The 1967 war and Israel’s situation in 2017
This week marks 50 years to the 1967 war. In the 1967 war Israel’s faced an Arab coalition, which was based on Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Since 1979, there has been peace with Egypt and since 1994 there has been peace with Jordan too. In recent years Syria has been struggling to survive. Therefore the threat to Israel from Arab states is much less.
In the last decade Israel’s main security challenge has been dealing with Arab non-state organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel fought Hezbollah in 2006 and Hamas, in the Gaza Strip, in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014.
Hamas has been trying to stop other radical groups in the Gaza Strip from launching rockets at Israel. Yet Hamas has also been preparing to confront Israel by digging tunnels and producing rockets. Although both sides don’t seek war, foe now, it might occur because of escalation on the border and miscalculations.
Israel took the West Bank in 1967. Without negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel there might be more violence and in the worst case a confrontation. Considering the enormous obstacles the two sides face in reaching a peace accord, chances for an agreement appear quite low.
However, there should be a diplomatic effort, a serious one, with the help of brokers such as the United States and the European Union. The goal should be at least to prevent another confrontation. Such a clash might be like the one that occurred in 2000-2005 (“the second intifada”), when there were Palestinian attacks such as suicide bombers. A fight could also look like the one that ran in 1987-1993 (“the first intifada”), when Palestinians threw stones and firebombs. A confrontation could also combine between those two collisions.
In 1967 the IDF was based on air and ground forces, which enabled it to carry on an offensive. The same is today yet in recent years Israel developed its active defense, i.e. the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and the Arrow 3, to intercept rockets and missiles. Therefore defense carries more weight. However, Israel must make it clear to its foes that it is willing to attack, on the ground, in a large scale, if this becomes necessary, and not to rely on defense solely and/or on air power. In an attack against Hezbollah the IDF might penetrate deep into Arab territory, on a wide front, as it did in 1967, in the fight against Arab militaries.
Hezbollah has up to 150,000 rockets that cover all of Israel yet the group has only a few tanks while Egypt in 1967 had more than a thousand tanks. Hezbollah and Hamas for that matter don’t hold aircraft while Egypt had hundreds of them in 1967. Egypt also had much more ground troops than those Hamad and Hezbollah have now. The threat to Israel in 1967 was therefore much bigger than the one in 2017.
All in all, prior to the 1967 war Israel was deeply concerned about the Arab coalition that had quite a military might, at least “on paper”. Now several Arab states are in decline and Israel has military superiority over both Arab states and non-state organizations.