Today is 44 years since the Six-Day War


On the 5th June 1967, Israel launched a preemptive air-strike attack on neighbouring Egypt, Syria and Jordan. In the process they acquired the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the volatile and much contested West Bank from Jordan and from Syria, Golan Heights. Israel, who to this day remain fearful of Arab encirclement and belligerence, acted in this manner due to fears for their security after increasing tension in the region characterized by military build-up and aggressive rhetoric. Egypt, in particular, had assembled a large military force in the Sinai Peninsular; due to the geographical locality to Israel this was to pose a significant security threat in the eyes of the Israelis.

The complexities of the Israeli-Arabic relations were intensified by the sponsorship of the Cold War nations, Russia and the United States. After President Nasser’s involvement in the Suez crisis in 1956 Egypt were viewed in Washington as supporters of the ‘communists’ in the USSR. Egypt, who supported Palestine, had also become aggrieved after various skirmishes between Israel and their ally Syria; their chief reason for military build up.

The acquisitions Israel made in Operation Focus (the name of the air-strike) appear quite extensive and the whole event is marred in controversy as to whether it constitutes a preemptive attack. It’s understandable that Israel felt insecure about Egyptian actions, but equally, vice versa due to Israel’s actions against Syria. Hence the security dilemma. Preemptive attacks are by nature, defensive, yet Israel took land from the enemy. That seems less like self-defense and more an act of assertive nationalism in claiming these areas of land.

This reminder is particularly relevant due to Barack Obama’s recent talks in the region stating that he believes a peace-settlement can be reached between Palestine and Israel, on the basis that Israel accept their pre-1967 borders in order to improve relations. Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu however has refused to even consider conceding said borders, even though some of the worst violence in Arab-Israeli relations has been over acquired areas such as the West Bank. Even today in the Golan Heights area Israeli troops fired on and killed as many as 14 Palestinian protesters. These areas remain incredibly volatile and a continued source of tensions between the Israeli and Arabic world. Can anything be done however if the two sides remain as stubborn and aggressive and as unwilling to negotiate, concede and work towards peace?

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5 thoughts on “Today is 44 years since the Six-Day War

  1. Hi Ryan, thank you for your comment over at my blog. I left you a comment there in reply to yours.

    I would like to comment on what you wrote here:

    The acquisitions Israel made in Operation Focus (the name of the air-strike) appear quite extensive and the whole event is marred in controversy as to whether it constitutes a preemptive attack. It’s understandable that Israel felt insecure about Egyptian actions, but equally, vice versa due to Israel’s actions against Syria. Hence the security dilemma. Preemptive attacks are by nature, defensive, yet Israel took land from the enemy. That seems less like self-defense and more an act of assertive nationalism in claiming these areas of land.

    I don’t understand what is controversial about Israel’s pre-emptive attack in 1967. The circumstances were quite clear. I would advise you and your readers to look through the website The Six Day War for more information and background.

    The fact that Israel gained extensive land during that pre-emptive attack does not preclude the pre-emptiveness of the attack. The land that was liberated from the Arabs was territory that was used, for the entire period that it was in Arab hands, for launching attacks on Israeli civilians. Syrian snipers would shoot at Israeli farmers in their Galilee fields from the Golan Heights. Jordanian snipers would shoot at Israelis walking anywhere near the dividing wall through the center of Jerusalem. (By the way, why is Israel’s defensive wall so reviled when a non-defensive wall through the middle of what was supposed to be an “internationalized” city was ignored?).

    I also take issue with your statement that

    This reminder is particularly relevant due to Barack Obama’s recent talks in the region stating that he believes a peace-settlement can be reached between Palestine and Israel, on the basis that Israel accept their pre-1967 borders in order to improve relations.

    Why should Israel accept their pre-1967 borders? They weren’t borders after all, simply a ceasefire line, which ceasefire was honoured by the Arabs more in the breach than for real. The ceasefire lines were breached constantly by raiding fedayeen and other terrorists attacking civilians way back then.

    The PLO was founded in 1964 – three whole years before the 1967 victory and what the Arabs call the “Occupation”. What Palestine was the PLO hoping to liberate if not the whole of Israel, aka Palestine?

    In any event, Israel made a start at returning to the pre-67 borders by withdrawing from Gaza. Do I need to tell you what Israel has received in return? Besides something like 8-10,000 rockets on civilians, terror attacks and vilification, not much else. Why on earth would Israel want to carry out another withdrawal with that rate of “success”?

