Arab – Israeli War 1967


Israel and Arabs have fought a number of wars after 1947. After the creation of Israel in 14 May 1948, Arab and Israel became front to front in 1949, 1956, and 1967 and in 1973. Among all those the war of 5 -10 June 1967 also famous for six days war was the one of the major conflict. For Arabs it was the revenge and for Israel it was a war of survival. The outcome of war became a defeat for Arabs and victory for Israel. The entire Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights and Jordanian territory west of River Jordan including Jerusalem was captured by Israel. “This campaign taken as one of example in the history as decisive effects on striking to enemy defenses through deep penetration in very short period of time.” (Army command and staff collage, 2012).


The aim of this presentation is to analyze the decision making and brought out lesson learned from 1967 Arab Israel war.

Historical Background

Historically Arabs and Jews are sprung from the prophets Ismael and Issac both sons of prophet Abraham. Prophet Ismael is believed to be the ancestor of the Arabs while Prophet Issac became the ancestor of Jews. So for both the Palestine is holy land.

The creation of Israel on 14 May 1948 was the main cause between Jews and Arabs conflicts. Arabs considered the creation of Israel as an independent State is plot against the people of Palestine by the Europeans and Americans.

In 1956 Israel attack Egypt with the support of Britain and France to open Suez Canal. They occupied Gaza strip and large part of Sinai but left the area because of international pressure and 1967 war was taken as a sequel to these conflicts.

Major factors for the 1967 conflict

After the 1956 war there are many issues arises in this area. Arabs are looking to revenge for their loss in 1956 and for Israel it was always the survival after its creation. According to Rowman & Littlefield (2000) some of the important factors, which contributed directly towards escalation of 1967 conflict, are as follows:

a. Refusal of Arabs to recognize Israel as independent state.

Increasing activities of Palestinian guerrillas Al- FATEH against Israel.

b. Withdrawal of United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) on 19 May 1967 that increased the already existing tension between Egypt and Israel.

c. The Mutual Defense Pact signed by Egypt and Syria in 4 Nov 1966 and Jordan – Egypt Defense Agreement on 30 May 1967 that strategically threaten the Israel

d. Closing of Channels of Tiran that cut off the Israeli access to Red sea. On which the Israelis immediately responded with a pre-emptive attack on June 5, 1967 that is starting of famous six-day war.

Analyze the 1967 War

Short six days war of 1967 change the big boundary in the Middle East. After this war Israelis strategic situation had changed and they became more stronger where as the Arabs faces the humiliating loss. Different historians analyzed this war in their different way. Army command and staff collage (2012) analyzed this six days war as follows.


National Aim/Objectives: Arabs had set for themselves the aim of achieving political victory over Israel. To achieve this, they signed defense pacts among themselves and planned to give economic, political, psychological and military pressure to Israel.

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National Strategy: Ever since the creation of the Israel as independent State, the Arab’s national strategy is the destruction of it and creation of an independent Palestine.

Military Strategy: The Arabs had no offensive intention at the outset. Their total emphasis was on achieving a political victory and preventing Israel from going to war. Therefore, their military strategy was:

(1) Deterrence through troops concentration helping guerrilla activity and playing the card of ‘Crush Israel’, in the Arab world.

(2) Force mobilization for long duration and closing of Straits of Tiran, which Israel could not able to afford.

(3) If war is imposed, force Israel to fight war on three fronts, all from Sinai, Jordan and Syria.

Centre of Gravity: Arabs identified Israel Defense forces as the center of gravity. But they failed to notice that within these their strength lay in their mobility.

Concept of Operation:

a. War on more than two fronts to keep Israelis committed in all directions.

b. Initiate actions like forward concentration, guerrilla activities and closing of Straits of Tiran which will force Israel either to submit or attack the Arabs, which is politically advantageous for Arabs.

c. If the war starts, involve Israel in long-drawn war of attrition and exploit their numerical inferiority.


National Aim/Objectives: The national aim of Israel was the survival and defense of their homeland. Their strategic concept has been to avoid war but if a war is imposed they were to go for a quick and decisive war.

National Strategy: Israel had the national aim of ensuring the sovereignty and territorial integrity of their country by employing all possible instruments of national power like: military, political and diplomatic.

Military Strategy: Israel military objective was offensive against Arabs for defense of their homeland. Therefore there military strategy was:

(1) Surprise Arabs both at strategic and tactical level to lure them into a false sense of complacency.

(2) Undertake a pre-emptive air strike to achieve complete air superiority over Sinai.

(3) Undertake a pre-emptive ground offensive too.

(a) Fight the war on enemy territory and seek decisive battle on their soil.

(b) Have a short and decided war destroying the Egyptian forces in Sinai.

(c) If Jordan and Syria also enter the war, then capture strategic objectives of West Bank of River Jordan and the Golan Heights.

Center of Gravity: Israelis rightly identified that within the three Arab countries the center of gravity laid in Egypt especially its armed forces. Once Egyptian Army Is destroyed, Syria and Jordan could never initiate an offensive on their own. They accordingly dealt with the Egyptian air and ground forces first deferring Syria and Jordan for the time being.

Concept of Operation:

  1. Employment of all conceivable political and psychological measures to give an impression to Arabs that Israel had been outwitted in time and space and was not in a position to under-take a major offensive.
  2. Having completely deceived the Arabs, acquire complete air superiority by under taking a pre-emptive air strike against Egyptian air bases followed by similar strikes against Jordanian and Syrian air bases.
  3. Appreciating that center of gravity lay with Egyptian Army in Sinai, Israelis decided to affect a swift dislocation of Egyptian defenses by breaking-through the critical triangle of Rafah, EI-Arish and Abu Agheila, isolate them and then carry-out destruction of the trapped enemy.
  4. Maintain initially a defensive posture against Syria and Jordan. And after secured and destroy the Egyptian side in the Sinai, concentrate forces against Jordan and Syria.
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Main Reason of Loss/Achievement of War

Failure Threat Perception by Arabs: There are full of examples in history that whenever a nation or a commander failure to calculate the capabilities and intentions of the enemy’s he had to pay heavy price. Same here the Arabs completely misread Israeli reactions, in-spite of there own provocative actions. They failed to perceive the inherent mobility of Israeli ground forces and went wrong in their appreciation that they would be able to involve Israel into a long-drawn war of attrition on their three successive defense lines which Israel couldn’t manage.

Strategy of Pre-emption by Israelis: Fully conscious vulnerability due to lack of strategic depth and multi-directional threat from Arab states, Israel had well prepared to use the option of pre-emption. Israelis knew that it would be difficult to destroy Arabs in full front war without taking initial initiative. So that they use the strategy of pre-emption for which they are fully prepared.

Lessons Learnt

Threat Perception: The correct visualization of enemy was very important to gain initiative in war which the Arabs failed resulting loss in war.

Surprise: Surprise at strategic as well as tactical level in war is very key to achieve success. In spite of inferior in number and equipment Israeli achieve success because of there surprise not only lies on the military but at political leadership as well.

Strategy of Pre-emption: Israel’s strategy of pre-emption adequately showed the importance of this strategy especially for a force inferior in number and equipment.

Training: High standard mission oriented training can bring amazing results. Training is the only aspect by which one can offset the quantitative superiority of enemy as shown by Israelis in this war.

Intelligence: Correct intelligence about enemy intents, capabilities and preparation has always been of paramount importance. This fact was further highlighted by these wars.

Decision Theories in 1967 in War

Cognitive performance: As crisis induced stress grows up and need of more effective decision making authority and bold leadership. “When stress was low, Israelis decision makers evaluated all courses properly and made decisions for their interest. And their stress increased after closing of straits, which was perceived as a threat to their basic values. During this situation also Israel’s decision makers were psychologically prone to reliance on past experience, which created a greater conceptual rigidity as a guide to coping with current threats to basic values. They seemed to be acutely aware of their complex environment. Increasing stress and fatigue during this crisis did not weaken their dimension of cognitive performance.” (Brecher and Geist ,1980).

