Battlefield Detectives: Israel's Six Day War (2005)

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Israel Forces advancing into Sinai
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The Six-Day War of June 5-10, 1967 was a war between the Israel army and the armies of the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. The Arab states of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria also contributed troops and arms.[7] At the war's end, Israel had gained control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. The results of the war affect the geopolitics of the region to this day.

Following numerous border clashes between Israel and its Arab neighbours, particularly Syria, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser expelled the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) from the Sinai Peninsula in May 1967.[8] The peacekeeping force had been stationed there since 1957, following a British-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt which was launched during the Suez Crisis.[9] Egypt amassed 1,000 tanks and nearly 100,000 soldiers on the Israeli border[10] and closed the Straits of Tiran to all ships flying Israeli flags or carrying strategic materials, receiving strong support from other Arab countries.[11] Israel responded with a similar mobilization that included the call up of 70,000 reservists to augment the regular IDF forces.[12]

On June 5, 1967, Israel launched a preemptive attack[13], which the Arab states say was an act of aggression.[14] Jordan, which had signed a mutual defence treaty with Egypt on May 30, then attacked western Jerusalem and Netanya.[15][16][17]


Suez Crisis aftermath

The Suez Crisis of 1956 represented a military defeat but a political victory for Egypt. It was a pivotal event in the lead up to the Six-Day War. In a victory speech delivered to the Knesset, David Ben-Gurion claimed that the 1949 armistice agreement with Egypt was dead and buried, and that the armistice lines were no longer valid and could not be restored. Under no circumstances would Israel agree to the stationing of UN forces on its territory or in any area it occupied.[18][19] Heavy diplomatic pressure from both the United States and the Soviet Union forced Israel into a conditional withdrawal of its military from the Sinai Peninsula,[20] only after satisfactory arrangements had been made with the international force that was about to enter the canal zone.[21]

After the 1956 war, Egypt agreed to the stationing of a UN peacekeeping force in the Sinai, the United Nations Emergency Force, to keep that border region demilitarized, and prevent Palestinian fedayeen guerrillas from crossing the border into Israel.[22]

Egypt also agreed to reopen the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, whose closure had been a significant catalyst in precipitating the Suez Crisis. As a result, the border between Egypt and Israel remained quiet for a while.[23]

After the 1956 war, the region returned to an uneasy balance without the resolution of any of the underlying issues. At the time, no Arab state had recognized Israel. Syria, aligned with the Soviet bloc, began sponsoring guerrilla raids on Israel in the early 1960s as part of its "people's war of liberation", designed to deflect domestic opposition to the Ba'ath Party.[24] Even after nearly two decades of its existence, no neighboring Arab country of Israel was willing to negotiate a peace agreement with Israel or accept its existence. Tunisian President Habib Bourgiba suggested in a speech in Jericho in 1965 that the Arab world should face reality and negotiate with Israel, but this was rejected by the other Arab countries.[25][26]

Water dispute

In 1964, Israel began withdrawing water from the Jordan River for its National Water Carrier. The following year, the Arab states began construction of the Headwater Diversion Plan, which, once completed, would divert the waters of the Banias Stream before the water entered Israel and the Sea of Galilee, to flow instead into a dam at Mukhaiba for use by Jordan and Syria, and divert the waters of the Hasbani into the Litani River, in Lebanon.[9] The diversion works would have reduced the installed capacity of Israel's carrier by about 35%, and Israel's overall water supply by about 11%.[27]

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) attacked the diversion works in Syria in March, May, and August 1965, perpetuating a prolonged chain of border violence that linked directly to the events leading to war.[28]

Israel and Jordan

The long border between Jordan and Israel was tense since the beginning of Fatah's guerrilla operations in January 1965. While Syria was the main supporter of such operations, Israel viewed the state from which the raids were perpetrated as responsible. King Hussein, the Hashemite ruler, was in a bind: he did not want to appear as cooperating with Israel in light of the delicate relationship of his government with the majority Palestinian population in his kingdom, and his success in preventing such raids was only partial. In the summer and autumn of 1966 several incidents occurred, involving Israeli civilians and military personnel. This culminated on 11 November 1966, when an Israeli border patrol hit a land mine, killing three soldiers and injuring six others. Israel believed the mine had been planted by militants from Es Samu, a village in the southern West Bank, close to where the incident took place, which was a Fatah stronghold.[29] This led the Israeli cabinet to approve a large scale operation called `Shredder'. On November 12, King Hussein of Jordan, fearing Israeli retaliation, issued a condolence letter to Israel via the U.S. Embassy, but the U.S ambassador to Israel, Walworth Barbour, did not deliver it in a timely manner.

On the morning of November 13, the Israel Defense Force mobilized, crossed the border into the West Bank and attacked Es Samu. The attacking force consisted of 3,000-4,000 soldiers backed by tanks and aircraft. They were divided into a reserve force, which remained on the Israeli side of the border, and two raiding parties, which crossed into the Jordanian-occupied West Bank.

The larger force of eight Centurion Tanks, followed by 400 paratroopers mounted in 40 open-topped half-tracks and 60 engineers in 10 more half-tracks, headed for Samu; while a smaller force of three tanks and 100 paratroopers and engineers in 10 half-tracks headed towards two smaller villages: Kirbet El-Markas and Kirbet Jimba. According to Terrence Prittie's Eshkol: The Man and the Nation, 50 houses were destroyed, but the inhabitants had been evacuated hours before.

To Israel's surprise, the Jordanian military intervened. The 48th Infantry Battalion of the Jordanian Army ran into the Israeli forces northwest of Samu; and two companies approaching from the northeast were intercepted by the Israelis, while a platoon of Jordanians armed with two 106 mm recoilless guns entered Samu. The Jordanian Air Force intervened as well and a Jordanian Hunter fighter was shot down in the action. In the ensuing battles, three Jordanian civilians and 15 soldiers were killed; 54 other soldiers and 96 civilians were wounded. The commander of the Israeli paratroop battalion, Colonel Yoav Shaham, was killed and 10 other Israeli soldiers were wounded.[30][31]

According to the Israeli government, 50 Jordanians were killed, but the true number was never disclosed by the Jordanians, in order to keep up morale and confidence in King Hussein's regime.[32] The whole battle was short: the Israeli forces crossed the border at 6:00 A.M. and returned by 10:00 A.M.

Hussein felt betrayed by the operation. He had been having secret meetings with Israeli foreign ministers Abba Eban and Golda Meir for three years. According to him he was doing everything he could to stop guerrilla attacks from Jordan. "I told them I could not absorb a serious retaliatory raid, and they accepted the logic of this and promised there would never be one".[33]

Two days later, in a memo to U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, his Special Assistant Walt Rostow wrote: "retaliation is not the point in this case. This 3000-man raid with tanks and planes was out of all proportion to the provocation and was aimed at the wrong target," and went on to describe the damage done to US and Israeli interests: "They've wrecked a good system of tacit cooperation between Hussein and the Israelis... They've undercut Hussein. We've spent $500 million to shore him up as a stabilizing factor on Israel's longest border and vis-à-vis Syria and Iraq. Israel's attack increases the pressure on him to counterattack not only from the more radical Arab governments and from the Palestinians in Jordan but also from the Army, which is his main source of support and may now press for a chance to recoup its Sunday losses... They've set back progress toward a long term accommodation with the Arabs... They may have persuaded the Syrians that Israel didn't dare attack Soviet-protected Syria but could attack US-backed Jordan with impunity."[34]

The United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 228 unanimously deploring "the loss of life and heavy damage to property resulting from the action of the Government of Israel on 13 November 1966", censuring "Israel for this large-scale military action in violation of the United Nations Charter and of the General Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan" and emphasizing "to Israel that actions of military reprisal cannot be tolerated and that, if they are repeated, the Security Council will have to consider further and more effective steps as envisaged in the Charter to ensure against the repetition of such acts."[35]

Facing a storm of criticism from Jordanians, Palestinians, and his Arab neighbors for failing to protect Samu, Hussein ordered a nation-wide mobilization on 20 November.[36] Hussein complained that Egypt had failed to protect the West Bank, while "hiding behind UNEF skirts"; this accusation may have been a factor in Nasser's decision to rid his country of the UNEF force on the eve of the six day war.[9].

