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Office of the Historian

414. Special National Intelligence Estimate1

SNIE 30–3–67

THE SHORT-TERM ARAB–ISRAELI MILITARY BALANCE

The Problem

To assess the military capabilities of Israel and the Arab states, and to estimate Arab military intentions toward Israel, particularly over the next few months.

Scope Note

For the purposes of this estimate, we assume that the Arabs will not abandon their claim that a state of belligerency with Israel exists, and further that Israel will continue to occupy Arab territory taken in the war.

[Page 771]

Conclusions

A.
UAR, Jordanian, and Syrian military forces were badly mauled by Israel in the recent war. Soviet resupplies have restored much materiel to the UAR and Syria, but Israel's margin of superiority is even greater than before. We believe that the Arab states will be unable to launch an effective attack against Israel in the next few months, and indeed for a considerable time thereafter.
B.
We believe that Arab leaders are generally aware of these realities and that no Arab state intends to engage Israel military in 1967. A surprise Arab air attack cannot be completely ruled out, but it is unlikely and would probably be anticipated by Israeli intelligence.
C.
Arab sabotage and terrorist activities may occur, but a major guerrilla warfare campaign against Israel is unlikely. Even if attempted, it could not pose a serious threat to Israel's security.

Discussion

1.
The Israelis inflicted very heavy losses on the Arabs in the June 1967 war. Syria lost most of its 85 fighter aircraft and about 100 of its 425 tanks. The small Jordanian air force was completely destroyed; two-thirds of Jordan's 200 tanks were destroyed or captured. The UAR, with the largest Arab armed force, lost about two-thirds of its 365 fighter aircraft, 55 of its 69 bombers, and about half of its 1,000 tanks. Though UAR pilot losses were probably small, the UAR had only 200 pilots who were combat ready in jet fighters when the war began. Losses among armored vehicle crews were very heavy, as were casualties in ground forces. The Sinai fighting eliminated from the UAR order of battle two of its four infantry divisions, one of its two armored divisions, and 15 of its 23 independent brigades. Less tangible but just as significant was the great damage to morale and leadership in all three armies.2 Israel holds several thousand commissioned and noncommissioned UAR officer prisoners, including nine generals.
2.
Israel emerged from the war with a greatly enhanced military superiority over its Arab neighbors. Its losses were light. Less than a hundred of its 1,100 tanks were destroyed. Of Israel's 256 aircraft, 48 were lost—including 14 of its 46 fighter bombers; 24 of its 450 jet pilots were killed. Even with these losses—and the subsequent resupply of Soviet aircraft to the Arabs—the Israeli air force remains qualitatively much stronger than all the Arab air forces combined. Though lost Israeli [Page 772]aircraft have not been replaced, aircraft spare parts are still being imported from France,3 and there is no shortage of air-to-air missiles or aircraft gun ammunition. As compared with the Arabs' personnel losses of more than 7,000, the Israelis lost about 700 killed, though this included a high proportion of officers. In addition, the Israeli army now occupies territory which would give it great advantage in the event of a resumption of hostilities. Though Israel has received no large new amounts of foreign military supplies since the war, it captured vast amounts of ground force equipment, a certain amount of which can and will be integrated into its units.
3.
Since the war, Syria has received some replacements of its losses; Jordan has received nothing except some obsolescent tanks from Iraq and some radar from the UAR. Neither Syria nor Jordan poses a serious military threat to Israel in the near term, and they are not, either by themselves or in concert with the UAR, likely to do so for some time to come. Of Israel's immediate neighbors, only the UAR has gotten substantial replacements of lost equipment. These include at least 60 percent and perhaps as much as 90 percent of the fighter aircraft, between 20 and 40 percent of the bombers, and about 50 percent of the tanks it lost in the war. Most of the planes were acquired in an emergency airlift from the USSR and Algeria in the three weeks following the end of the war. Since then, resupply has slowed notably; most equipment in being brought in by sea, and at a pace approximately that of prewar days.
4.
We do not believe that the Soviet resupply has significantly lessened Israel's military superiority over its Arab neighbors, and it is not likely to do so for some time to come at least.4 The forces which the various Arab states could bring to bear against Israel are substantially less than those available on 4 June. Unless the Soviets drastically increase the present pace of resupply, it would take about a year substantially to replace UAR and Syrian equipment losses. The forming and training of new units to use these weapons, especially in the UAR, would probably require 18 months or more. (Logistics limit the Iraqis to about the 10,000–15,000 men they presently have in Jordan, and would probably impose a similar limitation on Algeria.) The Arabs' ability to use modern weapons was proved demonstrably inferior to that of the Israelis in the recent war, and this is likely to remain the case for some time. [Page 773]Hence, we see no likelihood that the Arab states will acquire the capability to attack present Israeli positions with any degree of success in 1967.
5.
As for Arab intentions in respect of military actions against Israel, the views in Arab capitals vary. The most belligerent statements come from Syria and Algeria; those Arab leaders whose forces suffered the greatest losses are least inclined to press for renewed fighting. Jordan has made it clear that it wants no further fighting, and it is trying to get Iraq to withdraw its troops from the East Bank. Cairo appears to be aware of its military weakness vis-à-vis Israel. In fact, it appears to be afraid that the Israelis might renew the attack. The tone of its public statements is one of determination to rebuild for the long haul, not one of encouragement to war. The present deployment of UAR, Syrian, and Jordanian forces is clearly defensive. There is a possibility, though a very slight one, that some Arab leaders might ascribe their loss of the war to the success of Israel's preemptive air strike and draw the conclusion that Arab forces, if they destroyed the Israeli air force in a surprise blow, might win at least a limited victory on the ground. It is far more likely, however, that Arab leaders—especially those in the UAR, whose air force would have to be used—are aware that Israel's aircraft are well protected and that the Israelis would be likely to detect Arab plans for preemption and strike first, or at least retaliate quickly and effectively. In addition, the last two months have demonstrated to the Arabs that there are clear limits on what they can depend on in the way of Soviet support, and this awareness almost certainly works to discourage them from serious thoughts of another round in the near future. In these circumstances, we believe that any major Arab attack on Israel is highly unlikely in 1967, and indeed for a considerable time thereafter.

