Rosemary Hollis Essay Prize: What were the Causes and Consequences of the War in 1967 for both Israelis and Palestinians? by Nora Saghi

Congratulations to Nora Saghi for winning first place in the undergraduate group of the Rosemary Hollis Essay Prize! We will be sharing all winning entries across the next three weeks, so keep an eye out for these engaging and insightful essays in honour of a colleague who is greatly missed.


This essay will argue that the causes of the War of 1967  were split between long-term reasons; for instance, the UN partition, the War of 1948, and raids; as well as immediate reactionary causes: such as, the Soviet and American reports, powershifts, guerrilla fights, and water blockage, which worked as casus belli. Furthermore, the essay will follow a similar approach whilst investigating the short-term effects: the UN Resolution 242, settlement controversy, Palestine refugees; and long-term consequences: militant movements, the War of 1973, and current events. Whilst focusing on both Israeli and Palestinian angles, the essay will emphasize the role of outer powers, namely the USA and the USSR, and how much the Cold War affected the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. However, as the essay question suggests, though the essay will provide a brief account of the war itself, it will not focus on it as such in detail. Ultimately, this essay argues that the war in 1967 was an additional milestone in deepening the two parallel narratives, which made the Israeli- Palestinian relations more complex and long-lived, therefore the essay will look at the event from the perspective of a wider scale within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Besides, the essay will use dates to refer to wars in order to avoid Israeli and Arab usage of terms, with the aim of a neutral jargon.

Firstly, the War of 1967 took place between 5 and 10 June, amongst Israel and the Arab states of Jordan, Syria and Egypt in 1967. Following the years of diplomatic tensions, and conflicts (as the essay will later further discuss), the Israeli Defense Forces began pre-emptive air attacks on its neighbours’ air forces. Then, Israel launched a successful ground attack, seizing the Gaza Srip from Egypt as well as the Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights from Syria; also, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan. The short, but bloody war concluded with a United Nations-brokered truce, however it drastically changed the landscape of the Middle East, and also sparked further geopolitical tensions.[1] In current affairs it has been told that the conflict is still stemming from the the wars of the past, such as the War of 1967. Indeed, all following events within the Arab-Israeli conflict may be regarded as a reaction to the 1967 War at large, and that is what the essay will focus on, other than examining the causes leading up to the 1967 War, and their echoes in current affairs.

The causes of the War of 1967 stretch back as far as the foundation of Modern Zionism (1897) what is usually regarded as an organized movement founded by Theodor Herzl, though the history of Zionism reaches far back in history.[2] Also, it stretches back to the Balfour Declaration what was a public statement published by the British Government in 1917 within the structure of the First World War. The declaration announced the support for the establishment of “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.[3] Furthermore, the building blocks as causes include the proposition of partition (1947), also known as the United Nations Resolution 181, which was passed by the United Nations General Assembly, calling for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states – where, the city of Jerusalem became a corpus separatum (meaning ‘separate entity’) to be ruled and managed by a unique intercontinental regime.[4] Ultimately, these examples of events acted as primary milestones, which created two separate, competing narratives.

Furthermore, according to James Gelvin, the 1948 War was a significant causing factor to the war that succeeded it due to two major issues. Firstly, its neighbouring Arab states did not recognize Israel as a state, thus economically boycotting them. Secondly, the war created many Palestinian refuges.[5] Moreover, the 1948 War established governments on both sides based on the political elite, military and nationalism, which would reach its peak in the War of 1967. Additionally, the War of 1967 narratives evocated the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. After the 1949 armistice agreement, Israel was left with enemies at all borders, while Palestinians became refugees. Afterwards, Fedayeen raids became regular, which peaked into the Samu Incident (13 November 1966), the ultimate build up to the War of 1967, was Israel’s response. Therefore, Israel was fighting various wars as well as defending their troops from Palestinian guerrilla groups in Jordan. Subsequently, Israel, as a defence mechanism, launched a ground operation; many Jordan and Palestinians were killed and buildings destroyed – this served Palestine as an immediate cause to participate in the war, with the aim of liberating Palestine. Also, a sequence of events starting in 1966 added up to short-term causes, such as the Ba’ath Party power in Syria, which echoed a strong anti-Israeli narrative.[6]

