HONG KONG MODEL UNITED NATIONS 2014 Committee: Historical Security Council Topic: The Arab-Israeli War of 1967 Point of reference for debate: November 1967 Chair: Ehab Ebeid Major conflicts in history are those that shape our modern world. Such is the case with the ArabIsraeli War of 1967, which has laid the foundation for future discord and conflict in the region, and whose effects on the map of the Middle East can still be seen. The war began on June 5 with Israeli surprise attacks on Egypt and Syria, following a period of border tension. Within 6 days, Israel had already declared a victory, and had expanded its territory fourfold, capturing the Gaza Strip and the entirety of the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt; the West Bank from Jordan, including East Jerusalem; and the Golan Heights from Syria. The war also resulted in the fleeing of 400,000 Palestinians from the West Bank after its capture by Israel, and the existence additionally of more than a million Palestinian Arabs within territories occupied after the war. The war is known conventionally by many names. Within Israel and in many English texts it is called the Six-Day War; in Arabic it is more well-known as the 1967 War and An-Naksa (The Relapse). It has also been referred as the June War and the Third Arabâ€“Israeli War.
HISTORY OF THE ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT UP TO 1967 It is essential to view the Six-Day War of 1967 in its appropriate historical context, as the third major Arab-Israeli conflict. Therefore, a brief summary of the Arab-Israeli conflict is needed, including the First Arab-Israeli War in 1948 and the Second in 1956. It is recommended that delegates conduct further research to extend this historical background.
During and Following the First World War By the outbreak of the First World War, many Jewish settlers already lived in the Ottomanadministered Levant, having travelled there from Europe and North America at the end of the 19 th century. Palestine was home to a native majority Arabic-speaking population who rejected these Jewish settlements. The settlers were mostly supporters of the Zionist movement, which called for a Jewish homeland in the biblical Holy Land. During the First World War in 1917, the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour, granted the Jewish settlersâ€™ petition for a homeland. It was in the form of a letter to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, a letter subsequently known as The Balfour Declaration, promising European Jews a state in then-British-controlled Palestine.
After World War I, and the partition of the Ottoman Empire, the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration was established over territories of the modern-day Levant. This was a joint military administration by France and Britain, two victors of the War. The area was subsequently divided into territories under French and British influence, most notably the British Mandate of Palestine. The British Mandate of Palestine then saw a great increase in Jewish immigrants in the 1920’s and 1930’s, after the Balfour Declaration. This caused the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt in Palestine, against the British government and continued Jewish immigration. The revolt was suppressed by the British army and Zionist militant organizations, such as Haganah and Irgun.
1939-1956: Second World War, Conflict in the Holy Land, and the Formation of the State of Israel World War II saw British neglect of the Balfour Declaration, as well as continuing colonist presence in the Middle East (and elsewhere. It also saw mass illegal immigration of European Jews to Mandatory Palestine, many fleeing persecution in Europe. The first half of the 20th century saw the Jewish population in Mandatory Palestine increase by ten times. Intensified violence between the different peoples then in Mandatory Palestine led the United Nations to establish the Partition Plan for Palestine in 1947. It decreed the establishment of two separate states, an Arab one and a Jewish one, as well as an internationally-administered city-state of Jerusalem. THE UNITED NATIONS PLAN
The Partition Plan was completely
rejected by the Arabs who labelled it as
WHITE IS THE PROPOSED UN-
contiguous borders. Civil war broke out
between the Palestinians, the Jews of Palestine, and in part, the United Kingdom’s forces. The war was decisively won by Jewish forces, which went on to announce the creation of a Jewish state: Israel. This transformed the war by 1948, the end of the British administration, into a full-fledged conflict (First Arab-Israeli War) with Israel’s neighbouring states, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. After the war, Israel emerged as a state on the territories allotted by the UN, in addition to 60% of what was allotted to the Arab
JEWISH SOLDIERS RAISE THE INK FLAG ON
state. This also marked the forming of Palestinian refugee camps,
as more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled
WHICH WOULD BECOME EILAT IN ISRAEL.
