JONATHAN FREEDLAND’S musings on Israel 40 years after the post-1967 euphoria paint a gloomy picture of Israel. Born in 1967, he cannot be expected to remember the depressed atmosphere in Israel and the Jewish diaspora in the months leading up to June 1967. Under threat from Nasser, and with the UN peacekeepers pulling out of Sinai, with the Suez Canal closed and Red Sea access to Eilat blockaded, Israel seemed in danger of extinction.
The usually eloquent Abba Eban scuttled around the world waving the guarantees given after the 1956 Suez crisis in the indifferent faces of Western leaders. Premier Levi Eshkol’s voice broke as he broadcast a message to the nation, all seemed lost. On a wave of public support, Moshe Dayan was appointed Minister of Defence and barely a week later Israel’s victory became an instant legend.
The burden of Freedland’s article is that the consequences are all down to Israel. That is the popular view of many so-called left-wing fellow travellers, but it is false. Yes Israel has made far too many mistakes, but whenever there has been a glimmer of hope, Israel has always been ready to risk its neck for peace.
So Israel continues — as Freedland says, saddled with this curse — and new irritations are constantly added by both sides because, without peace, that is inevitable. It is wrong to demand yet another unilateral solution from Israel — Freedland should direct his pleas to the other side too. Nor should he fear for Israel in 10 or 20 or 40 years’ time. What is amazing is the progress in Israel over these past 40 years, despite the terrorism and belligerent antics of the Arab world. Enough troubles loom from Iran to Beirut, to keep writers like Jonathan Freedland busy — but hopefully in future he will include the Arab world in his prognoses. Gerald Baron Cohen London NW11