War 1967: Six days that changed the Middle East (2023)

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War 1967: Six days that changed the Middle East (1)image source,Alamy

By Jeremy Bowen

BBC Middle East Editor

War broke out between Israel and its neighbors 50 years ago. The conflict only lasted six days, but its impact would linger to this day.

By late 1948, Israel's Arab neighbors had invaded to try to destroy the new state and failed. The Egyptian army had been defeated, but a force trapped in a piece of land known as the Fallujah Pocket refused to surrender.

A group of young Egyptian and Israeli officers tried to break the deadlock. Among them were Yitzhak Rabin, a 26-year-old Israeli military prodigy who was a commander of operations on the Southern Front, and 30-year-old Egyptian Major Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Just a few years after the Nazis had killed six million Jews, the dream of establishing a state in their biblical homeland had come true.

The Palestinians call 1948 "al-Nakba" or "the catastrophe". Up to 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from the land that became Israel and were never allowed to return.

For the Arabs, the defeat at the hands of the fledgling State of Israel was a seismic political moment that led to years of upheaval.

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The humiliated army officers felt betrayed and seized power. There have been regular military coups in Syria. Four years after the end of the war, Nasser led a group of young officers who overthrew the king of Egypt.

Nasser was President until 1956. That same year he defied Britain, France and Israel in the Suez Crisis and became the hero and leader of the Arab world.

In Israel, Rabin continued his military career. By 1967 he was Chief of Staff, the senior officer.

The Arabs could not overcome the pain of defeat; Israelis have never forgotten that their neighbors tried to destroy them. Both sides knew that sooner or later another war would come.

Bad Neighbors

Israel and its Arab neighbors had many reasons for hating or distrusting each other. But the Cold War of the 1950s and 1960s added additional fuel.

The Soviet Union provided Egypt with a modern air force. Israel had warm relations with the United States, but it was not yet the largest recipient of American military aid; in the 1960s Israel also bought planes from France and tanks from Britain.

After 1948 Israel had worked endlessly to make the most of its prominent strategic position. It also took in more than a million immigrants - military service was an important part of turning the newcomers into Israelis.

Israel built a fast, flexible, and deadly military. And by 1967 it was on the verge of acquiring its own nuclear weapons.

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The new, native-born Israelis, known as "sabras" — the Hebrew word for prickly pear — were determined not to repeat what they saw as the mistakes of diaspora Jews. They would always fight back and sometimes fight first.

Rabin was confident that the Israeli forces were in good shape. Their mission was to win every war on the grounds that Israel could not afford a single defeat.

Egyptian forces and those of their ally Syria trained less, boasted more, forgetting that political victory after the 1956 Suez Crisis was preceded by military defeat.

Nasser focused on building a pan-Arab nationalist movement that his supporters fully expected would restore Arab greatness and retaliate against Israel. He made his closest ally, Field Marshal Abdul Hakim Amer, commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

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Egypt was an ancient land without the sense of insecurity that underlies Israel's boast. Amer's main mission, which he excelled at, was keeping the army loyal by rooting out conspiracies and keeping the officer corps happy. The military arts had much less priority.

By 1967, Egypt was mired in a war in Yemen that had become its own Vietnam. It hadn't fought well. But Nasser couldn't replace Amer with a better soldier.

The Syrian army was also politicized and, like Egypt, a client of the Soviet Union. A number of generals were brought to power through a series of coups.

The Arabs talked a lot about unity, socialism and nationalism, but in reality they were deeply divided. The Syrian and Egyptian leaders worried about conspiracies allegedly being instigated by the monarchies in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Kings feared that the military populists who led Syria and Egypt would start a revolution.

Jordan's ruler, King Hussein, was a close ally of Britain and the United States. Jordan was the only Arab country to emerge victorious in 1948.

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Hussein's grandfather, King Abdullah, had secret contacts with the Jewish Agency, the main representation of Jews in British Mandate Palestine; They discussed dividing the country between them after Britain's planned departure in 1948.

In 1951, a Palestinian nationalist assassinated Abdullah at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. 15-year-old Prince Hussein saw his grandfather die and carried a gun for the first time the next day. A year later he was king.

After the 1948 war, Jordan and Israel came close to peace, but not close enough. Secret talks continued throughout Hussein's reign. He was aware of Jordan's weaknesses - it was mostly desert and had a large and unruly population of Palestinian refugees.

Syrian Syndrome

The 1967 war was the result of years of escalating tensions and vicious border skirmishes between Arabs and Israelis.

The border between Egypt and Israel was relatively calm. The biggest flash point was Israel's northern border with Syria, where they fought over disputed territory and Syria's attempts to divert the Jordan River from Israel's national water system.

(Video) Here's How the Six-Day War Changed the Map of the Middle East | History

The Syrians protected Palestinian guerrillas conducting raids on Israel.

On the eve of the war in 1967, the western powers had no doubt which side was the stronger in the Middle East. "

In a report on the Israeli army in January 1967, the British Defense Attaché in Tel Aviv stated that "in terms of command, training, equipment and services, the Israeli army is better prepared than ever for war. Well trained, tough and confident, the Israeli soldier has a strong fighting spirit and would willingly go to war to defend his country."

The border wars fueled tensions. Palestinian guerrillas broke through the border fence. Israel condemned them as terrorists; she felt she had to hit back hard to deter and punish.

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A major Israeli attack on the Jordanian-occupied West Bank in November 1966, targeting the village of Samua, was followed by a landmine attack in Israel.

The raid has sparked an uproar among Palestinians in the West Bank. Hussein was horrified. He told the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that he had been in secret talks with Israel for three years; his Israeli contacts had assured him that there would be no reprisals on the morning of the raid.

Americans were sympathetic. They supported a UN Security Council resolution condemning the attack on Samua.

Hussein imposed martial law on the West Bank, more convinced than ever that his throne was in danger and he could be overthrown by angry Palestinians. He feared a coup by radical pro-Nasser army officers, which Israel could use as a pretext to engulf the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The king did not want to share the fate of the other Hashemite monarch in the Middle East, his cousin and friend, Iraq's King Faisal. He had been shot dead in a military coup in 1958 in the courtyard of his palace.

The march to war continued with escalating unrest on the Israeli-Syrian border. Unlike Hussein, who Americans believed would do anything to stop Palestinian infiltration, Syria actively encouraged it; Israel aggressively pushed its claims to disputed territory in the border area by tilling fields in demilitarized areas with armored tractors.

It came to a head on April 7, 1967 with a full-scale air and artillery battle between Israel and Syria. Israel routed the Syrians.

The next morning, according to British diplomats, young Palestinians in Jerusalem "showed a stunned awe at Israeli competence and Arab helplessness in the face of it" and asked "where were the Egyptians?" Pressure mounted on Nasser to follow up his speech with action.

Israel basked in a mood of national self-adulation. But some senior statesmen and soldiers were alarmed. In a corridor in Israel's parliament (the Knesset), former military chief of staff Moshe Dayan met General Ezer Weizmann, former air force chief and now Rabin's number two. "Are you out of your mind?" said Dayan. "You lead the country to war!"

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Syria and the Palestinian guerrillas it sponsored tried even harder to provoke the Israelis, who obliged them to do so by standing up to any provocation.

It looked to Syria and Egypt, as well as Britain and the US, that Israel was planning a bigger move.

An exaggerated news agency report, citing "a senior Israeli source," said that Israel "would take limited military action to overthrow the Damascus army regime if Syrian terrorists continued to conduct sabotage attacks inside Israel."

The source was Brigadier General Aharon Yariv, the head of military intelligence. He only mentioned the overthrow of the regime as the most extreme of a number of possibilities. But the report was taken seriously in Syria - and also in the Israeli press.

Then an intervention by the Soviet Union changed everything. On May 13, Moscow sent a warning to Cairo that Israel would be massing troops on the border with Syria and would attack within a week.

Why exactly the Soviet Union gave the starting signal for the war has been discussed ever since. Two Israeli historians, Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez, argue that the USSR engineered the crisis intentionally; they say they want to block Israel's nuclear weapons plans; and that the Soviets were willing to use their own forces for combat.

At the time, a "mid-level" Soviet CIA official said that the Soviet Union was inciting the Arabs to try to make trouble for the US. With the problems in Vietnam, another war in the Middle East would cause even worse headaches.

In 1967, neither Israel nor its Arab neighbors needed much encouragement. They plunged straight into the crisis they had all been anticipating for years.

Nasser the player

Twenty-four hours after the Soviet warning, Egypt's supreme commander, Field Marshal Amer, put the army on full military readiness.

Lt. Gen. Anwar al-Qadi, the head of operations, told Amer that more than half the army, including some of its best troops, was bogged down in Yemen; it was unable to fight Israel.

Amer assured him that fighting was not part of the plan; it was just a "demonstration" in response to Israel's threats against Syria.

Two days later, Egypt plunged deeper into the crisis. It expelled UN peacekeepers who had patrolled the border with Israel since 1956 and moved troops to the Sinai desert.

image source,Getty Images

The Israeli army, still obsessed with Syria, was initially much more patient with Egypt.

Shlomo Gazit, the head of analysis at military intelligence, told American diplomats that Israel was surprised by Egypt's belligerence, but that it was "an elaborate charade" that would only become serious if Egypt blocked the Red Sea port of Eilat by closing it the Strait of Tiran.

Nasser's ubiquitous radio station Sawt al-Arab, the Voice of the Arabs, set the mood.

Broadcast from Cairo to the rest of the Middle East, it was an important tool of Nasser's foreign policy. Throughout the crisis, their chief announcer, Ahmed Said, read a series of outrageous threats against Israel.

The Israelis did not recognize Nasser's bluff when he threw out the UN peacekeepers and sent more troops to Sinai. So he doubled the stakes.

On May 22, he banned Israeli shipping from the Strait of Tiran, the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba, reinstating the 1956 blockade of the port of Eilat.

At an air base in the Sinai desert, Nasser announced: "If Israel wants to threaten war, we'll tell her you're welcome." One photo shows Nasser, as nonchalant as ever, surrounded by happy young aviators. Smiles flitted across the grainy black-and-white still image.

The image Nasser wanted was pumped around the world - the leader of the Arabs challenging the Jewish state, surrounded by the symbols of a modern combat force - jet pilots - ready for action. Nasser looks excited, almost like a child intoxicated by the enormity of the line he's just crossed.

The Americans reacted 42 minutes after the announcement from Cairo and promised a visit from US Vice President Hubert Humphrey if the crisis was averted. President Lyndon Johnson was furious.

UN Secretary-General U Thant was airborne, flying to Cairo on a peacekeeping mission, when Nasser made his new threat. Nasser reiterated the promise he had already made to the Americans and Soviets that Egypt would not fire the first shot.

But U Thant somberly concluded that unless a way around the blockade of Eilat could be found, war was certain.

strike pressure

The day after Nasser closed the straits, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and the cabinet ordered a full mobilization. In 48 hours 250,000 men could be brought into the field. After conscription, all Israeli men were assigned to a reserve unit.

(Video) What was the 1967 Six-Day War?

Within days, most Israeli men under 50 were wearing some sort of military uniform.

The pressure crushed General Rabin. Against all military evidence, he was convinced that he would lead Israel to disaster. Rabin smoked pack after pack of cigarettes and eventually suffered a nervous breakdown.

He slept almost 24 hours, recovered and went back to work.

International diplomacy attempted to resolve the crisis before it escalated into full-blown war. Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban flew to Washington for an urgent meeting with President Johnson.

When Israel attacked Egypt in 1956 under a secret agreement with Britain and France, the Americans branded Israel an aggressor and forced it to withdraw from the conquered country. This time, Eban wanted Johnson's approval of Israel's fight.

The US President warned Israel not to fire the first shot. He told Eban not to worry about an Egyptian attack. It wasn't imminent, and if it did, "you'd flog her."

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Johnson hinted that he would work to open the Tiran Strait, perhaps with a multinational naval task force, but wanted time to see if it could work.

Abba Eban decided that Israel had to move at America's pace, but the army was poised to attack and the generals grew frustrated.

Eban irritated the military. His pompous style and metropolitan manner got under their skin.

The generals were furious when on May 28 the cabinet agreed to wait two weeks. For them it was about much more than the Straits of Tiran. What mattered was the big picture.

Nasser united the entire Arab world against them. He had moved divisions into the Sinai desert, posing a direct threat to Israel's borders.

Jordans Dilemma

Nasser has been the undisputed leader of the Arab world since 1956. Now, as he opposed the hated Israelis, his position among Arabs as a political idol was strengthened.

He held a press conference with foreign journalists in Cairo on May 28, in which he linked the Sinai and Strait of Tiran crises to Israel's "aggression" against the Palestinians.

