, Vienna 2007