Last updated on: 3/13/2012 12:23:51 PM PST

What Was the 1967 "Six Day" War?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Middle East Research and Information Project wrote in an article published on its website titled "The June 1967 War" (accessed Mar. 7, 2012):

"In the spring of 1967, the Soviet Union misinformed the Syrian government that Israeli forces were massing in northern Israel to attack Syria. There was no such Israeli mobilization. But clashes between Israel and Syria had been escalating for about a year, and Israeli leaders had publicly declared that it might be necessary to bring down the Syrian regime if it failed to end Palestinian commando attacks against Israel from Syrian territory.

Responding to a Syrian request for assistance, in May 1967 Egyptian troops entered the Sinai Peninsula bordering Israel. A few days later, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel-Nasser asked the UN observer forces [United Nations Emergency Forces (UNEF), see map below] stationed between Israel and Egypt to evacuate their positions. The Egyptians then occupied Sharm al-Shaykh at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula and proclaimed a blockade of the Israeli port of Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba, arguing that access to Eilat was through Egyptian territorial waters. These measures shocked and frightened the Israeli public, which believed it was in danger of annihilation.

As the military and diplomatic crisis continued, on June 5, 1967 Israel preemptively attacked Egypt and Syria, destroying their air forces on the ground within a few hours. Jordan joined in the fighting belatedly, and consequently was attacked by Israel as well. The Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian armies were decisively defeated, and Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria.

The 1967 war, which lasted only six days, established Israel as the dominant regional military power. The speed and thoroughness of Israel's victory discredited the Arab regimes. In contrast, the Palestinian national movement emerged as a major actor after 1967 in the form of the political and military groups that made up the Palestine Liberation Organization."

Mar. 7, 2012 - Middle East Research and Information Project 

The Library of Congress US Federal Research Division offered the following in its 1990 Country Studies/Area Handbook on Israel:

"On April 6, 1967, Israeli jet fighters shot down six Syrian planes over the Golan Heights, which led to a further escalation of Israeli-Syrian tensions. The Soviet Union, wanting to involve Egypt as a deterrent to an Israeli initiative against Syria, misinformed Nasser on May 13 that the Israelis were planning to attack Syria on May 17 and that they had already concentrated eleven to thirteen brigades on the Syrian border for this purpose. In response Nasser put his armed forces in a state of maximum alert, sent combat troops into Sinai, notified UN Secretary General U Thant of his decision 'to terminate the existence of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) on United Arab Republic (UAR) soil and in the Gaza Strip,' and announced the closure of the Strait of Tiran...

The actual fighting was over almost before it began; the Israeli Air Corps on June 5 destroyed nearly the entire Egyptian Air Force on the ground. King Hussein of Jordan, misinformed by Nasser about Egyptian losses, authorized Jordanian artillery to fire on Jerusalem. Subsequently, both the Jordanians in the east and the Syrians in the north were quickly defeated.

The June 1967 War was a watershed event in the history of Israel and the Middle East. After only six days of fighting, Israel had radically altered the political map of the region. By June 13, Israeli forces had captured the Golan Heights from Syria, Sinai and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and all of Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan. the new territories more than doubled the size of pre 1967 Israel, placing under Israel's control more than 1 million Palestinian Arabs. In Israel, the ease of the victory, the expansion of the state's territory, and the reuniting of Jerusalem, the holiest place in Judaism, permanently altered political discourse. In the Arab camp, the war significantly weakened Nasserism, and led to the emergence of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the leading representative of the Palestinian people and effective player in Arab politics."

1990 - Country Studies/Area Handbook on Israel (2MB)  
Library of Congress (LOC) Map, based upon information from the CIA World Factbook

Benny Morris, PhD, Professor of History at Ben-Gurion University, in his 2001 book Righteous Victims, wrote:

"On May 16-18 [1967] Egypt abruptly turned an ostentatious display [remilitarizing Sinai] into a deep political-military crisis, by demanding the evacuation of the 3,400 UNEF [United Nations Emergency Forces] troops from Sinai and Gaza. And [U.N.] Secretary-General U Thant unquestioningly accepted Cairo's right to demand the withdrawal: On May 20-21, UNEF withdrew from Sharm ash-Sheikh, and Egyptian troops immediately occupied the site...

Israeli intelligence still believed that Nasser would halt at the brink, and on the morning of May 22 thought it 'unlikely' that he would announce the closure of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. But around noon the same day, Nasser visited the Bir Gafgafa air base in Sinai and declared that Egypt was about to do just that, re-creating the situation that Israel had always regarded as a casus belli [reason for war]...That night, just after midnight, the formal announcement was made...