The operation was the largest scale one that Israel was involved with since the Suez Crisis. While the diplomatic and political developments were not as Israel expected, following the operation Hussein worked hard to avoid any further clashes by preventing guerrilla operations from being launched from within Jordan[37].

Some view the Samu raid as the beginning of the escalation in tensions that led to the war.[38] According to Moshe Shemesh, a historian and former senior intelligence officer in the IDF, Jordan's military and civilian leaders estimated that Israel's main objective was conquest of the West Bank. They felt that Israel was striving to drag all of the Arab countries into a war. After the Samu raid, these apprehensions became the deciding factor in Jordan's decision to participate in the war. King Hussein was convinced Israel would try to occupy the West Bank whether Jordan went to war, or not.[39]

Israel and Syria

In addition to sponsoring attacks against Israel[9] (often through Jordanian territory, much to King Hussein's chagrin), Syria repeatedly shelled Israeli civilian communities in north-eastern Galilee from positions on the Golan Heights,[40] as part of the dispute over control of the Demilitarized Zones (DMZs), small parcels of land claimed by both Israel and Syria.[41] Concerning attacks on Israel's territory, Syria maintained that it could not be held responsible for the activities of El-Fatah and El-Asefa, nor for the rise of Palestinian organizations whose stated goal was to liberate their conquered and occupied territory.[42]

For its part, Israel was harassing Syrian farmers in the Demilitarized Zone, planting mines, erecting fortifications and opening fire on Syrian military positions, while Israeli armored tractors were cultivating land in the Demilitarized Zone in violation of Article 5 of the Armistice Agreement, backed by Israeli armed forces illegally placed there.[43][44][45] Nine years later, Moshe Dayan, the Israeli defense minister at the time of the war, stated in an interview not published until 1997 that Israeli policy on the Syrian border between 1949 and 1967 consisted of "snatching bits of territory and holding on to it until the enemy despairs and gives it to us." About events on the Israeli-Syrian border he said:[46][47][48][49]

After all, I know how at least 80 percent of the clashes there started. In my opinion, more than 80 percent, but let's talk about 80 percent. It went this way: We would send a tractor to plow some area where it wasn't possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn't shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance farther, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that's how it was. I did that, and Laskov and Czera did that, and Yitzhak did that, but it seemed to me that the person who most enjoyed these games was Dado. We thought that we could change the lines of the ceasefire accords by military actions that were less than war. That is, to seize some territory and hold it until the enemy despairs and gives it to us.

Historian and Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren admitted that "There is an element of truth to Dayan's claim", though he considers the ceasefire violations justified as "Israel regarded the de-militarized zones in the north as part of their sovereign territory"[50]

In 1966, Egypt and Syria signed a defense pact whereby each country would support the other if it were attacked. According to Indar Jit Rikhye, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad told him that the Soviet Union had persuaded Egypt to enter the pact with two ideas in mind: to reduce the chances of a punitive attack on Syria by Israel and to bring the Syrians under Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's moderating influence.[51]

During a visit to London in February 1967, Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban briefed journalists on Israel's "hopes and anxieties" explaining to those present that although the governments of Lebanon, Jordan and the United Arab Republic (Egypt's official name until 1971) seemed to have decided against active confrontation with Israel it remained to be seen whether Syria could maintain a minimal level of restraint at which hostility was confined to rhetoric.[52]

On April 7, 1967, a minor border incident escalated into a full-scale aerial battle over the Golan Heights, resulting in the loss of six Syrian MiG-21s to Israeli Air Force (IAF) Dassault Mirage IIIs, and the latter's flight over Damascus.[53] Tanks, heavy mortars, and artillery were used in various sections along the 47 mile (76 km) border in what was described as "a dispute over cultivation rights in the demilitarized zone south-east of Lake Tiberias." Earlier in the week, Syria had twice attacked an Israeli tractor working in the area and when it returned on the morning of 7 April the Syrians opened fire again. The Israelis responded by sending in armor-plated tractors to continue ploughing, resulting in further exchanges of fire. Israeli aircraft dive-bombed Syrian positions with 250 and 500 kg bombs. The Syrians responded by shelling Israeli border settlements heavily, and Israeli jets retaliated by bombing the village of Sqoufiye, destroying around 40 houses in the process. At 15:19 Syrian shells started falling on Kibbutz Gadot; over 300 landed within the kibbutz compound in 40 minutes.[54] The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) attempted to arrange a ceasefire, but Syria declined to co-operate unless Israeli agricultural work was halted.[55]

Speaking to a Mapai party meeting in Jerusalem on 11 May Prime Minister of Israel Levi Eshkol warned that Israel would not hesitate to use air power on the scale of 7 April in response to continued border terrorism and on the same day Israeli envoy Gideon Rafael presented a letter to the president of the Security Council warning that Israel would "act in self-defense as circumstances warrant".[56] Writing from Tel Aviv on 12 May, James Feron reported that some Israeli leaders had decided to use force against Syria "of considerable strength but of short duration and limited in area" and quoted "one qualified observer" who "said it was highly unlikely that Egypt (then officially called United Arab Republic), Syria's closest ally in the Arab world, would enter the hostilities unless the Israeli attack were extensive".[57] In early May the Israeli cabinet authorized a limited strike against Syria, but Rabin's renewed demand for a large-scale strike to discredit or topple the Ba'ath regime was opposed by Eshkol.[58] BBC journalist Jeremy Bowen reports:

The toughest threat was reported by the news agency United Press International (UPI) on 12 May: 'A high Israeli source said today that Israel would take limited military action designed to topple the Damascus army regime if Syrian terrorists continue sabotage raids inside Israel. Military observers said such an offensive would fall short of all-out war but would be mounted to deliver a telling blow against the Syrian government.' In the West as well as the Arab world the immediate assumption was that the unnamed source was Rabin and that he was serious. In fact, it was Brigadier-General Aharon Yariv, the head of military intelligence, and the story was overwritten. Yariv mentioned 'an all-out invasion of Syria and conquest of Damascus' but only as the most extreme of a range of possibilities. But the damage had been done. Tension was so high that most people, and not just the Arabs, assumed that something much bigger than usual was being planned against Syria.[59][60]

Border incidents multiplied and numerous Arab leaders, both political and military, called for an end to Israeli reprisals. Egypt, then already trying to seize a central position in the Arab world under Nasser, accompanied these declarations with plans to re-militarize the Sinai. Syria shared these views, although it didn't prepare for an immediate invasion. The Soviet Union actively backed the military needs of the Arab states. It was later revealed that on 13 May a Soviet intelligence report given by Soviet President Nikolai Podgorny to Egyptian Vice President Anwar Sadat claimed falsely that Israeli troops were massing along the Syrian border.[61][62] In May 1967, Hafez al-Assad, then Syria's Defense Minister declared: "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, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation."[63]

Removal of U.N. peacekeepers from Egypt

At 10:00 p.m. on 16 May, the commander of United Nations Emergency Force, General Indar Jit Rikhye, was handed a letter from General Mohammed Fawzy, Chief of Staff of the United Arab Republic, reading: "To your information, I gave my instructions to all U.A.R. armed forces to be ready for action against Israel, the moment it might carry out any aggressive action against any Arab country. Due to these instructions our troops are already concentrated in Sinai on our eastern border. For the sake of complete security of all U.N. troops which install OPs along our borders, I request that you issue your orders to withdraw all these troops immediately." Rikhye said he would report to the Secretary-General for instructions.[64]

The UN Secretary-General U Thant attempted to negotiate with the Egyptian government, but on May 18 the Egyptian Foreign Minister informed nations with troops in UNEF that the UNEF mission in Egypt and the Gaza Strip had been terminated and that they must leave immediately, and Egyptian forces prevented UNEF troops from entering their posts. The Governments of India and Yugoslavia decided to withdraw their troops from UNEF, regardless of the decision of U Thant. While this was taking place, U Thant suggested that UNEF be redeployed to the Israeli side of the border, but Israel refused, arguing that UNEF contingents from countries hostile to Israel would be more likely to impede an Israeli response to Egyptian aggression than to stop that aggression in the first place.[65] The Permanent Representative of Egypt then informed U Thant that the Egyptian government had decided to terminate UNEF's presence in the Sinai and the Gaza Strip, and requested steps that the force withdraw as soon as possible. On May 19 the UNEF commander was given the order to withdraw.[66][67] Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser then began the re-militarization of the Sinai, and concentrated tanks and troops on the border with Israel.[68]

The withdrawal of UNEF was to be spaced over a period of some weeks. The troops were to be withdrawn by air and by sea from Port Said. The withdrawal plan envisaged that the last personnel of UNEF would leave the area on 30 June 1967. On the morning of 27 May, Egypt demanded that the Canadian contingent be evacuated within 48 hours "on grounds of the attitude adopted by the Government of Canada in connection with UNEF and the United Arab Republic Government's request for its withdrawal, and "to prevent any probable reaction from the people of the United Arab Republic against the Canadian Forces in UNEF."" The withdrawal of the Canadian contingent was accelerated and completed on 31 May, with the effect that UNEF was left without its logistics and air support components. In the war itself 15 members of the remaining force were killed and the rest evacuated through Israel [69]

Yitzhak Rabin, who served as the Chief of the General Staff for Israel during the war stated: "I do not believe that Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent into Sinai on May 14 would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it." Menachem Begin stated that "The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches did not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him." [70] Former Chief of Staff of the armed forces, Haim Bar-Lev (a deputy chief during the war) had stated: "the entrance of the Egyptians into Sinai was not a casus belli." Major General Mattityahu Peled, the Chief of Logistics for the Armed Forces during the war, claimed the survival argument was "a bluff which was born and developed only after the war... ..."When we spoke of the war in the General Staff, we talked of the political ramifications if we didn't go to war —what would happen to Israel in the next 25 years. Never of survival today." [71] Peled also stated that "To pretend that the Egyptian forces massed on our frontiers were in a position to threaten the existence of Israel constitutes an insult not only to the intelligence of anyone capable of analyzing this sort of situation, but above all an insult to the Zahal (Israeli military)[72]

The Straits of Tiran

In the spring of 1967, the Soviet Union fed the Syrian government false information that Israel was planning to invade Syria; Syrian officials informed the Egyptian government.[73] On May 22, Egypt responded by announcing, in addition to the UN withdrawal,[73] that the Straits of Tiran would be closed to "all ships flying Israeli flags or carrying strategic materials", with effect from May 23.[74]

The rights of Egypt regarding the Straits of Tiran had been debated at the General Assembly pursuant to Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai following the Suez Crisis. A number of states, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States argued that the Straits were international waters, and, as such, all vessels had the right of "free and unhampered passage" through them. India, however, argued that Egypt was entitled to require foreign ships to obtain its consent before seeking access to the gulf because its territorial sea covered the Strait of Tiran. It too recognized the right of "innocent passage" through such waters, but argued it was up to the coastal State to decide which passage was "innocent".[1] Nasser stated, "Under no circumstances can we permit the Israeli flag to pass through the Gulf of Aqaba." Most of Israel's commerce used Mediterranean ports, and, according to John Quigley, no Israeli-flag vessel had used the port of Eilat for the two years preceding June 1967. There were ambiguities, however, about how rigorous the blockade would be, particularly whether it would apply to non-Israeli flag vessels. Citing international law, Israel considered the closure of the straits to be illegal, and it had stated it would consider such a blockade a casus belli in 1957 when it withdrew from the Sinai and Gaza.[75] Egypt stated that the Gulf of Aqaba had always been a national inland waterway subject to the sovereignty of the only three legitimate littoral States — Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt — who had the right to bar enemy vessels. The representative of the United Arab Republic further stated that "Israel's claim to have a port on the Gulf was considered invalid, as Israel was alleged to have occupied several miles of coastline on the Gulfline, including Umm Rashrash, in violation of Security Council resolutions of 1948 and the Egyptian-Israel General Armistice Agreement." [76]

The Arab states disputed Israel's right of passage through the Straits, noting they had not signed the Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone specifically because of article 16(4) which provided Israel with that right.[77] To note, state practice and customary international law that ships of all states have a right of innocent passage through territorial seas.[78][79] That Egypt had consistently granted passage as a matter of state practice until then suggests that its opinio juris in that regard was consistent with practice.[80] As well, during the Egyptian occupation of the Saudi islands of Sanafir and Tiran in 1950, it provided assurances to the US that the military occupation would not be used to prevent free passage, and that Egypt recognizes that such free passage is "in conformity with the international practice and the recognized principles of international law.".[81] In 1949 the International Court of Justice held in the Corfu Channel Case (United Kingdom v. Albania) that where a strait was overlapped by a territorial sea foreign ships, including warships, had unsuspendable right of innocent passage through such straits used for international navigation between parts of the high seas, but express provision for innocent passage through straits within the territorial sea of a foreign state was not codified until the 1958 Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone.[78][79][82]

In the UN General Assembly debates after the war, the Arab states and their supporters argued that even if international law gave Israel the right of passage, Israel was not entitled to attack Egypt to assert it because the closure was not an "armed attack" as defined by Article 51 of the UN Charter. Pursuant to this point, international law professor John Quigley argues that under the doctrine of proportionality, Israel would only be entitled to use such force as would be necessary to secure its right of passage.[83] Others disagreed: after the 1956 campaign in which Israel conquered Sharm el-Sheike and opened the blocked Straits, it was forced to withdraw and return the territory to Egypt. At the time, members of the international community pledged that Israel would never again be denied use of the Straits of Tiran. The French representative to the UN, for example, announced that an attempt to interfere with free shipping in the Straits would be against international law, and American President Dwight Eisenhower went so far as publicly to recognize that reimposing a blockade in the Straits of Tiran would be seen as an aggressive act which would oblige Israel to protect its maritime rights in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter.[84] United Nations Secretary-General U Thant also went to Cairo to help negotiate an agreement to avoid conflict, but after the closing of the Straits of Tiran, Israeli Foreign Minister, Abba Eban, contended this was enough to start the war. Eban said, "From May the 24th onward, the question who started the war or who fired the first shot became momentously irrelevant. There is no difference in civil law between murdering a man by slow strangulation or killing him by a shot in the head... From the moment at which the blockade was posed, active hostilities had commenced, and Israel owed Egypt nothing of her charger rights." [85] Contrary to this view in a letter written to the New York Times in June 1967 lawyer Roger Fisher argued that

The United Arab Republic had a good legal case for restricting traffic through the Strait of Tiran. First it is debatable whether international law confers any right of innocent passage through such a waterway.... {Secondly]... a right of innocent passage is not a right of free passage for any cargo at any time. In the words of the Convention on the Territorial Sea: 'Passage is innocent so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order, or security of the coastal state... taking the facts as they were I, as an international lawyer, would rather defend before the International Court of Justice the legality of the U.A.R's action in closing the Strait of Tiran than to argue the other side of the case...[86]

Israel viewed the closure of the straits with some alarm and the U.S. and UK were asked to open the Straits of Tiran, as they guaranteed they would in 1957. Harold Wilson's proposal of an international maritime force to quell the crisis was adopted by President Johnson, but received little support, with only Britain and the Netherlands offering to contribute ships.

