OTD in History… June 10, 1967, The Six Day War ends with Israel victorious
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
OTD in History June 10, 1967, the Six-Day War ends with Israel victorious and tripling their territory capturing the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank and the old city of Jerusalem. Both Israel and the Arab nations involved; Egypt (the United Arab Republic), Jordan, and Syria agreed to a United Nations ceasefire to broker an end of the war. In addition, to the territory, Israel also gained a population of hundreds of thousands of Arabs. Although, it is 51 years later Jerusalem has still not received the universal recognition as the Israeli capital. Only this past year for Israel’s 70th anniversary did the United States President Donald Trump recognize Jerusalem and moved the embassy there in May, followed by Latin American countries Guatemala and Paraguay.
In the first months of 1967, Syria ramped up their civilian bombing attacks against Israelis in the northern kibbutzim, agricultural villages. Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol warned Syria they would retaliate, but they would not listen, and Israel’s attack downed six Syrian MiG fighters, given by Russia. In retaliation, Syria told Egypt, Israel was mobilizing the army on the border, which they were not, and Egypt realized. The response, Egypt moved troops forward into the Sinai and asked the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) to vacate the border, on May 19, the UN did. Three days later on the May 22, Egypt cut off Israel’s shipping access to the Straits of Tiran, an act tantamount to war. On May 30, the Arab alliance of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan and coalition partners Iraq, Kuwait, and Algeria signed a pact, and by June 4, were set for war with 230,00 troops mobilized.
With little help from outside, the Israeli cabinet voted on June 4 to give the Defense Ministry the decision making power to strike. Israel decided on a preemptive defensive strike on June 5, commencing the war with Jordan, Syria, and Iraq joining in the attack on Israel. The surprise attack destroyed Egypt’s air force. Israel was fighting on three fronts, Egypt in the West, Syria in the North and Jordan from the East. Israeli paratroopers took Jerusalem on June 7. On June 8, Israel gained control of the West Bank and also Gaza and the Sinai. By June 10, Israel had garnered the strategic Golan Heights. Although it was a decisive victory, Israel lost 776 soldiers in the six days of fighting.
The most significant of those territorial acquisitions was the Eastern Jerusalem, reunifying the city. Since 1948, when Jordan won Eastern Jerusalem and West Bank, Jews were unable to enter the Old City and visit the holiest of sites the Kotel, Western Wall. Upon gaining control and access, Israeli soldiers wept, prayed and blew the shofar at the Kotel, the first time in 19 years. Israel had control of the Temple Mount, Islam’s holiest site, out of good faith they ceded it to Jordan.
Israel hoped the war could lead to peace and offered the land in exchange for a peace agreement. Three months later on September 1, the Arab nations met in Khartoum, Sudan and gave Israel their answer, establishing “the 3 Nos of Khartoum”: “No peace with Israel, No recognition of Israel, No negotiations with Israel.” Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban, remarked on the irony, “This is the first war in history which has ended with the victors suing for peace and the vanquished calling for unconditional surrender.”
Lorch, Netanel. One Long War. Jerusalem: Keter, 1976.
Oren, Michael. Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. New York: Rosetta Books, 2010.
Sachar, Howard. A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979.