The first move of the Arabs after the June 1967 War was to
hold a summit conference in Khartoum in September 1967. At that
meeting, Nasser and Faisal came to an agreement: Nasser would
stop his attempts to destabilize the Saudi regime, and in return
Saudi Arabia would give Egypt the financial aid needed to rebuild
its army and retake the territory lost to Israel. At the
conference, the Arab leaders were united in their opposition to
Israel and proclaimed what became known as "the three no's" of
the Khartoum summit: no peace with Israel, no negotiations, no
At the UN in November, the Security Council unanimously
adopted Resolution 242, which provided a framework for settlement
of the June 1967 War. This resolution, still not implemented in
1990, declared that the acquisition of territory by force was
unacceptable. The resolution called for Israel to withdraw "from
territories occupied in the recent conflict," for the termination
of the state of belligerency, and for the right of all states in
the area "to live in peace within secure and recognized
boundaries." Freedom of navigation through international
waterways in the area was to be guaranteed, and a just settlement
of the "refugee" problem was to be attained.
Gunnar Jarring, a Swedish diplomat at the UN, started a
series of journeys in the Middle East in an attempt to bring both
sides together. In May 1968, Egypt agreed to accept the
resolution if Israel agreed to evacuate all occupied areas. By
accepting the resolution, Egypt for the first time implicitly
recognized the existence--and the right to continued existence--
of Israel. In return Egypt gained a UN commitment to the
restoration of Sinai. The PLO rejected the resolution because it
referred to the Palestinians only as "refugees" and thus appeared
to dismiss Palestinian demands for self-determination and
national rights. Syria characterized the plan as a "sellout" of
Arafat and the PLO. The disagreement on that issue was compounded
when, throughout 1969, tensions grew between the Lebanese
government and Palestinian groups within Lebanon's borders, and
serious clashes broke out. Syria condemned Lebanese action.
Nasser invited both parties to Cairo, and an agreement was
negotiated in November 1969 to end the hostilities.
Israel rejected Jarring's mission as meaningless, insisting
that negotiations should precede any evacuation. Israel also
objected to Nasser's support for the PLO, whose objective at the
time was the establishment of a secular state in all "liberated"
Palestinian territory. Nasser replied that if Israel refused to
support Resolution 242 while Egypt accepted it, he had no choice
"but to support courageous resistance fighters who want to
liberate their land."
The mutual frustration led to the outbreak of the so-called
War of Attrition from March 1969 to August 1970. Hoping to use
Egypt's superiority in artillery to cause unacceptable casualties
to Israeli forces dug in along the canal, Nasser ordered Egyptian
guns to begin a steady pounding of the Israeli positions. Israel
responded by constructing the Bar-Lev Line, a series of
fortifications along the canal, and by using the one weapon in
which it had absolute superiority, its air force, to silence the
Egyptian artillery. Having accomplished this with minimal
aircraft losses, Israel embarked on a series of deep penetration
raids into the heartland of Egypt with its newly acquired
American-made Phantom bombers. By January 1970, Israeli planes
were flying at will over eastern Egypt.
To remedy this politically intolerable situation, Nasser flew
to Moscow and asked the Soviet Union to establish an air defense
system manned by Soviet pilots and antiaircraft forces protected
by Soviet troops. To obtain Soviet aid, Nasser had to grant the
Soviet Union control over a number of Egyptian airfields as well
as operational control over a large portion of the Egyptian army.
The Soviet Union sent between 10,000 and 15,000 Soviet troops and
advisers to Egypt, and Soviet pilots flew combat missions. A
screen of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) was set up, and Soviet
pilots joined Egyptian ones in patrolling Egyptian air space.
After the June 1967 War, the Soviet Union poured aid into
Egypt to replace lost military equipment and rebuild the armed
forces. However, by sending troops and advisers to Egypt and
pilots to fly combat missions, the Soviet Union took a calculated
risk of possible superpower confrontation over the Middle East.
This added risk occurred because the United States under the
Nixon administration was supplying Israel with military aid and
regarded Israel as a bulwark against Soviet expansion in the
Many plans for peace were formulated and rejected, but on
June 25, 1970, the Rogers Plan, put forth by United States
secretary of state William Rogers, started a dialogue that
eventually led to the long-awaited cease-fire in the War of
Attrition along the Suez Canal. Basically, the plan was a
modification of Resolution 242. Shortly after the plan was
announced, from June 29 to July 17, Nasser visited Moscow.
Discussions were held on the Rogers Plan, a newly formed Moscow
peace plan, and the future of Soviet-Egyptian relations.
After his return to Egypt, Nasser declared a major policy
shift based on his assertion that Egypt must be respected for
doing what it could on its own because the other Arab states were
not prepared to wage war with Israel. This policy shift set the
stage for Egypt's acceptance of the Rogers Plan in July, to the
surprise of Israel and the consternation of many Arab states that
feared Egypt would sign a separate peace agreement with Israel.
Jordan, however, followed Egypt's lead and accepted the plan.
Israel accepted the plan in August.
Egyptian-Israeli fighting halted along the Suez Canal on
August 7, 1970, in accordance with the first phase of the plan,
and a ninety-day truce began. Palestinian guerrilla groups in
opposition to the cease-fire continued to engage in small-scale
actions on the Jordanian-Syrian-Lebanese fronts.
PLO leader Arafat's open criticism of the parties accepting
the truce led Nasser to close down the Voice of Palestine radio
station in Cairo and to terminate most of the material support
Egypt provided to the PLO. In addition, many PLO activists were
expelled from Egypt. Within a month, the guerrillas had
effectively undermined progress on the Rogers Plan by a series of
acts, including the hijacking of five international airplanes in
early September 1970, thus triggering the Jordanian civil war
King Hussein launched a major Jordanian military drive
against the Jordan-based Palestinian guerrilla groups on
September 14, partly out of fear that their attacks on Israel
would sabotage the truce, but primarily because the guerrillas
were becoming powerful enough to challenge his government.
Nasser's position on these events, as in the preceding year when
hostilities broke out between the Palestinians and Lebanese, was
based on a desire to stop any form of intra-Arab conflict. He was
extremely angry when Syria sent an armored force into Jordan to
support the guerrillas. The United States and Israel offered
assistance to the beleaguered King Hussein.
Nasser called for a meeting in Cairo to stop the civil war.
The Arab summit finally came about on September 26 after bloody
military engagements in which Jordan decisively repulsed the
Syrians and seemed to be defeating the PLO, although PLO forces
were not pushed out of Jordan until July 1971. On September 27,
1970, Hussein and Arafat agreed to a fourteen-point cease-fire
under Nasser's mediation, officially ending the war.
The effort by Nasser to bring about this unlikely
reconciliation between two bitter enemies was enormous. He was by
then a tired and sick man. He had been suffering from diabetes
since 1958 and from arteriosclerosis of the leg. He had treatment
in the Soviet Union, and his doctors had warned him to avoid
physical and emotional strain. He had ignored their advice and
suffered a heart attack in September 1969. The strain of the
summit was too much. He felt ill at the airport on September 28
when bidding good-bye to Arab leaders and returned home to bed.
He had another heart attack and died that afternoon.
Data as of December 1990