Introduction After the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, tensions between the newly founded Jewish state and the Arab states were at an all time high, but it wasn’t until May and June of 1967 that tensions would turn volatile. The region was in a state of anarchy with multiple states competing for power within the region. Actions by leaders of both states made the already convoluted situation harder to interpret, and would ultimately lead to one state’s action.
During those months, Arab nations, more specifically Egypt, began to impose trade restrictions, massing forces upon Israel’s border, and disputing Israeli water rights on the Jordan River. These actions began to bring forth the reasons as to why Israel, while greatly outnumbered, decided to attack the Arabs that were amassed on their borders. In an Offensive Realist world, international theorists try to predict where conflicts will arise based on a world that consists of states trying to gain power, where nation’s intentions are masked, and a world that is enveloped in anarchy.
This essay analyzes the actions of the Arab nations that surrounded Israel prior to the Six Days War in 1967. From these events prior to the Six Days War, a preemptive attack was launched by the Israeli’s, thus starting the Six Days War. The international relations theory of Offensive Realism predominately explains why Israel attacked Egyptian forces in the Six Days War in 1967. When looking deeper into the historical background of the Six Days War it is evident that Security Dilemma, or the basic logic of Offensive Realism, explains why Israel decided to attack Arab forces.
This paper will also analyze the events leading to the Six Days War using the Constructivist Theory. This theory would also help to explain the events of single individuals and some major groups within Israel and relate them to the attack on Egyptian forces. It will also analyze the key individuals, groups, and movements within the Arab world in order to explain the Israeli reaction to the heated events surrounding the Six Days War. Ultimately, this paper will compare and contrast the application of Offensive Realism and Constructivism applied to the Six Days War in 1967.
It will provide evidence as to why both theories apply to this situation, but point out areas in which one theory does not cover. Through this evidence it will become clear as to why Offensive Realism best explains the actions by the Israelis. Historical Background Under the United Nations Resolution 181 two states were to be created. These two states were to be the Israeli and Palestinian nations. With this creation the Arab nations throughout the Middle East would be sent into an uproar which would ultimately lead to what the Israelis call the War for Independence.
This war from 1947-48 would ultimately leave the Israelis victorious and would be the leading reason as to why the Palestinian state would never be established. The Arab defeat would leave the Arab world with a desire for revenge. The events closest to the Six Days war are what lead to the question as to why the Israelis decided to attack the Arab forces massed upon their border. The actions preceding the Six Days war are best told out of chronological order starting with the actions by the Egyptian President Nasser. On May 14, 1967, President Nasser sent several hundred Egyptian soldiers into the Sinai Peninsula.
Two days later, on 16 May, he sought and succeeded in the withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) from Egyptian soil. Lastly, on the night of 22–23 May, Nasser declared the Straits of Tiran closed to Israeli shipping. Following these actions, Nasser began to make a series of speeches that were calling for an anti Zionist movement within the Arab World. He also pressed for the creation of the Palestinian state which essentially meant the annexation of the relatively new Israeli state. With this call to the Arab world, he would call for the destruction of Israel, but he would never actually declare war.
This lack of declaration of war would be slightly puzzling if it wasn’t for the Egyptian involvement in the Yemenis civil war. After 60,000 Egyptian soldiers and Five years of fighting in the Yemen, the Egyptian Army was stretched thin and in need of refitting. It was clear that the Egyptian Army was in no condition to fight the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). The IDF was refitted with the most up to date weapons technology as it had been in a period of relative peace for years. The Egyptians were in no way ready to fight the Israelis in a conventional war, but Nasser would still move troops to the Sinai Peninsula.
The decision to send troops to the Sinai Peninsula would be seen as a political move to show good nature towards Syria and gain approval within the Arab world, but would prove to be an action that the Egyptian military could not enforce. With these actions taken by the Egyptian President the Israelis were placed in a spot where a decision would have to be made. Now that the Egyptian forces were deployed along their border and the Straits of Tiran closed the Israelis had to decide if they would attack or seek assistance from the international community.
