On May 15th 1967, while the citizens of Israel was celebrating their Independence Day, a large armada of Egyptian tanks and units moved into the Sinai Peninsula and deployed into offensive positions along the Israeli Border. Egyptian President Nasser has expelled the UN observers in the Sinai region, closed the straits of Tiran and signed a military pact of aggression with Jordan and Syria. He also took the bold step of announcing a war for the “liberation” of Palestine was underway, dared Israel to strike back if it can and promised to wipe Israel from the map of the world.
Faced with overwhelming support from the Arab world, this coalition within a few days changed the entire political and diplomatic affairs of the Middle East. French President De Gaulle took the step of telling Israel to not engage in the war and issued a military embargo on Israel. Other Israeli “allies” like the United States all of a sudden acted as though nothing was going on and many even refused to come to Israel’s aid. Thus Israel decided once again, like in Europe under Hitler’s power or other regions of the world, the Jewish people are alone and must fight for their own survival.
Within days, Israel’s administration went through several changes were new Defense secretary was appointed along with a new cabinet. And on June 5th 1967, Israel attacked the enemy forces. In a sudden air strike by the Israel Air Force, Most of the Egyptian, Iraqi, Jordanian, and Syrian air forces were destroyed. At the same time, Israeli tanks rolled into the Sinai and annihilated the Egyptian army and pushing the offensive lines al the way to the Suez Canal – capturing the entire Sinai area under Israel’s control.
While Israel was driving Egyptian army back, Israel also issued assurances that Jordanian forces would not be attacked in return for peace. However, King Hussein of Jordan ordered his army to attack Israel. His army bombarded Israeli towns and cities. Almost within hours, Israeli Army turned from the defeated Egyptian Army (at Suez Canal) and attacked the West Bank and East Jerusalem (under Jordan’s control). Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) occupied West Bank and liberated East Jerusalem and united it with its counterpart – West Jerusalem. Following this victory, Israeli Army took the initiative to meet the Syrian army and within 2 days occupied the Golan Heights while a defeated Syrian army withdrew in shame.
On the morning of June 10th 1967, people around the world woke up to a new Middle East – with an Israel that controlled the territories of Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Almost 9 days after the war, Israeli Government made the declaration that it will give back all the lands it captured from the enemies in return for full status of peace and normal bilateral relations. However in August of that year, A Arab Summit held in Khartum, Sudan made the decision that all Arab nations will not:
- Recognize Israel
- Negotiate with Israel
- Make peace with Israel
As of Today, most of the Arab world still abide by this summit resolution. Egypt officially recognized Israel and made peace after Egypt once again lost the 1974 war with Israel (the 3 wars it started with Israel Egypt lost). Soon Jordan and a few other minor Arab nations followed with the peace deals. Israel’s 1967 war also cemented the US-Israeli relationship as US made Israel its major arms supplier and ally. However, the wounds of the war still lasted. The Arab world was still licking its wounds and revenge was brewing.
As soon as Israel withdrew from the Suez Canal area due to UN and international pressure, Egypt began to rebuild their cities and their war machine. President Nassar died and a new President Anwar el-Sadath became the new militaristic leader of Egypt. Syria was not happy about loosing Golan Heights and its president Hafez el-Assad began beating the war drums. Within 6 years after the bloody 1974 war, Egypt and Syria was ready for their rematch with Israel. On October 6th 1973, during the Jewish Holiday of Yom Kippur, the Arab Forces from Egypt and Syria attacked a unsuspecting Israeli people in the middle of their solemn fasting and praying service.
Egyptians quickly advanced through the border and captured the Israeli command centers before any alarm could be raised. By the time the country reeled from its surprise, Syrian tanks were pouring out of the Golan Heights into Israel. A Syrian officer moving in his tank across the Golan Heights wildly shouted into his radio: “I see the Lake of Tiberias!” But he never lived to reach it. Within hours, Israeli Defense Forces mobilized and launched counter offense maneuvers. At the end of the day, Israel stood tall as the sole victor in the war.
Following this loss, Egypt was wise to negotiate with Israel and eventually got peace and normal relations with Israel in return for Sinai land Israel captured during the 1967 war. The slowly other Arab nations also began to recognize Israel and started making strides to live in peace with each other. Today, negotiations are underway with Syria on official peace between Israel and Syria in return for the Golan Heights. But due to Syria sponsoring Hezbollah and other armed insurgent groups, Israel is asking Syria to stop supporting those groups also, in return for peace and Golan Heights.
The wars that shaped Israel and the Middle East are still there, old wounds that never really heal. Our only hope is to look to the future and hope for peace and tolerance. The Israeli people and the Arab people for the most part are ready for it. Thus strides such as the “Bridge over the Wadi” are taking place where people want to live in peace. So let us strive to show the best in humanity, love our neighbor as ourselves and let us pray that God grants peace to that region.