November 27, 2012
Protection of Public Security, Sovereignty and Integrity: The dynamic between regional politics and superpower politics in the origins and outcome of the June 1967 war.
The 1967 Arab-Israeli war, more commonly known as the Six Day War, was a watershed battle for Zionism. With the tensions of the Second World War still looming over the entire world, the Jewish population found themselves desperate to find a land that they could call their own. From the Jewish perspective, Palestine (considered holy land among the Jews) made the most sense as a place to establish a home, however a lot of animosity arose from the prospect on the Arab front. For one, Zionism as a movement was met with a strong opposition from the Arab population of the region, who saw themselves as the rightful occupiers of Palestine. The result was a clash between two peoples over one land, effectively causing the territory to split in two, ideologically, and resulting in a conflict that continues to this day. The animosity that developed was not, however, the sole result of creating a Jewish state in the region of Palestine; for the Arab population, the idea of the creation of a Jewish state at all was disconcerting. The rejection by the Arab states of Israel’s very right to exist has caused a significant amount of conflict in the Middle East . The objectives of Israel and Egypt during the conflict of 1967 was to preserve sovereignty, the Soviet Union and the United States sought to extend their influence within the region to gain strategic advantage in the Cold War.
Within Israel, regional politics surrounded the stress of creating and defending a homeland for the Jews. The Holocaust intensified Zionism and the need for a Jewish state on an international scale, but also gave Israelis a misplaced feeling of vulnerability, as they felt that the country faced a threat of imminent destruction. The reality of the situation was, however, that Israel was much stronger militarily than its enemies . Israelis regard the war of 1967 as a war of self-defense, not a war of conquest or expansion, and felt that they were morally justified because they reacted to the aggression imposed on them by Arab states . Meanwhile, there is a predominant notion that Arabs see themselves as innocent victims of Israeli aggression and expansionist ideals influenced by Western imperialism . Israel’s struggle with a conflicted identity that combined military superiority with an acute sense of vulnerability is key to understanding Israel’s behavior during May and June 1967 . Israel was also split into two national ideologies for going into war: the first was an aggressor ideology, encouraged by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), who consisted of young and ambitious officers who did not care for diplomacy and did not feel that they needed any help in defeating the Arabs . By contrast, the civilian leadership and politicians within Israel were far more cautious than the IDF and sought a more peaceful solution, causing a clash between the offensive and defensive ideologies in the country . Israel’s defense strategy was entirely based around imposing its will on its enemies, and when Egypt closed the country off from the Straints of Tiran, Israel regarded it as a declaration of war by Egypt. The closure of the Straints of Tiran not only imposed on the city of Eilat’s ability to facilitate trade for the country, but oil tankers from Iran could no longer reach them through this route. While the Israeli economy could survive the closure of the Straints, the IDF’s image could not .
On the Egyptian front, President Nasser was being challenged as a leader within the Arab world. Since 1966, Jordanians had been accusing Nasser of hiding behind UN Emergency forces in the Sinai instead of launching an attack on Israel. On May 13th 1967, when the Soviet Union leaked that Israel was...