The Government of Israel viewed the closing of the straits as an aggressive act, but the government tried to solve the situation through political channels. The government of Israel sought out Britain and France that promised freedom of shipping, but those nations broke their commitment. The President of the United States offered a plan that would sever the blockade using an international force. Israel agreed give the plan a chance and Prime Minister Eshkol announced his Government’s intentions in a radio broadcast on 28 May.
Once the Israeli Prime Minister figured out that the political channels had failed, the Israeli Government, on June 4 gave approval to the IDF to undertake military offensive operations to eliminate the threat on their borders. Theory The Six Days War between the newly established Israel and the United Arab Republic can be explained by the international relations theory of Offensive Realism. In order to best understand the complex variables that led to conflict between the two main actors, one has to understand the fundamentals of Offensive Realism.
This theory’s creation is accredited to a man named John J. Mearsheimer, who is a world renowned International theorist, and was first presented in Mearsheimer’s book entitled, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. The fundamentals of his Offensive Realism are laid out in a few brief principles. One of the core principles is that the international system is in a state of anarchy. This anarchy essentially means that there is no worldwide political authority that is capable of restricting the actions of states.
Secondly, Offensive Realism suggests that states will act in a rational manner, which means that the states will act based on their needs and desires. Another core principal states that a state will act in a nature that promotes their survival within the international community. Essentially, a state wants to survive in the international community and that is their most crucial goal. Mearsheimer also goes on to say that all states in the community have some sort of offensive military means. The last core principal to Offensive Realism is that states are not capable of nowing the intent of other states. This last tenet of Offensive Realism is essential, especially in today’s world in which state’s intentions cannot be determined because of competing ideas between media, intelligence gathering sources, and diplomatic channels. There are a few underlying assumptions that must be made when using this theory. One is that not one of those five core principles can lead to an offensive nature towards another state, but all five acting together is what creates the aggression towards another state.
This is crucial because many international incidents can have one of those core principles, but that single principle will not spark conflict between two states because it is not a large enough factor for conflict to start. It is necessary to look for the five principles working in conjunction in order to be able to predict an aggressive action between states. The next assumption is that all states must assume the worst in regards to other’s intentions. This is necessary to assume because of the anarchical state that the international community which is contained in Offensive Realism.
It is also essential to assume that there is little to no interest in cooperating with each other. This is purely logical because if the intentions of the other state are going to be negative there is no reason for cooperation. The basic logic to this theory is called Security Dilemma. This theory is defined as the measures a state takes to increase its own security usually decrease the security of other states. It is difficult for a state to increase its own chances of survival without threatening the survival of other states.
There is a system of variables within the security dilemma that determine whether or not conflict is highly likely or not likely. First one must determine whether the offense or the defense will have the advantage. Once this has been identified it is crucial to determine if the offensive and defensive postures are distinguishable from one another. Once these have been identified one can begin to examine whether or not conflict is likely. If the offensive posture is not distinguishable and the offense has the advantage, there is a very high chance that conflict will ensue.
If the offensive posture is distinguishable and the offense has the advantage then there will be no security dilemma. In order to break these multiple principles into understandable terms, one can organize them into the Independent Variable, Dependant Variable, and Causal Logic. The Independent Variable is the distribution of power within the international community. Power is defined as aggregate power in the form of the state’s capability of offensive action towards another state.
The dependant variable in this theory is the foreign policy decision or the offensive action that the state takes against another state. The Causal Logic behind the actions are the core principles and assumptions previously stated within this paper. Hypothesis With tensions growing in the Middle East between the Arab nations and the relatively new Jewish state, it was fairly evident that some sort of conflict would break out. The international system in the Middle East was clearly in a state of anarchy with no clear hegemon within the region.
During this period of time one can see that the nations were competing for this title, and that Israel was striving for survival in the region. Since Israel was such a new nation, the international community was not completely sure as to how this new nation would act. After the U. S. and British Forces formally abandoned this small nation surrounded by its enemies, it was time for the new state to act on its own in the international arena. It is clear that the nations surrounding Israel were positioning themselves to try and destroy the new nation.
