Israel Record


Arab-Israeli Conflicts

Before the Creation of the State of Israel
The War of Independence

The 1956 Sinai Campaign
The 1967 War
After the 1967 War
The 1973 Yom Kippur War
The Israeli-Egyptian Peace
The Lebanon War
The West Bank and Gaza


Israel Record Contents

Seal of State of Israel

THE 1967 WAR

In May 1967, Egypt and Syria took a number of steps which led Israel to believe that an Arab attack was imminent. On May 16, Nasser ordered a withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Forces (UNEF) stationed on the Egyptian-Israeli border, thus removing the international buffer between Egypt and Israel which had existed since 1957. On May 22, Egypt announced a blockade of all goods bound to and from Israel through the Straits of Tiran. Israel had held since 1957 that another Egyptian blockade of the Tiran Straits would justify Israeli military action to maintain free access to the port of Eilat. Syria increased border clashes with Israel along the Golan Heights and mobilized its troops.

The U.S. feared a major Arab-Israeli and superpower confrontation and asked Israel to delay military action pending a diplomatic resolution of the crisis. On May 23, 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., however, gained little support in the international community for its idea of a maritime force that would compel Egypt to open the waterway and it abandoned its diplomatic efforts in this regard. On May 30, President Nasser and King Hussein signed a mutual defense pact, followed on June 4 by a defense pact between Cairo and Baghdad. Also that week, Arab states began mobilizing their troops. Against this backdrop, Nasser and other Egyptian leaders intensified their anti-Israel rhetoric and repeatedly called for a war of total destruction against Israel.

Arab mobilization compelled Israel to mobilize its troops, 80 percent of which were reserve civilians. Israel feared slow economic strangulation because long-term mobilization of such a majority of the society meant that the Israeli economy and polity would be brought to a virtual standstill. Militarily, Israeli leaders feared the consequences of absorbing an Arab first strike against its civilian population, many of whom lived only miles from Arab-controlled territory. Incendiary Arab rhetoric threatening Israel's annihilation terrified Israeli society and contributed to the pressures to go to war.

Against this background, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike against Egypt on June 5, 1967 and captured the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. Despite an Israeli appeal to Jordan to stay out of the conflict, Jordan attacked Israel and lost control of the West Bank and the eastern sector of Jerusalem. Israel went on to capture the Golan Heights from Syria. The war ended on June 10.

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