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Ryan Wulpi W131-02 Downs 1st Draft
The Six-Day War. Most people wouldn’t categorize a war as something that only lasted six days. Most people would probably call that a battle or even “armed hostilities.” But as you will see, the days leading up to June 5th, 1967, led to the shortest war in the world’s history. While most of the world was watching what was happening in Vietnam, Arab countries surrounding Israel were preparing to attack. If you don’t know anything about this war or what transpired before, then hopefully I can fully explain the hostilities between Jews, Christians and Muslims dating back thousands of years, the key players involved, some of the actions and rhetoric that led up to those fateful 6 days, the war itself, and the land that is still in dispute today. Although these lands in dispute are “occupied” by Israel, I hope I can show why they deserve to keep these lands until they can be assured of peace with the Palestinians. Jews, Christians and Muslims have disagreed for thousands of years dating back to the Middle Ages. Almost everyone has heard of the Crusades. The Catholic Church in 1095 decided that they were going to march to the “Holy Lands” to retake them from the barbarians. Therefore, these lands have been fought over for so long that these people who are fighting now, are only fighting because that is the only way that they know. There have been so many wars fought on these lands that it is a wonder that the ground has not been permanently stained from the bloodshed. Even though these religions differ, they are also very similar and all have the
same holy sites. Some of the key players involved have changed over the years, but the struggle still remains. Well, maybe they haven’t changed as much as they have evolved. The players that were involved in this 1967 war were the same countries that attacked Israel after the state was mandated by the U.N. in 1948. The Egyptians played the primary role in the escalation that led to the war (Ahmed). Gamal Abdel Nasser was the President of Egypt from 1956 to 1970. In that time he became the leading nationalist of the Arab world. Syria was also involved in escalating the tension in the region. In 1966, the Syrian stance became increasingly hostile towards Israel. Border skirmishes and conflicts continued, and further antagonism was caused by Syrian support of Al-Fateh attacks from its territory (Ahmed). Egypt and Syria signed a defense pact in November of 1966. The pact stated that if Syria was attacked, that would be considered an attack on Egypt and vice-versa. The superpowers of the United States and the USSR weren’t key players in this escalation; they basically stayed on the sideline. The USSR was supplying Syria and Egypt with arms and likewise, the US was supplying arms to Israel. Our support for Israel dates back over 50 years. Although sometimes one-sided in our support for Israel, a lot of people in the United States feel as though someone needs to stick up for them. They are stuck in the middle of a hornet’s nest of hate. The rhetoric that was spewing out of the Arab countries was amazingly hostile. While Nasser continued to make speeches threatening war, Arab terrorist attacks grew more frequent. In 1965, 35 raids were conducted against Israel. In 1966, the number increased to 41. In just the first four months of 1967, 37 attacks were launched (Lorch). Syria was mounting attacks from the Golan Heights, to Israel’s north, on the Israeli farms and villages below. Syria’s attacks grew more frequent in 1965 and 1966, while Nasser’s rhetoric became increasingly bellicose: “We
shall not enter Palestine with its soil covered in sand,” he said on March 8th, 1965. “We shall enter with its soil saturated in blood” (Sachar). Again a few months later, Nasser expressed the Arabs’ aspiration: “…the full restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people. In other words, we aim at the destruction of the State of Israel. The immediate aim: perfection of Arab military might. The national aim: the eradication of Israel” (Katz). This is exactly what Israel had been hearing from their Arab neighbors for the prior 19 years, only now it was getting increasingly hostile. Arab attacks in turn led to Israeli retaliation, culminating in an Israeli dogfight with Syrian planes over the Golan Heights on April 7th, 1967 (Geller). Syrian gunners had shelled the settlement of Tel-Katzir shortly beforehand. The Israeli Air Force sent out IAF planes to take out Syrian guns, Syrian planes rose up to defend them, and the IAF shot down 6 Syrian planes to no Israeli losses. Chief of Israeli General Staff Yitzhak Rabin warned that Israel would not remain passive in the face of provocation. All of this alarmed the Syrians, who by this show of weakness were nervous about Israeli conclusions and intentions. Thus the Syrians looked to the Egyptians to back them up. Nasser, as the undisputed leader of the Arab world, took up the challenge. On May 14th and 15th lead units of two Egyptian divisions rolled onto the Sinai Peninsula. He placed the Egyptian Army on full alert (Geller). The United States, meanwhile, was trying to prevent the war through negotiations, but it was not able to persuade Nasser and the other Arab states to cease their belligerent statements and actions. Moreover, while the Arabs were falsely accusing the US of airlifting supplies to Israel, President Lyndon Johnson imposed an arms embargo to the region. France, Israel’s other main arms supplier also embargoed arms to Israel (Associated Press). By contrast the Soviets were supplying massive amounts of arms to the Arabs (Sacher).
