The Arab-Israeli Six Day War

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The Arab-Israeli Six Day War
The Arab-Israeli Six Day War began on the 5th of June 1967, with Israel in the position of being surrounded by extremely hostile forces on 3 sides, outnumbered in troops and weapons, limited in resources, and a significant possibility of annihilation as a nation. Their selected defensive option was an extremely well planned and exactingly executed pre-emptive strike on the air and ground forces of Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. The primary objective was to gain early air superiority, eliminate the air threat against Israeli citizens, and to provide air support to the Israeli ground forces. The accomplishment of the mission by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) was an unprecedented example of an air campaign that literally destroyed critical targets of the hostile air forces. This paper will review the prewar environment in the Middle East, describe the air campaign, and examine the selection process for the war strategy. After the 1956 Sinai campaign, the United States and Russia developed alliances in the region. Both major powers had vested interests in expanding their influence in the area. The United States was concerned that it would lose access to the oil reserves in the region under western control, and aligned with Israel. Russia chose Egypt, feeling it was more in line with its philosophy against western democracy. (Safran, Nadav, Israel, The Embattled Ally, Cambridge MA and London England, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1978, pp 359) Gamal Abdul Nasser, the autocratic President of Egypt, had never lost his hope of someday being the saviorof the Arab world. The Arab countries defeat in 1948 remained an open disgrace that had to be avenged. The predominantly Moslem Arab states simply could not conceive of the idea that the Jews, destined to humiliation in their Koran, could actually possess a sovereign state in the midst of the so-called World of Islam. (Varner, William C., The Friends of Israel: Six Days in June at,) At a meeting in East Jerusalem in 1964, Palestinian Arabs formed the Palestinian Liberation Organization with the express purpose of liquidating Israel. (Cohn-Sherbok, Dan and Dawoud El-alami, The Palestine-Israel Conflict, Oxford England, One World Publications, 2001, pp 54) Meanwhile, Syria used the Golan Heights, which tower 3,000 feet above the Galilee, to shell Israeli farms and villages. Syria attacks grew more frequent in 1965 and 1966, while Nassers rhetoric became increasingly bellicose. (Howard Sachar, A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, NY, Alfred A. Knopf, 1979, pp 616) Israel appealed to the United Nations Security Council for intervention in November of 1966. Unfortunately, the Soviet Union vetoed the resolution, barring the Council from taking diplomatic action. (Parker, Richard B., Ed, The Six-Day War: A Retrospective, Gainesville FL, University Press of Florida, 1996, pp.57-58) This failure of political intervention convinced the Israelis that the prospects of peace were unlikely. Feeling that they had no choice, retaliatory strikes began on April 7, 1967, during which Israeli planes shot down six Syrian MiGs. Soon after this event, the Soviet Union gave Damascus misinformation alleging a massive Israeli military buildup in preparation for an attack. Despite denials by Israel, Syria invoked its defense treaty with Egypt on May 13th. (Netanel Lorch, One Long War, Jerusalem:Keter, 1976, pp 110) The next day Egypt mobilized all their troops, and on the 15th, Israel Independence Day, sent them to the Sinai Peninsula. (15:387) Nasser ordered the UN Emergency Force (UNEF), stationed in the Sinai since 1956, to withdraw on May 16. This force provided actual separation between Egypt and Israel. Without bringing the matter to the attention of the General Assembly, as his predecessor had promised, Secretary-General U Thant complied with the demand....
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