Forty years ago today the Six Day War ended. It deserves a quick look at for historical military geography sake and because its influence on modern geopolitics.
Before the War
The United Nations partition plan to establish a Jewish nation-state and Arab state in the remaining British Mandate was adopted on November 29, 1947. Most of the United Nations countries voted for the partition. Both the Soviet Union and the United States Israel could be a satellite of theirs in the rapidly developing Middle East. Countries voting against it included Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen.
The British Mandate was scheduled to expire on May 15. However fighting started right after the partition plan was adopted. On May 14th the State of Israel was established while King Abdullah I of Jordan made his plans known for all of the Mandate land to become part of Jordan. A massive Arab army invaded Israel from all sides seeking to destroy the new state. The fighting ended in 1949 with Israel independent while the Gaza Strip became Egyptian and the West Bank become Jordanian. Israel's northern and central cities were in easy reach of any Arab attack. This gave geographical reasoning for Israel's extreme defensive mindset.
The situation in the Mideast fluctuated back and forth for a while until it reached fever pitch in 1967. The Soviets realized Israel's moves towards the United States and began to fund the Arab countries and incite violence. Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran in violation of previous agreements. Arab forces were also gathered along Israel's borders in preparation for their own final solution to their Jewish "problem." United Nation peacekeeping troops were ordered out of the Sinai so Egypt would have clean shots at Israel.
I have described the Six Day War before as the most surprising one-sided victory in modern warfare. A sudden air attack by Israel managed to take out most of Egypt's air force. In the Sinai Peninsula, General Ariel Sharon launched such a surprising blitz that the Egyptian commanders called their troops back to the Suez Canal after a few short scrimmages.
By Day 3 of the fighting Israel captured East Jerusalem after Jordan launched attacks on West Jersualem and Tel Aviv. At the end of day three Israel had control of the West Bank and even launched a raid on the East Bank.
Day 4 was mostly mop up against the Egyptians and Jordanians while the Israel debated attack the Golan Heights of Syria. The heights had commanding over looks of Israel and Syria all the way to Damascus. However, fortification on the heights were manned by some of Syria's best troops and any attack would be costly. Fierce fighting occurred on days five and six on top of the Golani Plateau as Israel's used the superior Uzi against the AK-47 in trench battles.
At the end of the war Israel captured the Golan Heights, the West Ban, and all of the Sinai Peninsula.
After the War
The war showed that Israel could win an offensive war while Egypt and Syria would lose a defensive war. The map changed a bit after the Yom Kippur War in which Egypt and Syria went on the offensive while Israel became defensive. After that war Israel agreed to return the Sinai in exchange for peace and Egypt's recognition for Israel's right to exist.
The peace which followed afterwards led to a new stage in the "Arab-Israeli" conflict. The Palestinian Liberation Organization, founded three years before the Six Day War by the Arab League as a tool to destroy Israel, ignited an internal war against Israel while the Arab states slowly disengaged their conflicts against Israel. With the new stage the dreams of a "Greater Israel" began to fade. It seemed impossible for Israel to fully control the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; places where Jews could only live in highly fortified settlements. So Prime Minister Sharon withdrew from the Gaza Strip, began building a wall to stem the tide of suicide bombers and other infiltrators, and he even had plans to withdrawal from most of the West Bank. However, Sharon's medical condition and the poorly managed Hezbollah War of 2006 has left the current prime minister without any mandate. Things are frozen for now.
There are dark clouds on the horizon though. Hezbollah is in the south of Lebanon. Syria has recently been doing war games near the border. Finally, Iran is threatening genocide. Will radical Shiites seek to do what Pan-Arabists could not? Time will tell.