Military





OUTLINE FOR MILITARY ISSUES PAPER

Air Strategy in the 1967 Arab/Israeli War.

 

CSC 1997

 

Subject Area - Aviation

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

 

 

Title: Air Strategy in the 1967 Arab/Israeli War.

 

Author: Major Charlie Hughes, United States Marine Corps

 

Thesis: Air Power was decisive factor the Arab/Israeli war in June 1967?

 

Discussion: The history of the Islamic people has been one of

conquests. Arab nationalism considered Zionism and Israel as an enemy in themselves and at the same time the spearhead of western imperialism. The underlying assumption of Arab doctrine was that in the long run time was against Israel; that two and a half million Jews could not hold out forever against one hundred million Arabs. The military balance in early 1967 was in favor of the United Arab Republic. It had two armored divisions with a third being formed, four infantry divisions, one parachute brigade and twelve artillery regiments. Egypt's estimated regular armed forces were 180,000-200,000 men. There were plans for military action against Israel by the United Arab Republic but there may not have been a master plan for a concerted campaign in May or June 1967. From documents that fell into Israeli hands it is know that there was a plan for the destruction of the Israeli Air Force on the ground and for a tank offensive in the Southern Negev, with the intention of cutting it off from Israel and to seize Eilat. Zahal - the Israeli defense establishment - knew how it would proceed in a general war against any Arab combined force that included the United Arab Republic. It would knock out Egypt first; for if Egypt collapsed the others would fall.

 

Conclusion: Following Syrian raids on Israeli settlements, Israel attacks Syria. Nasser closes Israel's southern port by blockading the Strait of Tiran and expels the United Nations emergency force in Sinai. Israel launches pre-emptive air strikes on the airfields of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan. Within six days, Israel occupies the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai, and the West Bank, including Jerusalem. Israel successfully crippled the Arab world by striking first and effectively crippling their air power while it sat on the ground.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

 

SECTION PAGE

 

I INTRODUCTION 1

II BACKGROUND TO THE SIX DAY WAR 3

 

A. Chronology 3

B. Political and Military Leadership 5

 

III POLITICAL AND MILITARY STRATEGIES 9

 

A. Egypt/Jordan/Syria 9

B. Israel 10

 

IV STRATEGY COMPARISON 13

 

A. Objectives 13

B. War-fighting Doctrine 14

C. Effect of Available Technology 16

D. Influences of available Resources 18

E. Objective Accomplishment 20

 

V SUCCESS VS. FAILURE 23

 

VI CONCLUSION 28

 

VII END NOTES 30

 

VIII BIBLIOGRAPHY 32

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


SECTION I

 

INTRODUCTION

 

On June 5 1967, Israeli planes destroyed the Air Forces

 

of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, launching the briefest war in

 

the history of the Middle East. By June 11 1967, Israel had

 

captured all of Palestine and more: Egypt's vast Sinai

 

Peninsula and Syria's Golan Heights as well as the West bank

 

of Jordan. It was a complete and decisive victory. The

 

scope of this paper will cover the facts and forces behind

 

one of history's longest feuds, and shortest wars. Although

 

the war lasted "six days" the outcome of the crisis was

 

decided on the morning of June 5, 1967. All that remained

 

was for the Israeli army to drive forward in Sinai to

 

confirm the military victory. This particular conflict was

 

chosen for analysis because for the first time, air power

 

had effectively won a war. Within hours of Israel's air

 

strike, the Israeli decision makers were aware of reduced

 

threat due to the ensuing air supremacy and an overwhelming

 

shift of the military balance in their favor.

 

In June 1967, Israel had two qualitative advantages

 

over her Arab adversaries: surprise and motivation. The

 

devastating air strike on June 5, 1967 caught the Arab

 

leaders totally by surprise and ensured Israel's aerial

 

supremacy for the rest of the war. As for motivation, the

 

outpouring of hatred during the crisis period convinced all

 

Israelies they were fighting for survival. The combined

 

Arab armed forces were superior to the Israel Defense Force

 

(IDF) total strength in personnel as well as weapon systems.

 

Arab leaders and knowledgeable observers anticipated and

 

predicted a different outcome to the impending conflict

 

based on known statistics. However, the combination of

 

superior motivation, leadership, training, and the tactical

 

exploitation of surprise, speed, and air superiority more

 

than made up for those advantages.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


SECTION II

 

BACKGROUND TO WAR

 

Generally the United Nations believed the Holy Land

 

belonged to either the Arab or Jew and probably to both; but

 

not in any way to Great Britain. A review of a number of

 

key events occured between 1948 and 1967 to set the stage

 

for the subsequent 1967 conflict.