from Palestine. On the other hand, over a million Jews immigrated to the newly-founded state in the following three years (1948-1951), including Jews from the neighbouring states. After 1948, the prospects of establishing an Arab Palestinian state were ruined. Jordan annexed the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from Mandatory Palestine; while an All-Palestine government was established under Egyptian patronship, basing itself in the Gaza strip. While Egypt’s military was in control of the Gaza strip, the Egyptian government declared it will never annex it or any Palestinian area, unlike the Jordanian government’s decision to annex the West Bank. The UN 1949 Armistice Agreements was decided upon, based on the territories Israel gained in the 1948 War.
1956: War in the Suez In July 1956, Egyptian President Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal, the only shipping waterway existing through the continental mass of Africa and Asia, essential for petrol transportation. The canal exists entirely within Egypt’s territory, but was administered by the Suez Canal Company, majority-owned by Britain and France. The nationalization occurred after Western powers declined to help Egypt fund the building of the Aswan Dam, an Egyptian national energy project. This was, in turn, due to Egypt’s leaning towards the USSR, and it’s recognition of the People’s Republic of China (not the UN representative as China until 1971). France and Britain sought to regain control of the canal, and to oust Nasser’s government completely. However, it was not Britain and France who started the war, but Israel. Israel, who was later to be backed by Britain and France, invaded Egypt. However, due to mediations by the United States, the USSR, and the United Nations, the conflict was resolved with Egypt agreeing to the stationing of U.N. peacekeepers, the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF), in the Sinai to ensure all parties would comply with the 1949 Armistice Agreements, the Straits of Tiran were opened to Israeli traffic and The Sinai peninsula was demilitarized. As a result of the War; the UN Emergency Force was created to police the border. The crisis, in addition to ending much of Britain’s superpower status, marked a new chapter in the Arab-Israeli Conflict, named the second such war, and continued to fuel this enmity. Israel briefly gained control of parts of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza strip, territories it would again capture in 1967.
IMMEDIATE CAUSES OF THE 1967 WAR Below are details of some incidents of dispute, considered immediate causes of the 1967 Six Day War. Since no declaration of war listed causes, no justifications of war can be considered nondebateable. In fact, the Egyptian government maintained at the UN that there was absolutely no justification for Israelâ€™s surprise attacks.
Water dispute In 1964, Israel began drawing water from the Jordan River for its National Water Carrier, reducing the flow that reached the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan significantly. In 1965, the Arab states of Syria and Jordan began construction of the Headwater Diversion Plan, which, once completed, would divert the waters of the Banias Stream before the water entered Israel and the Sea of Galilee, to flow instead into a dam at Mukhaiba for use by Jordan and Syria, and divert the waters of the Hasbani into the Litani River in Lebanon. The diversion works would have reduced the installed capacity of Israel's carrier by about 35%, and Israel's overall water supply by about 11%
Samu Incident in the West Bank The Samu incident was a large cross-border assault on November 13, 1966 by Israeli military on the Jordanian-controlled West Bank village of Samu (now part of the Occupied Palestinian territories). It was claimed by the Israeli government that that the attack was in response to a land mine incident two days earlier near the West Bank border. The Israeli government claimed Al-Fatah was responsible, part of the newly founded Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO; see section on Key Terms and Entities). It was the largest Israeli military operation since the 1956 Suez Crisis and is considered to have been a contributing factor to the outbreak of the Six-Day War in 1967. Since 1965 Jordan had an active campaign against Al-Fatah activities, so the attack came as a surprise. The handling of the incident was widely criticised in Israeli political and military circles, as well as overseas.