Yitzhak Rabin reported that the cabinet was deadlocked over the issue of the blockade.[87] Interior Minister Moshe Haim Shapira in particular had pointed out that the Straits had been closed from 1951 to 1956 without the situation endangering Israel's security.[88]

In a 30 March 1968 Ma’ariv interview Defense Minister Moshe Dayan explained: "What do you mean, [the war was] unavoidable? It was, of course, possible to avoid the war if the Straits [of Tiran] had stayed closed to Israeli shipping.[89]

Egypt and Jordan

During May and June the Israeli government had worked hard to keep Jordan out of any war; it was concerned about being attacked on multiple fronts, and did not want to have to deal with the Palestinian population of the West Bank. However, Jordan's King Hussein got caught up in the wave of pan-Arab nationalism preceding the war;[17] and so, on May 30, Jordan signed a mutual defense treaty with Egypt, thereby joining the military alliance already in place between Egypt and Syria. The move surprised both Egyptians and foreign observers, because President Nasser had generally been at odds with Hussein, calling him an "imperialist lackey" just days earlier.[90] Nasser said that any differences between him and Hussein were erased "in one moment" and declared: "Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight."[90]

At the end of May 1967, Jordanian forces were given to the command of an Egyptian general, Abdul Munim Riad.[91] On the same day, Nasser proclaimed: "The armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria 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 action and not of more declarations."[92] Israel called upon Jordan numerous times to refrain from hostilities. According to Mutawi, Hussein was caught on the horns of a galling dilemma: allow Jordan to be dragged into war and face the brunt of the Israeli response, or remain neutral and risk full-scale insurrection among his own people. Army Commander-in-Chief General Sharif Zaid Ben Shaker warned in a press conference that "If Jordan does not join the war a civil war will erupt in Jordan".[93] However, according to Avi Shlaim, Hussein's actions were prompted by his feelings of Arab nationalism.[17]

On June 3, days before the war, Egypt flew to Amman two battalions of commandos tasked with infiltrating Israel's borders and engaging in attacks and bombings so as to draw IDF into a Jordanian front and ease the pressure on the Egyptians. Soviet-made artillery and Egyptian military supplies and crews were also flown to Jordan.[94]

Israel's own sense of concern regarding Jordan's future role originated in Jordanian control of the West Bank. This put Arab forces just 17 kilometers from Israel's coast, a jump-off point from which a well-coordinated tank assault would likely cut Israel in two within half an hour.[94] Hussein had doubled the size of Jordan's army in the last decade and had US training and arms delivered as recently as early 1967, and it was feared that it could be used by other Arab states as staging grounds for operations against Israel; thus, attack from the West Bank was always viewed by the Israeli leadership as a threat to Israel's existence.[94] At the same time several other Arab states not bordering Israel, including Iraq, Sudan, Kuwait and Algeria, began mobilizing their armed forces.

The drift to war

In his speech to Arab trade unionists on May 26, Nasser announced: "If Israel embarks on an aggression against Syria or Egypt, the battle against Israel will be a general one and not confined to one spot on the Syrian or Egyptian borders. The battle will be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel."[95][96]

Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban wrote in his autobiography that he found "Nasser's assurance that he did not plan an armed attack" convincing, adding that "Nasser did not want war; he wanted victory without war".[97][98] Writing from Egypt on 4 June 1967 New York Times journalist James Reston observed: "Cairo does not want war and it is certainly not ready for war. But it has already accepted the possibility, even the likelihood, of war, as if it had lost control of the situation."[99]

Writing in 2002, American National Public Radio journalist Mike Shuster expressed a view that was prevalent in Israel before the war that the country "was surrounded by Arab states dedicated to its eradication. Egypt was ruled by Gamal Abdel Nasser, a firebrand nationalist whose army was the strongest in the Arab Middle East. Syria was governed by the radical Baathist Party, constantly issuing threats to push Israel into the sea."[73] With what Israel saw as provocative acts by Nasser, including the blockade of the Straits and the mobilization of forces in the Sinai, creating military and economic pressure, and the United States temporizing because of its entanglement in the Vietnam War, Israel's political and military elite came to feel that preemption was not merely militarily preferable, but transformative.

Diplomacy and intelligence assessments

The Israeli cabinet met on 23 May and decided to launch an attack if the Straits of Tiran were not re-opened by 25 May. Following an approach from United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Eugene Rostow to allow time for the negotiation of a nonviolent solution Israel agreed to a delay of ten days to two weeks.[100] UN Secretary General, U Thant, visited Cairo for mediation and recommended moratorium in the Straits of Tiran and a renewed diplomatic effort to solve the crisis. Egypt agreed and Israel rejected these proposals. Nasser's concessions did not necessarily suggest that he was making a concerted effort to avoid war. The decision benefited him both politically and strategically. Agreeing to diplomacy helped garner international political support. Moreover every delay gave Egypt time to complete its own military preparations and coordinate with the other Arabs forces. Also, Israel's rejection did not necessarily demonstrate a desire for war so much as it demonstrated the urgency it felt the situation warranted. Israel felt it could not afford to sustain total mobilization for long.[101]

The U.S. also tried to mediate, and Nasser agreed to send his vice-president to Washington to explore a diplomatic settlement. The meeting did not happen because Israel launched its offensive. Some analysts suggest that Nasser took actions aimed at reaping political gains, which he knew carried a high risk of precipitating military hostilities. Nasser's willingness to take such risks was based on his fundamental underestimation of Israel's capacity for independent and effective military action.[101]

On 25 May 1967, Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban landed in Washington “with instructions to discuss American plans to re-open the Strait of Tiran” As soon as he arrived, he was given new instructions in a cable from the Israeli government. The cable said that Israel had learned of an imminent Egyptian attack, which overshadowed the blockade. No longer was he to emphasize the strait issue; he was instructed to ‘inform the highest authorities of this new threat and to request an official statement from the United States that an attack on Israel would be viewed as an attack on the United States.” Despite his own skepticism, Eban followed his instructions during his first meeting with Secretary Rusk, Under Secretary Rostow, and Assistant Secretary Lucius Battle. American intelligence experts spent the night analyzing each of the Israeli claims.[102] On May 26, Eban met with United States Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, and finally with President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Americans said their intelligence sources could not corroborate the Israeli claim; the Egyptian positions in the Sinai remained defensive. Eban left the White House distraught. According to most sources, including those involved, the new instructions were sent at the instigation of Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, who was eager to force an American decision; either Johnson would have to commit to specific American action then, or Israel would be free to act on its own.[102]

Historian Michael Oren explains his reaction: "Eban was livid. Unconvinced that Nasser was either determined or even able to attack, he now saw Israelis inflating the Egyptian threat - and flaunting their weakness - in order to extract a pledge that the President, Congress-bound, could never make. 'An act of momentous irresponsibility... eccentric...' were his words for the cable, which, he wrote, 'lacked wisdom, veracity and tactical understanding. Nothing was right about it'."[103] In a lecture given in 2002, Oren said, "Johnson sat around with his advisors and said, ‘What if their intelligence sources are better than ours?’ Johnson decided to fire off a Hotline message to his counterpart in the Kremlin, Alexey Kosygin, in which he said, ‘We've heard from the Israelis, but we can't corroborate it, that your proxies in the Middle East, the Egyptians, plan to launch an attack against Israel in the next 48 hours. If you don't want to start a global crisis, prevent them from doing that.’ At 2:30 a.m. on 27 May, Soviet Ambassador to Egypt Dimitri Pojidaev knocked on Nasser's door and read him a personal letter from Kosygin in which he said, ‘We don't want Egypt to be blamed for starting a war in the Middle East. If you launch that attack, we cannot support you.’ `Amer consulted his sources in the Kremlin, and they corroborated the substance of Kosygin's message. Despondent, Amer told the commander of Egypt's air force, Major General Mahmud Sidqi, that the operation was cancelled."[104] According to then Egyptian Vice-President Hussein el-Shafei, as soon as Nasser knew what Amer planned, he cancelled the operation.[105]

