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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