Israel and World Politics
A peculiar combination of internal and external forces was necessary to set off the third Arab-Israeli war in June 1967. A most unstable equilibrium had, of course, existed in the area since the second war in 1956. But for all their suspicions and grievances, the two main antagonists, Egypt and Israel, had not resorted to force against each other for ten years. That a full-scale war should have erupted this year suggests that a new element had to be injected into the Middle East to upset the status quo. And this new element could only come from the outside.
The antagonisms and rivalries which led to this war resemble roads that crisscross in all directions. Some were more important than others but no single one of them could have brought about the conflict. The Arab-Israeli conflict, deep as it was, had been held in leash for the most part since 1956 by other conflicting forces. Foremost among them were the conflicts among the Arab states themselves. They could not turn on Israel as long as they were spending so much substance and energy fighting among themselves. To the “revolutionary” Arab states, Egypt and Syria, victory over the “reactionary” Arab states, especially Jordan and Saudi Arabia, was a precondition for victory over Israel. Egyptian priorities seemed first to be Yemen, where its forces had been fighting for more than four years, and then Aden, which the British had promised to evacuate in 1968. On top of this, Egypt and Syria were busy competing for the leadership of the “revolutionary” Arab struggle. They were also divided on the strategy to be followed against Israel.
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