    As to your statement :

    Even today in the Golan Heights area Israeli troops fired on and killed as many as 14 Palestinian protesters. These areas remain incredibly volatile and a continued source of tensions between the Israeli and Arabic world.

    that is rank nonsense I’m afraid. The Golan Heights have been Israel’s quietest border for decades, ever since the aborted attempt by Syria to try and reconquer them in the Yom Kippur war of 1973. The only reason they have become volatile this month, out of all the months of all the years of all the preceding decades, is due to Bashar al-Assad’s precarious position and his wish to obscure his violent repression and murder of his own people in the Syrian uprising of recent weeks. If you read my latest blog-post you will see that local Lebanese and Syrian residents said that Hezbollah and the Assad regime bribed them to demonstrate and infiltrate Israel’s borders. So much for ideology and their urgent desire to return “home”.

    Can anything be done however if the two sides remain as stubborn and aggressive and as unwilling to negotiate, concede and work towards peace?

    Sometimes one has to accept that not every problem has a solution. It can be managed but solving it will have to be put off to future generations until the Arabs learn to accept the reality of the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East.

    • Thanks for your constructive criticism, the only reason I say that it’s controversial as there is definitely two sides to the argument depending on where your allegiances are. Whether you are Arabic or Israeli sympathetic you are going to view the circumstances differently. Also I am not stating directly in this post that Israel should accept pre-1967 borders, I merely state that Obama has suggested that a return to these borders would ease the peace negotiations. I understand Israel’s qualms with this suggestions due to the level of violence they have suffered over the years from Arabic belligerence, although casualties do appear on both sides. I understand your problem with what I said about Golan Heights, although I may have not made this clear enough, I was referring to the areas in general, for example The West Bank which quite often hosts tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. Finally, I understand that perhaps there isn’t a solution, but don’t you think they should at least make some sort of concessions despite the past, in order to help stabilise the region? Even if it involves overcoming past grievances which could potentially influence the likeliness of peace.
      Once again thank-you for your views, I’m glad you took the time out to take a read, even if you don’t agree; your comment is incredibly interesting.
      Thanks
      Ryan

      • Thanks for your considered reply and I apologize if I was a bit curt. I am very passionate about the Middle East conflict (in case you hadn’t noticed!) as I live there and am directly impacted by decisions made or suggested by world leaders living thousands of miles away.

        Regarding the West Bank which often has tense relations between Palestinians and Israelis, this is a relatively new phenomenon. Until the First Intifada in 1987, a full 20 years after the 1967 victory, the locals of both nations lived in relative harmony. Israelis went shopping in Palestinian towns, friendships were formed, Palestinians worked in Israeli towns and even settlements. I well remember travelling from Jerusalem to Beer Sheva in a shared taxi (“sherut”) which made a mid-journey stop in Hebron. I felt no fear, I would get out of the taxi, buy a drink, Palestinians and Jews would share the taxi and no one thought twice about it.

        I’m not saying all was pink rainbows and puppies; of course there was the occasional disturbance, and Palestinians were not made citizens of Israel because Israel did not annex the area. But they were and are as well treated as any other minority population in the west.

        After the intifada, instigated by Yasser Arafat and his goons, and certainly after the deadly Second Intifada with its bus bombs and suicide bombers, things never returned to what they were, to the extent that the Separation Wall was erected to keep Israelis safe. Again, I can testify to all of this, having been involved in a bus bomb and having a teenage relative killed in a suicide bombing on his way to school.

        Israel HAS made concessions – one after the other – including withdrawal from territory, handing over control of territory to the Palestinian Authority, removing checkpoints – and invariably these lead to worse violence towards Israel.

        Life in the West Bank has improved dramatically over the past few years since the end of the Second Intifada, and it is mainly due to Israel’s strong response and the construction of the barrier. It seem to have finally dawned on the Palestinians that they can have a better life if they stop fighting the Israelis and start cooperating. They now stand to lose everything with the sacking of the moderate PA PM Salam Fayyed and the unity deal with Hamas.

        It is not up to the victor to sue for peace in any event. You as a student of war and history should know this well. It is up to the loser to sue for peace. Let the Palestinians make concessions. Perhaps that way will have a chance to work for a change.

      • Hi Ryan,

        First of all, I’d like to say that it’s a pleasure to have a conversation like this with someone who is genuinely interested in delving into the issue.

        I just want to expand slightly on anneinpt’s comment and suggest you read about The Three No’s of the Khartoum Conference that followed the Six Day War.

  2. I have a massive respect for your passion, and again thanks for the extra information. It’s fascinating to hear about what it is like actually living there. I look forward to reading more of your posts and hopefully some more conversations; there’s nothing like a bit of discussion on a topic.
    All the best
    Ryan

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