On May 16th, Nasser ordered the UN Emergency Force, stationed in the Sinai since 1956, to withdraw (Leibler). After the withdrawal of the UNEF, Nasser proclaimed May 18th, 1967: “As of today, there no longer exists an international force to protect Israel. We shall exercise patience no more. We shall not complain any more to the UN about Israel. The sole method we shall apply against Israel is total war, which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence” (Leibler). An enthusiastic echo was heard May 20th from Syrian Defense Minister Hafez Assad: “Our forces are now entirely ready not only to repulse the aggression, but to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland. The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united….I, a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation” (Leibler). King Hussein of Jordan signed a defense pact with Egypt on May 30th. Nasser then announced: “The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are poised on the borders of Israel…to face the challenge, while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the whole Arab nation. This act will astound the world. Today they will know that the Arabs are arranged for battle, the critical hour has arrived. We have reached the stage of serious actions and not declarations” (Herzog). President Abdur Rahman Aref of Iraq also joined in the war of words: “The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy that has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear – to wipe Israel off the map” (Herzog). On June 4th, Iraq joined the military alliance with Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Back on May 22nd, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to all Israeli shipping and all ships bound for Eilat. This blockade cut off Israel’s only supply route with Asia and stopped the flow of oil from its main supplier, Iran.
This was a clear causus belli, which had been understood since 1956 – Israel’s shipping routes through the Red Sea would not be impeded. The Israeli’s considered this an act of war. On May 23rd, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson publicly reaffirmed that the Gulf of Aqaba was an international waterway and declared that a blockade of Israeli shipping was illegal. In accordance with U.S. wishes, the Israeli cabinet voted five days later to withhold military action. The U.S. tried to gain international support to garner a maritime force to persuade Egypt to open up the waterways, but it gained little attention and it abandoned these diplomatic efforts. Nasser was fully aware of the pressure that he was exerting to force Israel’s hand. The day after the blockade was set up, he said defiantly: “The Jews threaten to make war. I reply: Welcome! We are ready for war” (Liebler). The Arab rhetoric was matched by the mobilization of Arab forces. Approximately 250,000 troops (nearly half in the Sinai), more than 2,000 tanks and 700 aircraft ringed Israel. By this time, Israeli forces had been on alert for three weeks. The country could not remain fully mobilized indefinitely, nor could it allow its sea lane through the Gulf of Aqaba to be interdicted. Israel had no choice but preemptive action. To do this successfully, Israel need the element of surprise. Had it waited for an Arab invasion, Israel would have been at a potentially catastrophic disadvantage. On June 5th, the order was given to attack Egypt (Lukacs). The United States has always maintained that Israel has a right to defend itself. The rhetoric that was coming from the surrounding Arab regimes was bringing them to a point of no return. Israel had a choice to make: Attack first or face the consequences. On June 2nd the Israeli Cabinet decided in principle on war. The Six-Day War started with a far reaching plan that the Israelis had been planning and training for 3 weeks. Mossad Chief Meir Amit
returned from consultations in Washington and was convinced that the Americans supported an Israeli first strike. On June 4th the Cabinet decided on war, and on morning of June 5th, the Israeli attack began. Israeli Intelligence had been so attentive that they knew the exact timing of Egyptian patrols and their air routes. Air Force Commander Motti Hod told Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin on June 4th: “’For the past two weeks, we have been keeping a watch on the precise movements of the Egyptian Air Force…at first light they take off on patrol, staying up for an hour. Then they return to base and go off for breakfast. Between seven and eight, everything is dead, and 7:45 is the ideal time for us’” (Geller). That was the exact time that the Israeli Air Force struck. At 7:45 am, Egyptian pilots woke up to sounds of their planes exploding on the ground (Geller). In a short, efficient and decisive blow, approximately 300 Egyptian aircraft, including bombers, combat planes and helicopters, were destroyed in less than 2 hours (IDF). Prime Minister Levi Eshkol sent a message to King Hussein of Jordan saying that Israel would not attack Jordan unless they initiated hostilities. When Jordanian radar picked up a cluster of planes flying from Egypt to Israel, the Egyptians convinced the Jordanians the planes were theirs, Hussein then ordered the shelling of West Jerusalem. He wouldn’t find out until later that the planes were Israel’s, and were returning from destroying the Egyptian Air Force on the ground (Katz). Had Jordan not attacked, the status of Jerusalem would not have changed during the course of the war. Once the city came under fire, however, Israel needed to defend it, and, in doing so, took the opportunity to unify its capital once and for all (Gruen). This clearly shows that Israel would not be in control of the West Bank or East Jerusalem today if Jordan had not attacked.