Furthermore, the territory of modern-day Israel has been frequently plagued by bloodshed in the seventy years since the United Nations General Assembly adopted a proposal to patriation British Palestine into two states – a Jewish state and an Arab one. However, the tale of self-determination and Arab-Israeli battle reaches well beyond the Middle East’s borders. Israel was not simply a flashpoint of regional tensions; it was also a Cold War satellite, entwined in the interested of both superpowers at the time, the US and the USSR – as such, the region became essential for the two world powers during the Cold War and that perspective what this paragraph examines. Significantly, the USSR played a crucial role due to the military and monetary aid that Israel’s neighbours were receiving from them. The USA, due to the 1956 Suez Crisis, also played a noteworthy part: assuring the statistics that Israel would win over the Arab armies, no matter who attacked first.[7] Getting closer to the events of the 1967 War, in May, the Egyptian president, Nasser, received erroneous data from the Soviet Union that Israel was mobilising soldiers on the borders of Syria, and reported that at the Syrian border Israeli militants were massing them – though, to note, whether it actually took place is questionable.[8] Therefore, Nasser was prompted by the news to send troops into Sinai, and request the evacuation of UNEF personnel. Previously, due to the high number of Palestinian guerrilla fights, Israel attempted to overthrow the Syrian regime therefore, after receiving the Soviet report, Syria signed an alliance with Egypt. The latter successfully asked for the removal of UN troops at the border.[9] The casus belli for Israel was embedded in international waterways, as Egypt established maritime blockades to Israeli’s shipping in the Suez Canal, Gulf of Aqaba and lastly, the Straits of Tiran, which the Eisenhower administration had vowed to be treated as a war crime at the finish of the Suez Crisis (1956). Meanwhile, the United States remained persuaded that the Egyptian president was not planning an attack. When President Lyndon B. Johnson requested a CIA assessment of Egypt’s military proficiencies, the CIA discovered that they just  troops in the Sinai Peninsula, but still Israel had more.[10] Therefore, for the state of Israel, the question got down to either wait for the enemy to possibly attack, or rather take the offensive. In the end, the second choice was picked, but the essay suggests that the Cold War status quo affected the 1967 War, as well as the Israeli-Arab conflict significantly.[11] Hence, though the Cold War is over, the tension lives on.

Additionally, examining the consuqences of the 1967 War, many perspectives, and layers can be found. For instance, the UN Security Council’s Resolution 242 played a pivotal role in the aftermaths with its framework, such as Israel withdrawing from territories and the recognition of rights both for Israeli and Palestinian states.[12] However, afterwards the disagreement was narrowed down to a specific Israel-Palestinian conflict. The Israeli government stated that the occupied Jerusalem was part of their capital. The territories, namely the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, the Arab East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, captured by Israel, became a controversy as one of the consequences of the war.  Then, Israel started to negotiate settlements, where competing rhetoric was to be found: according to international law, these settlements were illegal, however the response was that ‘technically’ Palestine was not a state. Opponents of the settlement policy argued that it was an unjust way of expansion, thus colonizing Arab land. Proponents claimed that Israel had the right because it was inhabited by Jews ‘historically’.[13] Therefore, the Palestinian refugee issue worsened, especially in the West Bank and Gaza.[14] For Palestinians, as for the Arab states, Israel was holding their land as exchange price over Israel recognition. The eventual peace with Egypt meant that Israel had let go of the Sinai Peninsula, however that did not mean less confrontation.[15] Furthermore, next to the huge losses of the war, while realizing that old actors within the Arab frame were unable to satisfy the Palestinian cause, an ultimate consequence was the increasing number of Palestinian militant movements.[16] Moreover, Israel was devastated to find no institutions from Christian-Jewish relations in the USA institutions to speak against Arab states – which got questioned heavily afterwards. Besides, mutual upheavals, raids on civilians, and wars appeared at both sides. Hence, the War of 1967 ultimately led to further conflicts, chiefly the 1973 War and the Intifadas. Indeed, throughout its causes and consequences it can be seen that this war was only one piece of the puzzle to a sensitive and complex matter – as Gelvin notes: “the conflict has not only been defined by the antagonists, it has defined the antagonists.”[17] Transhistorically, the essence of Palestinian and Zionist nationalism was about their opposition, thus already establishing a negative approach. More importantly, creating and echoing narratives in institutions that breathe life into the conflict over again.[18]

Moreover, a prominent consequence regarding the international superpowers, the USA and the USSSR, was highlighted in the alteration of the power dynamics. As a result of the War of 1967, the US gained a larger influence in the Middle East, and took on the ultimate role of ‘peacemaker’, and a deepened the controversy of the US as an imperial dominance. On the other hand, though the USSR was able to provide war materials, the influencing of political affairs got mostly into the hands of the USA. Likewise, a few years after the War of 1967, Anwar Sadat became the new Arab leader, who would remove Soviet advisors, and intelligence from Egypt. Also, Cairo would go on to discuss the prospects for diplomacy with Washington.

In light of the above, when the War of 1967 is examined as a whole, it is difficult to think of any other brief war in contemporary history that had such a far-reaching regional, and worldwide ramification – thus, why the topic matters. As such, the modern Zionist movements were a cause as just as the water closures, and the following 1973 War was a consequence of this war as the conflicted events happening right now. Moreover, the role of outer forces is seen in the works of intelligence: the US report about Israel’s assurance in fight the Soviet report of Israel’s military at Syrian border. The War of 1967 represented a geopolitical conflict, which involved themes such as international rights (water, settlement, refugee), evocation of past whist using history as a justification, the power of ideologies, and parallel narratives. Accordingly, nationalism is regarded both as a cause and as a consequence. Likewise, based on historiography and narratives two parallel ‘realities’ are being established, the War of 1967 was one of this rhetoric’s event, generating further upheavals right until current affairs hence the causes and consequences of the War of 1967 were part of a complex issue, what lives on in today’s world.

