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War Of June 1967 Between Israel And Arabia History Essay

The Six-Day War of June 1967 between Israel and the combined forces of the Arab States - Egypt, Jordan and Syria, caused the nature and perceptions of the Arab-Israeli conflict to alter dramatically. There are many reasons one can determine for the failure of Israel and its Arab neighbours to agree to a lasting peace settlement in the aftermath of the 1967 War and to this day the conflict comprises of critical disputes which arguably could have been resolved when the apparent opportunity for peace appeared after the Six Day War. Finkelstein considers that ‘The June 1967 War marked a decisive crossroads in the history of the modern Middle East.’ [1] Historians and political commentators alike have endlessly discussed the many perspectives of the post-1967 War situation and the subsequent political permutations to the conflict as a whole. In order to comprehend the complexity of the nature of the political jockeying during this period it is important to consider the build-up to and the nature of the War along with these general political factors which were born out of the War: those which left the Arab leaders in a state of intransigency and those which determined Israel’s willingness to withdraw from new territory only in return for concessions from Arab leaders. The conclusion of the war left Israel in a position of military and territorial superiority as the territory Israel had gained; the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights left them with all the land with which the international community had originally proposed to shape a two-state solution from for the Jews and the Palestinian Arabs. There were many new considerations for both the Israelis and the leaders of the Arab states due to the outcome of the war and the genuine diplomatic efforts and the subsequent rejections of them can be explained using many examples of previous international agreements; for example the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the 1920 San Remo Conference and the United Nations Partition of 1947/8. The 1967 war was an outcome of the unwillingness of the Arab world to accept the State of Israel and the diplomatic failures thereafter represented this historic disagreement combined with other barriers.

The 1967 War is generally viewed to have been commenced by a pre-emptive strike on the part of Israel. They knew that the outcome of the war would be crucial to the survival of the State of Israel at the time. There are many considered causes for the start of the war - the most widely accepted to have been the most crucial to the onset of war was President Nasser of Egypt’s decision to close the straights of Tiran. This was regarded as an act of war by the Israeli government as it was argued by Israel after the 1956 Suez Canal crisis that international law stipulated that any blockade of the Straights by Egypt would be deemed as illegal.  Nasser declared the Straits closed to Israeli shipping on May 22nd. With Egyptian troops massed in the Sinai Peninsula, the Israeli government ultimately made the decision to strike pre-emptively on 4th June, effectively beginning the war. ‘Operation Focus’ was launched on 5th June - a strike against the Egyptian Air force on the ground. Historians of the Arab-Israeli conflict consider this operation to have been decisive, and one which won the war for Israel. ‘This was the most crucial stage of the war. If the air strike succeeded, Israel would control the skies – tantamount to victory in a desert war.’ [2] Mordechai Hod, the then Commander in Chief of the Air Force had been preparing his pilots for the possibility of war for many years, and with this specific operation in mind knew that if they were to control the skies, then their ground forces would also have superiority over their enemies. Therefore leading up to the 1967 War, meticulous planning was carried out and information on the minute details of the Egyptian Air Forces behaviour was gathered. ‘The times they went out on patrol; their routines; when they were back at base; the position they parked their planes; and even the time the pilots took a break and had their meals.’ [3] Israeli planes flew undetected in order to complete the mission by surprise. “They had flown very low and had come from unexpected directions.” [4] This implementation of stealth tactics as well as the gathering of important information meant that the war had been effectively won on the first day, leaving the Egyptian and subsequently the other Arab state’s Air Forces shocked and depleted. In addition, fighting had ended on all fronts four days after the start of the war. It was the strategic nature of this early defeat which contributed to the unwillingness of many of the Arab States to cooperate fully in the peace efforts.

Nasser wanted to prove to his fellow Arabs he was the most radical Middle-East leader and the champion of the Pan-Arabism of the period.

In the aftermath of the war, the Arab states and Israel continued to disagree about how to commence the peace negotiations. The Arabs demanded as a precondition for peace discussions that Israel withdrew from the territory it had captured during the 1967 War, whilst the Israelis argued that full peace agreements would need to be negotiated with all the Arab States individually if they were to withdraw from any territory – a condition which seemed feasible at the time. ‘Given the magnitude of their victory in the 1967 War, some Israelis seemed to expect right afterwards that the Arabs would have no option but to sue for peace.’ [5] In light of the relative ease in which Israel won the war, one would be forgiven for thinking this, however many obstacles stood in the way. It is worth noting that Israel had not entered the war with any territorial aims, the only perceived outcome was the security and defence of the Jewish state. Therefore, the government understandably were willing to take the initiative and put forward an offer, ‘Israel would withdraw from Arab land it had just occupied during the war if the Arabs in return would recognise Israel and sign a lasting peace treaty with it.’ [6] After unifying Jerusalem, the Israeli government indicated their readiness to withdraw from all of the other land they had captured, in return for lasting peace treaties with their Arab neighbours – ‘Land for Peace’. This display of magnanimity is unusual to associate with a victor of a war in which they had gained territory, however assurance of security was the driving force. Israel put forward separate offers to Egypt – to return the Sinai Peninsula provided it was demilitarized, and to Syria – withdrawal to the previous international border agreed in 1922 provided the Golan Heights were demilitarized. Arguably the greatest opportunity to secure a peace settlement in the conflict had been lost as the offer was subsequently rejected by Egyptian and Syrian leaders, who were not yet in a state of mind to make a rational compromise. [7] 