 

CHRONOLOGY

 

May 1948 - The British Mandate over Palestine was terminated

 

and the State of Israel proclaimed. It is recognized by the

 

United States and the Soviet Union and is attacked by its

 

Arab neighbors.2

 

May 1949 - Armistice agreement with the Arabs gives Israel

 

more land, but the Arabs retain Old Jerusalem.3

 

1952 - In Egypt, King Farouk is forced to abdicate by young

 

military officers and Colonel Gamal Nasser becomes president

 

of Egypt and the leader of the Arab world in the 1950's and

 

1960's.4

 

1953 - At the age of eighteen, Hussein becomes King of

 

Jordan.5

 

July 1956 - The Suez Crisis begins when Nasser nationalizes

 

the canal. Having long been denied passage through the

 

Suez Canal and following repeated border skirmishes, in

 

October Israel invades Egypt's Sinai and the Gaza Strip, and

 

along with the British and French, occupies the canal area.6

 

March 1957 - Under pressure from the United Nations, the

 

United States and the Soviet Union, foreign forces

withdraw from all Egyptian territory and the Gaza Strip.

 

United Nations forces are assigned to patrol strategic areas

 

of the Sinai.7

 

February 1958 - Syria and Egypt merge to form the United

 

Arab Republic and maintain a close relationship with the

 

Soviet Union.8

 

1961 - The Syrian-Egyptian merger is dissolved because of

 

Egypt's domineering attitude toward Syria.9

 

June 1964 - The Palestine Liberation Organization is estab-

 

lished with the goal of destroying Israel and gaining

 

control over Palestine. Persistent terrorist attacks

 

against Israel are launched.10

 

1965 - The Arab States and Israel intensified the border

 

skirmishes that had been going on between wars.11

 

Nov 1966 - Israel reacts to Syrian border raids by destroy-

 

ing a Jordanian village.12

 

April 1967 - In an air clash, Israeli pilots down six Syrian

 

jets.13

April-June 1967 - Following Syrian raids on Israeli

 

settlements, Israel attacks Syria. Nasser closes Israel's

 

southern port by blockading the Strait of Tiran and expels

 

the United Nations emergency force in Sinai. Israel

 

launches pre-emptive attacks on the airfields of Egypt,

 

Syria, Iraq, and Jordan. Within six days, Israel occupies

 

the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai, and the West

 

Bank, including Jerusalem.14

 

This conflict occurred because of the irreconcilable

 

difference between Arab and Jewish national goals. The

 

Arab League had as its goal the elimination of the Jewish

 

state while the Israelis sought survival and military

 

security.15

 

Political and Military Leadership - The following

 

individuals and groups played important roles before and

 

during the conflict:

 

Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser Egyptian President

 

Abel Amer Commander and Chief

 

Mahmound Riad Foreign Minister

 

Mohammed Kony Ambassador to UN

 

Anwar Sadat Legislator

 

Israel Levi Eshkol Prime Minister

 

Abba Eban Foreign Minister

 

Moshe Dayan Defense Minister

 

Yitzhak Rabin Chief of Staff

 

Ezer Weizman Chief of Operations

 

Ephraim Euron Minister to the US

 

David Ben Gurion Former Prime Minister

 

Menachem Begin Opposition Leader

 

Jordan Hussein ibn Talal King

 

Mohammad Farra Ambassador to the UN

 

Syria Nureddin Attassi President

 

Yousef Zayyen Prime Minister

 

Hafez Assad Defense Minister

 

Fatah Guerrilla Organization

 

Ba'th Ruling Government Party

 

The government of Egypt, with Gamal Nasser at its head,

 

supported Nasirism. Its main ideas were Pan-Arabism,

 

positive neutralism and Arab socialism. Pan-Arabism is Arab

 

nationalism with a stress on political unification. Positive

 

neutralism was Nasser's policy of not aligning Egypt with

 

either the communist bloc or the United States and Arab

 

Socialism required the government to run the major

 

industries and public utilities in order to divide the

 

economic pie more evenly among the people.16

 

Israel has a relatively democratic government fashioned

 

after that of Great Britain. In Israeli politics there is a

 

tendency toward division and fragmentation. This was the

 

prevailing atmosphere at the time of the conflict. Levi

 

Eshkol succeeded Ben Gurion as Prime Minister only to be

 

attacked by his predecessor as totally unfit for the job. A

 

competent administrator, it was not clear whether Eshkol had

 

the qualities of leadership and quick decision needed at a

 

time of crisis. Needing a recognized, decisive figure to

 

inspire the confidence of the people, Moshe Dayan was named

 

Minister of Defense. The officers of the Israel Defense

 

Forces as well as the members were highly motivated,

 

competent professional soldiers, confident and sure of their

 

mission. Withstanding an attempted coup, Jordan remained a

 

monarchy with a conservative government.