Guerrilla Warfare

6.
Algerian and Syrian leaders, as well as Ahmed Shuqairi, chief of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, have publicly demanded that the war against Israel be converted into a large scale and sustained guerrilla campaign. If attempted, this would, in practice, be less likely to take the form of classical guerrilla operations than of terrorist and sabotage raids. Since the early 1950's, terrorist activities have been carried out in Israel by Palestinians infiltrated from Syria, Jordan or Egypt. These raids have on occasion caused casualties and some physical damage, but they have done little or no harm to Israeli military forces. Instead of weakening the Israeli will to resist, they have strengthened the hand of those Israelis who advocate a hard line against the Arabs.
7.
Recent Israeli victories have made the renewal of such terrorist activity more difficult in some ways, easier in others. Arab infiltrators [Page 774]can no longer operate from bases in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank within close range of targets in Israel. Infiltration of terrorists and saboteurs across the Jordan River, at least in small numbers, could probably be accomplished despite the efforts of Israeli and Jordanian security forces to prevent it. As before, such infiltrators would probably be trained Palestinian terrorists who know the people and the area in which they would operate. (Algerians, or even Syrians, whatever their skills, would probably be much less effective in unfamiliar territory.) Palestinians would probably receive considerable protection and aid from a sympathetic Arab populace. They could be particularly effective in the West Bank and Jerusalem in punitive operations against other Arabs, e.g., those who were collaborating with the Israelis.
8.
Nevertheless, we do not believe that the Arabs are capable of mounting irregular operations in such numbers or strength as to have military significance. The present lines between Israel and its Arab neighbors are easier to defend and patrol than before; the infiltration of any significant number of guerrillas into Israeli territory from Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan would be difficult. Infiltration from the UAR is virtually impossible except for isolated commando raids against communications routes in Sinai. The effectiveness of such tactics in Israeli populated areas (in contrast to those inhabited by Arabs) has been and will continue to be very limited. At best, the Arabs can hope to carry out isolated, small-scale harassments.
9.
Further, irregular warfare of even small proportions would be likely to evoke Israeli countermeasures which Arab leaders wish to avoid. The Israelis have consistently, vigorously, and sometimes brutally retaliated against raids in the past. Recent victories have enhanced their capabilities to do so, by enabling them to inflict such blows deep within the Arab states themselves. Fear of Israeli retaliation would tend to inhibit occupants of the West Bank from giving support to infiltrators. Finally, a major guerrilla effort would probably be seen, by the UAR and Jordan at least, as damaging to the international support which the Arab cause needs. Given all these factors, we believe that Arab irregular activity will offer no real military threat to Israel over the next several months, and probably over the next several years, though a certain amount of harassment is probable.

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency Files, Job 79–R01012A, ODDI Registry of NIE and SNIE Files. Secret; Controlled Dissem. According to the cover sheet, the estimate was submitted by the Director of Central Intelligence, and concurred in by the U.S. Intelligence Board on August 10. The Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense and National Security Agency participated in its preparation. The CIA, State, Defense, and NSA representatives on the USIB concurred; the AEC and FBI representatives abstained because the subject was outside their jurisdiction.
  2. Iraq played a minor role in the war. It lost some 19 fighters and one bomber; its infantry was only slightly engaged and suffered few losses. Though Algerian and Saudi units were dispatched to the area, none of them participated in the fighting. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. On 2 June 1967, France imposed an embargo in shipments of military items to the Middle East, but the embargo does not apply to spare parts previously contracted for. In addition, there probably has been some evasion of the ban. [Footnote in the source text.]
  4. See SNIE 11–13–67, “Probable Soviet Objectives in Rearming Arab States,” dated 20 July 1967, for an assessment of Soviet policy and objectives toward the Arabs. [Footnote in the source text. SNIE 11–13–67 is not printed. (Central Intelligence Agency Files, Job 79–R01012A, ODDI Registry of NIE and SNIE Files)]