What led to the Six Day War in 1967?
Terrorist Attacks on Israel
Looking at the events that led up to the war, the main cause comes out to be increasing tensions between Israel and its neighboring Arab countries during the mid 1960s.
Israel adopted a policy of diverting water from the Jordan River to the Negev Desert and this was became the cause of the tension. Naturally, this angered Arabs so much that they threatened to divert this flow into Lake Galilee. Syria was bombed by Israel in 1965 and 1966 soon after they began implementing their policy of diverting water from Israel.
After the formation of the PLO and Fatah movements against Israel, the already intense relations between Israel and its neighbors took on a new extremity. Most of these activities were initiated from the West Bank and Golan Heights so Israel saw war as an effective solution of wiping out these movements. In 1966, when the Ba’ath party, a militant anti-Israeli group, took charge in Syria, President Nasser of Egypt also had to take a militant stance against Israel considering it to be hiding behind UN.
Many historians also lay down that Israel wanted a war in the face of all the economic problems faced at that time, taking on the strategy that a war would distract people’s minds from these economic fiascos and will also bring in foreign aid. In addition, many Jews were of the view that the Israeli government should have been harder on the Arabs after the 1956 Suez War and the former Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion believed that another war would allow them to tighten Israeli grip on the Arabs.
Events Leading Up to War
On April 7, 1967, Israel attacked the Syrian artillery positions and the Golan Heights, thus taking the first step towards the outbreak of war. Six Syrian MiG fighter planes were shot down during this operation while the situation became worse when Israeli jet planes deliberately started flying low over Damascus. Shortly after this, Syrian government received intelligence information by the Soviet Union stating that Israel is amassing forces on the Syrian border to launch an attack. There is no evidence about the authenticity of this information; however, it made Syria and Egypt come together and stand against Israel.
Egypt became a part of this issue due to the defense pact of 1966. It has been observed that President Nasser didn’t want a war, but he nevertheless took some actions which brought the war closer. He asked the UN peacekeepers to leave the Sinai desert by sending his troops there. As a response, Israeli army was activated and Syria, Jordan and Egypt had to declare emergency.
In May, leading from these events, Nasser isolated the Israeli port of Eliat by closing the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, which eventually led to the Suez War. Three days later, the Arab armies (consisting of joint forces of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Egypt) moved towards the border to confront Israel. Jordan also joined these forces on May 30, forming the Arab Defense Pact.