 

Syria's leaders were Arab nationalists. Haliz al-Assad

 

graduated from the Syrian military academy and rose rapidly

 

through the ranks to become a general; Commander in Chief of

 

the Air Force and then in 1966, Minister of Defense. An

 

Army Coup in 1966 brought to power a radical wing of the

 

Ba'th party. Most of the new leaders belonged to the Alawi

 

religious sect, many of whose young men joined the Syrian

 

officer corps as a means of moving up socially.

 

Military Doctrines- Israel believed an arms balance was the

 

only guarantee of peace in the Middle East. Ensuring the

 

existence and military security of the nation was the top

 

priority by first strikes if necessary.17 Israeli military

 

thinking was governed by three basic premises: victory is

 

assured to the side that obtains complete superiority in the

 

air; armor should be used as a concentrated mailed fist to

 

smash through the fortified positions of the enemy; once

 

the break-through has been achieved, the accent would be on

 

exploitation with maximum speed and flexibility.

 

The overall Arab military doctrine concerning Israel

 

was the "total" annihilation of the Jewish State. Almost

 

all of the officers in the Egyptian Armed Forces were

 

devoted followers of President Nasser. They were convinced

 

of the justice of the Arab case over the question of the

 

Palestine refugees. Most of them believed the Israelis

 

were usurpers and that in the long run war was inevitable,

 

for there could be no peace in the Middle East until Israel

 

was annihilated. They regarded Zionism as a capitalist

 

movement, controlling most of the world's capital.

 


SECTION III

 

POLITICAL AND MILITARY STRATEGIES

 

Egypt / Jordan / Syria. The political and military strategy

 

to force Israel into a confrontation and then annihilate the

 

Jewish nation was based on three assumptions made by

 

President Nasser of Egypt:

 

1. After the United Nations forces would be withdrawn

 

at his request, he would close the Straits of Tiran to

 

Israeli shipping.

 

2. Following this action, the Israelies would be

 

likely to try to open the Straits by force and break the

 

blockade. This would lead to war.

 

3. In the event of an outbreak of war, the ratio of

 

forces and the state of preparedness of his forces

 

guaranteed Egypt military success. Nasser was convinced

 

that, in a combination of both military and political

 

struggle, he would gain the upper hand.18

 

There were plans for military action against Israel but

 

there may not have been a master plan for a concerted

 

campaign in May or June 1967. From documents that fell into

 

Israeli hands it is known that there was a plan for the

 

destruction of the Israeli Air Force on the ground and for a

 

tank offensive in the Southern Negev, with the intention of

 

cutting it off from Israel and to sieze Eilat. The

 

Egyptians intended to defend against an Israeli first strike

 

and deal a retaliatory fatal blow. The Egyptian Air Force

 

consisted of four hundred fighter-interceptors and seventy

 

bombers intended to protect the Nation's heartland and

 

provide close air support for the army in the Sinai. On May

 

30, 1967, King Hussein of Jordan and Nasser signed a Mutual

 

Defense Treaty like one that already existed between Egypt

 

and Syria. Its Article I declared that "any attack on

 

either state" would be considered "an attack on both."

 

Article 7 stipulated that "in the event of military

 

operations starting, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces

 

of the United Arab Republic shall assume Command of

 

Operations in both states." Nasser had now added to his

 

military machine an elite force of fifty-five thousand

 

soldiers and a small Air Force made up of mainly British

 

made subsonic Hawker Hunter fighter-bombers and a few

 

United States F-104 interceptor jets.19

 

Israel. The morning of June 5, 1967 found Israel's armed

 

forces facing the massed Arab armies around her frontiers.

 

Israel's citizen army had been quietly and efficiently

 

mobilized over several weeks to defend the country against

 

the impending Arab attack which every Arab medium of mass

 

communication announced was imminent. Zahal, the Israeli

 

defense establishment, knew how they would proceed in a

 

general war against any Arab combined force that included

 

the United Arab Republic. It would knock out Egypt first,

 

for if Egypt collapsed the others would certainly fall.

 

This doctrine had been fashioned by the prevailing

 

conditions: the terrain, a vast empty desert ideal for

 

armored warfare, for speed of movement in which air support

 

for the ground forces can be used to maximum effect; the

 

character of the adversary- the Israelis had already

 

discovered in previous wars that the Egyptians are at their

 

best in defending static positions, but quickly lose their

 

heads in a fast, rapidly moving battle; and most important

 

of all, by outside intervention which, in Israeli eyes, made

 

speed an essential factor in every plan.20 Israel's initial

 

political and military strategy focused on defense and

 

survival. Israel's combat forces went all out to destroy

 

the fighting power of Egypt. Within three hours of the

 

successful pre-emptive strike against Egypt, Israel's

 

strategy switched from the defensive to a goal attainment:

 

the liberation of Jerusalem, the maximum destruction of Arab

 

military power, and the enhancement of Israel's secure

 

borders-ultimately the Suez Canal in the South, the Golan

 

Heights in the North, and the Jordan river in the East. The

 

Israeli Air Force's role was without doubt the greatest

 

gamble with the largest pay off in the history of military

 

aviation. They assured total air supremacy by destroying

 

the enemies air force's on the ground.


 

SECTION IV

 

STRATEGY COMPARISON

The pressure on decision-makers is to choose courses of

 

action. The closer strategic analysis comes to actual

 

strategic decisions, and the more concrete it becomes, the

 

more it is forced into channels determined by the pressures

 

of the moment. The strategic recommendations which are used

 

are those dealing with the allocation of funds, personnel,

 

and equipment; with weapons systems design and with

 

logistics. In these areas there are few, if any, opportune-

 

ities to cooperate with the enemy.21 There was many

 

pressures and decisions made by both the Arab and Isreali

 

leaders.

 

Objectives

 

Arab Forces. On the eve of the 1967 War, political fragmen-

 

tation within the Arab world gave way to unity-the goal

 

being to crush Israel. By ordering the removal of the

 

United Nations forces and closing the Straits of Tiran,

 

President Nasser hoped to achieve the objective of provoking

 

a war with Israel at a time and place chosen by the U.A.R.

 

The destruction of the State of Israel was official Arab

 

policy. They believed their prestige depended upon a

 

military victory that would revenge the defeats of 1948

 

and 1956. Syria's objective was the liberation of Palestine

 

Israel. In the early days of June, 1967, Israel was

 

fighting for survival. Its citizen soldiers were called

 

upon to accomplish by force of arms what Israelis had longed

 

for since achieving independence in 1948 - military

 

security.22 The primary objective for Israel's defense

 

establishment was not a reconquest of Sinai's arid

 

wasteland but the preserving of Israel's interior through

 

the destruction of Egypt's air power.

 

War-fighting Doctrine

 

Arab Forces. The history of the Islamic people has been one

 

of conquests. Arab nationalism considered Zionism and

 

Israel as an enemy in themselves and at the same time the

 

spearhead of western imperialism. The underlying assumption

 

of Arab doctrine was that in the long run time was against

 

Israel; that two and a half million Jews could not hold out

 

forever against one hundred million Arabs; the State of

 

Israel like that of the crusaders would inevitably be de-

 

stroyed. The Syrians were genuinely convinced that a

 

people's war of guerrilla tactics against Jewish settlements

 

would compel the Israelis to engage in massive retaliation

 

and thus, sooner or later, involve the regular armies of

 

the Arab countries. Their general assumption was that the

 

combined might of the Arab States was superior to Israel.

 

At the worst the war would end in a stalemate, to be

 

repeated again after a few years. The Arabs were convinced

 

they could afford these campaigns and that Israel could not.

 

Israel would eventually disappear as a result of this

 

escalation of harassment. The Arabs genuinely believed that

 

Zionism regarded Israel not as a homeland to be defended to

 

the last against all enemies, but as a territory for

 

financial investment, speculations and exploitation. They

 

believed the Jews, lacking patriotism and roots in the

 

country, would lose their nerve and eventually give up

 

Israel, if they were exposed to this treatment long enough.

 

Israel. Defense Minister Dayan and other Israeli officials

 

put forth the doctrine of defense, not expansion of Israel's

 

territory. In order to curb commando raids by Arab

 

guerrilla units, the government adopted the policy of

 

devastating retaliatory raids. Although Israel's leaders

 

were willing to seek peace, they were not eager to commit

 

national suicide.

 

After King Hussein concluded an agreement with Nasser

 

on a joint military command, Israel's cabinet assumed that

war was inevitable. Most reserve units were called up, and

 

the entire economy was put on a war footing. Combining

 

traditional military doctrines with common sense, Israeli

 

military directives are logical and effective: When in

 

doubt, strike. The battle will never go as you planned it.

 

Improvise. Surprise is your most effective weapon.23

 

Effect of Available Technology

 

The armies of Egypt and Syria had been equipped with

 

sophisticated Soviet weapons in the years prior to the 1967

 

war, including MIG-21 fighters, SA-2 anti-air missiles, and

 

the latest models (T-54 and T-55) of Russian tanks, at the

 

time. Israel's military experts admitted after the Six Day

 

War that Soviet armor was superior to Israel's.