Coexistence is not possible because Israel, he said, robbed and expelled the Palestinians in 1948. Israel would also get what it threatened to "march on Damascus, occupy Syria and overthrow the Syrian Arab regime."

Nasser's confidence cornered King Hussein of Jordan. Hussein did not trust Nasser. He confided in the head of the CIA's Amman station, Jack O'Connel, who had become a close confidant, that he believed the West Bank was Israel's strategic target. Hussein's senior officers pushed for closer cooperation with Nasser.

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For Hussein, everything came down to survival. He opted for a reconciliation with Nasser. He believed that if he stayed out of the war, "an outbreak" among his Palestinian subjects could lead to the collapse of his regime. If he fought, Egyptian air support could delay Israel's advance into the West Bank long enough for the UN to declare a ceasefire.

On May 30, King Hussein flew to Cairo and made the deal. When he returned to Amman, insanely happy crowds tried to lift his Mercedes up so they could carry it back to the palace. Hussein was not fooled. The crowd loved him because Nasser had accepted him, not the other way around.

He later told historian Avi Shlaim, “I knew war was inevitable. I knew we would lose. I knew we were threatened in Jordan, threatened by two things: we either followed the course we set out on, or alternatively the country could tear itself apart if we stayed out."

fear and threats

If they could fight on their own terms, Israel's generals were confident they would win an overwhelming victory. But strict military censorship kept these conclusions secret.

At the same time, bloody threats poured out from Arab radio stations and the pages of Israeli newspapers. Just 22 years after the end of the Holocaust, it was not surprising that Arab propaganda took hold.

An ominous mood gripped the country. People made black jokes: "Let's meet after the war. Where? In a phone booth,” alluding to how many Israelis might be left.

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The government hoarded coffins; Rabbis dedicated parks as emergency cemeteries; Tens of thousands of liters of blood were donated.

Sentiment was not helped when Prime Minister Levi Eshkol made a disastrous broadcast to the nation on May 28. He stammered and fumbled through.

At a subsequent meeting, the Israeli generals gave him a vicious dressing down. Among many interventions, Brigadier General Ariel Sharon raged: "We have removed our main weapon, the fear of us".

Several of the commanders used aggressive, highly derogatory language, comparing the government to diaspora Jewish leaders who had been forced to beg like slaves. Native Israelis in the 1950s and 60s were brought up to reject what they saw as the weakness and passivity of European Jews who did not fight when the Nazis came.

For the young Israeli generals, mostly native-born, mostly in their 30s and 40s, Eshkol, who spoke Russian and Yiddish as well as Hebrew, seemed to embody the weakness of the diaspora. That was unfair - he had come to Palestine as a young man and spent his life building the state.

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Brigadier General Elad Peled, one of four divisional commanders, was present at the meeting. Peled told me in 2002: “The generational mental difference was very important. We were the cowboys, border crossers. We looked at the older generation as people who weren't free, they weren't liberated... the Minister of Education asked me, 'What if you're wrong? You're gambling with the existence of the state." I told him I was 100% confident about the outcome of the war."

Like many Israeli prime ministers, Eshkol was also defense minister. He was forced to quit the job in favor of one of Israel's war heroes, the daring, one-eyed General Moshe Dayan.

The soldier had expressed his basic philosophy at the funeral of Ray Rothberg, who was killed in 1956 on a kibbutz near Gaza. "It is the destiny of our generation, for which our life requires that we always be ready and armed, strong and determined. If the sword is struck from our hand, we shall die."

eve of war

Nasser played for high stakes. Egypt had a modern air force, but the army was weak. His generals were well aware that Nasser's risk-taking had brought them to the brink of disastrous war.

International attempts to defuse the crisis have failed. The only idea the Americans and British had was the so-called Red Sea Regatta, the proposed naval task force that would force open the Strait of Tiran.

But the American and British admirals and politicians hated the idea. They feared it might not work and that they would give Nasser another win.

On Friday, June 2, the Israeli generals presented the final arguments for war to the Cabinet Defense Committee. They told the politicians that they could beat Egypt, but the longer they had to wait, the harder it would be.

A few days earlier, Meir Amit, the head of the Israeli secret service Mossad, had traveled to Washington DC under the guise of a false passport. He didn't want to wait any longer for the war; He was deeply concerned about the economic standstill caused by the mobilization of most of the male population under the age of 50.

