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PREEMPTION – ARAB ISRAEL WAR-1967
Introduction
The wars are fought as an instrument of policy to achieve the political objectives. The concept of limited war has afforded an opportunity for a controlled employment of means of violence. Arab-Israel war of 1967, famous as Six Days War also falls in the same category. Although it was a limited war in nature, yet it carried unlimited lessons in the field of warfare for generations to come. It was the third round in which Israel was involved in war with Arab Countries since its creation. In the Arabs reckoning it was to be a revenge for their disaster in 1956 and for Israel it was a war of survival. The outcome of war showed a humiliating defeat for Arabs and complete victory for Israel. The entire Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, Ghaza Strip and Jordanian territory west of River Jordan including Jerusalem was captured by Israel. Though The Six Days War has pertinent lessons for many countries but its relevance to Pakistan is more pronounced due to peculiar environments.
Aim
To analyze the pre-emption exercised by Israel in 1967 and its impact on the outcome of war in order to relate its relevance to Pakistan.
Scheme of Presentation
a. Prelude to conflict
b. Synopsis of war
c. Analysis
d. Relevance to Pakistan
PRELUDE TO CONFLICT
Background
The creation of Israel on 14 May 1948 was the route cause of rivalry between Jews and Arabs. Arabs considered Israeli emergence as an independent State as a most un-natural and a collective conspiracy by the Europeans and Americans against the people of Palestine. The end result was an immediate attack on Israel soon after its birth. At the end of 1948 conflict, Israel gained more territory then it was supposed to have according to United Nation??™s Resolutions.
In 1956 Israel attack Egypt with the support of Britain and France to open Suez Canal. She occupied Gaza strip and large part of Sinai but vacated under intense international pressure. 1967 war was a sequel to these conflicts.
Activities Leading to Conflict
Some of the important factors which contributed directly towards escalation of 1967 conflict are as under:-
a. Activities of Palestinian Guerrillas. Syria concluded a defense pact with Egypt in 1967. Soon after this, guerrilla attacks were mounted by Al-FATEH from Syrian bases and retaliation by Israel began to escalate. In one of such attacks by Israel on 7 ApriI 1967 Syrian lost six MIG 21 air crafts.
b. Withdrawal of UN Troops. President Naseer, to silent critics against him and to reassert his leadership of the Arab World, demanded the withdrawal of United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) which was agreed on 19 May 1967.
c. The Jordan – Egypt Defence Agreement. On 30 May 1967 another defence pact was signed between President Naseer and King Hussain. Israel could not tolerate such an alliance for the dire consequences that it implied for her existence. An attack from Jordan could hit Israel at her soft underbelly, where the total depth of the country was merely 12 miles. Strategically this was unacceptable to Israel.
d. Closing of Straits of Tiran. President Naseer ordered Naval blockade in the Straits of Tiran on 23 May 67 and as per some historians this constituted the most immediate cause of June 67 war.
e. Collation as Deterrence. Militarily Arabs were not well prepared since their coalition was still in the embryonic form with hardly any planning and coordination done to evolve joint operational plans. General Riaz of Egypt took over command of Jordanian forces on 4 June 1967, only a day before the war started. Moreover, Arabs were mostly relying on the policy of deterrence and their concentration was more of a show of force.
f. Troops Concentrations. In May 1967, Syrians were informed by Russians of large scale Israeli troops concentration (approximately eleven brigades) on Syrian borders. President Naseer, in his zeal to demonstrate the reality of his defence pact with Syria ordered move of five infantry/armoured divisions into Sinai on 14 May.
g. Placing of Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) Under Arab Command. About 8000 troops of the PLA were placed under the Joint Arab Command.
SYNOPSIS OF WAR
Strategies Adopted
Arabs
a. National Strategy. Ever since the creation of the Zionist State, the Arab??™s national aim had been the destruction of Israel as a state and creation of an independent Palestine.
b. Military Strategy. The Arabs had no offensive intention at the outset. Their total emphasis was on achieving a political victory and preventing Israel from going to war. Therefore, their military strategy was :-
1) Deterrence through troop??™s concentration.
