Arab Guerrillas

April 25, 1969

Report Outline
Guerrilla Activities in the Middle East
Arab-Jewish Hostility Over Palestine
Hazy Outlook for Peace in Middle East

Guerrilla Activities in the Middle East

Threat of Fedayeen to Middle East Stability

Arab guerrilla raids and Israeli reprisals have been a prelude to three wars fought in the Middle East since Israel became an independent nation in 1948. There is growing fear in world capitals that an escalating cycle of raids and reprisals will start a fourth round of all-out combat between Israel and its Arab neighbors—and again raise the threat of a military confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Frustrated by defeats on the battlefield in 1948, 1956 and 1967, Arab nationalists have found an emotional outlet in the terrorist activities of the fedayeen (“men of sacrifice”). Since the end of the Six-Day War in June 1967, guerrilla movements, often operating independently of Arab governments, have gained increasing strength. “Already a state within a state in Jordan and Lebanon,” an on-the-scene observer wrote recently, “the fedayeen are the single most important factor in the Middle East today.” He pointed out that they are “immune to diplomatic pressure from outside powers,” and he noted that Yasir Arafat, one of the principal guerrilla leaders, was “replacing Nasser as the idol of the Arab masses.”

Arab chiefs of state, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser included, feel impelled to extol the guerrilla movement even though they may see it as a threat to their own authority. Some experts believe that any Arab government in Egypt, Jordan or Syria—the major participants in the 1967 war—that shows a willingness to negotiate directly with Israel, as Israel demands, faces the prospect of being overthrown. Arab and Israeli officials were at pains recently to deny published reports that King Hussein of Jordan had met secretly with Foreign Minister Abba Eban of Israel.

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