Amit told me about a pivotal meeting with US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in 2002.

(Video) The Six Day War: The Conflict that Shaped the Middle East

"I said... 'I will recommend a war'.

"McNamara only asked two questions. 'How long?' I said it would take a week. 'How many victims?' I said less than the Revolutionary War, which was 6,000. McNamara said, 'I read you loud and clear'."

The Americans had sent a clear signal. They had been told that Israel was going to war and made no attempt to prevent it.

Amit traveled back to Israel on a plane full of gas masks with Washington Ambassador Abe Harman. They arrived in Tel Aviv on the evening of June 3rd.

A car took them straight to Eshkol's apartment, where he was waiting with his key ministers. Amit wanted an immediate war. Harman wanted to wait another week or so.

Dayan disagreed: "If we wait seven to nine days, there will be thousands of deaths. It is not logical to wait. Let's strike first and then deal with the political side."

Everyone who was there had no doubt that the decision had been made. Israel would go to war. The cabinet ratified it the next morning.

In Egypt, Nasser predicted that Israel would attack on June 4th or 5th. He based his observation on the advance of an Iraqi armored division heading for the Jordan Valley and Israel. He knew that Israel would not tolerate such a shift in the balance of power.

surprise attack

At 7:40 am on June 5, Ezer Weizman could barely stand the tension at the Air Force command center at the Department of Defense in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli war plan was based on a surprise attack called Operation Focus that would destroy Arab air forces on the ground, beginning with Egypt.

They had been training for it for years, and the first wave of attacks was imminent.

Unlike the Egyptians and the other Arab armies, the Israelis had done their homework. They had flown hundreds of reconnaissance missions over the years to get an accurate picture of every airbase in Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Pilots had a target book that included the details of their layouts, call signs, and defences. They even created speech recognition files of the most important Arab commanders from radio recordings.

It was a great success. Field Marshal Amer and the top Egyptian forces met at Bir Tamada, an air base in Sinai. They had just started the meeting when the first Israeli jets launched their bombing raids. One of the generals was so taken aback by the attack that the first thing that came to mind was a coup or some other Egyptian treachery.

Amer's plane was able to take off, but eventually ran out of space to land as every Egyptian air base was under attack.

In Tel Aviv, Ezer Weizman was delighted. The attacks went better than expected. They had achieved complete surprise over the enemy. He called his wife: "We won the war," he shouted.

Later in the day, Israel destroyed most of the Jordanian and Syrian air forces. Israel controlled the skies, and after that it was a matter of getting the job done.

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Israel warned King Hussein against entering the war. But he had already made up his mind, and he had placed Jordan's efficient army under the command of a less than capable Egyptian general.

Fighting in Jerusalem began shortly before noon. The Jordanians opened fire. King Hussein ignored Israeli signals that Jordan would be spared if it stayed out of the war. After the 1966 attack on Samua, he did not believe Israeli assurances; and he was convinced that he would lose his throne if he gave up the military alliance he had made with Egypt.

Farther south, Israeli ground forces had entered the Sinai desert and were moving rapidly in three broad thrusts. The Egyptians fought valiantly from fixed positions but, unlike the Israelis, had not been trained to improvise, be flexible, or be quick.

In the army headquarters in Cairo, the commanders became increasingly panicked. General Salahdeen Hadidi slumped in his chair, convinced that the war was at least half lost. It was even worse for Egypt.

But outside on the streets there was celebration. Crowds poured into the city in buses provided by the ruling party in the evening. Voice of the Arabs was her trusted source for news and truth, and she threw out fantasies.

At 20:17 it was reported that 86 Israeli aircraft had been destroyed and that Egyptian tanks had entered Israel. At Sinai Front HQ, General Mohamed Abdel Ghani Gamasy listened "with growing horror" to what he thought was a bunch of nonsense.

Years later I asked Ahmed Said why he told outright lies on the air. In his dilapidated, once magnificent apartment overlooking the Nile, he defended himself.

image source,Empiken

"You're asking people to fight, not dance... we believed the broadcasts were our strongest weapon... many of our listeners were illiterate, so radio was the primary way to reach them."

By 1967, by the time real news of the defeats broke through, Nasser and Amer had retired to their mansions. Anwar Sadat, who later signed a historic peace treaty with Israel as President and was subsequently assassinated by his own guards, took a long stroll through the streets of Cairo.