This was made clear when the Suez Canal was shut down to Israeli ships, the Straits of Tiran were closed to Israeli ships, and the surrounding Arab countries massed forces along the Israeli border. It was made apparent that the Israeli’s were feeling threatened by the surrounding nations and based upon the security dilemma, Israel’s next move was to try to balance the power that was being placed on its border. In order to do this they would not be able to simply mass troops on their border in order to show force, but to cross the border and attack the enemy forces.
This would bring the balance of power back into the hands of the Israeli’s. This essay will address the threats and actions made by the Egyptians that forced Israel to also promote a military buildup, and ultimately attack Egyptian forces. This evidence will provide the basis of measurement for one to analyze why the Israeli’s decided to attack rather than to simply mass forces on their border. Analysis When one looks at the distribution of power throughout the Middle East prior to the Six Days war in June of 1967, there was no clear hegemon in the region.
Egypt, under the leadership of President Nasser was trying to become this hegemon in the region by exerting influence over Yemen during their civil war and becoming a regional leader in a new anti-Zionist movement. However, the involvement in the Yemenis civil war was proving to be a quagmire and greatly reduced the military power of the Egyptians. President Nasser recognized that his military was weakened by these efforts, but would continue to make offensive movements to increase his defensive capabilities because he recognizes Israel’s military power.
Eventually, these actions made by the Egyptian president would be viewed as a power grab within the region by the Israelis. This power grab would ultimately spur the security dilemma that led to the Israeli attack on Egyptian forces. The actions by the Egyptians in the events leading up to the Six Days War were rational. President Nasser by intervening in the Yemenis civil war was trying to secure a neighboring ally by supporting the Pro-Nasser movement that was creating the civil war in Yemen. This would later prove to be a hindrance, but at the time of decision it appeared that the decision would help him in the long run.
Nasser decided to move troops to the Sinai Peninsula in an effort to strengthen relations with the Syrians in order to also increase his standing within the Arab nations. The decision to close the Straits of Tiran was also an effort to gain more support from the Arab nations within the region, and would prove to be provocative towards the nation of Israel. Nasser, in his efforts to make Egypt the regional hegemon, essentially was acting out of the Egyptian people’s best interest. If one can become the regional hegemon, generally they become economically prosperous because they have influence in the trade markets.
The Israelis on the other hand were viably the most militarily powerful nation within the region, but they were surrounded by a group or Arab nations that wanted to see nothing more than the destruction of the Jewish state. One could say that the ties to the British, French, and the United States would make them the hegemon for the region because they could call upon other powerful nations to help exert their will upon the surrounding nations. In an effort to gain more power the Israelis called upon their allies to help break the blockade in the Straits of Tiran.
As demonstrated by the British, French, and U. S, they could not be depended on increase the Israeli power because those nations were not capable of gaining enough support in their own home nations to intervene on the behalf of the Israelis. With no clear hegemon within the region, it is evident that the regional international system was in a state of anarchy. When President Nasser asked for the removal of the UNEF and was granted this request, it also proved that there was not a global hegemon that would be able to stop Nasser’s aggressions.
The security dilemma that ensues after these actions is what would ultimately lead to the offensive action taken by the Israelis towards the Egyptians. The actions, by both countries were not able to easily be interpreted by the other nation, and if one were to apply the principles of the security dilemma to the events prior to the Six Days War, one can see that conflict was nearly inevitable. Offense in the situation of the Six Days War clearly would have the advantage for any state in the region.
States in that region tend to be small and in general the size of States in the Unites States. This means the ability for one to mount a decisive victory that would remove the opponent’s ability to mount a counter attack is very high. It is high because the aggressor has to cover a smaller amount of territory and defeat a smaller army because of the relatively small size of states in the region. The small size in territory also does not give the defensive state enough time to react to the attack.
This would later prove true as the sneak attack launched by the Israeli Air force would nearly destroy all of Syria and Egypt’s respective air forces before any of the Arab nation’s planes could leave the ground. Offensive posture must be proven distinguishable or indistinguishable in order to determine whether or not conflict was inevitable. In the case of President Nasser it is justifiable to say that offensive posture was not distinguishable from defensive posture because of the type of actions he was making.
