The Six Day War – Six Days Changed the Middle East

Apr 20, 2022 | Articles, History, Military/War

More than 50 years ago, a war broke out between Israel and its neighbors. The conflict lasted for only six days. But the effect of the conflict lasts to the present day.

The Six Day War lasted from June 5, 1967, up until June 10, 1967. But things started cooking earlier than that. At the end of 1948, Israel’s Arab neighbors had invaded to try to destroy the new state, and failed. For Israel, just a few years after the Nazi killed six million Jews, the dream of establishing a state in their biblical homeland was becoming a reality.

In 1948, more than 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from Israel. They were never allowed back. For the Arabs, the defeat at the lands of the fledging Israeli state in the late 1940s was a seismic political moment.

So, who started the Six Day War? What happened? And was the war necessary? Let’s see.

Events leading up to the War

The road for the Six Day war was paved long ago. But the tension began going up in the area in 1963. The tension started over the issue of exploiting the waters of the Jordan River and the Kineret Lake. This tension led to an escalation of military clashes initiated by Syria, and to an increase of Palestinian terror attacks against Israel. Arab states, especially Syria, encouraged the terror attacks.

But the main events leading up to the six day war are all steps taken by the Arabs. First, there was the concluding of a Syrian-Egyptian military pact to which Jordan and Iraq later joined. Then, there was the expulsion of the UN Emergency Force from the Sinai Peninsula and the concentration of Egyptian forces there. The last straw was the closure by Egypt of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping.

Before the war, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia moved their forces toward the Israeli border. As a result, Israel mobilized its reserve forces and launched a diplomatic campaign to win international support. They wanted to end the Egyptian blockade of Israeli shipping through the Straits of Tiran.

The diplomatic campaign failed. As a result, Israel launched a pre-emptive aerial strike on June 5, 1967. The war broke out as a reaction to Arab threats and Israel trying to establish as a force in the region. The war ended on June 10, 1967, with an Israel victory.

Conclusion of the War

By June 10, Israel completed the final offensive in the Golan Heights. Ceasefire was signed the next day. During the War, Israel seized power over the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank of the Jordan River, and the Golan Heights.

Israel placed more than one million Arabs under its direct control in the newly captured territories. The country’s strategic depth grew to at least 300 kilometers in the south, 60km in the east, and 20km of rugged terrain in the north. The last one proved useful and strategic in the Yom Kippur War six years later.

Yitzhak Rabin, the appointed Chief of General Staff who oversaw Israel’s victory, spoke about the reasoning three weeks later. He said:

“Our airmen, who struck the enemies’ planes so accurately that no one in the world understands how it was done and people seek technological explanations or secret weapons; our armored troops who beat the enemy even when their equipment was inferior to his; our soldiers in all other branches … who overcame our enemies everywhere, despite the latter’s superior numbers and fortifications—all these revealed not only coolness and courage in the battle but … an understanding that only their personal stand against the greatest dangers would achieve victory for their country and for their families, and that if victory was not theirs the alternative was annihilation”.

Israel lost between 776 and 983 soldiers. More than 4,500 were wounded. Fifteen Israeli soldiers were captured. But Arab casualties were far larger. Egypt lost between 9,800 and 15,000 soldiers, Jordan lost up to 700 soldiers, and between 1,000 and 2,500 Syrians lost their life.

International effect

The Six Day war changed the course of history. It also changed the views from the Western World on the Middle East. Most notably, US began viewing Israel as an indispensable ally and an essential strategic asset after the war. Israel solidified its hold on the occupied territories by ethnically cleansing strategic areas and constructing settlements.

Since the 1960s, the United States are a very strong supporter of Israel. They also promoted good relations between Israel and Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt. The relations between Israel and US are an important factor in the overall policy in the Middle East.

Since 1985, America provides more than $3 billion in grants annually to Israel. Israel is also the largest annual recipient of American aid from 1976 to 2004. Since World War II, Israel received more than $142 billion, not inflation-adjusted money, in different grants and aid.

Quick Facts

  • Israel expanded its territory by 200% as a result of the 1967 war
  • After the war, Israeli soldiers could see Damascus, and they could swim in the Jordan River and the Suez Canal
  • Hundreds of villages in the West Bank were destroyed
  • More than 250,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed, and most of them went to Jordan and Canada
  • US intelligence ship intentionally fired upon and bombed by Israel forces resulted in the death of 34 American sailors. Investigation into the incident has been repeatedly and consistently blocked by US and Israel administration

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Thomas B.