The Six-Day War and the 50-year oc­cu­pa­tion

The war and the mo­tive be­hind it caused the oc­cu­pa­tion — not the other way around

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Clif­ford D. May Clif­ford D. May is pres­i­dent of the Foun­da­tion for De­fense of Democ­ra­cies and a columnist for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Fifty years ago this week, the young state of Is­rael faced the threat of ex­ter­mi­na­tion — a sec­ond Jewish Holo­caust in a sin­gle cen­tury. Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent Ga­mal Ab­del Nasser stated can­didly what he and other Arab lead­ers en­vi­sioned. “Our ba­sic aim will be the de­struc­tion of Is­rael,” he said. “High time to de­stroy the Zion­ist pres­ence in the Arab home­land,” echoed Hafez As­sad, Syria’s min­is­ter of de­fense, later to be­come its dic­ta­tor. Added Iraqi Pres­i­dent Ab­dul Salam Arif: “Our goal will be to wipe Is­rael off the face of the map.”

Their con­fi­dence was jus­ti­fi­able. Not only did Arab forces vastly out­num­ber those of Is­rael, they also had five times as many tanks and more than four times as many planes. On May 31 1967, a car­toon in Al Jarida, a Le­banese news­pa­per, showed a fig­ure with a large, hooked nose and wear­ing a Jewish star stand­ing on the edge of a ship’s gang­plank. Eight can­nons point at him. La­bels in Ara­bic iden­ti­fied them as the guns of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jor­dan, Le­banon, Saudi Ara­bia, Su­dan and Al­ge­ria.

The war be­gan on June 5. Three days later, in the Egyp­tian news­pa­per, Al Goumhourya, an­other car­toon showed three in­ter­twined ser­pents — one with an Amer­i­can flag, one with a Bri­tish flag and one with a Star of David. A bay­o­net is be­ing plunged into the Is­raeli snake. The cap­tion reads: “Holy War.”

But on June 10, that war came to a sud­den end. Those who had in­tended to ex­ter­mi­nate the Is­raelis were soundly de­feated. Yitzhak Rabin, then chief of staff of the Is­raeli De­fense Forces, later to be prime min­is­ter, gave the con­flict a mod­est name: the Six­Day War. Pres­i­dent Nasser called it al-Naksa, the re­ver­sal.

In other ways, too, it soon be­came clear that this would not be the last war fought to an­ni­hi­late the reestab­lished home­land of the Jewish peo­ple. On Sept. 1, at an Arab s sum­mit in Khar­toum, a res­o­lu­tion was passed pro­claim­ing what be­came known as the “Three No’s”: no peace with Is­rael, no recog­ni­tion of Is­rael, no ne­go­ti­a­tions with Is­rael.

Nev­er­the­less, some Is­raelis thought the out­come of the war pre­sented a unique op­por­tu­nity to re­solve what was then known as the Arab-Is­raeli con­flict. They had taken the Si­nai and Gaza from Egypt, the West Bank from Jor­dan, and the Golan from Syria. Per­haps they could trade th­ese ter­ri­to­ries for an end to hos­til­i­ties.

The prin­ci­ple of “land for peace” would be for­mally es­tab­lished in U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil 242, passed in Novem­ber 1967. Even­tu­ally, the Is­raelis did with­draw from the Si­nai in ex­change for a peace treaty with Egypt.

Over the decades to come, a “two-state so­lu­tion” ap­peared the ob­vi­ous an­swer to what be­came known as the Pales­tinian-Is­raeli con­flict. And on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, the Is­raelis made spe­cific of­fers of state­hood to Pales­tinian lead­ers. Each time, how­ever, those lead­ers de­clined, putting no coun­terof­fers on the ta­ble.

And in 2005, then-Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ariel Sharon em­barked on a bold ex­per­i­ment. De­spite ve­he­ment do­mes­tic op­po­si­tion, he with­drew from Gaza based on this sim­ple the­ory: If the ob­sta­cle to peace with the Pales­tini­ans was Is­rael’s “oc­cu­pa­tion” of ter­ri­to­ries the Pales­tini­ans wanted for a state of their own, giv­ing up one of th­ese ter­ri­to­ries should ease ten­sions and, over time, lead to mean­ing­ful progress.

The ex­per­i­ment failed. Within two years, Ha­mas, an Is­lamist ter­ror­ist group and branch of the Mus­lim Brother­hood, had taken control of Gaza and be­gun fir­ing mis­siles into Is­rael. A block­ade of Gaza was the re­sponse to those and sub­se­quent at­tacks — not the cause.

De­spite this his­tory, some of Pres­i­dent Trump’s long­time friends are now ad­vis­ing him that he has a unique op­por­tu­nity to bro­ker “the ul­ti­mate deal” — a fi­nal sta­tus agree­ment be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans. They point out that the Mid­dle East is chang­ing. The Sunni Arab states are threat­ened by Shia Per­sian Iran, which has troops in Iraq and Syria, sup­ports Houthi rebels in Ye­men, and both fi­nances and in­structs Hezbol­lah, the most pow­er­ful mili­tia in Le­banon. The Is­lamic State, al Qaeda and other Salafi ji­hadi groups present a dan­ger as well.

The rulers of the Sunni states also are smart enough to rec­og­nize that Is­raelis would never put a mis­sile on their break­fast ta­bles without cause. Why not get those states to press the Pales­tini­ans to ne­go­ti­ate, of­fer con­ces­sions and, fi­nally, re­solve the con­flict?

The prob­lem with this the­ory is that it does not over­come the big­gest ob­sta­cles stand­ing in the way of a suc­cess­ful peace process. Among them: Ha­mas re­gards ev­ery inch of Is­rael as “oc­cu­pied ter­ri­tory” and, more sig­nif­i­cantly, as an en­dow­ment from Al­lah to the Mus­lims. It is not con­ceiv­able that Ha­mas would or could rec­og­nize the right of a Jewish state to ex­ist.

As for Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Abbas, he, too, has de­clared that he can­not ac­cept Is­rael as the sov­er­eign na­tion-state of the Jewish peo­ple. That inconvenient fact not­with­stand­ing, might he make the com­pro­mises nec­es­sary to en­sure that the West Bank, fol­low­ing an Is­raeli with­drawal, would not be­come an­other ter­ror­ist haven — this one within mor­tar-range of Is­rael’s largest pop­u­la­tion cen­ters and in­ter­na­tional air­port? And were he to ex­er­cise such lead­er­ship, would a crit­i­cal mass of Pales­tini­ans fol­low?

If, as I be­lieve, the an­swer to both ques­tions is no, Pres­i­dent Trump would be wast­ing pre­cious time and po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal at­tempt­ing to do any­thing more — at this moment — than mit­i­gate the Pales­tinian Is­raeli con­flict. A half-cen­tury ago, Nasser’s dream of de­stroy­ing Is­rael was de­ferred. The sad truth is that it per­sists. Un­til that changes, a se­ri­ous and en­dur­ing peace will re­main out of reach.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.