On 30 May, Nasser responded to Johnson's request of 11 days earlier and agreed to send his Vice President, Zakkariya Muhieddin, to Washington on 7 June to explore a diplomatic settlement in "precisely the opening the White House had sought".[106] Secretary of State Rusk was bitterly disappointed that Israel attacked on 5 June, as he thought he might have been able to find a diplomatic solution if the meeting had gone ahead.[107] Historian Michael Oren writes that Rusk was "mad as hell" and that Johnson later wrote "I have never concealed my regret that Israel decided to move when it did".[108]

Within Israel's political leadership, it was decided that if the US would not act, and if the UN could not act, then Israel would have to act. On 1 June, Moshe Dayan was made Israeli Defense Minister, and on 3 June the Johnson administration gave an ambiguous statement; Israel continued to prepare for war. Israel's attack against Egypt on June 5 began what would later be dubbed the Six-Day War. According to Martin van Creveld, the IDF pressed for war: "...the concept of 'defensible borders' was not even part of the IDFs own vocabulary. Anyone who will look for it in the military literature of the time will do so in vain. Instead, Israel's commanders based their thought on the 1948 war and, especially, their 1956 triumph over the Egyptians in which, from then Chief of Staff Dayan down, they had gained their spurs. When the 1967 crisis broke they felt certain of their ability to win a 'decisive, quick and elegant' victory, as one of their number, General Haim Bar Lev, put it, and pressed the government to start the war as soon as possible".[109] Some of Israel's political leaders, however, hoped for a diplomatic solution.[73]

The combatant armies

On the eve of the war, Egypt massed approximately 100,000 of its 160,000 troops in the Sinai, including all of its seven divisions (four infantry, two armored and one mechanized), as well as four independent infantry and four independent armored brigades. No less than a third of them were veterans of Egypt's intervention into the Yemen Civil War and another third were reservists. These forces had 950 tanks, 1,100 APCs and more than 1,000 artillery pieces.[110] At the same time some Egyptian troops (15,000 - 20,000) were still fighting in Yemen.[111][112][113][114] Nasser's ambivalence about his goals and objectives was reflected in his orders to the military. The general staff changed the operational plan four times in May 1967, each change requiring the redeployment of troops, with the inevitable toll on both men and vehicles. Towards the end of May, Nasser finally forbade the general staff from proceeding with the Qahir ("Victory") plan, which called for a light infantry screen in the forward fortifications with the bulk of the forces held back to conduct a massive counterattack against the main Israeli advance when identified, and ordered a forward defense of the Sinai.[115] In the meantime, he continued to take actions intended to increase the level of mobilization of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, in order to bring pressure on Israel.

Syria's army had a total strength of 75,000.[116] Jordan's army had 55,000 troops,[117] including 300 tanks, 250 of which were US M48 Patton, sizable amounts of M113 APCs, a new battalion of mechanized infantry, and a paratrooper battalion trained in the new US-built school. They also had 12 battalions of artillery and six batteries of 81 mm and 120 mm mortars.[94]

Documents captured by the Israelis from various Jordanian command posts record orders from the end of May for the Hashemite Brigade to capture Ramot Burj Bir Mai'in in a night raid, codenamed "Operation Khaled". The aim was to establish a bridgehead together with positions in Latrun for an armored capture of Lod and Ramle. The "go" codeword was Sa'ek and end was Nasser. The Jordanians also planned for the capture of Motza and Sha'alvim in the strategic Jerusalem Corridor. Motza was tasked to Infantry Brigade 27 camped near Ma'ale Adummim: "The reserve brigade will commence a nighttime infiltration onto Motza, will destroy it to the foundation, and won't leave a remnant or refugee from among its 800 residents".[94]

100 Iraqi tanks and an infantry division were readied near the Jordanian border. Two squadrons of fighter-aircraft, Hawker Hunters and MiG 21 respectively, were rebased adjacent to the Jordanian border.[94]

The Israeli army had a total strength, including reservists, of 264,000, though this number could not be sustained, as the reservists were vital to civilian life.[118] James Reston, writing in the New York Times on 23 May 1967 noted, "In discipline, training, morale, equipment and general competence his [Nasser's] army and the other Arab forces, without the direct assistance of the Soviet Union, are no match for the Israelis... Even with 50,000 troops and the best of his generals and air force in Yemen, he has not been able to work his way in that small and primitive country, and even his effort to help the Congo rebels was a flop."[119]

On the evening of June 1, Israeli minister of defense Moshe Dayan called Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin and the GOC, Southern Command Brigadier General Yeshayahu Gavish to present plans against Egypt. Rabin had formulated a plan in which Southern Command would fight its way to the Gaza Strip and then hold the territory and its people hostage until Egypt agreed to reopen the Straits of Tiran; while Gavish had a more comprehensive plan that called for the destruction of Egyptian forces in the Sinai. Rabin favored Gavish's plan, which was then endorsed by Dayan with the caution that a simultaneous offensive against Syria should be avoided.[120]

On 2 June, Jordan called up all reserve officers, and the West Bank commander met with community leaders in Ramallah to request assistance and cooperation for his troops during the war, assuring them that "in 3 days we'll be in Tel-Aviv".[94]


1. a b It was twenty minutes after the capture of the Western Wall that David Rubinger shot his "signature" photograph of three Israeli paratroopers gazing in wonder up at the wall [Kaniuk, Yoram. "June 10, 1967 - Israeli paratroopers reach the Western Wall". The Digital Journalist. Retrieved 2008-12-02. ]. As part of the terms for his access to the front lines, Rubinger handed the negatives to the Israeli government, who then distributed this image widely. Although he was displeased with the violation of his copyright, the widespread use of his photo made it famous [Silver, Eric (February 16, 2006). "David Rubinger in the picture". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-12-02. ], and it is now considered a defining image of the conflict and one of the best-known in the history of Israel [Urquhart, Conal (May 6, 2007). "Six days in June". The Observer. Retrieved 2008-12-02. ]

2. Geoffrey Regan, p.211

3. Regan, p.211

4. a b George Gawrych, [The Albatross of Desicive Victory p.3

5. Arab - Israeli Aircraft Losses

6. a b El Gammasy The October War, 1973 p.79

7. Krauthammer, Charles (2007-05-18). "Prelude to the Six Days". The Washington Post: pp. A23. ISSN 0740-5421. Retrieved 2008-06-20.

8. Expelled the U.N. force:

* "In 1967, Egypt ordered the UN troops out and blocked Israeli shipping routes - adding to already high levels of tension between Israel and its neighbours." "Israel and the Palestinians in depth, 1967: Six Day War", BBC website. URL accessed December 28, 2008.

* "Buoyed by the almost universal Arab acclaim he received for his actions, Nasser expelled the UNEF forces and announced the closing of the Straits of Tiran" Robert Owen Freedman. World Politics and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Pergamon Press, 1979, p. 79.

