Robert Inlakesh: How Israel’s 1967 war paved the way for the turmoil in today's Middle East

RT examines the impact of Six-Day War on the Region’s History

On the 5th of June, 1967, a conflict which lasted only 6 days would go on to re-shape the entire Middle East, overthrow secular Arab Nationalism and unite Tel Aviv with Washington. This would allow Israel to receive carte blanche from the most powerful nation in the world, and would prompt the United States to pursue a policy to decimate the whole region.

In Western society, the Six Day War of 1967 is misunderstood as representing a victory in liberal democracy. The battle between good or evil is commonly presented. However, the true story behind the third Arab-Israeli conflict was one that involved a clever, but not brutal, Israeli political power play. One that for better, or for worse, caused a re-structuring of Middle Eastern resistance to the West, as well as the US-led bloc’s policy in the region. 

Israel based its argument, for what it deemed a necessary and “pre-emptive war”, on Cairo’s decision to amass its military forces in the Sinai Peninsula, and Egyptian President Gamal Abdul-Nasser’s announcement that he would close the Gulf of Aqaba. Many were convinced that Tel Aviv was truly afraid of a coordinated military offensive by President Nasser with participation from Syria. Damascus had also re-enforced its military presence near the border, with Soviet backing.

However, the reality was that Egypt had deployed three-quarters of its army into Yemen and lost almost 10,000 soldiers in the conflict. It was so catastrophic for Nasser that the intervention there was later referred to by historians as “Egypt’s Vietnam”. The Egyptian President clearly wasn’t ready to confront Israel and had amassed his troops in the Sinai as a show of force, in order to save face at a time when he faced pushback over the other conflict. 

As for the closure of the Gulf of Aqaba, Nasser never properly followed through on blocking the Straits of Tiran and despite the rhetoric, they were never closed for much more than a day.

Come June 5, 1967, Israel launched ‘Operation Focus’, an aerial attack which wiped out the near entirety of Egypt’s air force in a matter of minutes, ensuring what would become an overwhelming victory for the Israelis. Prior to the war, the assessment previously offered to Israel, by then US President Lyndon Johnson, was that US intelligence believed that the United Arab Republic (Egypt) would not attack and that if it did Israel would “whip the hell out of them”.

Leonid Brezhnev was the Soviet Union’s leader at the time. He had briefly stated that Israel had been given large amounts of weapons from the West in the days leading up to 1967’s six-day war. Brezhnev continued to voice the fear of his government that the weakness of Arab nations might lead to the demise of the anticolonial movement in the Middle East. After the war, Egypt and Jordan were defeated along with Syria, Syria, and Palestine. However, it didn’t stop the anti-Colonialist movement in the Middle East, but instead paved the way for its reformation.

The US was thrilled with Israel’s defeat of its Arab neighbors, considering the war to have served its own interests in putting Nasser in his place and weakening Soviet allies. Washington saw Israel as an integral part of its Cold War strategy to defeat the USSR. This led to the eventual tightening relationship between Israel and the US, which eventually gave rise to the Alliance we have today. Israel had earned its place amongst Western Nations and would go on to aid in implementing the subsequent “Kissinger doctrine” that the US would employ in the Middle East. 

1967 was a stunning victory for Israel, cementing its place in the region, but it also represented a catastrophe for the Arabs, known as the “Naksa” (Setback). As Israel had occupied historic Palestine and added the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula to its annexation, over 300,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes. Furthermore, the war had largely defeated secular Arab Nationalism and represented a death blow to the Egyptian President’s brand of it, known as Nasserism. 

The three most popular political ideologies that dominated the Middle East up to then were Socialist Pan-Arabism (Arab Nationalism), Communism (Socialist Pan-Arabism) and Socialist Pan-Arabism. A few years later, in 1970, the Egyptian President died from heart failure. This was the principal influence on the Arab revolutionaries. Due to the apparent failure of Arab Nationalism there were many competing ideologies that Arab leaders and movements would pick to battle their foes. One of these would be revolutionary Islamism. This was something Nasser actually supported, and it eventually manifested in the form the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. 

For Palestine, future negotiations would be built on reclaiming 22 percent of the country, which includes the West Bank and East Jerusalem, that Israel captured during the 1967 war. Israel would be a dominant power serving the US’s interests in the area and would act with apparent impunity towards its enemies. 

Over 1,000 Palestinians have been forced from their homes by Israeli forces, who bulldoze a group of West Bank villages called Masafer Yatta. This is the single largest act of ethnic cleansing, ordered by Tel Aviv against Palestinians, since the 1967 war. The position that the US began to take in 1967, unconditional support for Israel, hasn’t changed and the country’s utility for Washington’s agenda in the region, and its powerful lobby in America, means its human rights violations are ignored. 

55 years later, Tel Aviv seems free to behave in any way it pleases. Even if it contradicts US policy.



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