Trespasses at the Syrian Front and 1967 Border Tensions The peace accord at the end of the 1948 war had established demilitarized zones between Israel and Syria. However, as recalled by UN military forces officers such as Odd Bull and Carl Von Horn, Israelis gradually took over portions of the zone, evicting Arab villagers and demolishing their homes; these actions incurring protests from the UN Security Council. Moshe Dayan, the Israeli defence minister at the time of the Six Day War, recounted in a 1976 interview that Israeli policy in the Demilitarized Zone between 1949 and 1967 was "to seize some territory and hold it until the enemy despairs and
gives it to us", thus changing "the lines of the ceasefire accord with military actions that were less than a war". In the spring of 1967, the Soviet Union misinformed the Syrian government that Israeli forces were massing in northern Israel to attack Syria. There was no such Israeli mobilization. But clashes between Israel and Syria had been escalating for about a year, and Israeli leaders had publicly declared that it might be necessary to bring down the Syrian regime if it failed to end Palestinian commando attacks against Israel from Syrian territory. Several severe border incidents occurred with Israel, in Syria, Jordan and Egypt. Responding to a Syrian request for assistance, in May 1967 Egyptian troops entered the Sinai Peninsula bordering Israel. Egypt asked the United Nations Emergency Force peacekeepers to leave the Sinai Peninsula, and established a military presence at Sharm el-Sheikh and elsewhere in Sinai. These measures shocked and frightened the Israeli public, which believed it was in danger of annihilation.
Blockade of the Strait of Tiran The Strait of Tiran is a narrow strait—further narrowed by its containing several islands—between the Sinai and Arabian peninsulas, in Egypt and Saudi Arabia respectively. After the border incidents on all Israeli borders with Egypt, Syria and Jordan, Egypt also announced a blockade, a prevention of access, to the Strait of Tiran. It is debated whether the blockade was enacted. Israel viewed the trait as a vital interest, and its blockade a casus belli, a justification for acts of war.
MAP OF THE STRAIT OF TIRAN SHOWING EGYPTIAN AND SAUDI TERRITORIES; FURTHER NORTH ARE ISRAEL AND JORDAN.
Indeed, the strait is the only passage allowing access to Israel’s only Red Sea port, Eilat. It was the main passage of oil to Israel from Iran (then an Israeli ally). The accusation of a blockade of the Strait of Tiran is, however, dubious in the eyes of Major General Indar Jit Rikhye, the military advisor to the UN Secretary General. This is because no Israeli ship had passed through it for three years prior to the conflict. Moreover, Rikhye pointed out to the fact that the blockade only consisted of “searching a few ships” and was subsequently relaxed. The arguments for casus belli based on a blockade of this vital strait were vital for Israel against allegations of unjustified attack, whereas Egypt adopts the opinion of Major General Rikhye, and that even the event of a full-fledged blockade does not constitute justification for war.
Speeches by Nasser In his speech to Arab trade unionists on May 26, 1967, President Gamal Abdel-Nasser of Egypt announced: "If Israel embarks on an aggression against Syria or Egypt, the battle against Israel will be a general one and not confined to one spot on the Syrian or Egyptian borders. The battle will be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel.” In 1964 he said, "We swear to God that we shall not rest until we restore the Arab nation to Palestine and Palestine to the Arab nation. There is no room for imperialism and there is no room for Britain in our country, just as there is no room for Israel within the Arab nation." These comments sparked fear in Israel, and on June 4 the decision was made to go to war. The next morning, Israel launched Operation Focus, a large-scale surprise air strike that was the opening of the Arab-Israeli War of 1967.
THE WAR After all of the previous incidents, involving Israel and its Arab neighbours, on the morning of June 5, Israel staged a sudden pre-emptive air assault and destroyed Egypt’s air force on the ground; later that day, it incapacitated a great deal of the Jordanian and Syrian air power as well. Without cover from the air, the Arab armies were left vulnerable to attack, and, as a result, the Israeli victory on the ground was also overwhelming. By the time the United Nations cease-fire came into effect on June 10, Israeli units had driven Syrian forces back from the Golan Heights, taken control of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and driven Jordanian forces from the West Bank. Notably, the Israelis were left in sole control of Jerusalem. The warfare resulted in the creation of hundreds of thousands of refugees and brought more than one million Palestinians in the occupied territories under Israeli rule.