Before the end of the first day of fighting, the air forces of the participating Arab states had been destroyed, thereby determining the fate of the entire war (IDF). The Israeli Air Force destroyed 304 out of 419 Egyptian aircraft on the ground, 53 out of 112 Syrian planes, and Jordan’s entire 28 plane Air Force. The IAF even struck at Iraq’s western most airbase at Habbaniya, destroying ten planes on the ground (Geller). Israel Air Force losses on that fateful day of the battle were a total of 20 aircraft. Twelve pilots were killed, five were wounded and four were captured (IDF). The main effort of Israeli armor was directed toward the Egyptian forces deployed in the Sinai and in the Gaza Strip, which consisted of 7 divisions with a total of about 100,000 soldiers. The Israel Defense Forces went up against this force with 3 divisions (IDF). The battle on the Egyptian front lasted a total of four days, with Israel controlling the Sinai afterwards. The Jordanian front started in East Jerusalem and continued with the Israeli’s pushing towards Ramallah and Nablus. By the 8th of June, Israel had taking all of the West Bank (IDF). The battle against Syria, Israel’s most bitter enemy, persisted until the fifth day of the Six-Day War. The main reason for the delay in the attack against Syria lay in the steep, rugged and rocky Golan Heights, where the Syrian Army sat safely in its strong fortifications. By the morning of June 10th the Syrian deployment collapsed and the Syrian forces were in retreat (IDF). On June 12th, a cease-fire was brokered by the United Nations. After just six days of fighting, Israeli forces broke through the enemy lines and were in a position to march on Cairo, Damascus and Amman. The victory came at a very high cost. In storming the Golan Heights, Israel suffered 115 dead, roughly the number of Americans killed during Operation Desert Storm. Altogether, Israel lost twice as many men – 777 dead and 2,586 wounded – in proportion
to her population as the U.S. lost in eight years of fighting in Vietnam (Gruen). By the end of the war, Israel had conquered enough territory to more than triple the size of the area it controlled, from 8,000 to 26,000 square miles. Israel now ruled more than 750,000 Palestinians – most of whom were hostile to the government (Liebler). As a result of the Six-Day War, Israel gained all of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, Sinai, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank. Jews have lived in the West Bank and Gaza Strip throughout recorded history, until the 1948 War of Independence, when they were forced to flee the invading Arab armies. Some of the current Jewish settlements existed prior to 1948, when they were overrun by invading Arab armies and destroyed. Kfar Etzion and other villages in the JerusalemBethlehem corridor fell to Arab forces in May 1948 and those captured were massacred. Sons and daughters of Jews who lived there until 1948 were the first to return after the 1967 war (palestinefacts.org). The authorities tried not to interfere with the inhabitants. They did provide economic assistance; for example, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were moved from camps to new homes. This stimulated protests from Egypt, which had done nothing for the refugees when it controlled the area. Arabs were also given the freedom of movement. They were allowed to travel to and from Jordan. In 1972, elections were held in the West Bank. Women and nonlandowners, unable to participate under Jordanian rule were now permitted to vote. They were also recognized as residents of a united Jerusalem and given the right to vote and run for the city council (Herzog). Israel’s leaders fully expected to negotiate a peace agreement with their neighbors that would involve some territorial compromise. Therefore, instead of annexing the West Bank, a military administration was created (Peretz). Since 1967, Israeli governments have maintained a willingness to withdraw form areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a peace
agreement with the Arabs. At Camp David in July 2000, Ehud Barak reportedly offered to uproot all Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and the isolated settlements on up to 95 % of the territory of the West Bank, as part of a final status agreement. The Palestinians rejected this offer because they wanted a full Israeli withdrawal and nothing less (palestinefacts.org). Everyday you can read in the paper about the fighting that is still going on to this day over the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Almost 30 years ago the Arabs stood ready to attack the Israel, but the Israelis decided that they should attack first. How can you be so hostile towards a group of people, want to fight, get beat so bad, then go running to the international community and whine that you are being oppressed and your lands occupied? How can you murder innocent men, women and children in the name of your freedom and expect the world to feel sorry for you? The Israelis never annexed the West Bank and Gaza Strip, fully intending to broker a peace deal with the Palestinians, where they would trade land for peace. Unfortunately, Israel has let its citizens develop settlements on these disputed lands that are now at the very center of the fight. There are currently 145 settlements in the West Bank and their fate is to be determined in peace talks according to Ariel Sharon’s aide Raanan Gissin (Associated Press). The Israelis want to annex about 5 of the 145 settlements, but the Palestinians are balking at that offer. They want a full Israeli withdrawal and nothing less. The Israelis contend that they have to keep these settlements for security reasons. The Palestinians want their own state and rightfully so, they deserve one. But it is an Arab goal for the elimination of the state of Israel. It is common knowledge that the stated goal of Hamas is the eradication of Israel. So the question remains, will the Palestinians be satisfied with their own state, or will they use that as a precursor towards their ultimate goal, the total and complete annihilation of Israel?
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