Eban’s characterization of Israel’s "Auschwitz borders" is now 36 years old, and relatively few people remember the Six Day War. Nowadays one is just as likely to hear it referred to as the "1967 Middle East War," apparently from politically-correct deference to Arab feelings, for after only six days of fighting vastly outnumbered Israeli forces were in position to march on Cairo, Damascus and Amman.
Before the war started, however, such a victory was anything but certain. Israel in 1967 was isolated, not even twenty years a state, and subject to dire provocation, threats and hostile actions by surrounding Arab countries.
For years Israeli leaders had issued peace feelers, public and private, to no avail. When in 1960 Golda Meir challenged Arab leaders to meet with Prime Minister Ben Gurion, Egyptian president Nasser responded, typically, by claiming that Israel was trying to sway world opinion. He reiterated that his country would never recognize the Jewish state.
In March 1964, Nasser told the United Arab Republic Assembly: "The danger of Israel lies in the very existence of Israel as it is in the present and in what she represents."
That same year the Palestine Liberation Organization was formed. Operating from the Jordanian and Lebanese border areas, the PLO carried out "fedayeen raids" (terrorist attacks) against Israeli civilians.
At the same time Syria intensified shelling of Israeli kibbutzim, farms and villages from the military fortress of the Golan Heights. In 1966 the Syrian president declared, "We want a policy of scorched earth for Palestine."
According to Nasser, the Arab aspiration was "... the full restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people. In other words, we aim at the destruction of the State of Israel." He said, "We shall enter [Palestine] with its soil saturated in blood."
Israel further faced being caught in the middle of a superpower confrontation. The U.S. was pressuring Israel not to take any action that might invite greater Soviet involvement — yet the Soviets already were arming Arab countries with massive amounts of weaponry.
Prelude to War
May 13, 1967: Convinced that the U.S. is too distracted by the war in Viet Nam to intervene, the Soviets feel free to stoke tensions in the Middle East. Moscow informs Nasser that Israel has concentrated a dozen brigades along the Syrian border in preparation for an imminent assault. This is a complete fabrication, and though Israel denies any buildup or aggressive intent, the Soviets are successful in further destabilizing the region.
May 14: Nasser demands the withdrawal of UN Emergency Forces — established a decade earlier as an international guarantee of safety for Israel — from the Sinai Peninsula. The UN complies without any discussion in the General Assembly, and Nasser replaces the UNEF with his own forces.
The U.S. and Britain are unable to convince the Security Council to address the matter, and attempts by Israel to negotiate, find United Nations support, or implement any other international diplomatic solution, come to naught.
Cairo Radio’s Voice of the Arabs rejoices: "As of today, there no longer exists an international emergency force to protect Israel... The sole method we shall apply against Israel is total war, which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence."
On Israel Independence Day, three Egyptian army divisions and 600 tanks roll into the Sinai. The international community is mute. Israel goes on high alert. Much of the Israeli population lives only miles from where Arab troops are massing; the effects of an Arab first strike against Israeli civilians would be fearsome. Israel’s mobilization of troops, 80 percent of whom are reserve civilians, brings civilian life to a standstill.
May 17, Voice of the Arabs: "All Egypt is now prepared to plunge into total war which will put an end to Israel."
The Syrian defense minister announces: "Our forces are now entirely ready ... to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland. The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united ... the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation."
Nasser closes the Straits of Tiran in the Red Sea to all Israeli shipping and all ships bound for Eilat. By definition, this is an act of war. With Israel’s flow of oil and its only supply route with Asia cut off, the blockade, if allowed to stand, would strangle the economy.
U.S. President Lyndon Johnson affirms that it is illegal to blockade Israeli shipping in an international waterway, but diplomatic efforts fail to compel Egypt to reopen the waterway.
As Israel seeks assurances for its security, the Arab buildup continues. Writing 35 years later in his book Six Days of War, Michael Oren would describe how "An armada of Egyptian warships was rumored to have entered the Red Sea, en route to Eilat… Egypt’s ministry of religious affairs declared a state of holy war to liberate Palestine. The PLO ... predicted Israel’s ‘complete destruction’ in the coming war, while in Damascus, Hafes al-Assad said it ‘was high time ... to take the initiative in destroying the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland.’"
May 19: Israeli Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin tells his generals, "It’s about time we realized that nobody is going to come to our rescue." Though the French are allowing Israel to purchase military material, they have not responded to Israel’s requests for an affirmation of commitment to Israel’s security and a repudiation of Nasser.
On the night of May 25, as an Egyptian envoy arrives at the Kremlin, Abba Eban meets with President Johnson. "I think it’s a necessity that Israel should never make itself seem responsible in the eyes of America and the world for making war," Johnson warns. "Israel will not be alone unless it decides to go alone."
