Conquering Land in 1967
Conquering Land in 1967

The 1967 Six-Day War: A War of Self-Defense?

The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs describes the 1967 Six-Day War—in which Israel captured and occupied East Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and Sinai Peninsula—as “a war of self-defense” and a war in which “Israel was once again compelled to fight for its existence.” Recent declassified documents prove a different story: that Israel had planned the land conquests prior to the 1967 war.

My Jewish Learning echoes Israel’s narrative of the Six-Day War, describing a situation in which “Israel was forced to respond.” They write that after President Gamal Abdul Nasser reinforced troops along the Egyptian border with Israel, closed the Straits of Tiran, and formed an Arab alliance, Israel felt compelled to initiate an attack in response to “the threat of annihilation.”

While there is no dispute that Israel struck first, the attack is justified as having been sudden, unplanned, and necessary to preserve Jewish life and safety. However, recently declassified documents tell a different story.

New Findings Reveal Israel Instigated the Six-Day War to Occupy Land

Israel’s victories during the Six-Day War resulted in its swift occupation of massive tracks of historic Palestine including East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Syrian Golan Heights, and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. In 2021, Haaretz uncovered historical documentation from the Israel State Archives, the Israel Defense Forces, and the Defense Establishment Archives that shed new light on Israel’s motivations behind the war.  

They found that the annexation of these territories were “not a by-product of the fighting, but the manifestation of a strategic approach and prior preparations.” Documentation shows that the IDF had been planning to conquer these territories and more, including Damascus and southern Lebanon since at least the early 1960s. One IDF order from 1963 is quoted as hinting at the possibilities of the 1967 war: “…a convenient political situation might develop which will make it possible to retain occupied territory indefinitely.”

Category: DOCUMENTS

Topic: Declassified documents from the Israel State Archives, the Israel Defense Forces, and the Defense Establishment Archives reveal Israel’s detailed directives prior to the 1967 land conquests

Date of publication: article June 3, 2021 / declassified documents unclear but some seem to be between 1958 and 1967

Photo caption: Arab prisoners of war being led blindfolded to interrogation in the Old City of Jerusalem, June 8, 1967. Credit: Goren/AP

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