On anniversary of Yom Kippur war, Egypt wonders: Is Israel still the enemy?

October 6 is a national holiday in Egypt to celebrate what is considered to be the Egyptian army’s victory over Israel in 1973.

A soldier waves an Israeli flag on the Golan front during the Yom Kippur war. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT,JERUSALEM REPORT ARCHIVES)
A soldier waves an Israeli flag on the Golan front during the Yom Kippur war.
Egypt marked the 43rd anniversary of the outbreak of the 1973 Yom Kippur war on Thursday, with critics of President Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi’s regime voicing anger that it no longer considers Israel the enemy.
“The Zionist entity that was the Arabs’ No. 1 enemy has become a friend and neighbor, and the head of the regime in Egypt speaks of the necessity of having peace with it,” writer Osama al-Hatimi complained. He was quoted in a report from Cairo on Al Jazeera’s website.
October 6 is a national holiday in Egypt to celebrate what is considered to be the Egyptian army’s victory over Israel. Although Israel had the upper hand when the cease-fire went into effect and the IDF had the Egyptian Third Army surrounded, the successful crossing of the Suez Canal and breaking through the Bar-Lev Line restored national pride and freed Egypt from the despair of its disastrous defeat in the Six Day War, according to the Egyptian view. Al-Ubur, or the crossing, is also seen as the first step in retrieving the occupied Sinai Peninsula from Israel.
Sisi and his supporters in the Egyptian media took the anniversary as an occasion to call for unity, and to voice faith in the ability of Egyptians to overcome adversity. “The glorious October War will remind us always that nations live from the sacrifices of their people and that Egypt will never be lifted up but for the exertions of its faithful youth,” Sisi wrote in a message to Egyptians on Twitter. “Egypt will always remain strong through its unyielding and dignified people.”
Al-Ahram columnist Jamal Zahran WROTE THAT the war was “the most important of the wars of the 20th century, according to the testimony of historians and military leaderships in the world.”
Remembering it, he continued, “is essential and an incentive for coming generations to learn and know that Egypt is capable of steadfastness, meeting challenges, achievements and overcoming defeats in order to remain one nation, strong in its people and adhering to the framework of genuine national unity.
“Even though the balance of forces wasn’t completely on Egypt’s side before the 1973 war, the desire for victory was the greatest incentive for crossing over the largest water barrier in history [the Suez Canal] and for shattering the greatest defensive line in history [the Bar Lev Line],” Zahran wrote.
Abdul-Fatah Abdul Moneim, a columnist for the Al-Yawm al-Sabi website, added that “the Egyptian heroism in the victory of October 1973 can’t be erased by time,” and that “the Israeli memory will never forget its defeat by the army of Egypt on October 6, even after 1,000 years.” The Israeli media, he added, are still busy with the question of how Egypt succeeded in surprising Israel.
Hatimi, the writer interviewed by Al Jazeera, voiced frustration that Egypt and Israel now have common enemies. “The steps of achieving peace with the occupation had dangerous consequences, when it transformed the Palestinian resistance – foremost Hamas – into a shared enemy of Egypt and the occupation, with each of them exerting the utmost effort to limit its power and pressure it to give up the goal of liberation,” he said.
Al Jazeera, which takes a stridently anti-Sisi line, took pains to note that whatever the regime’s stance, “the Egyptians continue to consider Israel their enemy.” Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri appeared to be very sad when attending Shimon Peres’s funeral, IT REPORTED, ADDING that Egyptians were THEREFORE joking about the possibility “that the celebrations marking the October anniversary will be canceled in a sign of mourning for Peres,” it said.
Sisi reportedly applauded the level of security cooperation between Egypt and Israel during a closed meeting last month with US Jewish leaders in New York. The Jerusalem Post quoted foreign reports as saying that IDF Military Intelligence’s Unit 8200 is assisting Egyptian forces in collecting and deciphering information on ISIS activities in Sinai.
But Sisi’s stance appears to go beyond strictly security matters. In May, Israeli officials voiced satisfaction with the introduction to Egyptian schools of a ninth-grade textbook that requires pupils to memorize provisions of the 1979 peace treaty and delineate “the advantages of peace for Egypt and the Arab states.” This was seen as an improvement over the more sterile treatment of the peace treaty in books from the era of Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted as president in 2011.
Critics of the regime are furious about Sisi’s position. In an article in the London-based Al-Araby al-Jadeed website, to coincide with the October War anniversary, Egyptian journalist Wael Kandil voiced anger at the “orgy of peace which is the doctrine of the regime and its official policy.”
Kandil complained that the regime’s enemies are the Muslim Brotherhood and the opponents of the 2013 coup that brought Sisi to power, not Israel. The regime is making poor Egyptians poorer and executing its opponents, while “its main criterion is to enjoy warm relations with the Zionist enemy,” he charged.
Kandil was particularly acerbic about the writings of pro-Sisi journalist Imad Eddin Adib who, he alleged, embodies the regime’s stance toward Israel. He quoted Adib as writing, in reference to Shukri’s attendance at Peres’s funeral, that “Israel – love it or hate it – is a country, and it shares with you an international border, and whether you love it or hate it, a peace treaty was signed with it that was witnessed by the president of the United States and a copy of this treaty was deposited with the UN.”
Adib added that “in Israel, whether you love it or hate it, there is an open, democratic society in which the individual plays a fundamental role and the voters determine the fate of the ruling party. The presence of Egypt supports moderation in the Israeli man in the street who was convinced in the past of the good intentions of the leader Anwar Sadat and stood strongly behind those parliamentarians who voted for returning Sinai to Egyptians.”
Kandil commented that in this “malicious” article, Adib “repeated ‘Israel – whether you love it or hate it’ at least five times in an article of less than 300 words. The meaning is that love of Israel for the Egyptians is something natural and ordinary, and that its lovers and haters are equal and it’s all a matter of point of view, of differing tastes.”
Turning to the anniversary itself, Kandil advised the regime that “it’s better for you to declare you haven’t made war to remove the occupation but just to pressure [Israel], so that the occupier will accept you as a partner on the soil of your homeland and accept you as an agent to bury alive any hatred of the enemy among the people.”
He concluded that, at the rate the Sisi regime is going, it will end up apologizing to Israel for the October War. “The regime, which is declaring a comprehensive war against its own people and is fighting on all fronts, political, economic and that of awareness, and which is serving the interests of dregs and enemies, may surprise you one day by declaring the cancellation of the celebration of the October Victory and offering an apology to the Zionist entity for the historic mistake the Arab armies committed against Israel in October 1973.”