Mobilizing troops upon the border of Israel, removing the UNEF forces whose sole purpose was to prevent war between Israel and Egypt, and the blockading of the Straits of Tiran all point towards offensive posture. In reality, Nasser knew that he could not mount an offensive war because of his commitment in Yemen and was taking these measures in order to bolster his defenses. The Israelis were bound to interpret these actions as hostile because of the troop movements and the speeches that President Nasser was making about the elimination of the Zionist state.
In an effort to balance the power back into the hands of the Israelis, Israel was only left with one choice, attack. The nation could not simply just mass troops on the border because that means that the advantage is still in Egypt’s favor because of the positive relations that Egypt shares with the rest of the Arab States. Egypt then attacked the forces on its border in order to balance the power back in their favor, and ultimately reduce the amount of power the Egyptians had in the region.
Also, the attack launched supports one if the fundamental principles of Realism in that Israel struck in order to survive within the region. It was clear that their existence was being threatened by the Arab nations, so they took matters into their own hands and secured their existence within the Middle Eastern community. The weakness with this argument lies in the fact that President Nasser assumed that the advantage would be in the defense. President Nasser assumed that if he were to be able to provoke the Israelis into attacking, that he and the Arab allies would be capable of fighting back the Israeli forces.
Also, this theory does not take into account the social factors that led to President Nasser and Prime Minister Eshkol felt when trying to navigate their ways through the international arena. The strengths to this argument is that is stresses the security dilemma where the intentions of the states were not clear. It also shows the clear development of the need for security in each nation and ultimately why it was necessary for the Israelis to attack in order to balance the power. Alternative Theory
Constructivism is an international relations theory that challenges some tenets of realism. This theory is focused upon the beliefs, actions, and ideas which the individual displays on the international level. The more applicable tenets of this theory are the ideas and beliefs within a state. These ideas and beliefs are called “norms” in the international relations field of study. These norms within a state are what create things such as ‘in-groups” and “out-groups” and directly apply to threat identification.
A state is generally comprised of a group of people who generally identify themselves as being the same in thoughts, beliefs, ideas and this idea of norms. One must then analyze how it is possible for a group of people to actually identify these shared beliefs to create a shared interest. This is a topic that is highly debated in the social science world and will most likely always remain controversial. The most accepted theories on how these norms are brought forth are from shared experiences, shared memories, and views of others.
The view of others is essential in identifying the threat. When one is asked about another group of people they immediately start to think about what they have seen on T. V. , read in newspapers, read in books, or even heard in verbal debate. This is where the ‘in-group” and “out-group begins to play into the theory. When a person is identifying a threat they tend to look for difference between themselves and the other group. Once that person has identified large quantities of difference the person begins to put that group of individuals in the out-group.
When the in-group feels threatened by the out-group, the level at which the in-group feels threatened is a function of how different the groups are from each other. If one views themselves as sharing fairly similar beliefs and norms, then the threat level will be low, but if the perception is that they are very different from the out-group, the perception of threat will be far greater. If the group then identifies the other group as an imminent threat, the likely hood of action by the in-group is far more likely, and some sort of conflict is most nearly inevitable.
When one analyzes the actions of a state using this form of constructivism, it becomes clear that the independent variable in the situation is the out-group and the actions it makes against the in-group. This leaves the in-group as the dependant variable because the actions made by the in-group will directly depend on the actions of the out-group. This theory is good for examining states that are new in the international arena, because it focuses more upon the individuals of a state and the ideas and beliefs shared by those individuals, rather than using the state as the main level of analysis.
If one leaves the analysis to the state level, it is possible to miss underlying reasons for state’s actions. This theory can also focus more on internal movements within a state that would otherwise be missed when looking at the state as the smallest level of analysis. In essence Constructivism picks up where Offensive Realism leaves off, and analyzes smaller portions of a state, that when combined, form the foundation of why a state acts in the manner that it does. Now if one were to apply the constructivist mind set to the events surrounding the Six Days
War, one can see that many individuals and some organizations played a tremendous role in leading to the Israeli attack. It is clear that Nasser’s intentions were to attack or provoke an attack in 1967. These actions were then interpreted by Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Chief of Staff, as a direct threat to Israeli sovereignty. The way Rabin interpreted the actions by Nasser can be related back to the norms and threat perception that comes with dealing with differing groups of people. Another main tenet of constructivism is more likely to address change within a culture.
