The Burden of the 1967 Victory: Prof. Efraim Inbar, BESA, Apr. 5, 2017 — In June 1967, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) waged war alone against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.
What If: Fifty Years After the Six-Day War: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, June 5, 2017— Israel's military triumph over three enemy states in June 1967 is the most outstandingly successful war of all recorded history.
1967: The International Media and the Six-Day War: Meron Medzini, Fathom, 2017— In the early 1960s, Israel had a permanent press core of 50 foreign correspondents and a number of bureaus were maintained by foreign outlets, such as the Washington Post, New York Times and Newsweek.
This Time, the Loser Writes History: Gabriel Glickman, Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2017— It is a general law that every war is fought twice—first on the battlefield, then in the historiographical arena—and so it has been with the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war (or the Six-Day War as it is commonly known).
Six Days in June (Video): Youtube, May 24, 2017
‘Last Secret’ of 1967 War: Israel’s Doomsday Plan for Nuclear Display: William J. Broad & David E. Sanger, New York Times, June 3, 2017
The Lessons and Consequences of the Six-Day War: David Harris, Algemeiner, June 2, 2017
Honoring the Man Behind the War: Noa Amouyal, Jerusalem Post, May 30, 2017
Prof. Efraim Inbar
BESA, Apr. 5, 2017
In June 1967, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) waged war alone against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. It achieved a stunning victory in six days. The military skill demonstrated by the Israelis was remarkable – so much so that battles from the Six-Day War continue to be studied at war colleges around the world. Israel’s military achievement had another extremely important effect. It went a long way towards convincing the Arab world that Israel cannot be easily destroyed by military force; Israel is a fact the Arabs must learn to live with. Indeed, ten years later – after Egypt had lost another war to Israel, this one in 1973 – its president, Anwar Sadat, came to Jerusalem (November 1977) to offer peace.
The swift and decisive victory of 1967 became the standard to which the IDF aspired – and the kind of victory expected by Israeli society in future engagements. This is problematic, considering the ways Israel’s opponents have changed and the means they now deploy. The unrealistic anticipation that victories on the scale of 1967 should be the end result of any military engagement hampers clear thinking and impedes the adoption of appropriate strategy and tactics. Moreover, it encourages what is often an impossible hope for a quick end to conflict. In the absence of a clear-cut and speedy outcome, Israelis lose confidence in the political as well as the military leadership.
Israelis, many of whom have limited military experience, still long for decisive victories in the Gaza and South Lebanon arenas. The wars in which the IDF has participated so far in the twenty-first century, which appeared to end inconclusively, left many Israelis with a sense of unease. They miss the victory photographs of the 1967 war. Slogans of the Israeli right, such as “Let the IDF Win”, reflect this frustration. Similarly, the left claims that Judea and Samaria can be safely ceded to a Palestinian state because these territories can be reconquered, as they were in 1967, if they become a base for hostile actors. The calls for the destruction of Hamas also bear witness to a lack of understanding of the limits of military power.
But grand-scale conventional war, in which the IDF faces large armored formations and hundreds of air fighters as it did in 1967, is less likely today. The 1982 Lebanon War was the last to display such encounters. Since 1982, Israel has scarcely fought any state in a conventional war. To a significant extent, the statist dimension in the Arab-Israeli conflict has itself disappeared. Egypt and Jordan are at peace with Israel. Syria and Iraq are torn by domestic conflict and are hardly in a position to challenge Israel militarily. Many other Arab countries, such as the Gulf and Maghreb states, have reached a de facto peace with Israel, an orientation buttressed by the common Iranian threat.
For the past three decades, Israel has been challenged primarily by sub-state actors, such as Hamas (a Sunni militia) and Hezbollah (a Shiite militia). Such organizations have a different strategic calculus from that of states. Because of their religious-ideological zeal, they are more difficult to deter than states, and their learning curve is much slower. It took Egypt three military defeats (1948, 1956, and 1973) and a war of attrition (1968-70) within a span of 25 years to give up the goal of destroying Israel. In contrast, Hezbollah has been fighting Israel for a longer period and remains as devoted as ever to its goal of the elimination of the Jewish state. The heavy price inflicted upon Gaza since 2007 by the Israeli military has not changed the strategic calculus of the Hamas leadership, which still aspires to Israel’s demise.
