Air Strategy in the 1967 Arab/Israeli War.
Subject Area - Aviation
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
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
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
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.
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
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
1953 - At the age of eighteen, Hussein becomes King of
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
11. Neff, Donald, Warriors for Jerusalem, Linedn Press/Simon & Schuster, New York, 1984.
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