 

The combined Arab armed forces were superior to the

 

Israel Defense Force quantitatively and regarding weapons,

 

qualitatively as well. Because of this, knowledgeable and

 

qualified observers did not anticipate anything approaching

 

the actual course of the war.24 Israel's biggest problem

 

was the all-around threat from Arab air bases. They could

 

put up enough jet bombers, such as the TU-16 and IL-28 along

 

with MIG-21 transonic fighters and MIG-17's to outnumber

 

Israel's comparable types, like the Vatour fighter-bomber

 

and the Mirage IIIC, by better than two to one. With four

 

air bases in Sinai, two of them new, Egypt could put MIG's

 

over Tel Aviv within seven minutes from takeoff. Because of

 

this capability, Israel planned and executed the pre-emptive

 

strike on eleven Egyptian air fields that were the hard core

 

threat to Israel's interior.

 

The over-all contribution of the Fougas to quick

 

victory was incalculable. The Fouga Magister, built in

 

Israel, is the basic trainer for jet pilots, and this

 

relatively slow aircraft had been souped up with two

 

matching guns and thirty-six rockets to operate as a tank

 

killer over Sinai. These "turtles" of the air force

 

destroyed over seventy Egyptian artillery pieces, took on

 

the enemy armor whenever they found it, and softened the

 

base camps before the armored spearheads came up.

 

Certain brigades became highly specialized in precise

 

knowledge of the terrain and all possible routes for

 

military movement. Soil experts, archaeologists and other

 

scientists were consulted about the possibility of moving

 

around dunes and across badlands where not even camel cara-

 

vans had traveled. The premise was that to conquer Sinai

 

swiftly, it would have to be done with armor. Israel's army

 

got to know the possibilities of Sinai far better than the

Egyptan army that stood there.

 

Influence of Available Resources

 

The military balance in early 1967 was in favor of the

 

United Arab Republic. It had two armored divisions with a

 

third being formed, four infantry divisions, one parachute

 

brigade and twelve artillery regiments. Egypt's estimated

 

regular armed forces were 180,000-200,000 men (not including

 

the National Guard). Of these, about 30,000-35,000 were

 

stationed in Sinai. Syria's armed forces comprised about

 

60,000-70,000 regulars and 40,000-45,000 reservists.

 

Jordan's Arab Legion consisted of about 50,000-55,000

 

regulars, and its National Guard unit consisted of

 

15,000-20,000 men. The number of men in the Israel Defense

 

Force, on full mobilization was estimated to be 270,000-

 

300,000. The troops made up 23 Infantry Brigades, 8 Armored

 

Brigades, and 12 Artillery Brigades.25

 

The U.A.R. had a combined air force of 522 fighters, 76

 

bombers, and 106 transport aircraft. The Israeli Defense

 

Force had 200-300 fighter-bombers, 25 bombers, 60 trainers

 

/ground attack planes, and 20 transports. The U.A.R.'s

 

strength in armor was over 2,000 tanks and self-propelled

 

guns, 2,100 plus armored personnel carriers, 2,600 artillery

 

and 28 SA-2 anti-air batteries. The I.D.F. had in its force

 

only 1,050 tanks and self-propelled guns and 1,000 armed

 

fighting vehicles.26

 

Politically the U.A.R. had the backing of the Soviet

 

Union who had been providing them with advanced weaponry and

 

training since 1955. President Nasser believed that in a

 

confrontation with Israel, Russia would not let Egypt be

 

destroyed. The United States was reluctant for political

 

reasons to give arms to Israel and was focused on her own

 

involvement in Vietnam.

 

Up against a small country, geographically and

 

politically alone, qualitatively and quantantively inferior

 

(on paper) in both manpower and weaponry, President Nasser

 

proceeded with his strategy of troop concentrations in the

 

Sinai and fortification of the Golan Heights and Jordanian

 

border. When all was in place he would close the Straits of

 

Tiran forcing the Israelis to attack there to re-open

 

shipping. He believed both his air and ground forces could

 

withstand a first strike by the Israelis and respond with a

 

fatal retaliatory second blow.27

 

Surrounded and faced with superior numbers of enemy

 

forces and equipment, Israel's primary objective was the

 

preservation of Israel's interior through the destruction of

 

Egypt's air power. The strategy which had been planned and

 

practiced for over two years was a pre-emptive morning air

 

strike against eleven targeted air fields whose destruction

 

would shock Egypt and paralyze its air arm. With air

 

supremacy achieved the Israeli Air Force would then provide

 

close air support to ground forces conquering the Sinai and

 

seek out and destroy enemy infantry and armor divisions.