Focus on immediate objectives: We find that Israelis decision makers gave more attention to immediate than long-term objectives in this 1967 crisis. Like countering the blockade of the Straits, withdrawal of UNEF and Arabs military build up. But long-term goals and interests influenced all the decisions taken after the crisis. Brecher and Geist (1980) clustered the decisions into five stress phases corresponding to time periods. Which are detailed in table below.

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Stress Phases

Time Periods

Decisions Taken


Low Stress Phase

Before 17 May

  1. Issue a threat of retaliation against Syria – 7 May
  2. Place the IDF on alert – 15 May
  3. Limited mobilization – 16 May


Rising Stress Phase

17–22 May 1967

  1. Order further mobilization of IDF reserves – 17 May
  2. Institute large scale mobilization – 19 May
  3. Shift IDF from defensive to offensive posture – 19 May
  4. Authorize the mobilization decision – 21 May


Higher Stress Phase

23-27 May 1967

  1. Postpone decision on military response to Egypt’s massing of troops- 23 May
  2. Send Foreign Minister to U.S.- 23 May
  3. Warn the U.S. that an Egyptian attack was imminent
  4. Await Foreign Ministers report on his discussions in Paris, London, and Washington- 26 May


Highest Stress Phase

28 May- 4 June

  1. Delay pre-emptive decision again- 28 May
  2. Renew the IDF alert- 28 May
  3. Send Director of Counter Intelligence to U.S.- 30 May
  4. Form a National Unity Government- 1 June
  5. Crystalize military plans – 2 June
  6. Launch pre-emptive air strike – 4 June


Declining Stress Phase

After 4 June

  1. Warn Jordan against military intervention – 5 June
  2. Delay attack on Jerusalem’s Old City – 5 June
  3. Encircle the Old City – 6 June
  4. Enter to Old City- 7 June
  5. Halt IDF advance east of the Canal – 7 June
  6. Not to cross Syrian border – 7 June
  7. Delay attack on Syria -8 June
  8. Scale the Golan Heights – 9 June
  9. Accept cease fire – 10 June

Rational Theory: Rational choice theory provides decision-makers choose their best options for their interest. It tell us that when faced with risk, decision makers consider the expected values and probabilities of possible outcomes and choose the option with the highest value. “For Israel and Egypt, those periods were a turbulent period of international relations. During those times both Israel and Egypt were constantly faced with “risky” decisions while at the brink of war. The decisions made by these two states, specifically the decisions to go to war, were sometimes unexpected and unexplainable given current models of rational choice.” (Kelly, 2008).


Although the 1967 Arab – Israel war was limited type of war happened only for six days, it has been the favorite subjects for military historians. This war gives real picture of saying “ Offense is best form of Defense.” This war shows how leadership, wills, motivation and training count in war in spite of technology.


Army Command and Staff Collage. (2012). Military History Primer. Kathmandu: Army Command and Staff Collage.

Brecher, M., Geist, B. (1980). Decision in Crisis: Israel, 1967 and 1973. Vol. 1. (Pg. 341-394). California: University of California.

Bregman, A. (2009). Israel’s Wars: A History since 1947. Routledge.

Howard, M., and Hunter, R. (2012). Israel and the Arab World: the Crisis of 1967. Routledge.

Kelly, N. and Christopher, B. (2008). Ripe without warning: Israel and Egypt 1967-1973. African Journal of Political Science and International Relations. Vol. 2 (1), (Pg. 013-019). Retrieved from

Popp, R. (2006). Stumbling Decidedly into the Six-Day War. MIDDLE EAST JOURNAL. Vol. 60(2), (Pg. 281-309)

Remnick, D. (2007). The Seventh Day: Why the Six Day War is still being fought.

Sudetic, S. (2014). Pre-Emption and Israeli Decision- Making in 1967 and 1973. Routledge. Retrieved from

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