Forty years ago today, in one of the most stunning developments of the last half-century, Israel pulled off the ultimate in go-for-broke gambles. On the morning of June 5, 1967, it sent all but 12 of its 200 air force planes on a surprise attack on Egypt's air force, knowing if those planes were detected and destroyed, the Israeli homeland would be vulnerable in the extreme to the combined Arab air forces. They weren't and it wasn't, and the Six Day War was written into history.
In marking the occasion, the world remembers the speed and overwhelming force of Israel's campaign, and what a supreme statement it was of Israel's right to exist. The world remembers how Israeli forces captured the Sinai, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza -- and how Jerusalem, divided after the 1948 War of Independence, was reunited.
What the world may not remember, or choose to remember, is how Egypt brought about the air strike by imposing a naval blockade of the Strait of Tiran and forcing the United Nations to remove its forces from the Sinai, after 10 years of keeping the peace, in preparation for a war to wipe Israel off the map -- and how alone in the world Israel was in defending itself. The world may not remember that even after their humiliating defeat, the Arabs' response to Israel's offer to negotiate a peaceful solution to their conflict came in the words: "no recognition, no peace and no negotiations."