 

Objective Accomplishment

 

Brigadier General Mordechai Hod, Commander of the

 

Israeli Air Force came up with the plan to take out the

 

Arab Air Forces. For two years, the Israeli Air Force had

 

followed the same training route, at the same time every

 

morning. The formation would take off from their base in

 

the Negev Desert and sweep out to the west across the

 

neutral Mediterranean Sea. In due time the Israeli jets

 

would dive to wave top height and turn for home. All of

 

this was noted by Egyptian radar operators. There was a

 

dawn alert by the Egyptians every day. Israeli intelligence

 

provided the exact time and location of alert jets and

 

combat air patrols along the Egyptian-Israeli frontier in

 

the Sinai. The June 5th attack was planned around the

 

Egyptians taking the morning maneuvers for granted and on

the intelligence data that at 0740 the dawn alert was

 

canceled and nearly every pilot in the Egyptian Air Force

 

would be eating breakfast.28 The key to the master plan was

 

a synchronized attack against eleven Egyptian air bases.

 

The lift-offs were timed and staged so that each formation

 

would go at its target at the same minute. Thereafter the

 

same eleven bases would be pounded steadily for eighty

 

minutes. At the exact start of the air strike, an Israeli

 

land assault would advance along three axis in the northern

 

Sinai.

 

The Arab political and military leaders believed

 

that by constant harassment of Israeli settlements and the

 

closing of the Straits of Tiran, the Israelis would be

 

forced to defend themselves. In the event of an outbreak of

 

war, the ratio of forces and the state of preparedness of

 

the Arab forces would guarantee the Arab alliance military

 

success. Soviet and Arab delegates to the United Nations

 

made every effort to pre-empt any Western intervention that

 

might obstruct Arab plans; they went out of their way to

 

minimize the seriousness of the situation and to permit

 

developments to take their course. The Arab air forces role

 

was combat air patrol along the Israeli Sinai frontier as

 

protection for massed ground forces. They were assigned a

 

defensive role rather than an offensive role.


 

SECTION V

 

SUCCESS VS. FAILURE

 

On June 5 1967, Israel launched a series of pre-emptive

 

air strikes against its Arab neighbors. Its consequent

 

victory over Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in the war took only

 

six days. It refuted the belief, common after 1956 that the

 

Jewish State could not defeat the Arabs without Western

 

allies. It exploded the myth that "unity of goals" among

 

the Arab states would lead them to defeat Israel. It proved

 

that the Israel Defense Force could attain high levels of

 

skill, coordination, and valor in order to ensure the

 

country's survival.29

 

It is always misleading to compare military data on a

 

one-to-one basis. First, there are significant differences

 

between plane and plane, tank and tank, missile and missile,

 

their concentration or dispersal and tactical use. Secondly

leadership, training, technology, motivation, and organiza-

 

tion cannot be quantified but are of crucial importance.

 

In June 1967, Israel had two qualitative advantages

 

over her adversaries: surprise and motivation. Clausewitz

 

states surprise is "when it is successful in a high degree,

 

confusion and broken courage in the enemy's ranks are the

 

consequences.30 The shadow and lessons of the Sinai War

 

hung heavily on the Israeli decision-makers. There was a

 

feeling of isolation in the face of growing danger. There

 

was no certainty the United States would support Israel if

 

she went to war, and there was a great deal of apprehension

 

regarding the role of the Soviet Union in such an event.

 

This feeling of uncertainty was heightened by conflicting

 

estimates on the outcome of the war.

 

Among the Israeli leadership and military

 

commanders, there was no doubt of an Israeli victory; but

 

the rate of casualties would, it was feared, be very high

 

in view of the strong defense deployment of the Egyptian

 

Army, the possibility the Egyptians might use their navy for

 

offensive operations and the uncertainty regarding the use

 

of missiles. Military experts warned the civilian

 

leadership that if Israel went to war to expect at least

 

10,000 casualties if she won and as many as two million dead

 

if she lost.31

 

The devastating air strikes on the 5th were crucial to

 

the survival of the State of Israel and to the second phase

 

of the strategy to achieve "defense in depth." It caught

 

Arab leaders totally by surprise and ensured Israel's aerial

 

supremacy for the rest of the war. In fact, Israel's

 

victory was certain within the first three hours. The

 

superior quality of IDF leadership and training, the quick

 

exploitation of the tactical advantages gained on the first

 

day- air supremacy and the break through of the Arab front

 

line- led to disarray and retreat among the Arab forces.

