Waiting period (Six-Day War)

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Digging trenches on kibbutz Gan Shmuel before the Six-Day War

The waiting period (Hebrew: תקופת ההמתנה‎‎,Tkufat HaHamtana) was a 3-week interval in the history of Israel, May 15 – June 5, 1967, between the Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal into the Sinai Peninsula and the outbreak of the Six-Day War.

Military moves[edit]

On 13 May 1967 Nasser received a Soviet intelligence report which claimed that Israel was massing troops on Syria's border.[1] Nasser verified that the report was false,[2] but still told his people that Israel troops are placed on Syria's border. Subsequently, he took three successive steps that made war virtually inevitable: On 14 May he deployed his troops in Sinai near the border with Israel, on 19 May expelled the UN peacekeepers stationed in the Sinai Peninsula border with Israel, and on 23 May closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli bound shipping.,[3] although he knew that it would be considered a Casus belli by Israel.[4] 90% of Israeli oil passed through the Straits of Tiran.[5] Oil tankers that were due to pass through the straights have been delayed.[6] [7]

When the UN forces evacuated its troops, Israel military commentators and political officials still believed that Egypt would not open a front against Israel, due to its involvement in the North Yemen Civil War.[8] However, when Nasser declared that his forces were withdrawing from Yemen and making their way to Sinai, Israel drafted every fit man, which led to an economic paralyzation. No emergency was felt on the Jordanian border. Tourists kept crossing the Mandelbaum Gate, although there were reports of Jordanian Legion forces moving from Amman towards the West Bank.

Nasser's move was supported by Moscow, while the United States warned both Israel and Egypt not to take military action.

On 27 May Egypt canceled a planned attack on Israel at the last minute,[9][10][11][12] and on May 30, Jordan and Egypt signed a defense pact. The following day, at Jordan's invitation, the Iraqi army began deploying troops and armored units in Jordan.[13] Any military analyst should have recognized that the arrival of large numbers of Arab troops and Iraqi planes in Jordan would inevitably make Israel anxious swiftly to act against Jordan before these new forces were fully deployed.[14] Israel continued to prepare for war.[8]

Israeli scholar Avner Cohen has argued that this period was also crucial to Israel's nuclear policy, and that the anxiety led Israel to advance towards "operational readiness" of its nuclear option.[15]

Arab Leaders[edit]

On 26 May Nasser declared, "The battle will be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel",[16] The Arab people want to fight.[17]

in the end of May 1967, Nasser claimed in a public speech to have been aware of the Straits of Tiran closure implications: "Taking over Sharm El Sheikh meant confrontation with Israel. It also means that we ready to enter a general war with Israel. It was not a separate operation".[18]

President Abdul Rahman Arif of Iraq said that "the existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is an opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948".[19] The Iraqi Prime Minister predicted that "there will be practically no Jewish survivors".

In May 1967, Hafez al-Assad, then Syria's Defense Minister declared: "Our forces are now entirely ready not only to repulse the aggression, but to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland. The Syrian Army, with its finger on the trigger, is united... I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation."[20]

Political moves[edit]

Speaking before the Knesset, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol tried to calm the situation by assuring the Arab states that Israel was not seeking war.

On May 23, chief of general staff Yitzhak Rabin met with Ben-Gurion to ask for reassurance. Ben-Gurion, however, accused him of putting the country in mortal jeopardy by mobilizing the reserves and openly preparing for war against a coalition of Arab states, saying that at the very least, Rabin should have obtained the support of a foreign power as he himself had done during the Sinai Campaign 11 years earlier. Rabin was shaken by the meeting and took to his bed for 36 hours, in what became known as the 'nicotine poisoning' incident.[21] Rabin turned to Ezer Weizman and asked him to replace him as Chief of Staff. Weizman refused, saying that it would be a severe blow to the IDF.[22]

Meanwhile, Eban went to the United States and met three times with Secretary of State Dean Rusk. However, Washington announced that it would intervene on Israel's behalf only if the USSR joined the fighting. President of the United States Lyndon B. Johnson asked Israel not to start a military operation, promising to provide Israel with oil.[8]

Calls were growing in Jerusalem for unity government, with the National Religious Party calling for an emergency government. Old rivals David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin met in Sde Boker, where Begin asked Ben-Gurion to join Eshkol's government. Although Eshkol's Mapai party initially opposed the widening of its government, it eventually changed its mind.[8]

National unity government[edit]

On the evening of May 28, Eshkol gave a radio address to the nation. During the preparation of the speech several versions were drafted after Eshkol had proofread it. When he reached the paragraph in which a correction was made, and the words "withdrawing forces" were changed to "moving forces," Eshkol began to hesitate, not understanding that a correction was made. The entire country heard him stammer in front of the live microphone.[8] This address became known as the "stammer address".