KEY TERMS AND ENTITIES
UNEF: The United Nations Emergency Force was established by the UN General Assembly in 1956 to establish an end to the Suez War. It was developed in large measure as a result of efforts by UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and a proposal from Canadian Minister of External Affairs Lester B. Pearson. PLO: The Palestinian Liberation Organization was founded in 1964. Fatah, a political party, constitutes the largest part of the PLO and in the 1960’s constituted an even bigger part. Israel continuously accused the PLO of sabotage acts in the 1960’s, some of which were the cause of the controversial Samu Incident in the West Bank.
United Arab Republic (UAR): Between 1958 and 1961, it refers to Egypt and Syria’s political union as a single republic. After 1961, Syria kept the flag of the United Arab Republic until now, while Egypt kept the name until 1972. Thus, during the Six Day War in 1967, Egypt was known as the United Arab Republic. UN 1949 Armistice Agreements: They are the set of treaties and borders agreed upon after the war in 1948, between Israel and its neighbouring states. Although their justification was the extension of Israel’s territory in 1948, it was agreed upon in the region. Green Line: The line encompassing Israel’s border after the UN 1949 Armistice Agreements. This line was “broken” when Israel expanded its territory in the Six Day War. A return to the green line borders is known as a return to the 1967 Borders. When “1967 Borders” are mentioned, they refer to borders before the Six Day War. Pre-emptive strike: A justifiable attack to gain a strategic advantage in an impending (allegedly unavoidable) war before that attack materializes. It is launched to destroy the potential threat, which is seen as unavoidable. Israel has defended its surprise strikes in 1967 as pre-emptive.
PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE OR UNJUSTIFIED ATTACK This is the single most important controversy of the war; whether Israel’s surprise attack was justified as pre-emptive. Though Israel had struck first, Israel initially claimed that it was attacked first. Later it claimed that its attack was a pre-emptive strike in the face of a planned invasion of Israel by the Arab countries. Israel's position is that, facing economic strangulation and the possibility of war on three fronts (Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian), it felt it had little choice but to initiate pre-emptive action. According to Israeli historian and current Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, the Arabs "had planned the conquest of Israel and the expulsion or murder of much of its Jewish inhabitants in 1967” and Israel had to act accordingly. On the day of the war, M. A. El Kony, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Republic (Egypt), remarked at a UN session that "Israel has committed a treacherous premeditated aggression against the United Arab Republic...While we in the United Arab Republic...have declared our intention not to initiate any offensive action and have fully co-operated in the attempts that were made to relieve the tension in the area", After the war, Israeli officials admitted that Israel wasn't expecting to be attacked when it initiated hostilities against Egypt.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION 1- What measures, if any, shall the UN Security Council take in order to force withdrawal of military forces from all occupied areas after the war? 2- What criteria shall the United Nations Security Council recommend for the determining of whether an attack is justified as pre-emptive? 3- Will the UN affirm the Land for Peace formula, calling for Israeli withdrawal from "territories" it had occupied in 1967 in exchange for peace with its neighbours? 4- How will the UN settle the refugee problem that was further amplified to a catastrophic extent in 1967? 5- Will the UN Security Council reaffirm a two-state solution? If so, on which borders, and how?
RESOURCES FOR FURTHER READING “1967
Arab-Israeli War Timeline.” Aljazeera English, http://www.aljazeera.com/focus/196740yearsofoccupation/2007/06/2008526113146572296.html.
1967 Defined the Middle East.” BBC, June http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6709173.stm.
MERIP. “The June 1967 War | Middle East Research and Information Project.” Middle East Research and Information Project, January 2001. http://www.merip.org/palestine-israel_primer/67war-pal-isr-primer.html. Security Council. “UN Security Council S/PV.1347/Rev.1 of 5 June 1967.” UN, June 5, 1967. http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/CD0BEBA6A1E28EFF0525672800567B2C. “The 1967 Arab-Israeli War - 1961–1968 - Milestones.” Governmental. Office of the Historian, October 31, 2013. http://history.state.gov/milestones/1961-1968/arab-israeli-war-1967. “Timeline: The Six Day War.” NPR.org (June http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10694216.