Jordan and Israel Cooperated During Yom Kippur War, Documents Reveal

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The extent of cooperation between Jordan and Israel during the Yom Kippur War is only now coming to light, as a number of previously unpublished documents have been released.

Even while Jordan sent aid to Syrian forces during the war forty years ago, King Hussein made it clear to Prime Minister Golda Meir that he must do so as to preserve his position in the Arab world, and asked Israel not to attack Jordan.

The terrorist Mohammed Daoud Oudeh, better known as Abu Daoud, who helped plan the massacre at the Munich Olympics of 11 Israeli athletes, was held in a Jordanian prison in 1972. On September 18, 1973, King Hussein visited Abu Daoud and told him he was worried about a planned attack by Arab countries against Israel, Oudeh said. "I returned from Cairo. The brothers may go to war, which I don't want," Oudeh quoted Hussein as telling him. "If [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat loses Cairo, he can retreat to Aswan. If Assad loses Damascus, he can retreat to Aleppo. But if I lose Amman, where can I go? To the desert?"

Oudeh died three years ago in Damascus and to this day it is impossible to know if King Hussein did indeed share his doubts with the terrorist. But Oudeh's testimony joins a long list of documents and other historical sources that describe the unusual cooperation and coordination between Jordan and Israel during the Yom Kippur War.

Assaf David works for the department of International Relations at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and is a research fellow at the Truman Institute at the University in Jerusalem. He examined hundreds of documents from 1973 released by the United States. The material mentions figures such as former U.S. President Richard Nixon, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the United States Ambassadors in Tel Aviv and Amman - and senior Jordanian and Israeli officials, including King Hussein himself. The new material adds to the various books and articles written on the matter over the past 40 years. Together, the findings allowed David to rewrite the story of the Jordanian front during the war.

David will publish an article in the book "The Yom Kippur War: Politics, Diplomacy, Legacy," set to be released October 1. The volume was edited by Asaf Siniver of the Political Science and International Studies department at the University of Birmingham in England. David's contribution is entitled, "Jordan's War that Never Was." According to the publisher, the book will provide the first comprehensive account of the domestic and international factors which informed the policies of Israel, Egypt, Syria and Jordan, as well as external actors before, during and after the war."

"The Jordanian decision not to take a significant part in the war and make do with 'symbolic' participation also stemmed from the secret dialogue the Jordanians held with the Israelis before the war," according to David. The sending of a Jordanian brigade to Syria, which was done with Israel's knowledge and silent consent, is a good example. Naturally, Israel could not approve of King Hussein sending the brigade to Syria, but Israel accepted the Jordanian action as the lesser of all evils, and tried to avoid attacking the Jordanian brigade, David said. The Jordanians, on their part, promised their forces would acted slowly and cautiously if they could. They understood they would even have to sacrifice soldiers to avoid damage to the public opinion, he added.

David says this double game was clear in the diplomatic documents he unearthed. For example, on October 10, 1973, four days after the war started, Jordanian Crown Prince Hassan proposed to U.S. Secretary of State Kissinger that King Hussein would update the Israelis on the deployment of his forces and their exact location - and guarantee that Jordan had no intention of having the Jordanian forces meet the Israeli forces. The king personally informed the U.S. ambassador in Amman that the participation of Jordanian soldiers in the war was just part of the facade presented to other Arab countries.

Kissinger asked the Israeli ambassador in Washington, Simcha Dinitz, to keep Israel from attacking the Jordanian unit, explaining the Jordanians would not participate in the fighting and would only be stationed on the battle front. Dinitz told Kissinger Israel official refuses but that unofficially, the unit will not be attacked.

"The new documents could embarrass Jordan, but they tell an authentic story," said David, who was born in 1973. Even from an Arab point of view, when asked if Hussein was a "traitor," it is possible to interpret his actions during the war in his favor, since he remained loyal to Jordan, David said.

Jordan's King Hussein lights a cigarette for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's cigarette after the signing ceremony of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty, October 26, 1994 in Aqaba, Jordan.Credit: AP

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