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Six Day War (Essay Sample)


Causes and impacts of the Six Day War

Six Day War
The causes of the Six Day War can be traced back to the establishment of Israel as a nation in a region historically known to be Palestine. The declaration of Israel as independent on May 14, 1948, ushered in a new phase of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Smith reports that, prior to the creation of Israel, the nature of conflict between Arabs and Israelis took the form of a conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Zionism (n.p.). However, after the conclusion of the first war, the formation of Israel and the armistice agreements on the Syrian, Egyptian and Jordanian fronts created a new dimension to the relationship between the various nations. The enmity between Israel and Egypt deepened in 1956 when, together with France and Britain, Israel invaded the Sinai. This was in response to Nassir’s decision to national Suez Canal. Two principal arrangements emerged after the conclusion of the Suez War. First, the United Nations Emergency Force was established along the border between Israel and Egypt, but stationed in Egyptian territory only. Second, the Egyptians approved the free passage of Israeli ships to Israeli port of Eilat through the Straits of Tiran.
A crisis erupted in the upshot of the Syrian-Israeli clashes which occurred in April 1967 when the then Soviet Union and Syria reported to Egypt on mobilization of Israelis to attack Syria. Nasser made a vow to aid Syria and took a series of steps which served to escalate the situation. On May 14, 1967, he mobilized Egyptian troops in Sinai. On May 16, he requested the withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force and on May 22, he declared that the Straits of Tiran were closed to Israeli shipping (Yossef 5). On June 5, 1967, Israel waged war in reaction to the apparent threat by Egypt, overcoming the armies of Jordan, Syria and Egypt. Consequently, they occupied the Golan Heights, the Sinai, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Almost half a century later the consequences of this war and occupation still dog the Middle East.
There have been two major views concerning what caused the Six-Day War. One was that it was a conspiracy and the other that it was an inadvertent war. Based on the reviewed evidence, this paper advances the view that the war was the result of the Egyptian leaders’ miscalculation on how the crisis was developing on the one hand, and the delicate coordination between the United States and Israel on the other. The paper also argues that there was a deliberate effort by the Soviet Union and Syria to drag Egypt into the crisis for their own sake.
The conspiracy explanation holds that the Six Day War started as a result of a conspiracy by the United States and Israel to overthrow the government of Nasser. This conspiracy can be traced back to Nasser himself. According to Oren, Nasser implied that they were being attacked by the United States and Britain in a conversation with King Hussein of Jordan (226). This could be because of the special relationship that Israel enjoyed with the United States and the fact that the United States President advised Nasser to exercise restraint. This Israeli-US conspiracy is paralleled by another one which holds that the war was caused by premeditated Egyptian and Soviet strategies (Ginor 5; Gat 34).
Another view is that the war is a case of “inadvertent war.” In other words, it arose out of misperception or miscalculation or both since none of the actors had an intention of making war at the beginning of the crisis. As opposed to the conspiracy explanation, this is the view that seems to be popular outside the Arab world. According to Charles Yost, “no government plotted or intended to start a war in the Middle East in the spring of 1967” (319). Janice Stein, on the other hand, argues that either Nasser provoked a war owing to his misreading of Egyptian capabilities or he misconstrued the mobilized Israeli Defense Forces’ defensive posture as offensive (67).
Even though the starting point of a crisis cannot be identified with certainty, it can, nevertheless, be said that the Soviet Union’s warning to Egypt about Israel mobilizing on the Syrian border in readiness to attack instigated the crisis. A similar report had been passed by the Syrians to Nasser earlier. This information, however, proved to be untrue. According to sources found by Ahron Bregman, this information was released by the Soviet Union because “the USSR wanted to create another trouble spot for the United States…the aim was to create a situation in which the US would become seriously involved economically, politically and even militarily, and would suffer serious political reserves as a result of siding with the Israelis against Arabs” (106). This corresponds with the view that the report was meant to illicit action by Egyptians that would trigger an Israeli strike. Consequently, the Soviet would interne militarily against the aggressor.
According to the “inadvertent war” view, actions by Palestine and Egypt provoked Israel to war. The Israelis waged war defensively as a way of deterring an existing threat. As put by Brecher, “a component of the commonly shared attitudinal prism between Israeli leaders was the Holocaust Syndrome, the fear that Israel’s survival was threatened” (qtd. in Oren 135). However, there are indications that it was indeed the Israelis who deliberately provoked the situation on the Syrian front.
Conduct of the War
The war started on 5 June Monday morning with a carefully planned and extremely well coordinated preemptive attack on Egyptian aircraft and airfield by the Israeli Air force. 10 airfields were simultaneously struck by the first wave of forty aircrafts at 07:45. A major part of Egyptian Air Force was on the ground during this opening attack. Only four unarmed aircrafts were airborne when the strike by the Israeli started (Oren 45). There are various reasons why 07:45 was chosen as the time for attack. During this time, the state of alert of the Egyptians was past its peak because the morning dawn patrols had been finished and the majority of the ground crew and pilots were having their breakfast. Again, by making it the initial strike time, Israeli pilots had ample sleeping time, which was necessary for dawn raid. This time of the year was also characterized by heavy morning mist over the Nile. The timing also meant that many Egyptian military officers and commanders would be on their way to work.
The objective of the strike was to ensure that the runways were rendered unusable and to destroy as many MIG-21 aircrafts as could be possible. Destroying these MIG-21 meant that the Israelis could destroy Egypt’s long-range bomber force that were a major threat to the population in Israel. Only these aircrafts could prevent the Israelis from achieving this goal. The cripples the Egyptians as a fighting force in 170 minutes, then turned to Syria, Jordan and Iraq. All possibilities of chal...
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