Bibliography

Berry, Mike, and Greg Philo. 2006. Israel And Palestine: Competing Histories. 2nd ed. Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press. pp. 1-66.

Colman, Jonathan. Foreign Policy of Lyndon B. Johnson: The United States and the World, 1963-69. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010. Accessed June 23, 2021. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Gaddis, John Lewis. 2005. The Cold War. London, UK: Penguin Books. pp. 203- 208.

Gelvin, James L. 2008. The Modern Middle East: A History. 2nd ed. New York, NY, USA.: Oxford Universty Press. pp. 271- 281.

Goldstein, Yossi . “The Six Day War: The War That No One Wanted.” Israel Affairs, 24:5, (2018): 767-784DOI: 10.1080/13537121.2018.150547, Accessed 21, June, 2021.

Kamrava, Mehran. 2011. The Modern Middle East: A Political History Since The First World War. 2nd ed. California, USA.: University of California Press. pp. 109- 127.

James Balfour British Foreign Secretary to Lord Rothschild  (letter, also known as “Balfour Declaration”), Foreign Office, November 2, 1917, The letter was published a week later in The Times of London, London, UK. Published online by the Fordham University. https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/mod/balfour.asp. Accessed 21 June, 2021.

Krieger, Joel. The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Pappe, Ilan. 2006. A History Of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511992728. pp. 141- 229.

Tessler, Mark. 2009. A History Of The Israeli-Plaestinian Conflict. 2nd ed. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. pp. 399 – 465.

The United Nations General Assembly, Resolution 181, 29 November 1947. https://unispal.un.org/DPA/DPR/unispal.nsf/0/7F0AF2BD897689B785256C330061D253, accessed at 21 June 2021.

The United Nations Security Council resolution 242 of 22 November 1967. Resolutions and Decisions of the Security Council, Official Records: Twenty-Second Year. 21999 – November 1968 – 2,500. New York, NY, 1968.

Endnotes

[1] Yossi Goldstein, “The Six Day War: The War That No One Wanted”, Israel Affairs, 24:5, (2018): 767-784DOI: 10.1080/13537121.2018.150547, Accessed 21, June 2021.

[2] Joel Krieger, The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2001), 942.

[3] James Balfour British Foreign Secretary to Lord Rothschild  (letter, also known as “Balfour Declaration”), Foreign Office, November 2, 1917, The letter was published a week later in The Times of London, London, UK. Published online by the Fordham University. https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/mod/balfour.asp. Accessed 21 June 2021.

[4] United Nations General Assembly, Resolution 181, 29 November 1947. https://unispal.un.org/DPA/DPR/unispal.nsf/0/7F0AF2BD897689B785256C330061D253, accessed at 21 June 2021.

[5] James L. Gelvin, The Modern Middle East: A History. 2nd ed. (New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press, 2008), 271- 281.

[6] Ilan Pappe, A History Of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples. 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

[7] John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War (London, UK: Penguin Books, 2005), 203-208.

[8] Mike Berry, and Greg Philo, Israel And Palestine: Competing Histories. 2nd ed. (Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006) 43 – 48.

9 James L. Gelvin, The Modern Middle East: A History. 2nd ed. (New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press, 2008), 271- 281.

[10] Jonathan Colman, Foreign Policy of Lyndon B. Johnson: The United States and the World, 1963-69. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), 140-162, Accessed June 22, 2021. ProQuest Ebook Central.

[11]Mehran Kamrava, The Modern Middle East: A Political History Since The First World War. 2nd ed. (California, USA.: University of California Press, 2011), 109- 127.

[12] The United Nations Security Council. Resolution 242 of 22 November 1967. Resolutions and Decisions of the Security Council, Official Records: Twenty-Second Year. 21999 – November 1968 – 2,500. New York, NY, 1968. https://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/0/7D35E1F729DF491C85256EE700686136. Accessed 18 February 2021.

[13]Mark Tessler, A History Of The Israeli-Plaestinian Conflict. 2nd ed. (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2009), 399 – 465.

[14] Mike Berry, and Greg Philo, Israel And Palestine: Competing Histories. 2nd ed. (Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2006), 1-66.

[15] James L. Gelvin, The Modern Middle East: A History. 2nd ed. (New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press, 2008), 271- 281.

[16]Mehran Kamrava, The Modern Middle East: A Political History Since The First World War. 2nd ed. (California, USA: University of California Press, 2011), 109- 127.

[17]James L. Gelvin, The Modern Middle East: A History. 2nd ed. (New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press, 2008), 280.

[18]James L. Gelvin, The Modern Middle East: A History. 2nd ed. (New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press, 2008), 271- 281.

 

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