Gutfeld, Arnon, and Boaz Vanetik. “‘A Situation That Had to Be Manipulated’: The American Airlift to Israel During the Yom Kippur War.” Middle Eastern Studies 52.3 (2016): 419-47.
As he had hoped, Kissinger’s wartime policy indeed led to his anticipated post-war diplomatic achievements. In this respect it could be said that it was his finest hour. Immediately upon the cessation of fighting, Kissinger launched the disengagement agreement in what became known as a ‘shuttle diplomacy’ to the Middle East. During his visit to Cairo on 7 November, Sadat and Kissinger announced that diplomatic relations between Egypt and the US would resume shortly. In the months to follow, Kissinger worked fervently to bring about a disengagement agreement between Egypt and Israel, which was finally signed on 18 January 1974. In this Sinai I Agreement, Israel consented to withdraw entirely from the west bank of the Suez Canal and 20 kilometres from its east bank. In the agreement it was also stated that the Suez Canal would be reopened, which indeed was cleaned and opened in January 1975. The Egyptians presented the agreement not as a diplomatic, but as a military one; however, the agreement included a clause stating that it was a first step toward a future peace agreement, indicating that the conflict between the two countries would be resolved by peaceful means. Furthermore, the agreement stipulated that a new agreement would replace it within a year’s time. Indeed, on 4 September 1975, Sinai II, an interim agreement between Israel and Egypt was signed. These agreements were vital and necessary stages of the path toward the Israeli–Egyptian Peace Treaty that was signed on the White House lawn on 26 March 1979. Moreover, another disengagement agreement mediated by Kissinger was signed between Israel and Syria on 31 March 1974. It is doubtful whether these impressive agreements could have come to fruition had the Yom Kippur War ended differently because of the roles played by the delay tactics, leading to Israel’s difficulties on the battlefield and Egypt’s and Syria’s impressive wartime advances, followed by the massive airlift to Israel, which sealed the Israeli victory but did not allow for a humiliating defeat of its Arab foes. Washington’s wartime policy clearly underscored the central, vital role played by the US in the Middle Eastern arena. Moreover, the manner in which Kissinger managed and manipulated the crisis highlighted his own role as the key policy-maker of the Arab–Israeli conflict; he was the only one who possessed the necessary clout and communication channels with all of the parties involved: the USSR, Egypt, Syria, and Israel.
Based on newly published documentation, this study depicts a clear and unequivocal picture of Washington’s policy toward Israel during the first week of the Yom Kippur War. A policy adopted by all sections of the US executive branch, which necessitated coordination among these sections. This policy can be defined as ‘sophisticated manipulation’ in all communications with Israeli officials, with the purpose of delaying and limiting the transfer of military aid. Secretary of State Kissinger had overwhelming influence over the planning and execution of this foreign policy, receiving the full support of all components of the executive branch. Kissinger also succeeded in creating the false impression that the Pentagon was responsible for the delays in supplying military aid. Indeed, Israeli officials refused to believe that Kissinger had a hand in the delay tactics. When Prime Minister Meir was asked in 1977 whether she believed Kissinger purposely acted to delay arms shipments to Israel, she responded ‘I honestly still do not know.’.