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Enduring Myths about the Six-Day War and Its Aftermath

Although Israel’s 1967 victory undeniably reshaped both it and the larger Middle East in fundamental ways, Aaron David Miller sees a tendency among Western observers to exaggerate and misconstrue the war’s effects. He identifies five such mistaken lessons: that 1967 was the most important of the Arab-Israeli wars, that there were missed opportunities for peace in its wake, that it was a catastrophe for the Palestinians, that it undermined the chances for peace, and that the time is now ripe for an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty. He writes:

[T]he notion that the proverbial six days of war created a figurative Seventh Day—a kind of dark shadow under which the Arab-Israeli conflict has played out, inexorably and depressingly, these many years—is too simplistic. . . .

On June 19, 1967, the Israeli cabinet secretly decided to exchange Sinai and the Golan for peace agreements with Egypt and Syria; but no consensus was reached on the West Bank, though the cabinet agreed to incorporate Gaza into Israel and to resettle refugees elsewhere in the region. . . . Meanwhile, the Arabs, reeling from defeat, were more focused on keeping their own houses in order and maintaining some measure of unity in the wake of their latest military humiliation. Even if the Israeli offer had been concretized, it would have faced impossible odds. Egypt’s [subsequent] launching of its war of attrition and the public hardening of Arabs’ attitudes seemed to make any serious process impossible. The Arabs’ three no’s at the Khartoum summit of August 1967—no peace; no negotiation; no recognition—seemed to sum up the impasse.

Read more at Atlantic

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Six-Day War, War of Attrition

Israel Agreed Not to Retaliate During the Persian Gulf War—and Paid a Price for It

Feb. 19 2018

During the Persian Gulf War of 1991, Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel, killing one person and causing extensive property damage. Under intense pressure from the first Bush administration to sit still—ostensibly because Israeli involvement in the war could lead Arab states to abandon the White House’s anti-Iraq coalition—Jerusalem refrained from retaliating. Moshe Arens, who was the Israeli defense minister at the time, comments on the decision in light of information recently made public:

[W]hat was George H.W. Bush thinking [in urging Israel not to respond]? His secretary of state, James Baker, had accompanied the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles (Chas) Freeman, on a visit to King Fahd in Riyadh on November 2, 1990, two-and-a-half months before the beginning of the war, to obtain the king’s approval for additional deployment of U.S. troops in his kingdom in preparation for the attack on Iraq.

He was told by the king that although they would not welcome Israeli participation in the war, he understood that Israel could not stand idly by if it were attacked by Iraq. If Israel were to defend itself, the Saudi armed forces would still fight on America’s side, the king told Baker. So much for the danger to the coalition if Israel were to respond to the Scud attacks. Israel was not informed of this Saudi position.

So why was President Bush so intent on keeping Israel out of the war? It seems that he took the position, so dominant in the American foreign-policy establishment, that America’s primary interest in the Middle East was the maintenance of good relations with the Arab world, and that the Arab world attached great importance to the Palestinian problem, and that as long as that problem was not resolved Israel remained an encumbrance to the U.S.-Arab relationship. If Israel were to appear as an ally of the U.S. in the war against Iraq, that was likely to damage the image the U.S. was trying to project to the Arabs.

In fact, immediately upon the conclusion of the war against Saddam Hussein, Baker launched a diplomatic effort that culminated in the Madrid Conference in the hope that it would lead to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It didn’t. . . .

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: George H. W. Bush, Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Peace Process, Persian Gulf War, US-Israel relations