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.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

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

The Struggle for Iraq, and What It Means for Israel

Oct. 17 2018

Almost immediately after the 2003 invasion, Iraq became a battleground between the U.S. and Iran, as the latter sent troops, money, and arms to foment and support an insurgency. The war on Islamic State, along with the Obama administration’s effort to align itself with the Islamic Republic, led to a temporary truce, but also gave Tehran-backed militias a great deal of power. Iran has also established a major conduit of supplies through Iraq to support its efforts in Syria. Meanwhile, it is hard to say if the recent elections have brought a government to Baghdad that will be pro-American or pro-Iranian. Eldad Shavit and Raz Zimmt comment how these developments might affect Israel:

Although statements by the U.S. administration have addressed Iran’s overall activity in the region, they appear to emphasize the potential for confrontation in Iraq. First and foremost, this [emphasis] stems from the U.S. perception of this arena as posing the greatest danger, in light of the extensive presence of U.S. military and civilian personnel operating throughout the country, and in light of past experience, which saw many American soldiers attacked by Shiite militias under Iranian supervision. The American media have reported that U.S. intelligence possesses information indicating that the Shiite militias and other elements under Iranian auspices intend to carry out attacks against American targets and interests. . . .

In light of Iran’s intensifying confrontation with the United States and its mounting economic crisis, Tehran finds it essential to maintain its influence in Iraq, particularly in the event of a future clash with the United States. The Iranian leadership has striven to send a message of deterrence to the United States regarding the implications of a military clash. . . .

A recently published report also indicates that Iran transferred ballistic missiles to the Shiite militias it supports in Iraq. Although Iran has denied this report, it might indeed attempt to transfer advanced military equipment to the Shiite militias in order to improve their capabilities in the event of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States and/or Israel, or a confrontation between [the militias] and the central government in Baghdad.

From Israel’s perspective, after years when the Iraqi arena received little attention from Israeli decision makers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have mentioned the possibility of Israel’s taking action against Iranian targets in Iraq. In this context, and particularly in light of the possibility that Iraq could become an arena of greater conflict between the United States and Iran, it is critical that there be full coordination between Israel and the United States. This is of particular importance due to [the American estimation of] stability in Iraq as a major element of the the campaign against Islamic State, which, though declared a success, is not yet complete.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy