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Six Day War ( Third Arab-Israel War)

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The third of the Israeli-Arab wars, also known as the Six-Day War, the June War, and the Third Arab-Israeli War, took place from June 5- June 10, 1967. The President of Egypt at the time, Gamel Abdel Nasser, ordered the United Nations Peacekeeping forces to abandon the Sinai Peninsula, amid the Middle East tensions, and decided to close off the Strait of Tiran. To Israel, the blocking of the Strait of Tiran was not only a threat to the nation, but also an act of aggression. This resulted in a preemptive airstrike, abolishing 90% of Egypt’s military planes.

After this, Jordan and Syria combined forces with Egypt to destroy Israel, in hopes of returning the land to it’s supposed original owner, Palestine. Although it seemed Israel’s demise was inevitable when at war with the united Arab states, the end result proved otherwise. The nation of Israel won in a decisive military victory and ended up taking control of the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula, West Bank, and Golan Heights. Following the end of the Six-Day war, the relationship between Israel and the united Arab states was changed forever. The Israeli military had grown stronger and began to be taken seriously not only regionally, but also globally

Israel had not been viewed as a considerable military power prior to the Six-Day War in 1967. Since the citizens of the Jewish state had recently enough faced the holocaust, in which their main focus was survival, their military lacked attention. A Washington Post article from June 5, 1967 said there was “a dread of annihilation which was shared by many military men” and that Israel’s forces “accepted estimate was 10,000 dead”, before the war even really began. This is proof that the Israel’s had little to no hope in winning the battle with the Arab states. In addition to this nationwide doubt, during an unanimous vote regarding the decision to either fight in a war or not to, the feeling throughout Israel had been described as such; “The whole nation was convinced of a singe and stark certainty: The choice was to live or perish – to defend the national existence, or to forfeit it for all time.” Since the Israeli morale was low, they had accepted death rather than feared it, which actually ended up assisting in their ultimate win.

Their strategy had developed to use the fear of death against their enemies. The Israel defense forces have always been intelligent, although underestimated, with spies relaying information daily, allowing them to strategically devise a plan that resulted in victory. Israel “took control of the skies” and “Arab casualties outnumber those of Israel twenty to one,” as stated in a Washington Post article from June 11, 1967.

There were two other rivalries that contributed to the Israel-Arab tensions, which ultimately led to the Six-Day War. The first was the conflict among the Arab states themselves, whom competed with one another in order to take more aggressive positions until Egypt had no choice but to go to war. The second was a rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union; the Soviet Union pushed the Arab states into war to partly enhance arabs dependence on itself. The war served as a turning point in transforming the geopolitics of the middle east. The 1967 conflict was a repeat of events that occurred in 1947-48, in which both occasions, Israel was happy to stay in its existing boarders. By attacking Israel, Arabs gave Israel an opportunity to seize additional lands that were not always there. In the previous occurrence, Israel took about 23% of the old mandate, followed by the 1967 events in which the occupied the remaining 22% of Palestine.

The Six-day War confirmed superiority of the Israeli Defense Forces and seemed to vanquish Israel’s fear of annihilation, since it was no longer such a small nation. Now that new territories were under Israeli control, so were their people. West Bank Palestinians could not remain Jordanians and almost none of the “new citizens” had become Israeli citizens. This made the Palestinians realize that they would have to stand on their own. This realization was strengthen by the collapse of the Arab states on whom they used to have dependence for salvation. The Palestinians began to create truly independent and unprecedented effective national organizations which they did not have prior to the fall of the Arab states they once relied on. After 1967, the Israeli-Arab conflict became much more between Israel and Palestine has opposed to Israel and all the united Arab states like in the conflict dating back to 1948.

Until 1967 Nasser and Egypt showed caution when dealing with Israel and in the early 1960s the Egyptian economy had been in terrible shape. Knowing war can only aggravate economic woes, the consideration of battle urged constraint. After Israel withdrew from Sinai, Nasser strategically kept only small forces there. He also cooperated with the United Nations Peacekeeping truce that had been sent to Sinai to act as a buffer between Israel and Egypt, allowing Israelis to use a vital gulf. Overtime, he and other leaders found themselves obliged in increasingly aggressive positions. The 1949 official position of Egypt was that the Jewish had no moral or legal legitimacy. The armistice of 1949 stated Arab states retain the right to renew hospitalities at will and called opening for Israeli destruction, even though this violated the United Nations charter. The drive to militancy reflected two intertwined dynamics; Israel was seen as an alien entity imposed among the Arab world, since nobody “asked’ the news to come to Palestine.

Arab leaders had no sympathy for Jews as they were deeply and universally resented. The previous victories Israel had against them in 1948 and 1956 were major blows to Arab self esteem, which only deepened the sense of injustice and unfairness. The only solution at the time for the Arab states seemed to be the liquidation of Israel. The internal instability of Arab regimes reflected lovely of most Arab nation states, since they had not yet had time to develop workable institutions. Most Arab rulers in this period were dynastic autocrats or military officers who had seized power by force, whom had very little sense of approval from below, as well as a very egocentric way of ruling their land. From 1949-1967 Arab states experienced no fewer than 20 successful coos, and just Syria itself had nine violent changes of government in 17 years. Arab leaders often felt vulnerable to domestic challenges and given the popular hostility against Israel, were sure destroying the nation would be the best way to gain support. There was no doubt that many of these militancy species were chiefly for the domestic audience rather than having practical intentions.

This rhetorical militancy had consequences because eventually, leaders were expected to match the words with action. For example, In 1966, a coo in Damascus, Syria, brought a military regime dominated by alawites, whom were 11% of the population and represented 75% of the Syrian officer court. They tried to impede Israel’s use of waterways. They fired on Israeli fisherman at the sea of Galilee, built dams, and sponsored repeated Palestine guerrilla attacks against Israeli’s in the north of the country.

From 1963-1969, Israel was led by Levi Eshkol, the successor of David Ben-Gurion, whom was the first Prime Minister of the state of Israel. He seemed weak in the shadow of Gurion, so he would overreact to prove to the Israeli population that he was tough. He would command the Israel Defense Forces to provoke Syrians to provide opportunity to hit back harshly and prove his power. Israel sent war ships to violate a demilitarized zone in Galilee that had been agreed upon in 1949 to provoke the Syrians as they had been provoking the Israelis. At this point, it was very possible that a full scale war between Syria and Israel was very possible. Arab leaders sought to prove their revolutionary credentials by questions the anti-Israel commitment of rival Arab regimes. By early 1967, the dynamics of Arab politics in combination with very aggressive Israeli actions were driving Arab states to ever bolder rhetorical positional and increasing the risk of war.

What finally pushed the middle east over the cliff was neither Arab actions nor Israeli actions alone – it was a combination of those and Soviet propagations. The Soviet Union saw benefit in another way between the Israelis and the Arabs. If the Arabs won it would prove value of Soviet weapons and boost their prestige. If the Arabs lost, it would increase their dependence on the Soviet Union to make good of their losses. ***Recent researches suggest that the Soviets hoped to provide pretext for their own forces to attack Israel in order to destroy their nuclear program. The Soviets fears the Israel’s nuclear power would shift the balance in the middle east, as well as feared that Israeli nuclear weapons could target southern Russia. If the Soviet Union could entice Israel to stick the first blow, the Soviets would then have an excuse to rush to the Arabs’ defense and invade Israel.

On May 13th, 1967, the Soviets told Syria and Egypt that Israel had placed 20,000 troops on the Syrian boarder and were going to attack. Russia’s immediate goal was to get Egypt to relieve Israeli pressure on Syria. The longer term goal in giving this report was to push general region towards war. The Russian claim that the troops were lined up at the boarder was a total lie. Yet, Israel invited them to inspect the boarder at any time to determine that there had not been any unusual troop movements. The Soviet ambassador at the time chose to decline, in fear of public humiliation.