The joint communique Israel wanted, declaring that an attack on Israel would be tantamount to an attack on America, is not forthcoming. Johnson instead says the U.S. will continue to pursue a solution at the UN. An Israeli headline read, "U.S. Did Not Propose Effective Action to Open the Straits."
Nasser, meanwhile, continues his brazen warmongering: "Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight."
May 28: Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol delivers a speech on Israel Radio that can only be described as disastrous. Oren would describe it as "a stuttering, rambling, barely intelligible reading that listeners interpreted as a sign of exhaustion and panic …. Soldiers huddled around transistors in the Negev were said to have burst into tears."
Nasser proclaims that the Arabs "will not accept any ... coexistence with Israel... Today the issue is not the establishment of peace between the Arab states and Israel... The war with Israel is in effect since 1948."
May 30: With the Arab "street" in a fervor throughout the region, and with Palestinian riots having almost brought down King Hussein’s government the year before, Jordan signs a defense pact with Egypt.
May 31: The UN Security Council proposes that the Arabs and Israelis use "international diplomacy" to resolve their differences. When this is rejected by Egypt, India and the Soviet Union, the Council votes to adjourn for two days.
The Iraqi president joins the chorus of belligerence, announcing, "The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified... Our goal is clear — to wipe Israel off the map." Four days later, Iraq joins the military alliance with Egypt, Jordan and Syria.
Nasser gloats: "The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are poised on the borders of Israel ... to face the challenge, while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the whole Arab nation."
An Arab force of some 465,000 troops, nearly 3,000 tanks and more than 800 aircraft now stands arrayed near Israel’s borders.
Samuel Katz would later write in Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine:
Certain of victory, both the Arab leaders and their peoples threw off all restraint. Between the middle of May and fifth of June ... people throughout the world watched and waited in growing anxiety — or in some cases, in hopeful expectation — for the overwhelming forces of at least Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq to bear down from three sides to crush tiny Israel and slaughter her people.
June 3: The UN Security Council meets again, but at 3:00 in the afternoon votes to reconvene on the afternoon of June 5.
June 4: The Israeli Cabinet authorizes the prime minister and the minister of defense to decide what actions are needed to defend the State of Israel. Moshe Dayan gives his final briefing: Israeli forces would advance as rapidly as possible, never pausing. There would be no action against Jordan unless the Jordanians attacked first, no war on the northern front with Syria if its army did not attack.
June 5: Israel launches a pre-emptive strike against Egypt. The operation consists of a far-reaching air attack to shatter the Arab air forces while their aircraft are still on the ground. Air Force Commander Motti Hod issues these orders: "The spirit of Israel’s heroes accompany us to battle... From Joshua Bin-Nun, King David, the Maccabees and the fighters of 1948 and 1956, we shall draw the strength and courage to strike the Egyptians who threaten our safety, our independence and our future. Fly, soar at the enemy, destroy him and scatter him throughout the desert so that Israel may live, secure in its land, for generations."
At 7:10 a.m., all but 12 of Israel’s jets are launched in the attack. In 100 minutes, the IAF destroys much of Egypt’s combat aircraft, most still on the ground.
At 7:50, Israeli ground forces on the Egyptian border are ordered to move out. They are reminded: "If we do not win, we will have nowhere to come back to."
Despite Israeli appeals to Jordan to stay out of the conflict, Jordanian forces attack along the entire length of the (1949) cease-fire line with Israel. In response, the IAF destroys a large part of the Jordanian air force and two-thirds of the Syrian air force on the ground.
On the third of the Six Days, Israel beats back Jordanian forces in Jerusalem, seizing control of the old city, including the Kotel (the Western Wall, the only remnant of the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in the year 70). As a shofar is blown at the Wall, word spreads like wildfire throughout the Jewish world: had ha-bait b’yadenu — the Temple Mount is in our hands!
By the last of the Six Days Israel has achieved a stunning military victory at an equally stunning price in Israeli lives. In terms of proportion of population, Israel loses more lives in six days than the U.S. would during all the years of war in Vietnam.
By the time a cease-fire is declared on the afternoon of June 10, Israel has gained not only Jordan-occupied (East) Jerusalem, but Jordan’s "West Bank" as well. And the Golan Heights from Syria. And the entire Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt. Remembering that there was no peace after victory in 1949, Israel is determined to hold the new cease-fire lines until a binding and permanent peace can be achieved.
After the cease-fire went into effect, the Iraqi chief of state spoke for the Arab world, proclaiming that "the existence of Israel is in itself an aggression." Heads of state from eight Arab countries adopted a resolution in September, declaring, "No peace with Israel. No recognition of Israel. No negotiations with Israel."