Since Nasser was creating an anti-Semite movement within the Arab world, a new sense of pride sprung forth from the new nation of Israel. This new found pride gave the Israeli’s the capability to prove themselves on a international level, and would ultimately lead to the attack on Egyptian forces. Conclusion Israel’s attack to start the Six Days war in June of 1967 can best be explained by the international relations theory of offensive Realism. More specifically, the Security Dilemma that is created by Realism explains why Israel attacked the Arab nations.
Realism hinges upon the international community being in a state of anarchy, states act rationally, states make decisions based on survival, and that intentions between nations are convoluted. The actions by both the Arab nations and Israel proved to fit these core principles. The security dilemma also explains the desire for each state to gain and balance power. This theory also explains as to why conflict was nearly inevitable between the two nations. This theory was able to identify that the offensive posture was indistinguishable from the defensive posture and that the advantage was in the offense and not the defense.
The lasting effects of this conflict can still be seen today and because of this conflict it is generally accepted that Israel has maintained this same security dilemma to present day. Although, Egypt has not been a direct threat Israel, other Arab nations continue to threaten Israel. This has created the need for Israel, as a state, to continually balance power against the nations throughout the Middle East in order to prevent their own destruction. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Gat, Moshe. Nasser and the Six Day War, 5 June 1967: A Premeditated Strategy or An Inexorable Drift to War? ” Israel Affairs, 2005, 608. [ 2 ]. Ibid. , 608 [ 3 ]. Gat, Moshe. “Nasser and the Six Day War, 5 June 1967: A Premeditated Strategy or An Inexorable Drift to War? ” Israel Affairs, 2005, 609. [ 4 ]. IBID. , 610 [ 5 ]. IBID. , 610 [ 6 ]. IBID. , 613 [ 7 ]. Gat, Moshe. “Nasser and the Six Day War, 5 June 1967: A Premeditated Strategy or An Inexorable Drift to War? ” Israel Affairs, 2005, 615. [ 8 ]. IBID. , 616 [ 9 ]. IBID. , 616 [ 10 ]. IBID. , 616 [ 11 ]. Snyder, Glenn H. Mearsheimer’s World— Offensive Realism and the Struggle for Security. ”: 153. [ 12 ]. IBID. , 154 [ 13 ]. IBID. , 154 [ 14 ]. IBID. , 164 [ 15 ]. IBID. , 154 [ 16 ]. Tang. , Shiping. “Fear in International Politics: Two Positions. “: 453. [ 17 ]. IBID. , 453 [ 18 ]. IBID. , 454 [ 19 ]. Montgomery, Evan B. “Breaking Out of the Security Dilemma. ” International Security, October 1, 2006, 152-85. Accessed April 9, 2011. EBSCOHOST. [ 20 ]. IBID. , 156 [ 21 ]. IBID. , 156 [ 22 ]. IBID. , 156 [ 23 ]. Montgomery, Evan B. “Breaking Out of the Security Dilemma. Print: 155 [ 24 ]. “Nasser and the Six Day War, 5 June 1967: A Premeditated Strategy or An Inexorable Drift to War? “: 609. [ 25 ]. Barkin, Samuel J. “Realist Constructivism. ” International Studies Review, 326 [ 26 ]. Rousseau, David L. “Identity, Power, and Threat Perception. ” Journal of Conflict Resolution 51. 5 (2007), 749. [ 27 ]. IBID. , 750 [ 28 ]. Rousseau, David L. “Identity, Power, and Threat Perception. ” Journal of Conflict Resolution 51. 5 (2007), 750. [ 29 ]. Checkel, Jeffrey T. “The Constructivist Turn in International Relations Theory. ”