Middle East Studies

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The Role of US Diplomacy in the Lead-Up to the Six Day War

Balancing Moral Commitments and National Interests

Zaki Shalom is a senior researcher at the Ben-Gurion Research Institute at Ben-Gurion University. He is also member of the research staff at the Institute for National Security Studies. He has published extensively on various facets of Israel's defense policy, the Arab–Israeli conflict, and the role of the superpowers in the Middle East, and Israel's struggle against Islamic terror. He is the author of Israel's Nuclear Option, a is work has also focused on the study of Israel's nuclear option, both in historical and contemporary perspectives.

The outbreak of the Six Day War was primarily the outcome of the tense relations between Israel and Syria in the period preceding the war. Aware of Israel's overall military superiority, the radical Syrian regime believed that the only way to defeat the –Zionist entity– was by guerilla warfare, termed –the people's war–. The Syrian aim was to keep up continuous limited military strikes against Israel, which they determined would bring about a gradual weakening of the Jewish state's military power and political stability, eventually forcing Israel to acquiesce to Arab demands.

Israel, with the unwavering backing of the United States, retaliated fiercely against the Syrian provocations; the clear policy orientation was the regime's demise. Egypt, presenting itself as leader of the Arab world, could not remain unresponsive towards this escalating military tension and ignore Syria's political distress. President Nasser therefore decided to send troops into Sinai, followed by a blockade of the Straits of Tiran.

Israel now felt its survival was under threat. Attempts to solve the crisis by diplomatic means failed, and on June 5 Israel launched a bold strike against Egypt and Syria. The Six Day War not only changed the borders of Israel and redefined its relations with the Arab world, but the impact on the international community still reverberates 40 years on.

Despite a plethora of books on the war, analysis of US–Israel/US–Egypt intensive political and diplomatic activity and dialogue in the period preceding the war has not been forthcoming to date. Zaki Shalom addresses this lacuna by detailing the meetings, exchanges of messages, and internal discussions right up to the outbreak of the war. The book is essential reading for all those involved in Middle East studies, international relations, and diplomacy and statecraft.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-468-0
Hardback Price: £45.00 / $65.00
Release Date: November 2011
Page Extent / Format: 180 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No



1 Israeli–Syrian Relations
Historical Background
2 Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom
Formulation of the Tacit Israeli–Jordanian Strategic Alliance
3 The Samu Raid – Background and Outcome Defining the Enemy
4 Israel, Syria and the Policy of Escalation
Formulating Objectives
5 The Beginning of the Crisis – Perception of the Threat Initial Stages
6 Dramatic Change in the Perception of the Threat
The End of Exhibiting Restraint
7 Blocking the Straits of Tiran
The US Regards Egyptian Moves as Provocation
8 Abba Eban's Mission: Phase I – The Proposal for an International Naval Force
9 Abba Eban's Mission: Phase II – Talks with Key Officials


The literature on the Six-Day War in June 1967 is extensive, and it is difficult to believe that much is left to tell about the Israeli side of the conflict beyond Michael Oren's Six Days of War (2003), but Shalom (senior researcher, Ben-Gurion Research Institute, Ben-Gurion Univ.) provides a brief, well-crafted account of the immediate time period leading to the war with emphasis on Israeli–US diplomatic manoeuvring. He does not break new ground in archival study as most of the sources are accessible records, but he does provide a solid, readable account. He emphasizes Syria's role as the primary instigator that drew Egypt into the fray. One of the book's strong contributions is the treatment of individual Israeli and American players in the drama; Israeli premier diplomat Abba Eban emerges as the wrong man to have attempted to manage US response in this crisis. Although the book provides extensive historical context for the crises, when it gets to the immediate outbreak of the war, the volume curiously ends abruptly. The reader is left hanging at the point where the story of US–Israeli diplomatic actions had really just begun. Recommended.

Reviewed by Moshe Gat, Bar-Ilan, in Diplomacy & Statecraft (2013), Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

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