The War of Attrition followed shortly after (1969-70), with attacks on Israel along all three fronts (Egypt, Syria/Lebanon and Jordan). In 1973 Egypt and Syria simultaneously attacked Israel on Yom Kippur, scoring a series of early triumphs and inflicting a far greater number of casualties on the Jewish state than had been the case in 1967.
It would be years until an Arab nation would agree to even talk to Israel. In 1979, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty, albeit a highly unusual one by any historical measure: Egypt had been the aggressor in 1948, 1967, 1969 and 1973 — and had lost each time. Israel had fought back four times and won. Yet under this treaty, the winner returned to the loser everything the aggressor had lost ("without prejudice to the issue of the status of the Gaza Strip").
The treaty with Egypt marked the beginning of the end of "Israeli occupation," but it may also have created a dangerous precedent. Even today, the world — from Hamas to the president of the United States — is demanding that Israel further concede territories won in the Six Day War.
Abba Eban said that 1967 was "a situation which will never be repeated in history." God help us if he was wrong, because, as those Israeli troops on the Egyptian border were told thirty-eight years ago this week, "If we do not win, we will have nowhere to come back to."
Anne Lieberman is a writer and advocate for Israel who blogs at Boker Tov Boulder!
"Obviously the facts are never just coming at you but are incorporated by an imagination that is formed by your previous experience. Memories of the past are not memories of facts but memories of your imaginings of the facts."
-Philip Roth (b. 1933), U.S. novelist. "The Facts, opening letter to Zuckerman" (1988).
7 Jul 2006 @ 18:39 by gabacho : Juicebottic Crotchnikianity-
Crotchniks and Juicebots are the targets of an implacable more-slim-diet that Ji had. I hope to Gretchen that Murka remains asleep to the lie and the lay and gets deadrickly smeerious about drop kicking Is RA El? and counter topping the dead threat to all modern non civilizations posed by a rapidly dis-integrated and pot holed Arab street. (Arab street must be a street that speaks Arabic, eh?)
The mu slim (fat) men aces have spread their testacles around the world everywhere (that's gotta hurt)!
They live (But we have special sun glasses that will allow you to see them as they really are) among us everywhere (Ooooo...),
awaiting only their condumnations to extend their raw seed bots of eX-termination worldwide. X = the eXperience Entity of the Not Is'd Universe ;)
The savage tide of the E.T is rising! Are we (we?) up to the challenge (IOW does that get you hard?)?
Edited by guess HU?
7 Jul 2006 @ 19:28 by : Lamenting lack of
interest in the readership, hunh? Or could it be that potential readers, here at NCN, are just well trained to fill in the blank to suit your prejudice about goyim? U know what I mean? I know U do.
Yeah, I remember the moment 'the Victory' was announced, live over 'all' the radio stations, that the little "New Nation of Israel" had won over the "arab allies".... (I told U about that, not long ago.)
We were jubilant, for good reasons, I might add.
I like the informativenss of this article, but I miss the broader, true pic, of the "whole picture." Then again, in the end, who cares? It is just history repeating itself, in yet another guise.
What else is new? Neither the article, nor U, my friend, said anything about the times/situation preceding the 6 Day War, nor were the times after touched on at all; as if it was just an unrelated event, with no pre-history, or post-history, attached unto it...
As we all know, that is not the case. It would have been nice to have real truth about those two aspects of before and after the war;
the legitimacy of that which lead up to it, and the same about everything that has happended in its wake!...
Then again, who really cares? History is just repeating itself. That's all because not many of us (still at this late date) have learned the universal, cosmically correct way, of living Life.
In the year A.D. 906 it was the Merovingians, using all the European Nation States, pretending to be By God Ordained, more divine than anybody else, and more chosen than anybody else;
these Great Pretenders, who were the legally-justified criminals of their times, under the cover of The Knights Templar, doing the dirty laundry for the chosen ones then...
On and on its been going thusly, still going strong, eh? : )
Then they used the RCC and Jesuites as their cronies ... Could it be, now, that ... well ... U tell me. Then again, who cares?
We humans have to learn our cosmic lessons too. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It will take what it will take.
U tell me am I wrong, in that statement, or not?
I don't want to be a trollXing (read: trampling) your mental domains too much, now, for that can't be good. Can it?
But, hey, the above article was very informative in terms of the chosen subject line and I thank you for that not least because it stimulated those fun memories for me!
Have a wonderful day, Sweet StormUlf! -- A-d
Hi, A-d. I always welcome controversy. You can, of course, expand upon your ideas yet please understand the context as well as the subtext as well as the barrage.
PS: I took the liberty of editing certain things, here and there, in order to clarify, not stultify, and it is my wish that you will agree with the editing process over all. Luv ya...
On the road yet?
For Har and Loki
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