"Dazed and heartbroken," he watched as Nasser loyalists marched up and down the main street leading to the pyramids, singing and dancing to feigned reports of an imaginary victory.

A new landscape

Over the next five days, Israel routed the armies of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. It conquered the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Desert from Egypt; the Golan Heights of Syria; and the West Bank and East Jerusalem of Jordan.

For the first time in nearly two millennia, the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem were under Jewish control. More Palestinians were displaced, fled or were killed, although not on the scale of 1948.

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Nasser resigned but changed his mind after millions took to the streets to mourn and protest.

He remained in office until his death in 1970. Field Marshal Amir died under mysterious circumstances. His family was convinced that he was poisoned.

King Hussein of Jordan lost East Jerusalem but retained his throne. He continued his secret dialogue with Israel and made peace in 1994.

In Syria, in 1970, the air force commander, who had been in the ruling junta, assumed sole power. His name was Hafez al-Assad. After his death in 2000, his son Bashar succeeded him as president.

In Israel, Prime Minister Eshkol died of a heart attack in 1969. His widow, Miriam, believed he never recovered from being forced out of the Ministry of Defense on the eve of the war.

Eshkol's successor, Golda Meir, was warned in 1973 that Egypt and Syria were preparing a surprise attack. But the Israelis still suffered from hubris after the crushing defeat they inflicted in 1967.

In the ensuing war, Israel was saved by a massive airlift with supplies from the United States. Egypt believed it had regained its national honor, and its President Anwar Sadat proceeded with his historic overture to peace.

(Video) Six-Day War (1967) - Third Arab–Israeli War DOCUMENTARY

After 1967, Americans looked at Israel with new eyes. It fell in love with the young Sabras who had defeated three Arab armies.

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Like most Westerners in 1967, President Johnson's envoy Harry McPherson was deeply impressed. “Israel at war destroys the prototype of the pale, scrawny Jew; the soldiers I saw were tough, muscular, and sunburned. There is also an extraordinary combination of discipline and democracy among officers and men; the latter seldom salute and frequently quarrel, but there is no doubt as to who shall be victorious."

Israel and the Palestinians felt the brunt of the 1967 war. Israel began an occupation of the Palestinian territories that continues half a century later. It annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in internationally unrecognized moves.

A 25-year-old Israeli soldier returning from the war told his comrades: “We have lost something terribly precious. We lost our little country.”

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All of the themes that are depressingly familiar to anyone who follows the news today - violence, occupation, settlements, the future of Jerusalem - took their present form as a result of the war. The form of the occupation became apparent very quickly. Predictions of imminent danger were ignored.

Shortly after the end of the war, David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, warned of the alluring charm of victory. Speaking at Beit Berl, the think tank of the Israeli left, he said that remaining in the territories would distort and possibly even destroy the Jewish state. Israel must keep Jerusalem, but everything else must go back to the Arabs, with or without a peace deal.

Abba Eban, the foreign minister, saw maps showing Israel from the Golan to Suez and along the entire Jordan River not as a "guarantee of peace but as an invitation to early war."

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But the mood in Israel dismissed any hint of caution just as decisively as the Israeli army had dealt with the Arabs. In less than a week of war, the Israeli public went from despair to joy at liberation.

Religious Jews believed that the victory was a miracle given to them by God. Secular Israelis felt the electricity of the moment. Hanan Porat, a paratrooper who later became the leader of the settlement movement, never forgot the sight of his worldly comrades weeping minutes later at the Western Wall, a remnant of the Second Jewish Temple period in east Jerusalem they captured.

“I felt that the inner truth of the Jewish nation was being revealed here in Jerusalem. It was a miracle because the truth of the Bible was combined with the truth of life. An electric current flowed right through the people of Israel.”

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Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook's teachings inspired many settlers, including Porat. As a leader of religious Zionism, Kook taught that the Israel Defense Forces had done God's work.

“The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] is completely holy. It represents the dominion of the Lord's people over His land.”

It followed that land miraculously given to the Jewish people by God could not be relinquished.

The difficulty they faced was that the Palestinians believed it was their land and their duty to protect the holy sites they revered.

A month after the war, President Johnson's Middle East adviser Bob Anderson warned that Jerusalem held a special meaning for the Arabs. "The Old City of Jerusalem is capable of stirring up the mobs in the streets to the point of jeopardizing the fate of our most moderate friends in the Middle East and laying the groundwork for an eventual holy war."