2) Closing of Straits of Tiran.
3) Force Israel to fight war on three fronts thereby accentuating their problem of numerical inferiority.
4) Force Israel to fight a long drawn war.
5) Cut Israel into two near Elat.
Israel
a. National Strategy. Israel had the national aim of ensuring the sovereignty and territorial integrity of their country by employing all possible instruments of national power. Although her declared political object was the removal of Blockade of Port Eilat but in fact Israel always wanted more strategic depth to have secure frontiers with hostile neighbors.
b. Military Strategy. Israel military objective was destruction of Egyptian force in Sinai. Therefore at the commencement of the war Israelis adopted a defensive strategy in the north and east and decided to move swiftly against Egypt with an offensive strategy. The salient features were:-
1) Undertake a pre-emptive air strike to achieve complete air superiority over Sinai to first deal with their main adversary Egypt and thereafter Syria and Jordan.
2) Undertake a pre-emptive ground offensive to fight the war on enemy territory and seek decisive battle on their soil.
3) Have a short and decisive war destroying the Egyptian forces in Sinai with combined air – armour operations.
4) If Jordan and Syria also enter the war, then capture strategic objectives of West Bank of River Jordan and the Golan Heights.
Opposing Forces
Estimated relative strengths before the war are as under :-
|Ser |Forces |Arab |Israel | |
|a |Troops |547000 |264000 | |
|b |Tanks |2504 |800 | |
|c |Aircrafts |957 |300 | |
|d |Destroyers |7 |3 | |
|e |Submarines |12 |3 | |
|f |Missile Carriers |18 |- | |
|g |Anti Submarine craft |12 |1 | |

Opposing Plans
Arabs Plan and Dispositions
a. Egyptian Front. Total Egyptian forces in Sinai composed of one armoured division, one mechanized division and four infantry divisions. These forces were disposed as under:-
1) Northern Sinai. Main defensive effort in Northern Sinai comprising of 20th, 7th and 2nd infantry Division with depth provide by 3rd infantry Divisions and 4th Armoured Divisions as reserve.
2) Kuntila. Secondary effort of 6th Mechanized Division and elements of armour placed opposite Kuntilla.
3) Southern Sinai. Southern Sinai and Sharm-eI-Sheikh were held by a brigade plus and para military forces.
4) Offensive Tasks. Launch counter offensive eastwards by Shazli Force to capture Dimona and Mizpe Ramon to cut-off Eilat and to make land contact with Jordanian forces.
b. Syrian Front. Hold Golan Heights with 5 infantry brigades and allow no penetration. Two armoured, two mechanized and one composite brigade were held in reserve in Quneitra. Their offensive plans envisaged capture of Safed and Tiberius with division size force each. But this effort was to go once Israelis were inextricably involved in the Sinai.
c. Jordanian Front. They were to contain Israeli forces with five infantry brigades deployed west and two infantry brigades east of River Jordan. They had an offensive task of cutting-off Israel??™s narrow waist and link-up with Egyptian forces.
Israeli Plan
Egyptian Front. An offensive by three task forces to be launched as under:-
a. Tal??™s Force. (To operate along northern axis), comprising of two armoured brigades, a para brigade and a para troops battalion. It was to breakthrough at Rafah to capture EI Arish and then continue advance towards Bir Gifgaga and Suez Canal.
b. Sharon??™s Force. (Along Southern Axis). Comprising of an armoured brigade an infantry brigade and a para battalion. This force was to first capture Abu Agheila and to carryout destruction of Egyptian forces in conjunction with Tal??™s Force.
c. Yoffe??™s Force. (Between Northern and Southern Axis). This force had two armoured brigades. This force was to operate through apparently impassable sand sea gap to block the Egyptian reinforcements being sent form south towards EI Arish.
Jordanian Front. Containment of Jordanian forces initially. Later isolate battle of Jerusalem while concentrating on area upto Jordon River.
Syrian Front. Like the Jordanian front, remain on the defensive till war in the Sinai was over. Later on, seize Golan Heights and open the road to Damascus.