On May 29, Haaretz newspaper wrote in its editorial that "Mr. Eshkol is not built to be the prime minister and the security minister in the current situation". Eshkol spoke in the Knesset and tried to calm the public that "it is reasonable to expect that the states that support in the principle of the freedom of sailing, will do and will coordinate an efficient action in order to ensure that the straits and the bay will be open to the passage of the ships of all the nations without discrimination". But the internal pressure continued. On June 1, Eshkol handed over the security portfolio to Moshe Dayan. Gahal representatives Menachem Begin and Yosef Sapir joined the government and were appointed ministers without portfolio.[8] It was the first unity government established in Israel, and in this time was called Memshelet Likud Leumi. Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, people began digging trenches and filling sandbags.[8]

On June 2, Eshkol convened the security cabinet along with the IDF's General Staff at the Tel Aviv headquarters. Opposition to an attack came from Mapai's Zalman Aran and the NRP's Haim-Moshe Shapira, who said "I am ready to fight but not to commit suicide." Major-General Motti Hod tried to convince them that an Israeli Air Force attack is necessary. Major-General Matti Peled wondered why Israel is waiting, while Major-General Ariel Sharon said "IDF forces are more prepared than they ever were" to "totally destroy the Egyptian forces". Eshkol remained unconvinced.[23][24]

On June 4, a cabinet session now led by Dayan, decided to embark on a war. On June 5, at 7:45 AM, the war erupted.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mutawi 2002 p. 93
  2. ^ Morris, 2001, p.305
  3. ^ Shlaim, Avi (2012). The 1967 Arab-Israeli War: Origins and Consequences. Cambridge University Press. p. 106. ISBN 9781107002364. Nasser responded by taking three successive steps that made war virtually inevitable: he deployed his troops in Sinai near Israel's border on 14 May; expelled the UNEF from the Gaza Strip and Sinai on 19 May; and closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping on 22 May. 
  4. ^ Mark A. Tessler (1 January 1994). A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Indiana University Press. p. 392. ISBN 0-253-20873-4. Yet in taking this step, Nasser and other Egyptian leaders understood that it would be considered a casus belli by Israel. ... Indeed, a number of senior Egyptian officials rightly concluded at the time that closing the strait to Israel made war inevitable 
  5. ^ Avi Shlaim; William Roger Louis (13 February 2012). The 1967 Arab-Israeli War: Origins and Consequences. Cambridge University Press. p. 224. ISBN 978-1-107-00236-4. 90% of Israeli oil was imported through the Straits of Tiran 
  6. ^ Avi Shlaim; William Roger Louis (13 February 2012). The 1967 Arab-Israeli War: Origins and Consequences. Cambridge University Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-107-00236-4. 
  7. ^ "Daily brief to the U.S president on 27 May 1967" (PDF). 27 May 1967. "diverted as was a sister ship yesterday 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Druckman, Yaron (2007-04-06). "The Six Day War — May 1967, one moment before". Ynetnews. Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
  9. ^ Michael B. Oren (2002). Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Oxford University Press. p. 120. ISBN 978-0-19-515174-9. 
  10. ^ Sydney Dawson Bailey (1 January 1985). The Making of Resolution 242. Brill Archive. pp. 48–. ISBN 90-247-3073-2. During the night of 26/27 May...the Soviet ambassadors in Tel Aviv and Cairo roused the two heads of government from their beds with urgent messages...urged Israel to settle the conflict by non military means...advised Nasser that the Israelis had alleged that Egypt was about to attack Israel, perhaps even dawn the next morning...urged Egypt not to go to war 
  11. ^ Benjamin Miller (2002). When Opponents Cooperate: Great Power Conflict and Collaboration in World Politics. University of BenjaminMiller Press. p. 145. ISBN 0-472-08872-6. 
  12. ^ Peter Mangold (14 October 2013). Superpower Intervention in the Middle East. Routledge. pp. 135–. ISBN 978-1-135-04683-5. 
  13. ^ Churchill pgs 52 and 77
  14. ^ Samir A. Mutawi (18 July 2002). Jordan in the 1967 War. Cambridge University Press. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-521-52858-0. any military analyst should have recognized that the arrival of large numbers of Arab troops and Iraqi planes in Jordan would inevitably make Israel anxious swiftly to act against Jordan before these new forces were fully deployed. Therefore, Jordan should have realized that it was absolutely essential to avoid giving Israel any excuse to launch an offensive against it before those troops had reached their battle stations 
  15. ^ Cohen, Avner (2007-05-22). "Going for the nuclear option". Haaretz. Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
  16. ^ Samir A. Mutawi (18 July 2002). Jordan in the 1967 War. Cambridge University Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-521-52858-0. On 26 May he declared, "The battle will be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel 
  17. ^ BBC On this Day, Egypt and Jordan unite against Israel, quote=" On 22 May President Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. Five days later he declared: "Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight."
  18. ^ Shlaim; Louis (2012) p. 63
  19. ^ 67 War, Jewish Virtual Library .
  20. ^ Bard 2002, p. 196.
  21. ^ Rabinovich, Abraham (1997-06-13). "The War Nobody Wanted". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
  22. ^ "In days of threat and waiting" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
  23. ^ a b Sofer, Ronny (2007-04-06). "Eshkol's steel nerves". Ynetnews. Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
  24. ^ Gluska, Ami. "Israel's Decision to Go to War". Middle East Review of International Affairs. 11 (June 2007). Retrieved 2008-05-23. 

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