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Fabricating the History of the Six-Day War

In his new history of the 1967 conflict, Guy Laron claims to upend previous scholarship by arguing that the conflict was precipitated by war-mongering generals in Egypt, Syria, and Israel; in the last case, these militarists were in cahoots with “settlers” with whom they shared an obsession with territorial expansion. Meanwhile, the pressure of economic problems in Egypt and Israel left President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Prime Minister Levi Eshkol without the political clout to rein in their respective generals. Reviewing the book, Uri Bar-Joseph finds it disorganized, crammed with “too much information about too many irrelevant issues,” and “filled with factual errors,” some of which “show an alarming lack of expertise.” But the book’s real problem lies elsewhere:

Laron’s principal contribution is to advance a narrative so poorly substantiated as to border on conspiracy theory. . . . [It] is based on a biased selection of previously published sources, mostly in Hebrew and thus beyond the independent assessment of most American and European scholars. Anyone familiar with the documentary evidence will instantly recognize his account as groundless. . . .

After Israel was compelled to withdraw from the Sinai in 1957, there was a consensus within the military that acquiring territory was no longer a viable option. . . . [T]he IDF’s goal was simply to compel Syria to stop providing a base for Palestinian terrorists. . . .

But if Israel had no plans to occupy and annex the Golan Heights, why did the IDF prepare only offensive plans for a possible war against Syria? . . . [T]he answer has far less to do with territorial expansion than with Israel’s military doctrine. Due to the country’s small size and severe lack of strategic depth before the 1967 war, this doctrine called for preemptive strikes and, whenever possible, immediately taking the fight into enemy territory. . . .

[Meanwhile], Egyptian accounts reveal that Nasser’s generals also believed that they were not ready for war and objected to [his decision] to close the Straits of Tiran.

In short, what led to war was not the aims of Israeli and Egyptian generals but the Egyptian president’s decision to close the straits and remilitarize the Sinai.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Gamal Abdel Nasser, Golan Heights, History & Ideas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Six-Day War

Toward an Iran Policy That Looks at the Big Picture

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech outlining a new U.S. approach to the Islamic Republic. Ray Takeyh and Mark Dubowitz explain why it constitutes an important and much-needed rejection of past errors:

For too long, a peculiar consensus has suggested that it is possible to isolate the nuclear issue from all other areas of contention and resolve it in a satisfactory manner. The subsidiary [assumption] embedded in this logic is that despite the bluster of Iran’s rulers, it is governed by cautious men, who if offered sufficient incentives and soothing language would respond with pragmatism. No one embraced this notion more ardently than the former secretary of state, John Kerry, who crafted an accord whose deficiencies are apparent to all but the most hardened partisans. . . .

A regime as dangerous as the Iranian one requires no less than a comprehensive strategy to counter it. This means exploiting all of its vulnerabilities, increasing the costs of its foreign adventures, draining its economy, and aiding our allies. Most importantly, the United States must find a way of connecting itself to domestic opposition that continuously haunts the mullahs.

Washington should no longer settle for an arms-control agreement that paves Iran’s path to a bomb but rather a restrictive accord that ends its nuclear aspirations. The United States should not implore its allies to share the Middle East with Iran, as Barack Obama did, but partner with them in defeating the clerical imperialists. And most importantly, the United States should never forget that its most indispensable ally is the Iranian people.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Iran nuclear program, Mike Pompeo, U.S. Foreign policy