The main and initial objective of the Israelis was the destruction of the Egyptian army in Sinai. From the first it was understood that the implementation of their plan would be severely circumscribed by limitations of time imposed by the superpowers [U.S. and Soviet Union]. Before June 5 [1967] Foreign Minister Eban estimated that the IDF would have no more than twenty-four to seventy-two hours at its disposal... [T]he [UN] Security Council called for a cease-fire on the evening of June 7 (Israeli time). Egypt and Jordan gave their agreement the following day but Syria accepted only on June 10, the cease-fire taking effect late that afternoon. By then, of course, it was all over...

The most important consequences [of the 1967 war] were in the Middle East itself. The cease-fire found the IDF deployed on the Suez Canal, on the Jordan River, and on the Golan, along the 'line of the tels,' roughly sixteen miles east of the old frontier. All of Sinai (61,000 square kilometers), the Gaza Strip (363 square kilometers), the West Bank, including East Jerusalem (5,700), and the Golan Heights (1,200), were in Israeli hands. The IDF had conquered an area three-and-a-half times larger than Israel itself, as well as more than one million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. In six days the geopolitical balance of the region had been radically subverted -- or, rather, as the war itself had demonstrated, the existing military imbalance had been aggravated."

2001 - Benny Morris, PhD 

Albert Hourani, the late Oxford University historian, in his 1991 book A History of the Arab Peoples, wrote:

"Faced with Israeli retaliation against other Arab states, and with reports (which may have been unfounded) of a coming Israeli attack on Syria, 'Abd al-Nasir asked the United Nations to withdraw the forces which had been stationed on the frontier with Israel since the Suez war of 1956, and when this was done he closed the straits of 'Aqaba to Israeli shipping...

As tension mounted, Jordan and Syria made military agreements with Egypt...

On 5 June Israel attacked Egypt and destroyed its air force; and in the next few days of fighting the Israelis occupied Sinai as far as the Suez Canal, Jerusalem and the Palestinian part of Jordan, and part of southern Syria (the Jawlan or 'Golan Heights'), before a cease-fire agreed on at the United Nations ended the fighting...

The [1967] war was a turning-point in many different ways. The conquest of Jerusalem by the Israeli, and the fact that Muslim and Christian holy places were now under Jewish control, added another dimension to the conflict. The war changed the balance of forces in the Middle East. It was clear that Israel was militarily stronger than any combination of Arab states, and this changed the relationship of each of them with the outside world. What was, rightly or wrongly, regarded as a threat to the existence of Israel aroused sympathy in Europe and America, where memories of the Jewish fate during the Second World War were still strong; and the swift Israeli victory also made Israel more desirable as an ally in American eyes. For the Arab states, and in particular for Egypt, what had happened was in every sense a defeat which showed the limits of their military and political capacity; for the USSR it was also a kind of defeat, but one which made the Russians more resolute to prevent their clients from incurring another defeat of the same magnitude. At a very deep level, the war left its mark on everyone in the world who identified himself as either Jew or Arab, and what had been a local conflict became a worldwide one."

1991 - Albert Hourani 

Michael B. Oren, PhD, Israeli Ambassador to the United States, in an interview with Fouad Ajami and published in his 2003 book Six Days of War, stated the following:

"In addition to Israel's conquest of vast stretches of Arab territory -- much of which remains a source of controversy today -- the 1967 war had several political results that profoundly altered the Middle East. There was... the collapse of secular pan-Arabism and its replacement by Islamic extremist ideas, the rise of Palestinian nationalism, and the acceleration of the Middle East arms race. On the Israeli side, the war inaugurated Israel's strategic partnership with the United States, richly arming the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] with American weaponry and according Washington far-reaching control over Jerusalem's policies. Reunited with its biblical homeland in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), Israel became more 'Jewish,' spawning Messianic nationalist groups such as Gush Emunim, as well as the secular leftist movements that opposed them. In spite of these momentous changes, it is nevertheless too early to pass judgement on the war's final legacy. Whether the West Bank and Gaza will form the basis of an independent Palestinian state, whether Israel will return the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for a full peace treaty, whether Islamic radicalism will sweep the Arab world and trigger another and potentially bloodier Arab-Israeli war -- at that is yet to be seen. Though one can posit that it is always premature to decide the ultimate impact of any historic events -- we are still witnessing the consequences of World War II -- the consequences of the 1967 war to this day remain alarmingly fluid and volatile."

2003 - Michael B. Oren, PhD