 

Another principle of war used successfully by the

 

Israelis was maneuver. The overall strategy of Israel's

 

Southern Command was based on a three pronged break-in by

 

means of three principle phases. The first phase was to

 

open the northern and central axis by destroying the

 

fortified Egyptian infrastructure along them and thereby

 

breaking the back of the Egyptian forces in the Sinai; the

 

second phase was to penetrate into the depths of the Sinai;

 

while the third phase was to take the two mountain passes

 

leading to the Suez canal and thereby cutting off the

 

Egyptian army from recrossing the canal. The general

 

impression created by the Israeli deployment of forces,

 

which in the Southern Sector were moved to and fro along the

 

border openly, succeeded in misleading the Egyptians as to

 

the probable planned main thrust of the Israeli forces.

 

The impression was given that the attack would be launched

 

to the south. As a result the Arab forces were caught off

guard when the opening attack took place in the north in

 

areas they considered impassable. The best strategy is

 

"always be very strong, first then at the decisive point."32

 

There is no more imperative and no simpler law for strategy

 

than to "keep the forces concentrated."33 The Israelis

 

proved this concept with their concentration of air power

 

against Egypt alone and only after air supremacy had been

 

achieved on that front did the air forces plan attacks

 

against Jordan and Syria.

 

Another major element in the success of their strategy

 

was the bravery of the Israeli soldiers in such classic

 

battles as the struggle of the paratroopers in east

 

Jerusalem, and of the incredible armored and infantry

 

assault on the Golan Heights. A measure of the example and

 

leadership ability within the Israel Defense Forces can be

 

gauged from the fact that 23 percent of the casualties were

 

suffered by officers and NCO's. One of the main secrets of

 

Israel's success lay in the fact that the officers and NCO's

 

were at the head of their men in battle. In this war, the

 

Arab forces were completely outgeneraled by the Israelis.34

 

While the Israelis kept their "objective" uppermost in

 

mind and successfully used all their skills and resources

 

in ensuring survival of the State, the Arab forces in their

 

conduct of the war made several cardinal errors. President

 

Nasser disregarded the virtues of surprise, superiority of

 

numbers, economy of mass, and maneuver. Though superior in

 

numbers, he exaggerated the strength of his own forces and

 

the Arab armies. The fact that Egypt and other Arab armies

 

had succeeded in mastering sophisticated modern aircraft,

 

electronic equipment and masses of armor, caused him to

 

exaggerate and lay excessive emphases on the equipment as

 

opposed to the men who had to use it. He did not envisage

 

a rapid, hard-hitting war of maneuver in the desert but saw

 

it more (as the deployment and fortifications of his forces

 

would indicate) as a long drawn-out slogging match.

 

Finally, he did not appreciate the decisive importance of

 

the surprise first strike as borne out by the gradual

 

cautious opening of hostilities on the part of the Arab

 

forces in which no use was made of the powerful potential of

 

the first strike. The long period of waiting several weeks

 

under conditions of tension enabled the IDF to mobilize

 

effectively and to be prepared for the initial strike.35


 

SECTION VI

 

CONCLUSION

 

The Arab-Israeli "Six Day War" ended on June 10 1967.

 

When acceptance of a cease fire halted fighting, Israel

 

occupied a land more than three times her own size. Israeli

 

troops had penetrated on three fronts, taking the Syrian

 

Heights above the Sea of Galilee; the West Bank of Jordan,

 

including the old city of Jerusalem; and the entire Sinai

 

Peninsula in Egypt. With these areas as a bargaining point

 

Israel hoped to protect her frontiers from the kind of

 

harassment that precipitated the June, 1967 War. Israel had

 

achieved her objectives of "survival" and "defense in depth"

 

through the bold use of its air force in a pre-emptive,

 

first strike strategy.

 

The Six Day War was brought on by President Nasser of

 

Egypt. One of the biggest mistakes he made was exaggerating

 

the strength of the Egyptian and Arab combined forces and

 

their commitment to the objective "the destruction of the

 

State of Israel." The strategy to force Israel into war,

 

i.e. Syrian guerrilla raids, massing troops along all

 

borders and closing the Straits of Tiran, was a success.

 

What Arab leadership failed to have was a follow on strategy

 

of how to fight the Israelis once a war started. You can't

win from the defensive. You can't win by being predictable.

 

The Arab forces were guilty of both.