* "The Israeli attack ended a nerve-wracking three weeks of waiting... begun when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser expelled the United Nations peacekeepers from the Gaza Strip and the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, blockaded the nearby Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships, and deployed his massive army along the Israeli border." Dan Perry, Alfred Ironside. Israel and the Quest for Permanence, McFarland, 1999, p. 18.

* "Soon after Nasser expelled UN forces from the Sinai, Secretary of State Dean Rusk directed State Department officials in Washington, New York, and Moscow to urge the Soviets to restrain their Arab friends." Nigel John Ashton. Cold War in the Middle East: Regional Conflict and the Superpowers 1967-73, Routledge, 2007, p. 18.

* "Nasser... closed the Gulf of Aqaba to shipping, cutting off Israel from its primary oil supplies. He told U.N. peacekeepers in the Sinai Peninsula to leave. He then sent scores of tanks and hundreds of troops into the Sinai closer to Israel. The Arab world was delirious with support," "The Mideast: A Century of Conflict Part 4: The 1967 Six Day War", NPR morning edition, October 3, 2002. URL accessed December 28, 2008.

* "...a Middle East crisis erupted on May 16, 1967, when Nasser expelled the UN troops that had policed the Sinai since the end of the Suez-Sinai War in 1957." Peter L. Hahn. Crisis and Crossfire: The United States and the Middle East Since 1945, Potomac Books, 2005 , p.50.

* "In May, 1967 President Nasser expelled UNEF from Egypt and set in train the events that precipitated Israel's blitzkrieg invasion and conquest of the Sinai." J. L. Granatstein. Canadian Foreign Policy: Historical Readings, Copp Clark Pitman, 1986, p. 236.

9. a b c d Oren, Michael. "The Six-Day War", in Bar-On, Mordechai. Never-Ending Conflict: Israeli Military History, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006, ISBN 0275981584, p. 135.

10. Pimlott, John. Middle East Conflicts: From 1945 to the Present, Orbis, 1983, ISBN 085613547X, p. 53.


* "In 1967, Egypt ordered the UN troops out and blocked Israeli shipping routes - adding to already high levels of tension between Israel and its neighbours." Israel and the Palestinians in depth, 1967: Six Day War, BBC website. URL accessed May 14, 2006.

* "In June 1967, Egypt, Syria and Jordan massed their troops on Israel's borders in preparation for an all-out attack." "Mideast 101: The Six Day War", CNN website. URL accessed May 14, 2006.

* "Nasser... closed the Gulf of Aqaba to shipping, cutting off Israel from its primary oil supplies. He told U.N. peacekeepers in the Sinai Peninsula to leave. He then sent scores of tanks and hundreds of troops into the Sinai closer to Israel. The Arab world was delirious with support," The Mideast: A Century of Conflict Part 4: The 1967 Six Day War, NPR morning edition, October 3, 2002. URL accessed May 14, 2006.

* "War returned in 1967, when Egypt, Syria and Jordan massed forces to challenge Israel." "Country Briefings: Israel", The Economist website. URL accessed March 3, 2007.

* "After Israel declared its statehood in 1948, several Arab states and Palestinian groups immediately attacked Israel. After a long and bitter war, they were driven back. In 1956 Israel overran Egypt in the Suez-Sinai War. Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser vowed to avenge Arab losses and press the cause of Palestinian nationalism. To this end, he organized an alliance of Arab states surrounding Israel and mobilized for war." "Six-Day War", Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2007. URL accessed April 10, 2007.

12. Ben-Gurion Diary: May-June 1967 Israel Studies - Volume 4, Number 2, Fall 1999, pp. 199-220

13. Pre-emptive strike on June 5, 1967:

* "...Israel launched a pre-emptive strike against Egyptian planes as they stood on the airfields. These events triggered the so-called June war of 1967, but the pre-emptive action of Israel was not condemned by the S.C. - or indeed by the G.A. There appeared to be a general feeling, certainly shared by the Western states, that taken in the context this was a lawful use of anticipatory self-defence, and that for Israel to have waited any longer could well have been fatal to her survival." Antonio Cassese. The Current Legal Regulation of the Use of Force: Current Legal Regulation Vol10, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1986, p. 443. ISBN 9024732476

* "War was inevitable under these conditions. Israel, seeing war as inevitable, decided on a pre-emptive strike, launching its attack on 5 June 1967." Erik Goldstein. Wars and Peace Treaties, 1816–1991, Routledge, 1992, p. 127. ISBN 0415078229

* "In 1967 Israel was aware of an impending attack by Egypt, to be assisted by Jordan, Iraq and Syria, and won a brilliant and total victory in only six days (consequently the fighting is known as the 'Six-Day War'), largely because they launched a pre-emptive attack on the Arab air forces..." David Roberston. The Routledge Dictionary of Politics, Routledge, 2003, p. 22. ISBN 0415323770

* "On 30 May 1967 Jordan joined the Syrian-Egyptian military pact. Despite US attempts to mediate, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike just days later which destroyed the unprepared Egyptian air force..." Martin S. Alexander. Knowing Your Friends: Intelligence Inside Alliances and Coalitions from 1914 to the Cold War, Routledge, 1998, p. 246. ISBN 0714648795

* "On 5 June 1967 Israel attacked Egyptian positions in a pre-emptive strike." Sören Zibrandt von Dosenrode-Lynge, Soren Von Dosenrode, Anders Stubkjaer. The European Union and the Middle East, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002, p. 56. ISBN 0826460887

* "In the end Israel launched a preemptive aerial attack, in which most of the Egyptian airforce was destroyed on the ground within the first three hours of the war, and in six days the war was over." Avner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb, Columbia University Press, 1999, p. 276. ISBN 0231104839

* "In a pre-emptive attack on Egypt..." "Israel and the Palestinians in depth, 1967: Six Day War", BBC website. URL accessed May 14, 2006.

* "a massive pre-emptive strike on Egypt." "BBC on this day", BBC website. URL accessed May 14, 2006.

* "Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on June 5" "Mideast 101: The Six Day War", CNN website. URL accessed May 14, 2006.

* "Most historians now agree that although Israel struck first, this pre-emptive strike was defensive in nature." "The Mideast: A Century of Conflict Part 4: The 1967 Six Day War", NPR morning edition, October 3, 2002. URL accessed May 14, 2006.

* "a massive preemptive strike by Israel that crippled the Arabs’ air capacity." SIX-DAY WAR, Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. © 2006 World Almanac Education Group via The History Channel website, 2006, URL accessed February 17, 2007.

* "In a pre-emptive strike, Israel smashed its enemies’ forces in just six days..." Country Briefings: Israel, The Economist website, July 28, 2005. URL accessed March 15, 2007.

* "Yet pre-emptive strikes can often be justified even if they don't meet the letter of the law. At the start of the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel, fearing that Egypt was aiming to destroy the Jewish state, devastated Egypt's air force before its pilots had scrambled their jets." "Strike First, Explain Yourself Later," Michael Elliott, Time, July 1, 2002. URL accessed March 15, 2007.

* "the situation was similar to the crisis that preceded the 1967 Six Day war, when Israel took preemptive military action." "Delay with Diplomacy", Marguerite Johnson, Time, May 18, 1981. URL accessed March 15, 2007.

* "Israel made a preemptive attack against a threatened Arab invasion..." "Six-Day War", Encarta Answers, URL accessed April 10, 2007.

* "Israel preempted the invasion with its own attack on June 5, 1967." "Six-Day War", Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2007. URL accessed April 10, 2007.

