The Arab-Israeli Wars, 1967–1973
- LAST REVIEWED: 19 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 26 April 2018
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0143
- LAST REVIEWED: 19 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 26 April 2018
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0143
The seven-year period between May 1967, when the crisis that led to the Six Day War erupted, and May 1974, when the Yom Kippur War officially ended, constitutes the most intensive phase in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It saw two high-intensity wars (1967 and 1973), one war of attrition (Israel and Egypt in 1969–1970), and lower-intensity conflicts between Israel and Jordan (summer 1967–September 1970), Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) (mostly in Jordan but also in Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza), Israel and Lebanon, and between Jordan and the PLO (summer 1970). At the same time, it also saw the beginning of a political process based on the “land for peace” 1967 UN Resolution 242 formula. The 1967 war also triggered significant changes in the Arab world. It delivered the coup de grâce to Nasser’s pan-Arabism, contributed to the rise of radical Islam as an alternative to secular nationalism, and turned the PLO into a major actor in inter-Arab politics. It further set the stage for Lebanon’s reentry into the Arab-Israeli conflict, as it became the launching ground for the Palestinian armed struggle against Israel. This intensity of events, and their legacy, garnered much academic and non-academic attention. Much of it was written by Israelis using newly available Hebrew archival sources. Unfortunately, as is known to any student of the conflict, for various reasons the Arab historical and analytical narratives are scarce. This is especially true with regard to Syria and less so with regard to the Egyptian, the Jordanian, and the Palestinian sides of the conflict. Academic studies of the Soviet military and diplomatic involvement in the conflict are quite numerous, and US activity during this stormy Middle Eastern period is well covered.
No single study is solely devoted to a general overview of this period. Gawrych 2000 (cited under the Egyptian Side) comes close when discussing Egyptian-Israeli rivalry during this seven-year period. Gelber 2017 is the first in a three-book project that aims to offer an all but “total history” of the period, at least in terms of the military, diplomatic, and internal Israeli aspects of the period. Other overviews exist but only within the context of general histories of the conflict that sometimes start with the rise of Zionism and the Arab national movement at the end of the 19th century. In this category, Morris 2001 offers a solid history of the military aspects of the conflict. Dupuy 1978 is a concise history of the three wars, as is Herzog and Gazit 2005 but covered primarily from the Israeli perspective. Shlaim 2014 is a good account of the futile political process that started in the aftermath of the Six Day War. Van Creveld 2002 and Maoz 2006 are analytical studies of Israel’s national security doctrine and the history of the Israel Defense Force (IDF). On the Arab side, Pollack 2002 is very useful in analyzing the performances of the armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in the wars of 1967 and 1973 and the War of Attrition. With a lack of better sources on the Syrian military performance in 1967 and 1973, this contribution is essential. Kober 2002 provides a solid analysis of Arab coalition behavior in the three conflicts. The superpower involvement in the conflict during this period is well covered in Ashton 2007.
Ashton, Nigel J. The Cold War in the Middle East: Regional Conflict and the Superpowers, 1967–1973. London: Routledge, 2007.
Examines various aspects of regional developments, primarily American and Soviet involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Of special interest are the pieces by Adamsky on the causes of the American and Israeli intelligence failure to warn against the Soviet intervention in the War of Attrition and by James on Nasser’s decision-making process in this war.
Dupuy, Trevor N. Elusive Victory, the Arab-Israeli Wars, 1947–1974. New York: Harper and Row, 1978.
A balanced, clear, concise, and professional study of Arab and Israeli military performances in the 1967, 1969–1970, and 1973 wars. Although it is somewhat outdated and the Syrian angle is the least covered, this is still one of the best sources available on the subject.
Gelber, Yoav. Ha’Hatasha: Ha’Milhama She’Nishkeha. Tel Aviv: Dvir, 2017.
The first volume of a planned three-volume study that is expected to cover core aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict between the end of the Six Day War and the beginning of the 1973 Yom Kippur war. This first volume presents the international efforts to resolve the conflict following the Six Day War, and Israel’s response to them. The second big theme in the book is the 1969–1970 War of Attrition between Israel and Egypt. Other chapters deal with some of the internal effects in Israel such as the status of the military following the Six Day War and the War of Attrition. Translated as: “Attrition: The forgotten war.”
Herzog, Chaim, and Shlomo Gazit. The Arab-Israeli Wars: War and Peace in the Middle East. New York: Vintage, 2005.
Herzog, who wrote the chapters on the wars of 1967, 1969–1970, and 1973, was an IDF general, ambassador in the UN, and Israel’s president. Consequently, these chapters present a detailed and authoritative description of the three wars from the Israeli perspective.
Kober, Avi. Coalition Defection: The Dissolution of Arab Anti-Israeli Coalitions in War and Peace. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.
This study of Arab coalitions since 1948 explains the influence of a low-profile engagement by Syria and Jordan in 1967, the reluctance of the Eastern front to enter a war with Israel in 1969–1970, and Egyptian and Syrian defection attempts in 1973.
Maoz, Zeev. Defending the Holy Land: A Critical Analysis of Israel’s Security and Foreign Policy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006.
Three chapters of this book provide an interesting and critical analysis, which often involves counterfactual methodology, of Israel’s national security policy and military conduct during the 1967–1973 period.
Morris, Benny. Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881–2001. New York: Vintage, 2001.
A solid, detailed account of the three wars and their political background, based partially on primary sources. Morris’s ability to combine a balanced analytical discussion with excellent command of events make this part of his book the best concise history of the 1967–1973 period.
Nadal, Chaim. Bein Shtey Milhamot, 1967–1973. Tel Aviv: Ma’arachot, 2006.
A study written by a former Israeli general and historian. The study reviews significant aspects in Israeli military development and buildup following the Six Day War, including the civil-military interaction, operational planning, and resource allocation in the IDF.
Pollack, Kenneth M. Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948–1991. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002.
Based partially on a 1996 Yale dissertation, this study constitutes a rather rare case of a systematic analysis of Arab military performance since 1948. As such, it provides a good discussion of the way the three wars were fought by the armies of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria and the main causes for their military successes and failures.
Shlaim, Avi. The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. New York: Norton, 2014.
Shlaim, a revisionist historian, challenges the traditional approach to the conflict that blamed the Arabs for its continuation. In his discussion of the 1967–1973 period, he presents a convincing argument to show that while Jordan and Egypt came very close to accept the “land for peace formula, Israel rejected it, thus making the 1973 war inevitable.
van Creveld, Martin. The Sword and the Olive: A Critical History of the Israeli Defense Force. New York: Public Affairs, 2002.
A thorough and authoritative study by a renowned military historian of the way the IDF prepared for the three wars, how its performance in each war influenced military buildup and planning for the next one, and how military plans had been ultimately carried out.
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