Hamas and Hezbollah do not possess arsenals of tanks and air fighters, which would be easy targets for Israel. The decentralized structure of their military organizations does not present points of gravity that can be eliminated by swift and decisive action. Moreover, their use of civilian populations to shield missile launchers and military units – a war crime – makes IDF advances cumbersome and difficult due to slower troop movement in urban areas and the need to reduce collateral damage among civilians. Urbanization among Israel’s neighbors has greatly reduced the empty areas that could have been used for maneuvering and outflanking. The use of the subterranean by Israel’s foes, be it in Gaza or South Lebanon, is another new element that slows advances.
It is naïve to believe the IDF can or should win quickly and decisively every time it has to flex its muscles. Yitzhak Rabin warned several times during his long career against the expectation of a “once and for all” victory. The defeat of Israel’s new opponents requires a different strategy: attrition. Israel is engaged in a long war of attrition against religiously motivated enemies who believe both God and history are on their side. All the IDF can do is occasionally weaken their ability to harm Israel and create temporary deterrence. In Israeli parlance, this is called “mowing the grass” – an apt metaphor, as the problem always grows back. The patient, repetitive use of force is not glamorous, but it will eventually do the trick. Unfortunately, many Israelis do not understand the particular circumstances of the great 1967 victory. They have lost patience and do not realize that time is, in fact, on Israel’s side.
Washington Times, June 5, 2017
Israel's military triumph over three enemy states in June 1967 is the most outstandingly successful war of all recorded history. The Six-Day War was also deeply consequential for the Middle East, establishing the permanence of the Jewish state, dealing a death-blow to pan-Arab nationalism, and (ironically) worsening Israel's place in the world because of its occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem. Focusing on this last point: how did a spectacular battlefield victory translate into problems that still torment Israel today? Because it stuck Israelis in an unwanted role they cannot escape.
First, Israeli leftists and foreign do-gooders wrongly blame Israel's government for not making sufficient efforts to leave the West Bank, as though greater efforts could have found a true peace partner. In this, critics ignore rejectionism, the attitude of refusing to accept anything Zionist that has dominated Palestinian politics for the past century. Its founding figure, Amin al-Husseini, collaborated with Hitler and even had a key role in formulating the Final Solution; recent manifestations include the "anti-normalization" and the boycott, divestment, and sanction (BDS) movements. Rejectionism renders Israeli concessions useless, even counterproductive, because Palestinians respond to them with more hostility and violence.
Second, Israel faces a conundrum of geography and demography in the West Bank. While its strategists want to control the highlands, its nationalists want to build towns, and its religious want to possess Jewish holy sites, Israel's continued ultimate rule over a West Bank population of 1.7 million mostly hostile Arabic-speaking, Muslim Palestinians takes an immense toll both domestically and internationally. Various schemes to keep the land and defang an enemy people – by integrating them, buying them off, dividing them, pushing them out, or finding another ruler for them – have all come to naught.
Third, the Israelis in 1967 took three unilateral steps in Jerusalem that created future time bombs: vastly expanding the city's borders, annexing it, and offering Israeli citizenship to the city's new Arab residents. In combination, these led to a long-term demographic and housing competition that Palestinians are winning, jeopardizing the Jewish nature of the Jews' historic capital. Worse, 300,000 Arabs could at any time choose to take Israeli citizenship. These problems raise the question: Had Israeli leaders in 1967 foreseen the current problems, what might they have done differently in the West Bank and Jerusalem? They could have:
Made the battle against rejectionism their highest priority through unremitting censorship of every aspect of life in the West Bank and Jerusalem, severe punishments for incitement, and an intense effort to imbue a more positive attitude toward Israel; Invited back in the Jordanian authorities, rulers of the West Bank since 1949, to run that area's (but not Jerusalem's) internal affairs, leaving the Israel Defense Forces with only the burden to protect borders and Jewish populations; Extended the borders of Jerusalem only to the Old City and to uninhabited areas; Thought through the full ramifications of building Jewish towns on the West Bank.