* "Following the Israeli conventional pre-emptive operations in June 1967,..." Aronson, Shlomo. "Israel's Nuclear Programme, the Six Day War and Its Ramifications", in Karsh, Efraim. Israel: The First Hundred Years, Routledge, 1999, p. 83. ISBN 0714649627

* "Israel, seeing war as inevitable, decided on a pre-emptive strike, launching its attack on 5 June 1967." Goldstein, Erik. Wars and Peace Treaties, Routledge, 1992, p. 127. ISBN 0415078229

* "Thus provoked, the Israelis attacked preemptively and, in what came to be known as the Six-Day War, routed Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian troops..." Cohen, Warren I. The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations Volume IV, Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 193. ISBN 0521483816

* "As Egypt, Syria and Jordan mobilized their forces in spring 1967 for an evident impending attack, Israel launched a preemptive strike." CNN In-Depth Specials: Mid-East, Land of Conflict, Six-Day War, CNN, Website. Accessed January 7, 2007.

* "Are there good examples of preemptive or preventive war—that is, ones that were proper to fight? Taking the most promising of the two categories—preemption—only one actual case seems clearly right: the Israeli attack on Egypt and Syria in June 1967." Betts, Richard K. "Striking First: A History of Thankfully Lost Opportunities", Ethics and International Affairs, Volume 17, No. 1 (Spring 2003).

* "While he and I agree that World War I and the Six Day War are preemptive, we code six cases differently." Reiter, Dan. "Exploding the Powder Keg Myth: Preemptive Wars Almost Never Happen", International Security, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Autumn, 1995), pp. 5–34.

* "Ironically, when the timing, character and success of Israel's pre-emptive strike surprised the Soviets and obviated their planned intervention, it also put a damper on the festive occasion..." Ginor, Isabella. "The Cold War's Longest Cover-up: How and Why the USSR Instigated the 1967 War", Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal, Volume 7, No. 3 (September 2003).

* "It was also the primacy of Security interests over moral rectitude that prompted Israel, in the opening blow of the 1967 Six-Day War, to preemptively attack Egypt's warplanes on their bases." Brown, Seyom. International Relations in a Changing Global System, Westview Press, 1996, p. 138, footnote 6. ISBN 0813323533

* "Israel attacked preemptively, destroying the Egyptian and Syrian air forces on the ground, and went to win a decisive victory in six days." Dershowitz, Alan M. Preemtion: A Knife That Cuts Both Ways. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006. p. 81.

14. De Gaulle, Memoirs of Hope, Renewal and Endeavor, p. 266., "Don’t make war. You will be considered the aggressor by the world and by me." .

* "After the discovery of the true facts about Israel's aggression, Israel invoked two arguments to justify its launching the war. Its first argument was that it acted by way of a preventative strike which, in its view, is equivalent to self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter. Such argument has no basis in fact or in law. In fact, Israel, as we have seen, created the crisis and attacked its neighbours. In fact, Israel, as we have seen, created the crisis and attacked its neighbors. In law, the Charter recognizes the right of self-defence against an armed attack, but not a pre-emptive strike in advance of any attack. None of the Arab States had attacked or threatened to attack Israel and as D.P. O'Connell observes, the invasion of a neighbouring country's territory is not an exercise of the right of self-defence. Henry Cattan, The Palestine Question, p. 106 Pre-emptive strike by Israel:

* "I, as an international lawyer, would rather defend before the International Court of Justice the legality of the UAR's action in closing the Strait of Tiran than to argue the other side of the case, and I would certainly rather do so than to defend the legality of the preventive war which Israel launched this week." (Roger Fisher, The New York Times, June 11, 1967

* "Even if Israel had expected Egypt to attack, it is not clear a preemptive strike is lawful. The UN Charter, Article 51, characterizes armed force as defensive only if it is used in response to an "armed attack." Most states consider this language to mean that a preemptive strike is unlawful. India, for one, asserted in General Assembly discussion of the June 1967 hostilities that preemptive self-defense is not permitted under international law. Most authorities agree with that view, though some say force may be used in anticipation of an attack that has not yet occurred but is reasonably expected to occur imminently. Israel did not face such a situation." (John B. Quigley The Case for Palestine: An International Law Perspective)

* Israel's then-Prime Minister, Moshe Sharett, wrote in his memoirs that the Israeli leadership's military strategy aimed at preventing the emergence of any genuine Arab military force capable of confronting Zionist schemes, noting that for this to succeed Israel would have to fight at least one war every decade against the Arabs. In other words, the Israelis were preparing for the 1967 War a decade in advance, putting together the military apparatus and rallying the political support they needed, while the Arabs -- both leaders and nations -- were busy searching for a project, an identity, and a place under the sun. Al-Ahram Weekly Online, 21 - 27 June 2007, Galal Nassar

* "Nasser had no intention of striking first and the Israeli generals were confident of victory... For the Israeli hawks, the crisis was less a threat than an opportunity - to smash Nasserish Egypt and the Pan-Arab movement while Israel still had military superiority." Hinnebusch, Raymond. The International Politics of the Middle East. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003. p. 169.

* “Johnson told Eban that it was the unanimous view of his military experts that there was no sign that the Egyptians were planning to attack Israel…” (Shlaim, Avi. Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. London: Penguin Books, 2000. p. 239)

* “[When meeting with Eban,] Johnson asked Robert McNamara to summarize the findings of US intelligence agencies. McNamara said that the best judgment in Washington was that an Egyptian attack was not imminent: if this assessment was wrong and Egypt did attack, the view in Washington was that Israel would easily prevail” (Bailey, Sydney. Four Arab-Israeli Wars and the Peace Process. London: Macmillan, 1990. p. 211)

15. a b "On June 5, Israel sent a message to Hussein urging him not to open fire. Despite shelling into western Jerusalem, Netanya, and the outskirts of Tel Aviv, Israel did nothing." The Six Day War and Its Enduring Legacy, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, July 2, 2002.

16. "Israel promised Jordan that if they did not attack Israel first, Israel would not touch Jordanian positions. After asking for 24 hours to think about it, Jordanian troops opened a heavy-artillery barrage on western Jerusalem, as well as targeting the center of the country. In addition, Jordanian troops seized government houses and the headquarters of the U.N. in Jerusalem." 1967-Six Day War, URL accessed May 14, 2006.

17. a b c "In May-June 1967 Eshkol's government did everything in its power to confine the confrontation to the Egyptian front. Eshkol and his colleagues took into account the possibility of some fighting on the Syrian front. But they wanted to avoid having a clash with Jordan and the inevitable complications of having to deal with the predominantly Palestinian population of the West Bank. The fighting on the eastern front was initiated by Jordan, not by Israel. King Hussein got carried along by a powerful current of Arab nationalism. On 30 May he flew to Cairo and signed a defense pact with Nasser. On 5 June, Jordan started shelling the Israeli side in Jerusalem. This could have been interpreted either as a salvo to uphold Jordanian honor or as a declaration of war. Eshkol decided to give King Hussein the benefit of the doubt. Through General Odd Bull, the Norwegian commander of UNTSO, he sent the following message the morning of 5 June: 'We shall not initiate any action whatsoever against Jordan. However, should Jordan open hostilities, we shall react with all our might, and the king will have to bear the full responsibility of the consequences.' King Hussein told General Bull that it was too late; the die was cast." Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World, W. W. Norton & Company, 2000, ISBN 0393048160, pp. 243–244.

18. Eisenhower and Israel: U.S.-Israeli Relations, 1953–1960, Isaac Alteras, University Press of Florida, 1993, ISBN 0813012058, page 246

19. A Restless Mind: Essays in Honor of Amos Perlmutter, Amos Perlmutter, Benjamin Frankel, Routledge, 1996, ISBN 0714646075, Michael Brecher Essay, page 104-117

20. Sachar, Howard M. A History of Israel from the Rise of Zionism to Our Time. New York. 2007. p. 503-505. ISBN 978-0-375-71132-9

21. A Restless Mind, Perlmutter, page 106

22. Sachar, Howard M. A History of Israel from the Rise of Zionism to Our Time. New York. 2007. p. 504. ISBN 978-0-375-71132-9

23. "Israel (country)". Encarta Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 18 2007.

