- Dr Michael Oren
"...instead of merely marking the Six-Day War's 40th anniversary, we should examine the Israeli government's decision-making process in the pre-war period and learn the appropriate lessons. We can point to two decisions that significantly affected this process.
The first decision was taken in November 1966, when the revenge operation in Samua was approved. Although Syria, rather than Jordan, was behind Fatah attacks, ministers were concerned about punishing Damascus because of the possibility of confrontation with the Syrian army and its Soviet patrons. Therefore, the government preferred to approve an operation against Jordan.
However, en route to their targets the paratroopers encountered a Jordanian force, and the operation turned into a battle. This incident had two results: The Americans slammed the operation and referred to it as madness, while Jordan's King Hussein, who was greatly humiliated, attempted to cast the blame for the disaster on his archrival, Egyptian President Nasser, claiming that he was hiding "behind the dresses" of the UN force in the Sinai and Gaza.
The latter, in response, sought any pretext to remove the UN force – a pretext provided by the Soviets in mid-May 1967, after they told Nasser that Israel seemingly intends to attack Syria.
Nasser quickly discovered that the story was baseless, yet he used this pretext to remove UN forces and deploy his troops in Sinai, block the Tiran Straits that lead to Eilat, and form military alliances with Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. As it was surrounded by tens of thousands of Arab soldiers excited about the prospect of eliminating it, Israel was forced to decide whether it should resort to a pre-emptive strike.
The second decision was undertaken by then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, who rejected the recommendations submitted by IDF generals and senior ministers to attack Egypt at once. Eshkol insisted on waiting another three weeks in order to prove to the world, and particularly to the Americans, that Israel exhausted all possibilities to resolve the crisis through diplomatic means.
This "waiting period" is remembered today
as a highly tense period, and Eshkol was harshly condemned for it. Yet Israel
used this period in order to prepare the IDF for action and justify its
position to international public opinion. Therefore, once the war broke
out on June 5th, the IDF was ready and Israel enjoyed broad sympathy in
European capitals and in Washington..."
[full article in Israel Opinion - YnetNews]