THE SOVIET WARNING
Gross miscalculations based on gross misinformation.
Dr. Mahmoud Fawzi, vice-president for foreign affairs, United Arab Republic1
The 1967 June War, a brief but violent conflict between Israel and three of its Arab neighbors, permanently altered the political landscape of the Middle East. Although Israel began the shooting, Egypt initiated the crisis that led to the war. Egypt in turn was responding to a Soviet report that Israel was concentrating troops on its border with Syria, preparatory to an attack. There were no such concentrations, but the report was believable because tension between Syria and Israel was high as a result of a long series of incidents along the border. These incidents had provoked a number of threatening statements by Israel's leaders to the effect that if Syria did not stop sponsoring cross-border sabotage activities by Palestinians, Israel would have to take strong measures.
According to former Egyptian officials, the Soviet report was given to them on May 13. 2 Similar reports had been received earlier from the Syrians, but the Egyptians had not taken them seriously because they did not trust the Syrians. They took the Soviet report seriously because it was plausible and because the Soviets were serious people. They responded by mobilizing their forces and sending them into the Sinai Peninsula bordering Israel. A few days later they demanded withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Forces (UNEF), which had been keeping the peace along their border with Israel, and followed the withdrawal with a declaration on May 23 that they were closing the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping.
Israel had already said that closure of the Gulf would be taken as casus belli, and it kept its word. In spite of efforts by diplomats and politicians to find a way out of the crisis, Israel struck on June 5, destroying most of Egypt's air force in the first hours and eventually routing the Egyptian army and roundly defeating the Syrian and Jordanian armies, which had also entered the fighting. By the end of the week Israel was in