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Israel's way to the 1956 war

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 18:51 authored by David TalDavid Tal
On 29 October 1956 Israeli paratroopers landed deep inside the Sinai Desert, launching the second Arab-Israeli war and adding another level to the bloody edifice of Israel's relations with its neighbors. The Israeli leadership justified its decision to go to war by pointing to “the mini-war which the Arab rulers have waged against us for eight years.” Many scholars have accepted that version of the events, which seeks to connect the multitude of border incidents from 1949 to 1956 with the war in the latter year. Indeed, a central approach in the study of the period viewed the Sinai campaign as the inevitable consequence of the succession of violent events which occurred between Israel and its neighbors, Egypt in particular, beginning shortly after the 1948 war. Benny Morris, in fact, describes Israel's participation in the 1956 war as the direct continuation of the border clashes with Egypt, finding no regional connection in Israel's involvement. Similarly, Nadav Safran, Mordechai Bar-On, and Michael Oren have argued that the border clashes, the infiltrations, and the Israeli reprisals followed one another in a relentless sequence until the final explosion in October 1956. This approach draws a connection between two “types of security” which are a permanent component of the Israeli defense doctrine: “basic security” and “day-to-day security.” The latter incorporates operational activity, unrelated to preparations for war, which the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) constantly engages in during peacetime; whereas the former refers to a situation of total war for which the IDF has prepared itself. Conventionally, events falling within the domain of day-to-day security are considered the cause of the aggravation in relations between Israel and Egypt during the early 1950s; the Sinai campaign thus becomes the inevitable end of a process of deterioration engendered by the border clashes and incidents of the preceding eight years.


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  • Published


International Journal of Middle East Studies




Cambridge University Press





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