Brief Conduct.
The battle in Sinai started half an hour of the Israel air strike which commenced at 0745 hours on 5 June. In less than three hours 17 out of 19 Egyptian airfields had been put out of action and 300 out of 340 Egyptian aircrafts were destroyed. The ground operations unfolded on each front are as follows:-
a. Sinai Front. Tal??™s force along with Yoffe and Sharon??™s force started their offensive on three axis and were able to achieve there objectives by mid day 6 June 1967. After this they started the manoeuvre of exploitation during which Tal??™s force contacted Suez Canal on 9 June, Yoffe??™s force blocked the Mittla and Giddi Passes by evening 7 June and Sharon??™s Force pushed back Egyptian 6 Mechanized Division towards passes for their final destruction.
b. Jordanian Front. The battle on the Jordanian front started with the artillery shelling and aerial bombing by Jordanians on 5 June. Narkiss force with one armoured, three infantry and one para brigades captured Letrun Salient (by 0700 hours 6 June), Jerusalem (by 1200 hours 7 June) and Nablus (by 1800 hours 7 June).Jordanian resistance virtually crumbled and the whole of the west bank came under the control of Israelis before the cease-fire.
c. Syrian Front. Israelis decided to capture the strategic Golan Heights. They began their counter-offensive against Syria on 8 June with two armoured and five infantry brigades. Golan Plateau was captured by the evening of 10 June. It was a tough fighting and full use was made of the Israelis air superiority which facilitated the ground operations.
Casualities
Israel. 1000
Egypt, Jordon and Syria. Complete air force destroyed. 10,000 ??“ 6,000 ??“ 1000.
Analysis
Threat Perception
a. Arabs completely misread Israeli reactions, in-spite of their own provocative actions. They never granted Israel the liberty of action to go to war in which she had been completely dragged by Arabs.
b. At the tactical level the Arabs failed to perceive the inherent mobility of Israeli ground forces and went wrong in their appreciation that they would be able to involve Israel into a long-drawn war of attrition.
Strategy of Pre-emption. Fully conscious of her vulnerability due to lack of strategic depth and multi-directional threat from Arab states, Israel had long before the war decided and prepared to use this option. Israelis had envisaged that after induction of Russian equipment by 1968, it would be difficult to defeat the Arabs. Therefore, by threatening to attack Syria, Israel infact manipulated the events which led to the war, thereby providing her an opportunity to use this option of pre-emption for which she was fully prepared but not the Arabs. Thus through selection of suitable time they altered the relative strength ratio in their favour, wrested the initiative and carried the battle to its logical end.
National Aim/Objectives. The national aim of Israel was defence of their homeland. Their strategic concept has been to deter war but if a war is imposed they were to go for a quick and decisive war on the Egyptian soil. So both their national aim and the military objective were clear and in complete harmony.
Strategic Orientation. While the Arabs achieved a temporary superior strategic orientation by concentrating their forces well forward, the Israelis neutralized it by assuring the Arabs that an Israeli offensive at this point of time was out of question. Israelis thus gained the crucial time in which they quickly mobilized their armed forces to go for strategy of pre-emption. The Israelis were now in the lead as far as strategic orientation was concerned; the Arabs had lost their turn.
Strategic Balance. With all the hostile neighbours around, and with heavy reliance on mobilization to fight a war, Israelis were initially not balanced to face the Arabs. However, they quickly regained their balance by their effective deception, followed by the pre-emptive air strike. With the complete air superiority and bulk of Egyptian air force destroyed, Israelis were strategically balanced to first take-on the Egyptian Army followed by other neighbours.
Centre of Gravity. Israelis rightly identified that within the three Arab countries the centre of gravity laid in Egypt. Once Egyptian Army is destroyed, Syria and Jordan could never initiate an offensive at their own. They also appreciated correctly that within the system of forces the center of gravity laid in the air force. They accordingly dealt with the Egyptian air and ground forces first deferring Syria and Jordan for the time being.
Surprise and Deception. Israel strategy was based on well-planned deception and effective intelligence to achieve complete strategic surprise. The Arabs were caught mentally and physically un-prepared for the Israel offensive. Some of the actions taken by Israelis in this regard were:-
a. A quick and secret mobilization by Israel. Arabs were made to believe that Israel was least interested in war by publishing photographs of Israeli soldiers relaxing on beaches. Several thousands were on the weak-end before the war.
b. Surprise air attack on Egyptian air bases had far-reaching strategic consequences on the outcome of this war.
c. Surprise at the tactical level is clearly reflected in their break-through on the Central Axis by Yoffe through soft sand considered impassable by Egyptians, ambush of an Egyptian brigade at Nakhi, their heliborne attacks on gun position at Abu Agheila and their feint attack to distract the Jordanian armour east of Nablus.
d. News being published regarding Israeli government efforts to find political solution to the problem and cabinet meetings to dispose of day to day routine matters of the State. Actually the decision to exercise option of pre-emption was taken in these very meetings.
e. Depiction of two armoued brigades with dummy concentrations opposite Kuntilla to convince Egyptians that Israelis were interested in opening the Gulf of Aqaba and capture of Sharm-el-Sheikh.
RELEVANCE TO PAKISTAN
Similarities.
a. Ideology. Like Israel, Pakistan??™s creation was also based on its ideology, the ideology of Islam. The country was created as a living place for Muslims, As Israel was created a homeland for Jews.
b. Hostile Neighbours. The existence of Pakistan has not been mentally accepted by India. Same was the case with Israel whose existence was not accepted by Arabs.
c. Numerical Strength. India is a much bigger country then Pakistan. It is 7 Times bigger than Pakistan, same was the case with Israel .
d. Lack of Strategic Depth India is a huge country spread over an area of 3,287,263 square kilometers. On the other hand Pakistan has an area of 803,940 square kilometers almost one fourth of India. This creates a serious problem of lack of strategic depth. Pakistan??™s line of communication passes very close to border. By threatening the line of communication India can cut the Northern and Southern parts of Pakistan. Israel was also confronted with such like dilemma. Her total depth around Jerusalem was 12 miles.
e. Log Stamina. Due to the heavy dependence on foreign assistance, Pakistan has very meager resources to fight a prolonged war. Therefore, Pakistan will plan for a very brief and decisive war in future like Israel.
f. Training. Similar to Israeli Defence Forces, Pakistan Armed Forces are highly trained. They are recognised as one of best forces in the world. They have the Capability to tackle with any threat, may it be numerically superior to them.
g. Air Force. Another handicap Pakistan is faced with is Inferior Air force, both qualitatively and quantitatively as was in case of Israel and neighboring Arab states.
Pre-emption Option for Pakistan
Implications. By exercising the option of Pre-emption against India, Pakistan has to be aware of its implications. These can be:-
a. International Support. While going for pre-emption the biggest concern for Pakistan is the danger of losing international support. Pakistan can be termed as an aggressor.
b. In response to Pakistan??™s pre-emption, India might go for any extreme action. She will be sp by neutral opinion after being attacked by Pakistan.
c. Naval Blockade. By Imposing a Naval Blockade, India will stop the shipping consignments of Pakistan. This will pose a serious threat to Pakistan, as its bulk of import/exports are through Sea.
d. Sanctions. Pakistan might face the sanctions by UN after being declared aggressor. This will isolate Pakistan from rest of the world.
e. Prolonged War. Once Pakistan has initiated the war, then it may not be in her control to cease the hostilities at her will. India will try to prolong the war and attrite Pakistan.
f. Use of Nuclear Weapons. There are all the chances that war will escalate to a level in which nuclear weapons may be used.
Conclusion. The Arab Israel War of 1967 illustrate a classical example of pre-emption by Israel. Israel having numerical inferiority was able to humiliate Arabs through the elements of surprise/deception and then by launching pre-emption. Arabs could not visualize Israeli pre-emption thus were not ready to face the blunt and were taken with complete surprise. This war carries far reaching lessons for military leaders as well as students of military history.

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