Since its formation in 1948, the State of Israel has faced opposition from its Arab neighbors. This hostility comes from the perception that the Jews settled on land that historically belonged to the Palestinians. During the early years of Israel’s existence, the Arabs States made clear their intentions to destroy the Jewish State.
One of the deadliest attacks planned by the Arab States led to the six day war of 1967. In the early days of June 1967, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria set out to attack Israel with the intention of destroying this nation. However, the attack only lasted for six days, and it ended in the overwhelming defeat of the Arab forces. This paper will set out to discuss the main reasons behind the Arab defeat by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in the 1967 war.
Reasons for the Arab Defeat
The Arab military underestimated the ability of its enemy. To the Arab nations, the young Jewish state was a weak and divided nation that did not pose a significant military threat. Egyptian leaders saw the Jews as a people who lacked the bravery and self-sacrifice needed to win a war.
Before the battle, Gamal Nasser, who was the Egyptian President, declared that the outcome would be the recovery of the whole of Palestine by the Palestinian Arabs (Asher, 2009). This underestimation low of the capabilities of the IDF prevented the Arab States from coming up with a better attack plan against Israel.
A major reason for the Arab defeat in the war was that Israel carried out a pre-emptive attack. Instead of waiting for the Arab forces to make the first move, Israel launched the first attack. In preparation for the war, the Arab States moved its forces to strategic positions near their borders with Israel. These actions were carried out with confidence since the Arabs were 100% certain that Israel would not dare launch a first strike (Asher, 2009).
Israel surprised the Arabs by delivering the first wave of attacks against Egyptian targets. Within the first day of the War, Israel’s Air force had succeeded in destroying almost the entire Egyptian Air Force (Roland, 2006). The Israeli forces then proceeded to devastate the Jordanian and Syrian Air Forces giving Israel a huge advantage in the war.
Israel was able to bypass the strong defenses installed by the Egyptians. The IDF accomplished this by attacking from a different direction to where Egypt anticipated the assault. Egypt, which was the major enemy during the 1967 war, had prepared adequate defenses against Israel before the war.
These defenses were concentrated in the Sinai region and military resources were deployed there in anticipation of Israeli ground attacks through the desert roads. However, instead of attacking from the open desert roads as the Egyptians expected, Israel used the difficult mountain terrain (Roland, 2006). Egypt was caught off guard by the IDF’s penetration into unexpected areas.
There was a notable lack of coordination among the various Arab states that engaged in the 1967 War. In the build-up to the war, the three Arab States had placed vast military resources near their borders with Israel (Roland, 2006). In spite of this common goal to attack Israel, there was no inter-Arab cooperation.
The military activities on the various fronts were done without a joint plan. Asher (2009) documents that this divided and uncoordinated attack enabled Israel to deal with each front independently. Since the Arabs did not coordinate their attack, Israel was able to deal with them one at a time. The IDF first attacked Egypt, which was the greatest threat, followed by Jordan and finally Syria.
The Arabs lacked functional intelligence services that could provide clandestine information concerning Israel’s plants. In the preparation phase of the war, the intelligence services provide information that can be used to plan effective assaults. Egypt, Jordan, and Syria lacked functional intelligence services to provide information on Israel (Roland, 2006).
In contrast to this, Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, had deeply infiltrated the Arab governments. The Israelis were, therefore, able to maintain surveillance on the Arab State militaries (Asher, 2009). During the war, Mossad provided detailed information on Arab troop movements. The IDF was, therefore, able to anticipate the Arab forces and launch effective counterattacks.
This paper set out to discuss the major reasons for the devastating defeat of the Arabs during the 1967 war. It began by highlighting that the Arab States were hostile to Israel and desired its destruction. The 1967 war was meant to be a huge victory for the Arab States, but it ended up in great defeat. The Arabs underestimated the Israelis and failed to plan adequately for the war. The pre-emptive attack by Israel surprised the Arabs and destroyed most of their military resources.
In addition to this, the IDF successfully bypassed Egyptian defenses and attacked their ground forces. The lack of a joint military plan by the Arabs also contributed to their defeat. The defeat of the Arab states in the six-day war had a lasting impact on Middle East affairs. It greatly weakened the morale of the Arabs and established Israel as a major military power in the region.
Asher, D. (2009). The Egyptian Strategy for the Yom Kippur War: An Analysis. NY: McFarland.
Roland, P. (2006). Stumbling Decidedly into the Six-Day War. Middle East Journal, 60(2), 281-309.