2017-06-07 / Editorial

Six Day War was a struggle over Israel’s very existence


Regardless of one’s take on the legacy of the Six Day War, there is no dispute that the young Israeli state was fighting for its very survival during those fateful days in June 1967 – or that the consequences of a shockingly swift and decisive victory 50 years ago have indelibly shaped the modern world.

For several tense weeks leading up to war, the underdog nation was in existential danger. Escalating steps taken by its Arab neighbors included the closure by Egypt of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, the expulsion of UN Emergency Forces from the Sinai Peninsula and the movement of forces from Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon toward the nation’s borders. When an appeal for outside intervention failed, Israel launched a pre-emptive air attack that immediately crippled the Egyptian air force. Less than a week later, Israel had tripled its territory.

There was cause for celebration. The annexation of East Jerusalem unified the holiest city, putting Jerusalem back under Jewish rule for the first time in more than 2,000 years. In addition, the new cease-fire lines provided stronger strategic barriers. Ultimately, captured territory served as leverage for peace with Egypt. A strategic alliance with the United States was formed.

But the gains brought new issues. Israel was now in charge of more than a million non-Jews in the West Bank and Gaza. Fifty years later, controversy remains.

Every modern American president has tried and failed to negotiate a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Donald Trump became the latest, opining that the danger Iran poses to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other Arab states makes a strong case for making peace.

There is no doubt that the Six Day War resulted in unexpected consequences. Nevertheless, Israel’s victory was both vital and miraculous. Anything else would have been catastrophic for Israel and the Jewish people. 

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