And today, what can Israelis do? The Jerusalem issue is relatively easy, as most Arab residents have not yet taken out Israeli citizenship, so Israel's government can still stop this process by reducing the size of Jerusalem's 1967 borders and terminating the offer of Israeli citizenship to all the city residents. Though it may lead to unrest, cracking down on illegal housing sites is imperative.
The West Bank is tougher. So long as Palestinian rejectionism prevails, Israel is stuck with overseeing an intensely hostile population that it dare not release ultimate control of. This situation generates a vicious, impassioned debate among Israelis (recall the Rabin assassination) and harms the country's international standing (think of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334). But returning to 1949's "Auschwitz lines" and abandoning 400,000 Israeli residents of the West Bank to the Palestinians' tender mercies is obviously not a solution.
Instead, Israel needs to confront and undermine Palestinian rejectionism, which means convincing Palestinians that Israel is a permanent state, that the dream to eliminate it is futile, and that they are sacrificing for naught. Israel can achieve these goals by making victory its goal, by showing Palestinians that continued rejectionism brings them only repression and failure. The U.S. government can help by green lighting the path to an Israel victory. Only through victory can the astonishing triumph of those six days in 1967 be translated into the lasting solution of Palestinians accepting the permanence of the Jewish state.
In the early 1960s, Israel had a permanent press core of 50 foreign correspondents and a number of bureaus were maintained by foreign outlets, such as the Washington Post, New York Times and Newsweek. Many of these bureaus had Israeli assistants, and they were also aided by the Government Press Office (GPO) which translated material. Each member of the foreign correspondents had a cubby hole in the GPO offices and we saw them virtually every day.
The only major events in Israel covered by the international press in the years before 1967 were the 1961 Eichmann trial and execution, and the visit of the Pope in January 1964. In the mid-1960s Israel was suffering from a major economic recession with unemployment at 10 per cent, and morale so low that people joked that the last person to leave the airport should please turn out the lights. The ruling party Mapai was taking a beating in opinion polls, especially from a new breakaway part called Rafi, which was headed by Shimon Peres and Moshe Dayan. In general, though, Israel simply did not feature in the international news.
Early in 1967, there was little sense that something was about to erupt. In April, the IDF intelligence branch assessed that the earliest war was possible was in 1970-71. Clifton Daniels, who was one of the editors of the New York Times and who came to Israel to cover the 1967 Independence Day celebrations on 15 May, didn’t think there was any reason to extend his stay and returned to America.
The ceasefire following the 1956 Sinai campaign had three components to help maintain quiet – the demilitarisation of the Sinai Peninsula, the installation of a UN emergency force (UNEF), and the guarantee that the Straits of Tiran would remain open.
The first component of this agreement was undermined during Independence Day 1967 when word reached the Chief of Staff Yitzchak Rabin and Prime Minister Levi Eshkol that Egyptian troops were moving into the Sinai with armour and artillery in broad daylight. This was followed by the UNEF withdrawal on 18 May. I accompanied a group of foreign correspondents to Kilometre 95, the Erez crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip to witness the Indian General, Indar Jit Rikhye search for a senior Israeli official in order to announce that his UN for ces were leaving. The Israeli commander at the gate – an unkempt, unshaven sergeant on reserve duty – was somewhat confused as to how to respond to the smart salute given to him by the departing Indian general.
Driven by the threats against Israel and the fiery slogans emanating from the Arab world, increasing numbers of foreign correspondents began to arrive. Two well-known journalists, Patrick O’Donoven and Jimmy Cameron, from the Sunday Times and the Observer asked us what Israel planned to do, but we didn’t know. The cabinet sat in virtually non-stop sessions but its response was indecisive.