24. Rabil, 2003, pp. 17–18.

25. The Six-day War: A Retrospective, by Richard Bordeaux Parker, University Press of Florida, 1996, ISBN 0813013836, page 1

26. Modern Tunisia: A Democratic Apprenticeship, by Andrew Borowiec, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998, page 33.

27. Murakami, Masahiro (1995) Managing Water for Peace in the Middle East: Alternative Strategies

28. Koboril and Glantz, 1998, pp. 129–131.

29. Michael Oren, The Revelations of 1967: New Research on the Six Day War and Its Lessons for the Contemporary Middle East,Israel studies, volume 10, number 2

30. Bowen, 2003, pp. 23–30.

31. Oren, 2002, pp. 33–36.

32. Prittie, 1969, pp. 245.

33. Bowen, 2003, p. 26 (citing Amman Cables 1456, 1457, 11 December 1966, National Security Files (Country File: Middle East), LBJ Library (Austin, Texas), Box 146).

34. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson, Washington, November 15, 1966. Retrieved 22 October 2005.

35. United Nations Security Council Resolution 228

36. 'King Husain orders nation-wide military service', The Times, Monday, 21 November 1966; pg. 8; Issue 56794; col D.

37. Oren, 2002, page 127

38. The Six-day War: A Retrospective, by Richard Bordeaux Parker, University Press of Florida, 1996, ISBN 0813013836, page 6

39. see Arab Politics, Palestinian Nationalism and the Six Day War, By Moshe Shemesh, Sussex Academic Press, 2008, ISBN 1845191889, Page 117

40. [ Israel – A History chapter 21: Nasser's Challenge]

41. Hajjar, Sami G. The Israel-Syria Track, Middle East Policy, Volume VI, February 1999, Number 3. Retrieved 30 September 2006.

42. United Nations Yearbook, 1966

43. Hajjar, Sami G. The Israel-Syria Track, Middle East Policy, Volume VI, February 1999, Number 3. Retrieved 7 October 2009.

44. E.L.M. Burns, Between Arab and Israeli, London, 1962, p114. Burns was the head of UNSTO. He says: "The Israelis claimed sovereignty over the territory covered by the DMZ……They then proceeded, as opportunity offered, to encroach on the specific restrictions, and so eventually to free themselves, on various pretexts, from all of them…………The Israelis in fact exercised almost complete control over the major portion of the DMZ through their frontier police in the area. This was directly contrary to Article V of the General armistice Agreement..."

45. Israeli-Syrian General Armistice Agreement, July 20, 1949.

46. General's Words Shed a New Light on the Golan, The New York Times, 11 May 1997

47. The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World, By Avi Shlaim, Published by W. W. Norton & Company, 2001, ISBN 0393321126, pages 235-236

48. Yearbook of the United Nations, 1967

49. Eyal Zisser, June 1967: Israel's capture of the Golan Heights, Israel Studies, Vol 7, 168-194.


51. Rikhye, 1980, p. 143 (author interview).

52. 'Intentions of Syria Crucial: Mr. Eban surveys Israel's hopes and anxieties', The Times, Thursday, 23 February 1967; pg. 4; Issue 56873; col A.

53. Aloni, 2001, p. 31.

54. Bowen, 2003, pp. 30–31 citing PRO/FCO 17/474: Report of ground/air action on Israeli/Syrian border on 7 April 1967, from Defence and Military Attaché's office, Tel Aviv, 11 April 1967; also PRO/FCO 17/473: Syria/Israel, account of incident from Eastern Department; attack on Sqoufiye reported by UNTSO PRO/FCO 17/473, 10 April 1967.

55. 'Jets and tanks in fierce clash by Israel and Syria', The Times, Saturday, 8 April 1967; pg. 1; Issue 56910; col A.

56. 'Warning by Israelis Stresses Air Power', New York Times, 12 May 1967, p. 38.

57. 'Israelis Ponder Blow at Syrians: Some Leaders Decide That Force Is the Only Way to Curtail Terrorism', New York Times, 13 May 1967, p. 1.

58. Oren, 2002, p. 51.

59. Bowen, 2003, pp. 32–33.

60. Nicholas Herbert, Egyptian Forces On Full Alert: Ready to fight for Syria. The Times, Wednesday, May 17, 1967; pg. 1; Issue 56943; col E.

61. Bregman, 2002, pp. 68–69.

62. Black, 1992, p. 210.

63. Bard, 2002, p. 196.

64. Rikhye, 1980, pp. 16–19.

65. Oren, 2002, p. 72

66. "First United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF I) - Background"

67. BBC On this Day, 1967: Israel launches attack on Egypt. Retrieved 8 October 2005.

68. Lorch, Netanel. "The Arab-Israeli Wars". Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 2007-03-04.


70. both men cited in One Land, Two Peoples, by Deborah J. Gerner, # Westview Press, 1994, ISBN 0813321808, Page 112

71. see: Was the War Necessary?

72. The Terrorist Conjunction: The United States, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and Al-Qaida, By Alfred G. Gerteiny, and Jean Ziegler, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007, ISBN 0275996433, page 142

73. a b c d e f Part 4: The 1967 Six Day War. Retrieved December 28, 2008.

74. 'Egypt Closes Gulf Of Aqaba To Israel Ships: Defiant move by Nasser raises Middle East tension', The Times, Tuesday, May 23, 1967; pg. 1; Issue 56948; col A.

75. Statement to the General Assembly by Foreign Minister Meir, 1 March 1957. Accessed October 13, 2008.

76. United Nations Yearbook, 1967

77. Christie, 1999, p. 104.

78. a b The Corfu Channel Case (Merits), International Court of Justice, ICJ Reports, 1949, pp. 28–29

79. a b O'Brien, John, 2001, International Law, p. 407.

80. Sandler & Emad, 1993, Protecting the Gulf of Aqaba: A Regional Environmental Challenge, p. 65.

81. Aide-memoire from Egypt to the United States regarding Passage through the Straits of Tiran, 28 January 1950.

82. Boczek, 2005, p. 311.

83. Quigley, 1990, pp. 166–167.

84. Bregman, Ahron. Israel's Wars, 1947–1993, Florence, KY, USA: Routledge, 2000. p 47.

85. "Year In Review 1967,"

86. Fisher, Roger letter to the New York Times, 9 June, 1967 quoted in Finkelstein, 2003, p. 138.

87. The Rabin Memoirs, By Yitzhak Rabin, Published by University of California Press, 1996, ISBN 0520207661, page 91

88. The Rabin Memoirs, By Yitzhak Rabin, Published by University of California Press, 1996, ISBN 0520207661, page 80

89. "The other Israel", Edited by Arie Bober, Doubleday Anchor, 1972, ISBN 0385014678, page 81

90. a b BBC On this Day, Egypt and Jordan unite against Israel. Retrieved 8 October 2005.

91. Mutawi, 2002, p. 16.

92. Leibler, Isi (1972). The Case For Israel. Australia: The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, p. 60.

93. quoted in Mutawi, 2002, p. 102.

94. a b c d e f g Segev, Samuel (1967). A Red Sheet: the Six Day War, pp. 82, 175-191.

95. Statement by President Nasser to Arab Trade Unionists, Jewish Virtual Library, accessed 13 March 2007.

96. Seale, 1988, p.131 citing Stephens, 1971, p. 479.

97. Eban, 1977, p. 360.

98. Rubenberg, 1989 pp. 107–110.

99. Reston, James 'The Issue in Cairo: Israel a U.S. "Base"', New York Times, 5 June 1967, p. 1.

100. Gelpi, 2002, p. 143.


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