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  The 3 'No's of Khartoum

After the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel was — in Defense Minister Moshe Dayan's famous phrase — "waiting for a telephone call" from Arab leaders. Israelis expected to hear that now, at last, their neighbors were ready to talk peace. Having escaped not only feared annihilation, but also winning a seemingly miraculous victory, Israel's leaders did two things: They vowed not to return to the vulnerable armistice lines of 1948 and '49 or to a divided Jerusalem, and yet to be "unbelievably generous in working out peace terms," as Foreign Minister Abba Eban put it. In direct talks with Arab countries, "everything is negotiable," he said.

But, as Maj. Gen. (later president) Chaim Herzog noted, "Israel's belief that the war had come to an end and peace would prevail along the borders was quickly dispelled. Three weeks after the conclusion of hostilities, the first major incident occurred along the Suez Canal."

Meanwhile, from late June through July, the Soviet Union — determined to revive its influence and the confidence of its allies, Egypt and Syria — initiated a massive resupply of arms. This included the shipment of more than 200 crated MiG fighter jets in two weeks.

On July 15, five Arab leaders agreed "on the necessary effective steps to eliminate the consequences of imperialist Israeli aggression on the Arab homeland." This language echoed Soviet advice to "liquidate the consequences" of the war without conceding anything to Israel. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and his colleagues attempted to stand reality on its head and convince themselves, and the world, that they had been victimized, rather than defeated by Israel in self-defense.

Regaining confidence, Nasser declared on July 23 "that he was preparing his armed forces to continue the battle against Israel. 'We shall never surrender and shall not accept any peace that means surrender." In addition, he asserted, "'we shall preserve the rights of the Palestinians,'" (A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, Howard M. Sachar, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1996, second edition). These "rights" were to be realized not only by Israeli withdrawal to the 1948 and '49 armistice lines, but eventually to the truncated boundaries proposed in the 1947 U.N. partition plan (rejected by the Arab representatives at the time).

Finally, the leaders of thirteen Arab states gathered at a summit conference in Khartoum, Sudan from August 29 to September 1. There they pledged to continue their struggle against Israel. Influenced by Nasser, "their conditions were quite specific: no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and 'maintenance of the rights of the Palestinian people in their nation.' The Khartoum Declaration was the first serious warning to the Israelis that their expectation of an imminent 'phone call' from the Arab world might be a pipe dream" (Sachar).

This "warning" was reinforced on October 21, when an Egyptian missile boat sunk the Israeli destroyer Eilat, killing 47 people. It was confirmed in November and December, when the Arab states repeatedly rebuffed attempts by Sweden's ambassador to the Soviet Union, Gunnar Jarring — serving as the U.N. secretary general's special envoy - to induce them to join talks with Israel. In fact, the "three no's of Khartoum" held for a dozen years, until Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel — at which point the other 20 member states expelled it from the Arab League.

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