Espionage Geopolitics Of The Arab-Israeli Conflict

Arab-Israeli conflicts have been going on since 1948-49. It started when United Nations voted to partition the British mandate of Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. There were clashes between Arabs and Jewish forces almost immediately. Israelis occupied all of Negev up to a former Egypt-Palestine frontier except for the Gaza strip. (In Israel, the war is remembered as its War of Independence. In the Arab world, it came to be known as the Nakbah (“Catastrophe”).In 1956 Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal and barred Israel from using it. France, Britain, and Israel came together and decided that Israel would attack Egypt, and France and Britain would act as peacemakers and take control of the canal. Israel attacked and Egypt lost, Egypt dropped the blockade of Elat.

In 1967 there was a six-day war and Israel gained four times its territory after its victory. During this war, while Israel gained, Egypt lost about 23,500 sq. miles of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza strip, Syria lost the strategic Golan Heights and Jordan lost the west bank and East Jerusalem. When Anwar el-Sadat became president of Egypt in 1970 he realized the economic condition of Egypt wasn’t good enough and they couldn’t continue their endless crusade against Israel as it wouldn’t be economically viable. He wanted peace as well as achieve recovery of the Sinai, but after Israel’s victory in 1967, it seemed unlikely that Israel would offer a fair deal. So Sadat wanted to attack Israel again, which, even if unsuccessful, might convince the Israelis that peace with Egypt was necessary. There were continuous tensions between Arab nations and Israel. In this period there were many spies sent to Egypt by Mossad as well as spies sent to Israel by Egypt. There was one interesting spy who was called the “Angel” He was an Egyptian helping the Israelis and contacted Mossad himself. Ashraf Marwan, spouse of president Nasser’s daughter, Mona willingly contacted Mossad and disclosed Egypts innermost secrets. Ashraf shared the military detail and order of battle, and, most importantly, its war plans.

Gadaffi, the Libyan leader struck a deal with president Sadat to provide them with necessary firearms to take down an El Al Boeing 747 in Rome, and the Palestinians belonging to the Black September group would take them. President Sadat didn’t want this to happen because it would cause a regional crisis but couldn’t openly deny it either. Ashraf told the Mossad and they along with the Italians stopped the attack. No one knew who tipped the authorities and the passengers were safe and unaware of the danger that they were about to encounter. The black September group was arrested.

Ashraf passed on high-level internal discussions between president Sadat and the Russian Prime minister to Mossad. This helped Israel a lot as it made it very clear that Egypt wouldn’t attack unless they could neutralize the superiority of the Israeli Air Force(IAF)The way to do it was by acquiring long-range attack planes that would be able to destroy the IAF bases in Israel, and Scud ground-to-ground missiles that would deter Israel from attacking strategic targets in Egypt’s depth. Marwan didn’t only share war plans and how the Egyptian army would move forward but also shared information on their diplomatic relationships with other nations like USSR, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. Also, Sadat’s messages to the Russian Prime Minister about the details of firearms required etc were given to Mossad. Mossad sent some of this information to the United States and their intelligence agency CIA. This helped Israel gain US support as Russia would support the Arab nation. Marwan gave two false signals to Mossad about the war. This did make Israel wonder about Ashraf’s loyalty as well. Again Ashraf warned Mossad about the war but just a day before the war broke out. Mossad wasn’t sure whether to believe him or not because of the previous two instances. They hadn’t estimated that the war would be on such a large scale because Ashraf had given the very short notice.

Ashraf had mentioned that on October 6, 1973, on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, the war would break out.The Israelis were caught off-guard by the Egyptian forces crossing the Suez canal and Syrian forces crossing into the Golan heights. The Arab armies showed greater aggressiveness and fighting ability than in the previous wars, and the Israeli forces suffered heavy casualties because many soldiers had taken the day off because of the Jewish festival. After several days Israel was fully mobilized and fought back. They recovered most of their lost territories. A U.S. airlift of arms aided Israel’s cause, but the emergency military aid was delayed by a week as U.S. sympathy for Egypt.

If Israel had listened to Ashraf in the beginning then their casualty loss would be much lesser. Although because of Ashraf’s warning they weren’t completely unaware of the situation. There have been many speculations that Ashraf was a double agent and he was sent by Sadat to the Mossad. Ashraf was heroin in Egypt as well as in Israel. Both nations help him in high regard. He was known as The Angel in Israel and the greatest spy that saved Israel. However, he died mysteriously by falling off a building and no one knows whether he was pushed or committed suicide. Even after Ashraf’s name was out as a spy no one in Egypt ever reprimanded him which raised questions about whether he was a double agent. However, despite the speculations, he did prove to be a great asset for Israel by providing intelligence and a great asset to Egypt as he handled all the diplomatic relations. After the Yom-Kippur war, the Arab nations imposed the “Arab oil embargo” temporary cessation of oil shipments from the Middle East to the nations that supported Israel during the war which involved the USA, Netherlands, Portugal, Rhodesia, and South Africa.

The embargo quadrupled the barrel price by 1974 and the US experienced its first fuel shortage and a significant increase in gasoline prices. In response, the USA imposed fuel rationing and speed limits were lowered to reduce consumption. Serious military action was considered by the US as a last resort, but the embargo on the USA was lifted by 1974 but continued to remain on other nations for some more time. This embargo caused a major price rise and a world energy crisis.

In 1979 there was a peace treaty was signed and by 1982 Israel returned the last segment of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. As no nation would be able to survive war again.


Arab-Israeli wars. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2021, from Editors. (2009, November 09). Yom Kippur War. Retrieved from

Bar-Joseph, U. (2014). A question of loyalty: Ashraf MARWAN and Israel’s INTELLIGENCE fiasco in the Yom Kippur War. Intelligence and National Security,
30(5), 667-685. doi:10.1080/02684527.2014.887632

Bar-Joseph, U. (2018). The angel: The Egyptian spy who saved Israel. London: Harper.

Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Arab oil embargo. Encyclopædia Britannica.

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