Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Political Significance of June War : 1967 – Today

June War of 1967 brought about a substantial transformation in Arab politics, as the focus of the discourse shifted to a dispute over Israel’s borders.

June War
Ultra-orthodoxe Jew pray 09 June 1967 at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. AFP

Majed Kayali

Politicians and the Arab masses alike were shocked by the Arab defeat in the June 1967 war, when Israel launched an unforeseen military strike on Egypt, Syria, and Jordan’s armies in a matter of days. The event led to the Israeli occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, Egypt’s Sinai and the Syrian Golan Heights.

Unlike the 1948 Nakba, the 1967 defeat was not attributed to regressive or inept regimes ill-equipped for warfare, which intensified its impact.

This time around, the national liberation movements and the Pan-Arabism regimes of Syria and Egypt under Abdel Nasser were the forces that suffered defeat. Nasser’s charisma inspired the Arab masses as they pinned their hopes for liberation and progress on him.

The June War marked a pivotal moment in the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, delineating two distinct political eras. It laid bare the political dysfunction within the established Arab regimes and revealed the contradiction in their economic, social and political rhetoric.

Moreover, it demonstrated that despite apparent differences in methods and assertions, the regimes shared fundamental similarities. It is widely recognised that the Arab regimes have a history of marginalising the masses in terms of decisions affecting their lives and future. They prioritised power and authority over the interest of the state and its institutions.

Under the pretext of the Arab-Israeli conflict, they transformed into security-focused states rather than civil states. These tendencies laid bare the tyrannical intentions of the Arab regimes in dealing with domestic affairs and their fragility in addressing foreign matters.

After the Naksa in 1967, despite their differences, the prevailing Arab regimes attempted to cover up the defeat and pass it as a mere setback. They claimed that the war Israel had waged with the aim of overthrowing the progressive, liberating Arab regimes had failed to achieve this goal.

During this period, the Arab regimes opted to offset the defeat by mobilising so-called Fedayeen (groups willing to sacrifice themselves for a greater cause) from Jordan, Lebanon and Syria in Palestine.

Their objective was to channel the Arab frustration and diminish the impact of the defeat, which had cast a shadow over both the Arab regimes and the prevailing reality. The adoption of this strategy coincided with the diminishing role of official Arab initiatives in addressing the conflict with Israel.

Nonetheless, the June War brought about a substantial transformation in Arab politics. The focus of the discourse shifted from a dispute over Israel’s existence to a dispute over its borders. The Arab regimes began emphasising the need to confront Israeli aggression rather than confronting the Zionist project itself.

On the Israeli side, the war unified the Israelis in the Land of Israel or Eretz Yisrael as it referred to in Israeli terminology. At the time, the state of Israel and the biblical concept of the Promised Land, encompassing the territories of the West Bank, converged in Israeli consciousness.

Additionally, the unification of Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty marked a significant milestone in Israel’s political landscape. This development led to the growing prominence of religious Zionism, which has advanced towards national and secular Zionism.

The aftermath of the June War saw a shift in perception among Jews worldwide and Israeli citizens, who began to see Israel as a formidable regional power and a Western ally. This perception gained significant traction, not only within the region but also on a global level. Additionally, the June War fueled Israel’s economy.

All actions have consequences, and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza resulted in the consolidation of the Palestinian people and lands. Palestinians from the 1948 territories were reunited with their compatriots in the West Bank and Gaza, resulting in a unified path of Palestinian national identity.

Moreover, the war disrupted the Jewish majority and, over time, gave rise to what is now commonly called the “demographic bomb,” threatening the Jewish character of Israel.

Ultimately, Israel annexed Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. It has, however, not been able to annex the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, nor has it been able to abandon these territories. The Palestinians’ resolute resistance and persistent defiance of the occupation have played a significant role in this outcome.

Additionally, Israeli concerns about becoming a minority and the potential transformation of Israel into a “bi-national” state have been a contributing factor.

The aftermath of the war promoted Israel’s reputation as a colonial state, forcefully occupying territories and controlling other people through oppressive practices. Questions have been raised regarding the authenticity of Israeli democracy, as it seems primarily inclusive of Jews. At the same time, non-Jewish populations continue to face discrimination, turning the Israeli government into a colonial racist regime.

The unresolved fate of the occupied territories – the West Bank and Gaza – in Israel has given rise to significant political and ideological divisions within the Israeli political landscape.

This division has deepened between those supporting settlements on the one hand and those supporting withdrawal from the occupied territories on the other, including advocates for a unified Israeli nation and extremist nationalists, such as settlers and proponents of Eretz Yisrael.

All conflicts Israel has engaged in after the June War have served to reinforce the outcomes of this war. However, despite achieving a military victory over the Arab nations at the time, Israel has failed to translate its win into a decisive political triumph.

Regardless of their internal weaknesses and divisions, the Arab nations did not entirely succumb to the consequences of the war. On the contrary, Israel did not evolve into a haven for Jews.

Instead, it became a place where more were killed than anywhere else. Something that can be attributed to the country’s policies, which have become a political and moral burden for Jews worldwide.

The June war and its aftermath highlighted the resilience and resistance of the Palestinians on a global scale. Their resistance was evident in uprisings and unwavering determination in subsequent wars in the Gaza Strip.

At the international level, Israel has increasingly been recognised as a vestige of 20th-century colonialism. Doubts have been raised openly about the credibility of its democracy, and suspicions have arisen regarding its transformation into a racist apartheid regime.

Despite the June war and subsequent conflicts, Israel has remained an estranged illegitimate state in the Middle East. Its presence continues to cause instability and turmoil in the region, imposing political, security and moral burdens on Western nations.

Everything indicates that the consequences and impact of the June war persist, with no resolution in sight for both Palestinians and Israelis. The conflict remains stagnant for all parties involved as if time has stood still.


The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our bloggers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.

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