Giving the foreign press a clear picture was challenging. No government officials were willing to speak to the foreign press. Prime Minister and Defence Minister Levi Eshkol refused to give interviews, as did Mapai Secretary General Golda Meir, former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and leader of the opposition Menachem Begin. Foreign Minister Abba Eban was willing to speak on background as was the Head of Military Intelligence, Aharon Yariv, who knew many foreign correspondents from his time as the IDF military attaché in Washington. On 23 May, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser announced the re-imposition of the blockade on the Straits of Tiran, which the Prime Minister’s Chief of Bureau told me caused Eshkol to say “kinderlach, (children), this is war”. More foreign correspondents arrived, including top journalists such as Flora Lewis from the New York Times, Robert Toth from the LA Times, Arthur Vesey from the Chicago Tribune, Al Friendly from the Washington Post.
Censorship regulations were relaxed and the GPO gave foreign correspondents access to areas where reservists were concentrated and to the many volunteers, young and old, who had replaced reservists in hospitals, schools and kindergartens. Essentially, our goal was to show that Israel was not finished. Many correspondents personally knew reservists and were thus able to report on the daily routine of many families. Some even interviewed reservists at their bases. Many wrote about individual personal stories of average Israelis, many of whom were Holocaust survivors or veterans of the War of Independence and the Sinai Campaign. The overall picture was of a state under siege whose citizens feared for the fate of their families and country in light of the treachery of the world and the weakness of their leaders. Others wrote about how no human being in his right mind could fail to support the Israelis; that 22 years after the Holocaust, the [great] powers were once again impotent. One journalist, however, told me that he had ‘come for the wake’.
What the military censor did not allow to be shared were the preparations for mass temporary graves for tens of thousands of victims in Tel Aviv parks. The censor also banned reports that the Chief of Staff had experienced a breakdown and was incapacitated for two days. Rabin, who was receiving no guidance from the political echelon, had visited Ben Gurion – who criticised him for going to war without the support of a superpower and told him he would be responsible for the destruction of the ‘third temple’ – and Golda Meir – who had asked him what he was waiting for and wanted the IDF to strike as soon as possible.
The journalists realised that the IDF’s mobilisation could not continue indefinitely without the economy collapsing. Others, who were primarily fed by the government’s political rivals Rafi, reported on the clamour for the creation of a government of national unity, which eventually led to the appointment of Dayan as defence minister. Yet, with the public worried and the government hesitant, the military was confident and was busy perfecting its operation to destroy the enemy’s airfields and air forces. Haim Bar-Lev, the Deputy Chief of Staff, coined a phrase that Israel was ‘going to screw them hard, fast and elegantly’.
On the weekend before the war began, the newly appointed Defence Minister Dayan ordered leave for many reservists and the beaches were full of people. He also organised a press conference in Beit Sokolov in Tel Aviv, which was the first briefing to foreign press since the crisis began. His aim, according to his memoirs, was to trick the Egyptians and give the impression that things were quiet, and that despite the new unity government being formed, Israel was still searching for a political resolution. Foreign correspondents thus reported that Israel was not about to go to war. Both Randolph Churchill – who Dayan had personally briefed – and his son Winston, actually returned to England, only to come back four days later angry at Dayan for making them miss the start of the war…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2017
It is a general law that every war is fought twice—first on the battlefield, then in the historiographical arena—and so it has been with the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war (or the Six-Day War as it is commonly known). No sooner had the dust settled on the battlefield than the Arabs and their Western partisans began rewriting the conflict's narrative with aggressors turned into hapless victims and defenders turned into aggressors. Jerusalem's weeks-long attempt to prevent the outbreak of hostilities in the face of a rapidly tightening Arab noose is completely ignored or dismissed as a disingenuous ploy; by contrast, the extensive Arab war preparations with the explicit aim of destroying the Jewish state is whitewashed as a demonstrative show of force to deter an imminent Israeli attack on Syria. It has even been suggested that Jerusalem lured the Arab states into war in order to expand its territory at their expense. So successful has this historiographical rewriting been that, fifty years after the war, these "alternative facts" have effectively become the received dogma, echoed by some of the most widely used college textbooks about the Middle East.
