The Six-Day War Didn’t Change Israel—At Least, Not in the Way the Israeli Left Claims It Did

At the war’s 50th anniversary, many in Israel and abroad have commented on how it transformed the country. For those on the left in particular, this was the moment when the Jewish state became “the occupier of another people” and—in this interpretation—inaugurated the era of Israel’s decline. Yoaz Hendel will have none of it:

Three wars shaped the state of Israel—the most important war was in 1948. The big “occupation” starts there. The Six-Day War only changed the borders, not the essence of the battle [between Israel and its Arab neighbors]. . . . Finally, in 1973, came the big victory of the Yom Kippur War (yes, I know that people usually look at this war from its starting points rather than through the great achievements of its ending). . . . These three wars turned Israel into a regional power with greater economic and military strength than any other country in the region. . . .

Whoever claims today that the Six-Day War changed us is talking out of wishful thinking, out of a childish dream in which we could have existed within the borders of small Israel and made peace with everyone around us. If only we had won and pulled out, according to this dream, everything would have been fine. The years before 1967 were painfully beautiful, [goes the refrain]. The most beautiful songs, the most beautiful outfits, the most beautiful girls, the most silent rabbis. . . .

And the best clichés. . . . [In fact,] Israel lived under the danger of extinction for nineteen years before the Six-Day War. Its laws were emergency laws. Its democracy was shaky. David Ben-Gurion, the man without whom we wouldn’t have a state, spied on opposition members. Israeli Arabs lived under tough military rule and Shin Bet supervision. The government Judaized the Negev and the Galilee without thinking twice. . . . The only restrictions on corruption were internal ethics and the values of the [Zionist] youth movements.

Our situation [now] is much better than in those nineteen years—not just from a security and economic perspective but also by the criteria of those who are lamenting [the supposed collapse of Israeli] democracy. Israel, contrary to their claims, is not marching toward a binational state; it is marching toward a separation from the Palestinians as much as it can. In Gaza, we have completely separated from them (we still pay for the electricity and water), and in Judea and Samaria there is a demilitarized semi-state with a political separation, but with no military separation.

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

Iran’s Defeat May Not Be Immediate, but Effective Containment Is at Hand

Aug. 20 2018

In the 1980s, the U.S. pursued a policy of economic, military, and political pressure on the Soviet Union that led to—or at least hastened—its collapse while avoiding a head-on military confrontation. Some see reasons to hope that a similar strategy might bring about the collapse of the Islamic Republic. Frederick Kagan, however, argues against excessive optimism. Carefully comparing the current situation of Iran to that of the Gorbachev-era USSR, he suggests instead that victory over Tehran can be effectively achieved even if the regime persists, at least for the time being:

What must [an Iran] strategy accomplish in order to advance American national security and vital national interests? Regime change was the only outcome during the cold war that could accomplish those goals, given the conventional and nuclear military power of the Soviet Union. Iran is much weaker by every measure and much more vulnerable to isolation than the Soviets were. . . . Isolating Iran from external resources and forcing the regime to concentrate on controlling its own population would be major accomplishments that would transform the Middle East. . . .

It is vital to note that the strategy toward the Soviet Union included securing Western Europe against the Soviet threat and foreclosing Soviet efforts to pare America’s allies, especially West Germany, away from it while simultaneously supporting (in an appropriately limited fashion) the Solidarity uprising in Poland and the anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan. It is not meaningful to speak of a victory strategy against Iran that does not include contesting Iranian control and influence in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq while strengthening and hardening the Arab frontline states (including Oman and Qatar) against Iranian influence.

Syria is Iran’s Afghanistan—it is the theater in which Iranian forces are most vulnerable, where Iranian popular support for the war is wearing thin, and where the U.S. can compel [Iran] to expend its limited resources on a defensive battle. Iraq is Iran’s Poland—the area Iran has come to dominate, but with limitations, and a country Iran’s leaders believe they cannot afford to lose. The U.S. is infinitely better positioned to contest Iran’s control over Iraq than it ever was in Poland (and similarly better positioned in Syria than it was in Afghanistan).

A long-term approach would focus on building a consensus among America’s allies about the need to implement a victory strategy. It would deter the Russians and Chinese from stepping in to keep Iran alive. It would disrupt the supply chain of strategic materials Iran needs to advance its nuclear and conventional military capabilities. And it would force Iran to fight hard for its positions in Iraq and Syria while simultaneously pressing the Iranian economy in every possible way. Such a strategy would almost certainly force the Islamic Republic back in on itself, halt and reverse its movement toward regional hegemony, exacerbate schisms within the Iranian leadership and between the regime and the people, and possibly, over time, and in a uniquely Iranian way, lead to a change in the nature of the regime.

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More about: Cold War, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Soviet Union, U.S. Foreign policy