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History, The Six-Day War

period of economic growth, Strait of Tiran, artillery attacks, Golda Meir, Palestine Liberation Organization

Unresolved issues from previous conflicts caused continual tension between Israel and the Arabs, which flared up yet again in the mid-1960s. Israeli and Syrian efforts to divert water from the Jordan River and disputes over the use of the demilitarized zone between the two nations led to numerous border incidents. In 1964 the Arab League created the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to promote Palestinian nationalist activities and sought to coordinate Arab military efforts. In 1965 Palestinians began armed attacks against Israel; Israel responded with raids against Syria and Jordan. Border incidents became progressively more serious, inspiring nationalistic fervor throughout the Arab world. In May 1967 Nasser called for the removal of UN forces from the Suez Canal region. He also organized a military alliance with Syria, Jordan, and Iraq and moved Egyptian troops and equipment into the Sinai Peninsula. In addition, Nasser closed the Strait of Tiran to Israeli shipping.

After efforts at mediation by the UN and the Western powers failed, Israel launched a preemptive military strike against Egypt in early June. Jordan, Syria, and Iraq joined the fighting against Israel. The Egyptian air force was destroyed on the ground within hours of the start of the Six-Day War, and Israeli forces quickly seized the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. Israel also took East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria. Many Arabs fled these areas, which became known as the Occupied Territories. Israel placed the 1 million who remained under military administration. The USSR, which had supported the Arab alliance, and its allies immediately severed diplomatic relations with Israel.

In November 1967 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 242, which called for Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in the recent conflict in return for Arab recognition of Israelís independence, peace, and secure borders. Although neither side met these demands, the trade of ďland for peaceĒ has been the central concept of all subsequent peace efforts.

Although Israelís victory inaugurated another period of economic growth and prosperity, it also politically polarized citizens into two groups: those who favored withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and peace with the Arabs, and those who sought Jewish settlement and annexation. Others favored positions in between, and most supported the annexation of East Jerusalem; the government formally united both parts of Jerusalem a few days after the war ended. Despite the merger of Mapai and other labor parties to form the Israel Labor Party in 1968, as well as the election of its secretary general, Golda Meir, as prime minister in 1969, the partyís dominance gradually broke down from failure to reach a consensus on the peace issue. The controversy also led in 1973 to the formation of Likud, a coalition of parties opposed to Israelís withdrawal from the Occupied Territories.

In 1969 President Nasser of Egypt launched the War of Attrition against Israel along the Suez Canal in an effort to continue the conflict and wear down the enemy. The USSR provided Egypt with advanced military equipment, advisers, and pilots. Israel responded with air and artillery attacks against Egypt. The conflict was ended by a cease-fire sponsored by the United States in August 1970, but there was no substantial movement toward peace.



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