- John O'Neill Detroit News 5th June 2007
Israel never had a better friend in the White House than Lyndon B. Johnson. But this made Israel all the more frustrated and somber in the spring of 1967, when LBJ urged restraint in the face of an obvious attack being prepared by the surrounding Arab states.
When pressed by Israeli diplomat Abba Eban about what Israel was to do if the Arab states attacked first, Johnson's reply was blunt: You'll lick 'em. Though intelligence estimates in both the United States and Israel supported this assessment, LBJ was disingenuous to admonish Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol about the importance for the Jewish state not to initiate hostilities.
President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt already had initiated hostilities. He dismissed U.N. peace keepers from the Sinai peninsula (who had been in place since the end of the Suez War in 1956). He also was broadcasting in May 1967 his intention to erase Israel from the map of the Middle East (like Adolf Hitler's promise to make Europe Judenrein).
Then Nasser graduated from talk of war to an act of war by closing shipping access to the Straits of Tiran south of Israel.
Unwilling to wait for an attack by Nasser, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on the Egyptian air force the morning of June 5. In what became the Six Day War, forces from Jordan attacked Israel the following day and those of Syria two days later. By the evening of June 10, Israel was in control of territory more than three times its previous size.
But it is counterproductive on the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War to indulge the debate about who was the aggressor. Any interpretation that Israel's pre-emptive action was other than defensive is ludicrous.
Nor need there be much discussion about the aftermath of the territorial
gains. It is common knowledge that Israel has since restored Sinai to Egypt
and has more recently relinquished the Gaza Strip (taken from Egypt) and
the West Bank (taken from Jordan) to the authority of the Palestinian Arabs.