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The Notion of a "Pre-Emptive War:" the Six Day War Revisited

Ersun N. Kurtulus
Middle East Journal
Vol. 61, No. 2 (Spring, 2007), pp. 220-238
Published by: Middle East Institute
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4330386
Page Count: 19
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The Notion of a "Pre-Emptive War:" the Six Day War Revisited
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Abstract

The article presents a critical assessment of the widespread conceptualization of the June 1967 War between Israel and its neighboring Arab states as a pre-emptive war both in academic and non-academic writing. Tracing the origins of the notion of pre-emptive war to international law, the article identifies three necessary conditions for such a war to be classified as pre-emptive: acute crisis combined with high alert levels; vulnerable offensive weapons; and strategic parity as regards to offensive capabilities. On the basis of a re-interpretation of the evidence produced by previous research, this article argues that the circumstances surrounding the Six Day War did not fulfill some of these necessary conditions. This conclusion also is supported by evidence related to the Israeli decision to launch a first strike.

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