 

They made no use of the powerful first strike and

 

their aircraft alert schedule might as well been posted in

 

every Israeli flying squadron. The actual hour of the

 

attack was chosen on intelligence that it would find most

 

Egyptian Air Command personnel in their cars in route after

 

breakfast from their homes to their bases. The intelligence

 

was correct. The Egyptian-UAR forces had superior equipment

 

and forces in their favor. If they had used their numbers

 

with maneuver and economy of force they could have

 

overwhelmed the Israeli Army. Instead they dug in behind

 

ten years of desert fortifications and became targets for

 

the Israeli Air Force. The outcome of this war would have

 

been different if the Arab leadership had developed a

 

strategy based on the offensive using their sophisticated

 

air arm in unison on all fronts. The outcome of the war was

 

a direct result of the Israeli air strikes that caught the

 

entire Arab world off guard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


END NOTES

 

1. Brecher, Michael, Decisions in Crisis: Israel 1967 and 1973, University of California Press, LA, CA, 1980, p. 417,418.

 

2-14. Carter, Jimmy, The Blood of Abraham: Insights into the Middle East, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1985, p. XIX-XV.

 

15. Laquer, Walter and Rubin, Berry, Eds, The Israeli-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict, Penguin Books, New York, 1984, p.179.

 

16. Laquer, Walter and Rubin, Berry, Eds, The Israeli-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict, p. 183.

 

17. Laquer, Walter and Rubin, Berry, Eds, The Israeli-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict, p. 185.

 

18. Herog, Chaim, The Arab-Israeli Wars, Random House, Inc., New York, 1982, p. 151.

 

19. Neff, Donald, Warriors for Jerusalem, Linden Press/ Simon & Schuster, New York, 1984, p. 172.

 

20. Bawly, Dan and Kimche, David, The Sand-Storm: The Arab-Israeli War of 1967,Stein and Day Publishers, New York, 1968, p. 174.

 

21. Clausewitz, Carl von, On War, Penguin Books, New York, 1985, p. 75.

 

22. Marshall, Brig Gen S.L.A., Swift Sword: The Historical Record of Israeli's Victory in June 1967, p. 6.

23. Marshall, Brig Gen S.L.A., Swift Sword: The Historical Record of Israeli's Victory in June 1967, p. 133.

 

24. Brecher, Michael, Decisions in Crisis: Israel 1967 and 1973, p.418.

 

25. Laquer, Walter, The Road to Jerusalem: The Arab-Israeli Conflict 1967, Macmillan Co., New York, 1968, p. 62.

 

26. Laquer, Walter, The Road to Jerusalem: The Arab-Israeli Conflict 1967, p. 66.

 

27. Laquer, Walter, The Road to Jerusalem: The Arab-Israeli Conflict 1967, p. 99.

 

28. Hammel, Eric, Six Days in June, Clarks Scribner and Sons, New York, 1972, p. 165-166.

 

29. Goldschmidt, Arthur Jr., A Concise History of the Middle East, Westview Press, Colorado, 1991, p. 293.

 

30. Clausewitz, Carl von, On War, p. 269.

 

31. Bawly, Dan and Kimche, David, Sand-Storm: The Arab-Israeli War of 1967, p. 140.

 

32. Clausewitz, Carl von, On War, p. 276.

 

33. Clausewitz, Carl von, On War, p. 276.

 

34. Herzog, Chaim, The Israeli Wars, p. 189-190.

 

35. Herzog, Chaim, The Israeli Wars, p. 190.


 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

1. Bawley, Dan and Kimche, David, The Sand-Storm: The Arab-Israeli War of 1967, Stein and Day Publishers, New York, 1968.

 

2. Brecher, Michael, Decisions in Crisis: Israel 1967 and 1973, University of California Press, LA, CA, 1980.

 

3. Carter, Jimmy, The Blood of Abraham: Insights into the Middle East, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1985.

 

4. Clausewitz, Carl von, On War, Penguin Books, New York, 1985.

 

5. Goldschmidt, Arthur Jr., A Concise History of the Middle East, Westview Press, Colorado, 1991.

 

6. Hammel, Eric, Six Days in June, Charles Scribner and Sons, New York, 1972.

 

7. Herzog, Chaim, The Arab-Israeli Wars, Random House, Inc., New York, 1982.

 

8. Laquer, Walter and Rubin, Barry, Eds., The Israeli-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict,

Penguin Books, New York, 1984.

 

9. Laquer, Walter, The Road to Jerusalem: The Arab-Israeli Conflict 1967, Macmillan Co., New York, 1968.

 

10. Marshall, Brig Gen S.L.A. Swift Sword: The Historical Record of Israel's Victory June 1967, American Heritage Pub.

Co., 1967.

 

11. Neff, Donald, Warriors for Jerusalem, Linedn Press/Simon & Schuster, New York, 1984.



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