The Six-Day War

Provoked by an Egyptian military buildup, Israel fights back.

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Israel is Forced to Respond

Israeli History QuizAs Nasser had foreseen, Israel was forced to respond: the threat of annihilation could not be ignored. Accepting the closure of the Straits would have been interpreted as a sign of weakness and capitulation to Egyptian aggression; the economic strain of prolonged mobilization and the psychological effect of suspense and fear would have been unbear­able. After a "waiting period," requested by United States President Lyndon Johnson who wished to reach a peaceful resolution of the conflict, a "national unity" government was formed in Israel on June 1.

Bolstered by the support of world Jewry and the sympathy voiced by western public opinion, Israel attacked on the morning of June 5. Six days later, at the cost of 676 lives and over 3000 wounded, the Arab coalition formed against Israel was routed. The Israeli army occupied Egyptian Sinai, the Syrian Golan, the Jordanian West Bank, and Arab Jerusalem. The Egyp­tian and the Syrian governments accepted a cease‑fire agreement and U.N. observers were posted along the Suez Canal and on the Golan Heights. Nasser announced his resignation, but withdrew it in the face of mass demonstrations demanding his return. In his resignation speech he made clear the part the Soviets played in bringing on the war.

A Turning Point

In the brief history of the State of Israel, the Six‑Day War constitutes amajor turning point. This swift and total victory saved the Zionist entity from destruction, ensured its physical existence, and disillusioned those of her enemies who had hoped that the Jewish State was just a passing phenomenon. On the other hand, these densely‑populated territories regarded as "liberated" by some Israelis and as "occupied" by others, created a whole series of insurmountable problems--political, social, economic, moral and religious--unresolved to this day. The future of the State of Israel, its character and its place among nations, now depends on their solution.

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Eli Barnavi is the Director of the Morris Curiel Center for International Studies and a Professor of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University