Six Day War of 1967 - 3rd Arab Israeli War

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Legacy of the Six Day War

- Melanie Phillips 29th May 2007

"...De-classified documents have shown that Egypt, Jordan and Syria were planning to cut Israel in half; Jordan was planning to take out whole populations from Israeli towns and shoot them. Plans for the destruction of Israel had been laid to the smallest detail.

Israel, however, planned for no more than a 48-hour surgical strike, explicitly resolving not to enter Gaza or the West Bank. What Israel had not expected was that King Hussein of Jordan, who had hitherto been signalling covertly that he had no hostile intent, would launch a serious attack, but Egypt told him falsely, after Israel had destroyed its entire air force on the ground in the space of one hour, that Egypt was on course for victory. So Jordan started firing on Israel from the West Bank, and Israel was accordingly sucked in, as it was into Gaza after attacks were launched from there.

On June 16 1967 Israel offered to give back these territories to Jordan and Egypt in exchange for peace. It even convened a meeting of 18 notable Arabs from the West Bank to discuss whether a Palestinian state could be established there. They all said they would indeed like to have such a state – but if they signed any such agreement with Israel, radicals such as Yasser Arafat would kill them.

I look forward to this history being provided to the public by the British media over the next few days, particularly by the BBC.

There were two other notable contributions to the seminar. Martin Kramer considered the common argument that the 1967 war and subsequent ‘occupation’ led to the emergence of Islamist extremism and al Qaeda. The facts, he said, did not fit this thesis. For a start, the one country in the Middle East where Islamism had seized power since 1967 was Iran, which had played no part in that war. 1979, the year the ayatollahs came to power, was the landmark year for the emergence of Islamism; and the historical grievance behind that Iranian revolution was the return of the Shah. Israel was irrelevant. This meant that the key to countering Islamist fundamentalism was not the Israel/Arab peace process, but ‘rolling back the Iranian revolution’ – in other words, regime change in Iran.

In the most poignant and indeed tragic analysis of all, Yossi Klein Halevi suggested that the Six-Day War had brought to light a continuing ambivalence in the attitude to power of the Jewish people themselves. The weeks before that war, when attacks upon Israel and the threat of war were mounting – the ‘waiting period’—reawakened the primal Jewish fear both of a second holocaust and that the Jews would once again be isolated as the world stood by and watched it happen. The principle established by the Six Day War would trigger pre-emptive action by Israel. The consequence of its victory, however, was that Jews felt able for the first time to confront the Holocaust and from that date it became central to the identity of Jews in the diaspora. The other side of the coin was that the same victory enabled the non-Jewish world to slough off its own responsibility for the Holocaust and in turn for the survival of the Jewish people. While Jews saw the Six Day War as a narrow escape from genocide, the non-Jewish world only saw the Jews victorious over another people...

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