There was optimism that a peace deal could be negotiated between Israel and the Arab states despite the apparent refusal on the part of all the Arab States to conciliate and take part in direct negotiations with Israel. One must also be aware that the fundamental task of coming to an agreement in any political agenda was extremely complex because of the schism in Arab opinion. The hard-line Arab states argued that the Jewish state would only be forced to relinquish the land it had gained during the war by military means – essentially rejecting any political negotiation. The split in the diplomatic aims of the Arab leaders is accentuated by section three of the Khartoum Resolution – weeks of diplomatic talks resulted in its passing; ‘No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiation with the Jewish State.’ [8] Analysts of the more moderate Arab leaders have outlined the apparent split, ‘Others however, particularly Hussein of Jordan and Nasser of Egypt, called for a more realistic approach.’ [9] Nasser was willing to make peace but without direct negotiations, a term which Israel insisted upon. Therefore the mediation attempts to follow were necessary. Arguably any succeeding peace talks would not bear fruition due to the continued Arab stubbornness to reach a common agreement. Abba Eban, the then Israeli Foreign Minister concluded that ‘every door and window that might have lead to a peace settlement in the foreseeable future’ had been closed in Khartoum. [10] International efforts to ensure peace in the region followed despite the failure of negotiations between the Israelis and the Arabs to advance beyond squabbles over preconditions.

The belief from within the International community was that a secured peace settlement was the only way in which future hostilities between the Arab and Jewish states could be prevented. The armistice agreements in 1949 for example, which had ended the 1948 War of Independence, had not resulted in any lasting form of peace - therefore it was clear that a solution to the Middle-East crisis was high up on the political agenda of the United Nations even before the 1967 War broke out. In any situation, an international attempt to negotiate a peace deal between the two sides would be no easy task: The Arab-Israeli differences highlighted in the war’s aftermath would not suddenly disappear when the issue was challenged by international leaders. The Arab’s and the Soviet’s insistence that Israel withdraw from all captured territory before any possibility of peace talks, was rejected by Israel and the United States. The previous offers to withdraw from captured territory in return for the promise of security and peace talks were reaffirmed and transmitted by President Johnson and subsequently rejected.

The 242 Resolution adopted by the UN Security Council on November 22nd 1967 has been the general framework all Arab Israeli diplomacy since its drafting. It envisioned the Arab’s demands and for a lasting peace settlement in the region along the lines of the Israeli’s withdrawal of captured territory. The resolution calls for the establishment of a lasting peace agreement with the application of two main principles: Israeli withdrawal ‘from territories occupied’ in 1967 and ‘the termination of all claims or states of belligerency.’ [11] It is significant that the Resolution gives no explicit outline of the process of a peace negotiation and as a Chapter VI resolution, the terms are considered to be recommendations and not legally binding as negotiations were required between the two sides. [12] The fact that it was another twelve years before Egypt and Israel formally agreed a peace settlement in 1979 highlights these two inadequacies of the Resolution. Furthermore, there are additional respective reasons why neither side wholeheartedly agreed to the Resolution. The Arab perspective was that the Resolution gave no condemnation of the Israeli occupation of the captured territories and neither did it define the occupation of them as ‘illegal’. It also failed to resolve problem of Palestinian refugees; ‘the Arab regimes were still reluctant to promise full peace and recognition for Israel unless and until the Palestinians were satisfied.’ [13] As no ‘right of return’ was alluded to this proved to be another stumbling block to international attempts to secure peace in the region. Israel viewed the Resolution’s notes on withdrawal of territory as non-obligatory as it left little possibility of the quid pro quo being received – therefore as the nature of the Resolution left the possibility of future peace in the hands of the Arab and Israeli leaders who were not to meet in face-to-face negotiations, Israel accepted the Resolution, but would not give up its defensive aims.

Despite the UN Security Council Resolution 242 being seen as a reference point for future diplomacy in the region, such as Resolution 338 and the 1978 Camp David Accords, it did not deal with the problem of the Palestinian Arabs. The omission of the prospect of finding a solution was one of the key reasons why the Arab states did not engage in peace talks with the Israelis in 1967, and today the ‘Arab-Israeli’ conflict is ongoing and is widely considered to hinge majorly on the separate ‘Palestinian-Israeli’ conflict. This significant fragment of the conflict existed before the 1967 War - since the creation of the State of Israel – and will continue to have chief influence on Arab and Israeli political policy. The exasperation the conflict as a whole. The emerging Palestine Liberation Organisation, established in 1964, which had been given a mandate by the Arab states to act on the behalf of the Palestinian refugees. 

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