Egypt, the Arabs, and Israel

Egypt Table of Contents

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the question of Israel became more vexing for the Arab states. In 1964, in spite of the problems that existed among the various Arab states, Nasser initiated Arab summit meetings that were held in January, March, and September in Cairo and Casablanca. The immediate reason for the summits was to find a way to block Israel's plan to divert the waters of the Jordan River to irrigate the Negev Desert, a plan that would deprive the lower Jordan River valley of water. The Arab states drew up a plan that called for diverting the Jordan River in Syria and Lebanon but did not implement it.

The Arab summit meetings also took up other matters. League members agreed to created a unified military command, the United Arab Command, with headquarters in Cairo, but this plan, like that of diverting the Jordan River, remained on paper. The Arab leaders did implement a plan to create the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to be the primary organization of Palestinians. The Arab governments, especially Egypt, were becoming increasingly uneasy about the growing activities of Palestinian guerrillas, and they wanted to create an organization through which they could control such operations. They created the Palestine Liberation Army, whose units would be stationed and controlled by Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. Egypt exercised control of the PLO until 1969 when Yasir Arafat, the leader of the guerrilla organization called Al Fatah, took control of the organization from Ahmad Shukairy, the choice of the Arab League governments.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress