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The Nakba, part 3/3: The statelets fight it out

The Nakba, Part 3/3: The statelets fight it out

Ibrahim Moiz, full rights reserved

24/6/2018

Bism Allah Fi Awwali Wa Akhiri

The termination of the British mandate, which coincided with the announcement of Israel’s independence as the first Jewish nation-state and the attack by several neighbouring states to save Palestine, marks the last and perhaps most tortuous chapter in the 1947-48 Nakba. While the inter-militia conflict that marked the previous six months had played out largely independently of the United Nations, the newly established Israeli ethnostate and the advancing opposition – comprising military contingents from Syria, Masr, Iraq, Transjordan, and Lebanon – could not afford to ignore international dynamics, which were uneasily juggled with forces on the ground. In the end, both international and local dynamics tilted in Israel’s favour, completing the final stage in Palestine’s tragedy.

The conflict was interspersed with three internationally brokered ceasefires, whose main effect was to enable its protagonists to catch their breaths. The first ceasefire, taking place some four weeks after the British mandate ended during June 1948, occurred with the Israeli forces enjoying only a slight, and by no means decisive, advantage on the battlefield. Ten critical days separated it from the next ceasefire, in July 1948, and in those ten days the Israelis seized the initiative with a flurry of triumphs on various fronts, making various advances everywhere except the Hashimi-held West Bank region. These advances pressed the opposing states decisively onto the back foot, resulting in frenetic negotiations whose main effect was to place the West Bank, in eastern Palestine, under Transjordanian rule, given that it had the strongest international connection – with a still relevant British Empire, mainly – and that its Arab Legion had garrisoned the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The coup de grace occurred in October 1948, where a devastating and remorseless Israeli assault plunged north and south, destroying the Inqadh militia in Galilee and the Masri army in the Nagab. This left Palestine, with the exception of the Jordanian-governed West Bank and Masri-governed Ghazza strip, entirely under Israeli occupation.

Though it was technically five Arab armies that, together with assorted militias, failed against the newly formed Israeli army, this was far from an underdog scenario. To begin with, the Syrian and Lebanese states, only recently released from the French yoke, were barely older than their Israeli counterpart; Lebanon’s tiny army could afford only a token contribution at a borderland village. The British-trained armies made only marginally more impact; the oldest army, from Masr, had no battlefield experience. Ministerial management and ammunition shortages plagued both the Syrian and Masri armies; there was no actual coordination between the various militaries; and, most importantly, the Arab governments that led them were riven with mutual enmity and at each others’ throats throughout.

They made a stark contrast to the battle-hardened, unified, politically shrewd, and remorselessly decisive Israelis; even though the Israeli army was merely a renamed Haganah, it functioned as a state army, easily outnumbering, outplanning, and outfighting its scattered opponents. Non-state forces – the remnants of the exile Palestinian regime led by Amin Hussaini and loosely represented by the now-scattered Jihad Army, the Inqadh Army, the Muslim Brethren, and bedouin fighters – proved rather tougher on the battlefield, but were largely isolated from the politics and were forced to yield to tutelage by either Amman, Damascus, or Cairo. The losers were the Palestinians, who were expelled in the tens of thousands as the Israelis drove their advantage home.

The first stage: May – June 1948

As the British mandate ended a rather inglorious thirty-year tenure, the Haganah-led Jewish political-military forces in Palestine, led by the ruthless David Ben-Gurion, announced their “independence” – independence from whom is uncertain, though doubtless countless Jews victimized in Europe saw a nation-state as their salvation – and duly received international recognition. This was accompanied by a sharp uptick in military activity; in addition to a madcap race for British-installed outposts and forts between Arabs and Jews, the vario’us Arab states advanced into Palestine, and the Israelis advanced steadily eastwards in Jerusalem.

With western and southern Jerusalem having been wrenched from Jihad Army forces, the Israeli march rumbled east through northern Jerusalem. Their main opposition – a Jihad unit captained by longtime Palestinian militant leader Bahjat Abu-Gharbia – stood little chance, and the small mujahidin garrison in Jerusalem’s eastern Old City, captained by the Iraqi Inqadh officer Fadil Rasheed, seemed increasingly isolated, its only offensive activity directed to a small Jewish quarter to its south, whose presence compelled it to split its forces on two fronts.

Again this backdrop, the Palestinian exile government’s prime minister, Ahmed Abdul-Baqi, had appealed to the Transjordanian government for help. Amman’s ruler Abdullah I bin Hussein, who wanted nothing more than to expand his realm into Palestine, wasted no time in responding, overruling his British military commander John Glubb’s reservations. The Legion approached Jerusalem from north and south; the southern prong, captained by Abdullah Tal, played an especially vital role. Tal successfully withstood several concerted Israeli assaults on the Old City, while his daring lieutenant, Mahmoud Ubaidat, secured the capture of the Jewish quarter. Within days, Abdullah I was able to appoint a trusted lieutenant, Ibrahim Hashim, as his governor-general in Palestine; the crafty Hashimi ruler was confident in getting at least a slice out of the pie.

The northern advance on Jerusalem, proceeding from Nablus and Ramullah under British officer Norman Lash’s overall command, encountered more difficulty. One battalion, captained by Bob Slade, was assigned to proceed south to the Old City and thereby close off any Israeli threat to East Jerusalem. Slade and his deputy, Major Buchanan, were injured in the fighting and it was, in an early taste of command for native Arab officers, Ali Abu-Nowar and Sadiq Sharaa who directed the advance into Jerusalem under stiff fire. Another native officer from Bedouin stock, Habis Mujalli, scored a major strategic point when, assisted by Bedouin militia, his unit secured control of the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road, thereby cutting off the Israeli forces in the city’s north from the Israeli capital; through the summer this front withstood Israeli attacks, thereby assuring that Jerusalem’s eastern half remained unchallenged. Finally, a third Legion unit, captained by Australian officer Bill Newman, attempted to break into Israeli-occupied Jerusalem from the north; after a severe fight ended in stalemate, however, Glubb vetoed further advances, fearing that the Legion was too thinly spread. Nonetheless, Abdullah was eager to capture what was realistically possible; when the influential Jihad commander in Lydd-Ramla, Hasan Salameh, was killed in battle, the Legion swiftly sent a small force, captained by British officer Nigel Bromage, to assume control of these two towns, not far inland from the Israeli strongholds on the coast; a Legionnaire, Idris Sultan, assumed their military governance, leading to popular optimism that envisioned a Legion advance into this region and perhaps up to the coast. This illusion would be shattered after the first ceasefire.

The Arab heartland in Palestine at this point lay in the West Bank’s main cities, Nablus and Ramullah. Transjordan, which had through its British link established firm roots here before the mandate ended, was viewed with suspicion by the other Arab states, with the partial exception of its Hashimi cousins in Iraq. An Iraqi force, captained by Nuraddin Mahmoud, had eventually garrisoned Nablus, thereby freeing up the Legion to move south towards Jerusalem. The Iraqis’ role has been unfairly downplayed; though they famously failed to recapture eastern Palestine’s Baysan area leading into the Jizril valley at the start of their campaign, they nonetheless attempted, albeit with limited success, some more ambitious exploits thereafter. Aiming to drive a wedge midway through the nascent Israeli state, two Iraqi prongs – captained by Ghazi Daghistani and Abdul-Karim Qasim – plunged west from the West Bank towards the coast. They came far closer to realizing this aim than is usually recognized; Qasim reached the outskirts of the coastal town Natanya before he was repulsed by an Israeli counterattack, and Daghistani established a firm frontline at Tulkarm. Meanwhile, a reinforcement unit, captained by Saleh Taufiq, arrived to bolster the defences to the north, in and around Jinin.

The significance of the Iraqi moves was not lost on the Israelis. They soon mounted a counterattack. The smaller, somewhat diversionary assault, failed to penetrate the countryside around Tulkarm; this valley, manned by both Daghistani’s lieutenant Khalil Jasim and various Palestinian militias, held out during the entire conflict. The larger thrust, however, converged at Afoula and plunged southwards towards Jinin. However, an Iraqi force captained by a daring highland veteran, Omar Ali-Daghistani, broke the Israeli siege and pushed them back. Far from the dismissive attitude assigned to them by many historians, the Iraqis did play an outsize role in the West Bank; the reason it is usually missed is the fact that, in contrast to Amman, Baghdad salvaged very little politically from the campaign.

The Lebanese army could only afford a token contribution, which focused on the mountainous border village Malikia overlooking the route into Palestine. They committed a single battalion, captained by Jamil Husami; the village would change hands several times over the war. The route that Malikia guarded had been liberally employed by the paramilitary Inqadh Army, whose commander Fawzi Qawuqji collaborated closely with the Lebanese army minister Majid Arslan and commander Fouad Chehab. Qawuqji himself operated mainly in the central Galilee, where he mounted several unsuccessful assaults from Nazareth towards occupied Tiberias; the kibbutzes on this route remained defiant against these attacks.

The Syrian army was originally intended to take this sector. On the eve of battle, however, the expeditionary commander Abdul-Wahhab Hakim was ordered to change course, instead proceeding far east into the Golan Heights region, and then skirting Lake Tiberias’ eastern shore. Hakim made a breakneck march that briefly overran the border Samakh village; the Syrians evidently expected an Iraqi collaboration that, perhaps owing to the Iraqi failure to penetrate Baysan, never came. They were unexpectedly stopped and then repelled at the kibbutzes on Lake Tiberias’ southern shore; within two days, their advances were completely reversed.

The outcry that resulted in Syria – unlike the other participant Arab countries, a fledgling republic with incredibly volatile politics, whose interior minister Sabri Asali soon mounted a wartime ban on political activity in an attempt to control the situation – forced the changeover of both armyminister Ahmad Sharabati and commander Abdullah Atfa; both accused each other as having underequipped the army. The fact that the same charges would be levelled against their successors indicated that, contrary to popular rumours, corruption and treason were not the reason for the Syrian failure but a systemic shortage of ammunition that should, in normal circumstances, have been calculated before the abruptly planned campaign. Atfa’s successor, Husni Zaeem, took several weeks to plan the next assault, whose aims, however, would be decidedly modest and only slightly more ambitious than the Lebanese attack.

This second assault came in early June 1948. Qawuqji threw himself vainly at the settlements between Nazareth and Tiberias. The Syrian attack came from both north and east this time; the eastern attack failed, but in the north Anwar Bannoud and Taufiq Bashour established a bridgehead on the northern border. Zaeem seems to have realized, much as other commanders would, that succeeding in a minor effort was better than failing in a major effort.

Similarly to Syria, Masr’s campaign at Palestine’s other end soon downsized its ambitions sharply. The Masris contributed both an army division and a Muslim Brethren battalion; the fact that these two unevenly sized forces made a roughly equivalent impression in the battlefield testified to both the army’s inexperience and Cairo’s hesitation. While Farouk bin Fuad I was quite happy to back the Palestinian exile government represented by mufti Amin Hussaini and spite his rival Abdullah I, the government led by Mahmoud Nuqrashy was extremely hesitant to get its inexperienced army involved in any substantive sense. It was a Muslim Brethren battalion, comprising both volunteers and off-duty Masri soldiers such as their commander Ahmed Abdel-Aziz, who made the first foray into Palestine.

In the vast southern Nagab desert, what mattered was control of routes between settlements; the story of this campaign is therefore littered with fights over kibbutzes, police forts, and that most evil necessity in military historiography, the numbered hill. This warfare was heavily conducive to defence; both Jewish kibbutzes and Muslim police forts generally proved resilient against attacks and encirclement. Such strongholds as the kibbutz to Asqalan’s east, the kibbutz between Ghazza and Khan Yunis, and the forts between Ashdoud and Bethlehem proved astoundingly firm, especially given that their garrisons largely comprised untrained amateurs such as the Zionist underclasses and the Muslim Brethren. Initially instructed by army expeditionary commander Ahmed Muawy to remain at the desert town Birsabaa and guard the expedition’s eastern flank, Abdel-Aziz soon responded instead to a request by the Muslims in Bethlehem and Hebron to reinforce them. He rushed north to these towns, assuming control with the acquiescence of the Arab Legion and reducing the neighbouring kibbutzes. While the Muslim Brethren dash into Bethlehem and Hebron proved Masr’s most ambitious exploit in the campaign, it also limited Muawy’s choices; he would spend the remainder in the campaign trying to protect his flank east of the Masri base at Ghazza, where most kibbutzes proved beyond Masri grasp.

Nonetheless, the Masri vanguard, captained by Mohamed Naguib, advanced as far north as Ashdoud, sweeping aside most resistance. There, however, they met a ferocious Israeli counterattack; while the Masri lines held, Naguib thereafter focused his attention not north but east inland. The police forts between Naguib at Ashdoud and Abdel-Aziz at Bethlehem were garrisoned by Masri officers and Muslim Brethren both; this connection could potentially isolate the desert-based Israeli forces and ensure that, come the negotiations, Cairo could negotiate the desert’s preservation from Israeli occupation.

When the first ceasefire was announced in June 1948, therefore, there was reason for guarded optimism on a purely military basis. In political terms, however, this was critically undermined by interstate rivalry among the Arab governments – most pressingly the rivalry between the two regimes with the most potential political-military influence, Amman and Cairo. During the ceasefire Israel bolstered its positions and armaments significantly – most famously, a major weapons supply from communist Czechoslovakia, with Soviet approval in aiding an apparently socialistic “liberation movement”. Astonishingly in the meantime, the Arab regimes failed to agree or coordinate on the most basic political strategy. The rivalry between the Hashimis in Amman and the Pashas in Cairo was paramount. By this point, indeed, the question of an independent Palestine seems to have entirely vanished. Rather Amman and Cairo, who covered the biggest territory in Palestine, were determined to salvage what they could not only in relation to Israel but in relation to their Arab rivals.

In contrast to the effusive credit Abdullah I received from pro-Amman, including British, commentators, modern writers have tended, largely on the basis of his longtime contacts with such Zionist leaders as Golda Meir, to portray him as an entirely selfish quisling who sold out the Palestinians. This should be put in some perspective; to be sure, Abdullah’s entire career was marked by often cynical self-interest, but his vision of a “Greater Syria” was not too different, in purely territorial terms, to the Arab unionism advocated only a decade later by some of his bitterest opponents. And he was the only Arab state leader to appreciate, as did Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion, that international deliberations were no match for battlefield fait accomplis. That said, he had made every effort to frustrate the most influential Palestinian leader mufti Amin Hussaini, and his ambition to join Transjordan with whatever he could acquire from Palestine were no secret. It is rather truer to say that Abdullah put the Palestinians in a spot where they had to choose between him and the Zionists, an obvious no-contest. However grudgingly, many Palestinian veterans – including mufti lieutenants by no means inherently sympathetic to Amman – soon threw in their lot with Amman, which was the only Arab state to attempt to merge Palestinians into Jordanian nationality in a reflection of its founder’s ambitions.

A disastrous ten days: July 1948

What contributed more than anything else to Amman’s subsequent vilification – including not only among the Palestinians, but many of its own Legion officers, including most field captains mentioned in this article – was the trauma experienced in the Lydd-Ramla area, at the very extreme ends of the Legion’s operations, during July 1948. This episode, occurring in scorching heat during the month of Ramadan, saw an Israeli campaign overrun the area with virtually no resistance. The Israeli plan was evidently to first take these two towns, and then open the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road and capture Ramullah to boot. In Amman, the first phase was apparently seen as a necessary evil to prevent the second phase by bolstering the forces there. Glubb recalled the already modest Legion garrison in Lydd, and the region fell rapidly. The Israeli advance was utterly remorseless, systemically expelling Palestinians in the tens of thousands and utterly ransacking their property. It was the first, but not the last, time Israel had attempted such tactics on a wide scale since its foundation two months prior. The resultant misery saw vast leagues of Palestinians trickle east towards Transjordan, their misery compounded by widespread resentment that an ambitious ruler who had stripped them of their own independent defences had now withdrawn his own.

These resentments, which trickled for the first time on a serious scale into the Legion’s ranks, were not lost on Abdullah. Glubb served as a convenient foil, though not entirely unfair; in a very publicized encounter in front of his cabinet, Abdullah lashed out at the Legion commander for withholding supplies and suggested – to great shock in London – that Glubb was free to resign. While he stayed on, this stung Glubb, who had always viewed the Legion with a certain paternalism, but it did help deflect criticism from the monarchy to its British advisors. When the Legion commander angrily pushed for the recall of Omar Ali-Daghistani, the skilful Iraqi Jinin commandant who had just mounted a successful northward march towards Afoula, such misgivings simmered further. And the fact that Habis Mujalli, the ultra-loyal Bedouin officer, had withstood another concerted Israeli attack on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road, and that serious Israeli attempts to capture East Jerusalem were thereupon jettisoned after one final push at the Old City, was only cold comfort in this atmosphere, even if it vindicated Amman’s decisions in a purely cold-blooded sense. During October 1948, Abdullah’s threat to withdraw the Legion from Palestine entirely should the Arab governments continue to court mufti Hussaini’s exile government confirmed to many observers – not least his own officers, many of whom would sharply turn against him – that he had effectively sold Palestine out even as he claimed to have salvaged it.

The Masris in the south, bolstered further by assistance from Muslim Brethren, bedouins, Arabian volunteers from Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and Sudanese units, sprang a day before the ceasefire ended. Planned independently by Naguib, this initiative featured joint assaults against several kibbutzes and Israeli settlements in the desert to Asqalan and Ashdoud’s east. When most such attacks ebbed away without success, the expeditionary commander Muawy temporarily removed Naguib and adopted the far more conservative policy of simply holding ground and guarding his extended supply lines. By this point Israel’s airforce was a regular factor in combat, to which its Masri counterpart only offered sporadic ripostes.

At Palestine’s other end, Israel mounted a concerted assault on several lines. With the Lebanese battalion having withdrawn during the ceasefire and handed its position to Inqadh Army, the militia was their main target. An Israeli attack did target the Syrian frontline, captained by Anwar Bannoud, on the northern border, but after several days’ stiff fighting this front remained unchanged. This was not the case in the Inqadh sector in Galilee proper. Another vain attempt by Qawuqji to open the path to Tiberias faltered, and meanwhile his base Nazareth came under a sudden Israeli attack.

Israel’s conquest of Nazareth deserves some elaboration, since it shows the cunning with which Ben-Gurion and his cohorts approached the campaign. In contrast to other Palestinian towns, whose population had been freely brutalized and expelled, Nazareth was well-known in Christianity and thereby bound to attract some interest in Western Europe and America. The Israeli takeover of Nazareth was uniquely orderly and peaceful; Ben-Gurion gave firm instructions to protect its Christian sites, and even falsely claimed that the Israelis had gone in to rescue the town’s Christians from its Muslims and from the predatory Inqadh Army’s Iraqis.

What actually happened was quite different. In contrast to Inqadh conduct in Yaffa, their forces in Nazareth, captained by Iraqi officer Madloul Abbas, had been particularly disciplined. They had also forged a common link with the town’s leading Fahoum family – which included mayor Yusuf and council leader Ibrahim – who much preferred them to the area’s Jihad captain, the Fahoum family’s longtime peasant opponent Taufiq Ibrahim. With Inqadh forces having left in the thrust towards Tiberias, however, the Fahoums were eager not to experience the misery of the neighbouring towns and so agreed to peaceably hand over the town to the Israelis on the condition that it would be spared and its population remain. This was politically convenient, of course, for Ben-Gurion – notwithstanding his strong disdain towards the Arabs, whom he vainly hoped would soon quietly leave – and he instructed commander Haim Laskov to proceed with care. Nazareth, therefore, was the only important town conquered by Israel without accompanying atrocity. The mujahidin position in the Galilee was now shorn of any major towns, and reduced to the countryside. After the delicate balance just ten days earlier, Israel entered the second ceasefire firmly in control.

The Tempest: Israel overruns the North and South, Autumn 1948

Most of the succeeding three months saw the focus shift to the geopolitical and diplomatic sphere. The Israelis had a far more propitious prospect than the United Nations’ partition plan a year earlier; now, they held most of the fertile Galilee and the central hinterland. Transjordan had salvaged the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, if at enormous cost; they had also by this point garrisoned Hebron and Bethlehem, taking over from the Muslim Brethren contingent there. Masr still held a slender chance of retrieving the southern desert, through diplomacy. These bitter rivals therefore found themselves in ironic agreement at the Arab League that the war must end. The best-known United Nations mediator, Swedish diplomat Folke Bernadotte, had in fact been attempting to hammer out a compromise that may have enabled Transjordan and Masr to hold onto their ground. Instead, his infamous murder by the Irgun during September 1948 put paid to that proposal.

To Amman and Cairo’s indignation, it was those governments with the least remaining forces in Palestine – and hence the least to lose from continued conflict – who urged that warfare continue until full liberation: these included Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. The former pair, among whom Lebanon’s Maronite establishment had privately reconciled itself to an Israeli presence but dared not provoke its Muslim populace with an open admission theretofore, were largely playing to their domestic gallery, where unrest among various political factions at the Palestinian plight was rampant. By contrast, both Amman and Cairo, however otherwise different their aims, had a monarchic elite that responded largely to British overtures.

It was probably; in order to placate Britain that Masri prime minister Mahmoud Nuqrashy suddenly banned opposition activity, including the then still militarily active and widely popular Muslim Brethren. This was a blow to the Masri frontline, and in fact the army’s expeditionary commanders – Ahmed Muawy and his replacement Fouad Sadek – would lobby staunchly in the Brethren’s favour, arguing that they had manned the frontlines where other civilians had failed the army. This would also strengthen the bonds and collaboration between the Brethren and the army’s dissident Free Officers; many officers secretly belonged to both groups. But events had overtaken them in the meantime. During November 1948, a Muslim Brother student called Abdel-Magid Hassan murdered Nuqrashy. Though the Brethren’s leader Hasan Banna condemned and distanced the group from the murder, this prompted a merciless crackdown by Nuqrashy’s replacement Ibrahim Abdel-Hady, which would result in Banna’s own murder three months later.

Accompanying the political turmoil in Masr was the turmoil on the battlefield. During October 1948, Israel was given two separate pretexts to complete its conquest. In the north, Qawuqji – declaring his independence from international ceasefires – foolishly attacked a kibbutz; the Israelis had been waiting for just such an opportunity, and immediately stormed Galilee in a savage campaign led by that veteran punisher, Moshe Carmel. Villages were systemically wrecked and plundered, peasants murdered and expelled, as the majority of the Galilee’s Palestinian populace bore north to safety. They were given no leeway by the Israelis, who seeking to maximize their acquisitions stormed across the Lebanese border and as far as the Litani river, undoing at a stroke the previous year’s hard-won Arab bulwarks.

In the south, the Masri army fared little better. Israel required a similar pretext here; a United Nations-approved relief convoy into the desert bypassed a Masri unit, but to the Israelis’ frustration the Masri soldiers kept to their word and did not attack. So the convoy fired at them first, prompting a retaliatory Masri burst that became Israel’s pretext for their southern conquest. Led by Yigael Alon, who had directed the summer conquest in Lydd-Ramla, this Israeli attack was impressive in its breadth; its further reach extended into the Sinai proper, where commando teams sabotaged Masri supply lines and blocked off supply routes. This development suddenly forced the Masri force to defend its rear; in order to do this, Muawy recalled the frontline coastal force from Ashdoud, thus enabling Israel to both overrun the coast and break the encirclement of their counterparts in the desert by November 1948.

This included the capture of Birsaba, the Nagab’s main town, whose small Masri garrison, captained by Helmi Gomaa and reinforced by Abu-Sitta bedouins under the leadership of Abdullah Moussa, quickly crumbled after two days’ bombardment at the end of October 1948. The main focus in the campaign hinged at the Nagab desert’s northern edge, where the line of police forts that had hitherto help encircle the Israelis in the desert were now themselves encircled. This comprised some four thousand soldiers, with a large Sudanese contingent including its commander Sayed Taha, as well as volunteers from Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They literally fought tooth and nail – astonished Israelis would recall how Saudi fighters whose bullets had run out resorted to using their teeth instead. It took several attempts for the attackers to capture one fort from its commandant, Salah Badr, and surround the remaining force in a narrow gap at the Nagab’s northern desert. The force was now besieged, but its morale remained intact, as Taha consistently refused Israeli offers to surrender. The Arab League, having lost any hope of conquest, now busied itself with attempting to relieve the besieged pocket by diplomacy.

There was one final flurry in the southernmost extremity, however. The Masri expeditionary commander Fouad Sadek, who had just relieved Ahmed Muawy, had wisely decided to ignore Cairo’s orders and tacitly collaborate with a Muslim Brethren unit led by Kamel Sharif. Sharif and Dair Balah commandant Mahmoud Rifaat collaborated in repulsing one final Israeli attack on the Sinai border. Realizing that a foray into the Sinai was not worth the effort, the Israelis soon pulled back. Negotiations opened at Cyprus over the new year; though the Arab regimes publicly refused to acknowledge Israel, they had in practice come to terms with its existence as a regional power, one whose military effectiveness had outstripped their own and whose diplomacy, wooing both superpowers in the emergent Cold War, stemmed from its status as a major outpost of Global Northern imperialism in the Levant.