CAIRO: Forty years ago, Israel conducted a preemptive strike against Arab air forces on the ground destroying 400 planes. This was the first strike in what came to be known as the Six-Day War.
At the end of these six days, Israel had managed to gobble up Arab lands including Sinai in Egypt, the Golan Heights in Syria and wrestled the West Bank and the old city Jerusalem from Jordanian control.
The war was preceded by Egypt’s expulsion of UN peacekeeping forces from Sinai replacing them with Egyptian troops. The President Gamal Abdel-Nasser also ordered the closure of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping.
Israel viewed these movements as an act of war, and thus on the June 5, 1967, launched the offensive which sparked the war.
“Israel perceived these Egyptian actions as acts of war, but Egypt did not intend to wage war on Israel at that time. These actions were derived from a wish to solidify Egyptian sovereignty and territorial integrity, Head of Israeli Studies at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies Abdel-Aleem Mohammed told The Daily Star Egypt.
Mohammed described the environment at the time as “a very difficult political climate in the region. Additionally, Nasserism was at its peak.
And the results of this war are still evident today. While Egypt managed to have Sinai returned, Israel still occupies the other lands taken in 1967, which include the Golan Heights in Syria and Jerusalem.
Mohammed believes that the long-lasting occupation is the major impediment contributing to the stalled peace process. “The occupation still stands and peace is blocked, he said.
However, Mohammed said that the Israeli victory did them more harm than good.
“Israel didn’t profit from its victory, and he said “it gave them delusions of grandeur about their invincibility, and encouraged thoughts of a greater Israel (the lands extending from the Euphrates to the Nile). In the midst of this, Israel lost the status of victim, it became the aggressor.
Mohammed continued “they are now occupiers, occupying land with other people in them. They have done what had been done to them. Additionally, it was from the defeat of 1967 that the Palestinian resistance gained more impetus. So Israel didn’t benefit from their victory.
The death toll for the Arabs in the 1967 war was considerable, standing at 21,000 dead and 45,000 injured. Israeli losses were 679 dead and 2,563 injured.
This was not the last clear war in the Arab Israeli conflict. In 1973, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched a surprise attack on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur and Egyptian forces managed to cross the Barlev line and enter Sinai.
Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979 at Camp David in the US. Sinai was handed back to Egypt in 1982 after a case was heard in an international court and Taba was returned in 1988.