The first step to absolving the Arab leaders of culpability for the conflict—especially Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, who set in motion the course of events that led to war—was to present them as victims of their fully understandable, if highly unfortunate, overreaction to a Soviet warning of an imminent Israeli attack on Syria. Taking at face value Nasser's postwar denial of any intention to attack Israel, educated Westerners—intellectuals, Middle East experts, and journalists—excused his dogged drive to war as an inescapable grandstanding aimed at shoring up his position in the face of relentless criticism by the conservative Arab states and the more militant elements within his administration.
"President Nasser had to take spectacular action in order to avert defeat in the struggle for leadership of the Arabs," argued American historian Ernest Dawn shortly after the war. "If Egypt had not acted, the 'conservatives' would have wasted no time in pointing to the hero's feet of clay." This claim was amplified by Charles Yost, U.S. president Lyndon Johnson's special envoy to the Middle East at the time of the crisis, as well as a string of early popular books on the war. Nasser had no intention of taking on Israel, they argued. The massive deployment of Egyptian troops in Sinai, in flagrant violation of the peninsula's demilitarization since the 1956 war; the expulsion of the U.N. observers deployed on the Egyptian side of the border with Israel; the closure of the Tiran Strait to Israeli navigation; and the rapid formation of an all-Arab war coalition for what he pledged would be the final battle for Israel's destruction were just posturing moves geared to deterring an Israeli attack on Syria and enhancing Nasser's pan-Arab prestige. Unfortunately, goes the narrative, Jerusalem overreacted to these measures, if not exploited them to its self-serving ends, by attacking its peaceable Arab neighbors.
While this thesis clearly does not hold water—Nasser realized within less than a day that no Israeli attack on Syria was in the offing yet continued his reckless escalation—it has quickly become a common historiographical axiom regarding the war's origin. Thus, as ideologically divergent commentators as British journalist David Hirst and American military commentator Trevor Dupuy agreed on this view in the late 1970s. According to Dupuy, "it is very clear in retrospect that President Nasser did not in fact have any intention of precipitating war against Israel at that time." Hirst took this argument a step further: "Not only did Nasser lack the means to take on Israel, he did not have the intention either." This assertion was reiterated almost verbatim in the coming decades by countless Middle East observers. Thus, for example, we have British journalist Patrick Seale claiming that "Nasser's strategy was to attempt to frighten Israel into prudence, while making it clear that he would not attack first," and Princeton professor L. Carl Brown arguing that "Nasser surely had not intended to seek a showdown with Israel in 1967."…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Six Days in June (Video): Youtube, May 24, 2017—A fascinating documentary by Ilan Ziv about the Israeli-arab Six days war in 1967.
‘Last Secret’ of 1967 War: Israel’s Doomsday Plan for Nuclear Display: William J. Broad & David E. Sanger, New York Times, June 3, 2017—On the eve of the Arab-Israeli war, 50 years ago this week, Israeli officials raced to assemble an atomic device and developed a plan to detonate it atop a mountain in the Sinai Peninsula as a warning to Egyptian and other Arab forces, according to an interview with a key organizer of the effort that will be published Monday.
The Lessons and Consequences of the Six-Day War: David Harris, Algemeiner, June 2, 2017—When you mention history, it can trigger a roll of the eyes. Add the Middle East to the equation, and folks might start running for the hills, unwilling to get caught up in the seemingly bottomless pit of details and disputes.
Honoring the Man Behind the War: Noa Amouyal, Jerusalem Post, May 30, 2017—Knowing the ins and outs of a historic battle requires far more than analyzing the tactical plans and circumstances surrounding the event. A deep, intimate account of the major players are really required to properly understand the event in question.