Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 524
Michael Oren begins his study of the 1967 Six-Day War with background on the prior state of Israeli relations with its neighbors, beginning with its 1948 establishment as a sovereign state. He begins his analysis in the early twentieth century as Jewish settlement increased in the Middle East. He covers the diplomatic and military aspects of the creation of Israel, including the 1948 war, which included Israel gaining more territory than stipulated in the original United Nations agreement, and subsequent armistice. One development he emphasizes in the 1960s is the efforts at unity among Arab leaders, which had only limited success because of changing allegiances and priorities of different countries. The United Arab Command, formed in part to defend a project for diverting the River Jordan, was placed under Egyptian authority; Gamal Abdel Nasser was Egypt’s president. Syria, however, was more inclined than Egypt toward united Arab military conflict.
In his search for Arab unity and deferral of any conflict with Israel, Nasser had unwittingly created a framework for dissent and accelerated the momentum toward war.
The author points out that six days totals only 132 hours, during which a tragically large number of lives were lost. Tremendous expenditures in military materiel were also recorded, including guns, tanks, other vehicles, and airplanes. Oren offers the figure that the Israeli Air Force “destroyed 469 enemy planes,” while Israel lost 36—but that constituted 20 percent of its air force. One of the most startling outcomes, however, was the vast expansion of Israel’s territory. The increased size also expanded the distance between its cities and the borders of the opposing nations, thus offering additional security.
Israel had conquered 42,000 square miles and was now three and a half times its original size. Exceedingly vulnerable before the war, its major cities all within range of Arab guns, the Jewish state now threatened Damascus, Cairo, and Amman.
The immediate aftermath of this territorial expansion included discussions about Israel and Palestinian settlements in those areas. Oren notes that even within Israel, there was great division about the next course of action, including whether lasting peace or more war would soon follow. For example, he provides the opinions of Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan.
Dayan promoted Jewish settlement of the West Bank but was not averse to establishing a Palestinian state there or to preserving Jordan’s status as protector of its Muslim shrines. In Sinai he opposed settlement building but pushed for the construction of Yamit, the peninsula’s largest Jewish town.
Michael Oren published his history of this 1967 war in 2002. As he had been involved in the writing before the events of September 11, 2001, he included an Afterword written in November 2002 in order to contextualize those events in the historical perspective he advocates. He mentions changes in US Middle Eastern and Central Asian policies under the George W. Bush administration, which largely resulted from analysis of those events. These included the war in Afghanistan and efforts to topple Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Oren concludes,
One fact, alone, is incontestable: that the Middle East remains a flashpoint of multilateral confrontation, a source of seemingly intractable controversies, and a powder keg that the slightest spark could ignite.