The formation of the Israeli state in the wake of WWII incited such dramatic and longstanding unrest in the region, any mention of the "Arab-Israeli conflicts" naturally raises the question: which one? While there have been numerous flashpoints in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, none has had quite the intensity, or the long-term impact, of the Six-Day War. This summer conflict forever changed the balance of power in the Middle East, and set up the region for decades of fiery altercations that continued into the 21st century. The battle was fought between Israel and Jordan, Egypt, and Syria from June 5, 1967, to June 10, 1967. It established Israel as the nation state with borders most countries recognize in 2018. And it did all that in just six days.
Any summary of the Six-Day conflict is going to reflect an absolutely dominating victory by Israel over their Arabic neighbors, but that’s only a small part of the story. The history behind the incident, the way in which it was carried out, and the consequences that have unfolded from it, have all combined to make the prospect of peace in the Middle East seem forever out of reach.
The Whole Thing Started Over A False Soviet Report
The Six-Day conflict was catastrophic in terms of ongoing world peace, and it all started because of a false Soviet report some historians believe was a deliberate attempt to “stir the pot.” On May 13, 1967, the Soviets warned the Egyptians that Israel was amassing troops on their border with Syria and were about to launch an attack.
Having already been criticized for his failure to support his allies, Egyptian President Gamal Nasser didn't hesitate to mass his own team and kick out UN peacekeepers, which set the stage for the Six-Day conflict. Some contend the Soviets were intentionally instigating conflict in the Middle East so the United States had another international mess to worry about in the midst of the US and Vietnam's issues.
The Numbers Alone Prove How Devastating A Loss It Was For Arab Nations
Numbers can often paint a stark image of history, and that’s definitely true of the Six-Day conflict. Israel lost about 800 of their troops, whereas Egypt had up to 15,000 casualties and saw thousands of other soldiers captured. Arab armies also lost hundreds of tanks and aircrafts. The Israelis, on the other hand, lost a relatively small portion of their armed forces and a few dozen planes.
The Incident Really Did Last For Just Six Days
With the Egyptians bringing their soldiers to the Israel border — due to a warning from the Soviets — under the assumption there would soon be a strike, Syria began to prepare themselves.
Whether the Israelis truly believed the Egyptian massing of soliders posed a legitimate threat is hotly debated, but they certainly hopped on the opportunity to launch a pre-emptive strike. In the end, air superiority was the only thing Israel needed to win the battles. Using fighter planes, and no bombers, the Israelis launched a June 5 surprise attack against Egyptian airbases, devastating their air force before it left the ground. The Egyptians never recovered from this shock and awe campaign, quickly retreating when a ground invasion followed. The other Arab nations quickly followed suit in retreat, and the whole thing was over in, literally, six days.
The Six-Day Conflict Changed The Face Of Religion In The Middle East
The Six-Day incident didn't just change politics in the Middle East, it actually managed to change how religion was practiced in the region. For Israel, which was initially populated largely by secular Jews, the nearly uncontested victory was seen as a miracle, and a resurgence of “Messianic” Judaism and religious Zionism resulted. Israelis saw themselves as the chosen people, residing in rightful possession of the Holy Land.
Belief in Islam, as well, intensified partly as a result of the Six-Day debacle. A complex combination of other factors went into this resurgence, including increased poverty, the prevalence of extremists, and a clear enemy of a different religion. The overall increase in fundamentalist Islam in the Middle East cannot be blamed entirely on the conflict, but it was certainly a factor.
The Arab World Doesn't Recognize Israel's Territorial Gains
While most of the world — including the US, UK, Japan, and Mexico — recognizes the gains Israel made in those six days as legitimate, as of 2018, their Arab neighbors still do not. These new borders, although recognized by the international community for the most part, are still not the preferred borders for any sort of two-state solution in the area.
Several would-be peacemakers, including Barack Obama, mentioned the “1967 line,” or Green Line, referring to the borders post-1948 and pre-1967, as possible starting points for peace. However, the Israeli government believes the borders they established during those six days are legitimate and want to maintain them.
It Turned A Battle Of Nationalism Into A Full-Blown Conflict
These six days forever transformed the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Previously, the battle was mainly one of two competing nations, each desiring territory and sovereignty. After the six days, however, the conflict became indelibly marked as a holy conflict. The Six-Day conflict was a resounding defeat for Arabic nationalism, and that meant a resurgence in “Islamism,” or the idea of Islamic nationalism and the formation of Islamic states.