Some Israelis thought they might trade some of the conquered territory for peace, but not East Jerusalem, which was enlarged by the addition of a sliver of territory from the West Bank and then annexed.

At a summit in Khartoum in late August, the Arab states were in no mood to once again confront the country that had humiliated them. Arab leaders said there will be no negotiations, no recognition and no peace with Israel.

Paradoxically, the 1967 defeat helped launch the Palestinian national movement. Before that, the Palestine Liberation Organization had been a puppet of Nasser, a means to contain the Palestinians rather than support their struggle for independence.

After 1967, Yasser Arafat and his Fatah faction took matters into their own hands. After several dozen hit-and-run raids by Fatah in just three months in 1968, the Israelis carried out a retaliatory attack on the group's headquarters in the Karameh refugee camp in Jordan.

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They met unexpected resistance from Palestinian guerrillas and Jordanian artillery. The Israelis eventually destroyed Karameh, but only after hours of street fighting that left at least 30 dead.

Over 100 Fatah fighters were killed and hailed as national heroes. Arafat became chairman of the dying PLO and an international figure, the symbol of national liberation for the Palestinians, the world's worst terrorist for the Israelis.

What happened after the war

  • Yitzhak Rabinserved two terms as Prime Minister of Israel, first in the mid-1970s and later between 1992 and 1995; in his second term he negotiated and signed historic Oslo Peace Accords with the Palestinians, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; He was murdered by an ultranationalist Israeli Jew in Tel Aviv in 1995
  • King Hussein of Jordanordered the expulsion of PLO troops from Jordan in 1970 and in 1973 rejected calls by Egypt and Syria to join their war against Israel. After years of secret talks, Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. Hussein died in 1999
  • Hafez al-Assadtook power in a coup in 1970 and was elected President of Syria in a referendum a year later; he ruled the country until his death in 2000. Relations with Israel remained hostile - the 1973 Middle East War saw an unsuccessful attempt to retake the Golan Heights and Assad continued to reject any peace deal that did not include the return of the Syrian territory
  • Gamal Abdel Nasserdied of a heart attack in 1970; his successor, Anwar Sadat, eventually sought peace with Israel and signed a historic treaty in 1979; he wasAssassinated by an Egyptian officer in 1981.

Lasting legacy

The 1967 war made Israel an occupier, which is why it matters more than anything else. The experience was a disaster for both Israelis and Palestinians. Israel built settlements for Jews, contrary to international law, which states that occupiers cannot settle their people on land they conquer. However, Israel sees it differently.

Abba Eban predicted that the Palestinians would not lose their "taste for flags, honor, pride and independence".

By definition, military occupation is repressive. The occupation has created a culture of violence that cheapens life and brutalizes the people who enforce and enforce the occupation and those who fight it.

image source,AFP

Peace negotiations began in the early 1990s to try to mitigate the aftermath of the 1967 war. Yitzhak Rabin, then prime minister, shook hands with his old enemy Yasser Arafat in 1993 under the eyes of a beaming President Clinton on the White House lawn.

From the start, the peace process was flawed for both sides. But it was all they had. The Israeli extreme right took it seriously; They believed this threatened their dream of controlling all of the land that God had given to the Jewish people.

A Jewish extremist assassinated Rabin in Tel Aviv in 1995. His killer was so delighted at having killed a man he saw as a traitor and a threat to Jews that he took a cup to toast his success during his first interrogation.

Rabin was the necessary man for the Israelis; they entrusted their safety to him. That's why he was killed.

The peace process may have failed with Rabin. But without the man who prepared and led the army to victory in 1967, and with Palestinian violence against Israelis escalating in the unstable years after the assassination, peace had no chance.

Fifty years after 1967, President Trump, like many new American presidents, hopes to help Israelis and Palestinians make peace.

If his dreams turn into substantive conversations, they must revolve around the future of the country conquered in six days of war. It was an extraordinary human drama that gripped a generation of Israelis and Arabs whose children and grandchildren still cannot live peacefully in the world war has created.

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The Holy Land, with Jerusalem at its heart, is a place where the great tectonic plates of religion, culture and nationalism converge. The fault lines that run between them are never calm and always dangerous. Ignoring the legacy of 1967 is not an option.


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