In Defence of the Six Day War

Preemption is within the law.

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Mustafa Latif-Aramesh,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7

It isn’t enough to read a United Nations General Assembly resolution and to conclude that Israel is an aggressor. It also isn’t enough to read an article on Wikipedia. What a person must do is look under every stone and realise the dirt that lies beneath. The Six Day War, a war which unarguably set the agenda of Israel’s future borders, is
We have seen the consequences of not preempting in 1973.
often used as example of Israel breaking international law, but this is truly a farce.

Customary international law (that is, the law set by what states do in lawful practice) stated, before the UN Charter, that there was a doctrine of self-defence which could be summarised thus: a state must comply with two conditions - 1) necessity, to the degree that the threat was “overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation”; and 2) proportionality, which “must be limited by that necessity, and kept clearly within it.”

The UN Charter was then developed and Article 51 stated that nothing “shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs....” The key point that has caused debate in the law forum is whether or not this means that a state can exercise preemptive self-defence. One view is that the “right” that the article is talking about can only be used once an attack has happened. However, so-called counter-restrictionists say that, because of the aforementioned laws set in customary international law and the absence there of a clause that says “only if an armed attack occurs,” it means preemption is within the law. This is also the most logical view to take. If the first interpretation of Article 51 is taken seriously, then Israel would be destroyed. We have seen the consequences of not preempting in 1973, when 2,000 Israelis died as a result of Arab aggression.

Keeping in mind the conditions of a defensive war, we can clearly see that Israel complies. The "necessity" condition can be seen in light of President Gamal Abdel-Nasser’s actions and speeches, which fueled even more raids in Israel proper. President Nasser and his allies began their threats; one stated that civilian towns should be turned into “dust” and another asserted that that no “Jewish survivors” would be left. Nasser and his allies, of course, didn’t just talk, they acted. Egypt then gave clear justification for acts of war (casus beli) when they blocked the Straits of Tiran, which violated the Laws of the Sea. A peace-keeping UN force was stationed in the Sinai; Nasser ordered them out, and Syria and Egypt massed their troops on the borders of Israel.

All of these actions, Nasser knew, “meant war” and one of his commanders stated “this is a declaration of war.” Thus, Israel complied with “necessity”; Israel did not want its citizens to be killed and Egypt's provocative actions were clear signs of war. Israel then preempted with “proportionality,” only striking the air force which could wipe its “Zionist existence.” The war then spread to fronts outside the Israel-Egyptian one.

Israel sent several messages to Jordan saying it had no desire to fight with that state, even though the Old City of Jerusalem was under Jordanian occupation. Hostilities were then started by the Arab Legion; Israel could then act within its right of Article 51 of the UN Charter.

Anti-Israelis would then point to United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which states the “inadmissibility
Nasser and his allies, of course, didn’t just talk, they acted.
of the acquisition of territory by war.” But this is in reference to a offensive war. As the former International Court of Justice Judge Stephen Schwebel notes, there is a difference “between aggressive conquest and defensive conquest, between the taking of territory legally held and the taking of territory illegally held.” If one were to believe that 242 referred to Israel, it would contradict not only international law (the principal ex iniuria non oritur ius) but security interests, because it would assert that before “secure recognised boundaries” are set, a state may have back all the land which it could use for another attack.

Conclusively, Israel acted within international law and the land that it has seized from Jordan (namely, the West Bank) was won in a defensive war. No other country has better title to it, and the occupation will not end as long as it is essential to the security of Israel and until a peace deal has been signed.