Even though the Soviets lied, they laid Nasser over to criticism in which he melt most vulnerable. Jordanian and Audi Arabian radio had been taunting Nasser saying he was all talk and no action. Additionally, once word spread about alleged Israeli troop movements, Nasser had to act since his reputation as a leader was at stake. Within 10 days of the announcement, the Egyptian leader took took the steps to make sure war was inevitable. Nasser moved the bulk of his army into Sinai Peninsula, facing Israel.

Although Sinai had be demilitarized, Egyptian troops were now marching through Cario chanting “we are off to Tel-Aviv”. He sought to cancel all the gain Israel had from the conflict in 1956. He demanded the United Nations Peacekeeping forces leave at once. These forces had been stationed in Sinai and Gaza, but their removal increased an already tense situation. Nasser then, again, closed off the Gulf of Aqaba, which is where Israel got about 80% of it’s oil. He told a public meeting of Egyptians “we knew closing the Gulf meant war with Israel”, and the Arab confidence was boosted by an imbalance on both sides. Egypt’s mobilized armies outnumber Israeli forces by a long shot, yet Nasser refused to make the first move and strike Israel.

Despite passer’s claims that war was certain, he may have hope to gain a propaganda victory that would revive his reputation short of the actual war. Knowing that war is alway risky, he hoped that Israel may not respond to actions, giving him prestige without the danger of combat. His Soviet allies also warned him repeatedly not to strike the first blow, and this had become central to their strategy as branding Israel as the aggressor. Russia’s gain from the matter would be an excuse to invade Israel’s nuclear facilities. If war did not develop, Nasser’s strategy sought to lure the Israelis into attacking what Nasser thought was an impregnable position in north-east Sinai at Abu Aghelia, a massive fortress complex built to the Soviets’ specifications. He hoped to use Abu Aghelia as an anvil on which to hammer the Israeli army to death. After Israel had exhausted its strength on Abu Aghelia, an Egyptian tank formation would encircle the Israeli forces. He wants to draw Israeli forces towards him at the fortress, but this would require Israel to rake the offensive.

For Egypt, high unemployment and a large standing army meant that long term carried economic cost, but they could afford the luxury to be patient, as Israel could not. Israel’s main straight was the Israeli reserve and they had no strategic depth to absorb a first strike. If Arab armies entered Israel at any place, they would be near key population centers. Israelis had been convinced they faced another war of annihilation and the Israeli chief of staff had a mental breakdown and went missing for 48 hours. The Israeli cabinet decided rather than wait for Egypt to attack, Israel would strike a first blow. The obvious drawback was that now Israel would be accused of aggression, but Israel’s plan was to counter that under international law, Egypt’s closure of the Gulf was already an initiation of war. The choice between verbal criticism and physical destruction was no choice at all. All available evidence shows that Israel chose war very reluctantly and prior to 1967 there was not even a plan to occupy the West Bank or Gaze.

The Israeli campaign in Sinai began in June 1967 with air attacks. Rather than fly in from the east as Egyptians expected, Israeli jets entered from the Mediterranean, far from the west and then few eat. These attacks were timed precisely for 7:45am when Egyptian pilots went on their coffee break. Israel turned 300 out of 345 of Nasser’s planes into flaming wrecks. The Egyptian air force was no more and Israel only lost 15 int he flames. With air superiority, Israel opened the next phase – night time attacks on Abu Agheila. Aided by spies, the Israelis had an extremely detailed knowledge of Abu Agheila. They built an exact replica and practiced incessantly on weak points. Israel gained control within nine hours of hang to hand fighting. IN taking Abu Agheila, Israel blew open the lock to Sinai. Although they fought stubbornly, Egyptian forces were no match due to the newly gained Israeli air superiority. Within three days, the entire Sinai Peninsula was in Israel’s hands. This brought such shame to the Egyptian defense forces that the Egyptian chief of staff tried to commit suicide. The Soviet Union’s invasion of Israel could now not be implanted because before they could intervene, the fighting had already ended.

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