The Six-Day War Was No Accident

According to many if not most history books, the 1967 war between Israel and its Arab neighbors was the product of circumstances and miscalculations, and thus entirely preventable. The two sides, in this view, stumbled into conflict—neither one acting out of a strategic plan that involved war with the other. But, writes Efraim Karsh, the evidence suggests that Gamal Abdel Nasser, then president of Egypt, took a series of deliberate steps—sending two divisions into the demilitarized Sinai Peninsula, expelling UN peacekeepers from the area, and then closing the Straits of Tiran—fully aware that his actions were likely to provoke a war and likewise aware that reports of an Israeli troop build-up on the Syrian border were false. Karsh explains:

[T]he Arab-Israeli conflict’s general cause—rejection of Israel’s very existence—combined with the particular causes to make war inevitable. . . . [Afterward], Nasser would doggedly shrug off responsibility for the defeat by feigning victimhood and emphatically denying any intention to attack Israel. This claim was quickly endorsed by numerous Western apologists eager to absolve him of any culpability for the war, in what was to become the standard Arab and Western historiography of the conflict. Some went so far in the effort to exculpate Nasser as to portray him as a mindless creature thriving on hollow rhetoric and malleable in the extreme. . . .

Aside from doing a great injustice to Nasser—the charismatic dictator who had ruled Egypt with a heavy hand for over a decade and mesmerized tens of millions throughout the Arabic-speaking world—this description has little basis in reality. As evidenced both by Nasser’s escalatory behavior during the crisis and by captured military documents revealing elaborate plans for an invasion of Israel, the Egyptian president did not stumble into war but orchestrated it with open eyes. He steadily raised his sights in accordance with the vicissitudes of the crisis until he set them on the ultimate pan-Arab objective: the decisive defeat of Israel and, if possible, its destruction.

The June 1967 war was a direct corollary of pan-Arabism’s delusions of grandeur, triggered by the foremost champion of this ideology and directed against its foremost nemesis.

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Read more at Middle East Quarterly

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

Europe-Israel Relations Have Been Transformed

On Monday, Israel and the EU held their first “association council” meeting since 2012, resuming what was once an annual event, equivalent to the meetings Brussels conducts with many other countries. Although the summit didn’t produce any major agreements or diplomatic breakthroughs, writes Shany Mor, it is a sign of a dramatic change that has occurred over the past decade. The very fact that the discussion focused on energy, counterterrorism, military technology, and the situation in Ukraine—rather than on the Israel-Palestinian conflict—is evidence of this change:

Israel is no longer the isolated and boycotted outpost in the Middle East that it was for most of its history. It has peace treaties with six Arab states now, four of which were signed since the last association council meeting. There are direct flights from Tel Aviv to major cities in the region and a burgeoning trade between Israel and Gulf monarchies, including those without official relations.

It is a player in the regional alliance systems of both the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean, just as it has also become a net energy exporter due to the discovery of large gas deposits of its shoreline. None of this was the case at the last council meeting in 2012. [Moreover], Israel has cultivated deep ties with a number of new member states in the EU from Central and Eastern Europe, whose presence in Brussels bridges cultural ideological gaps that were once much wider.

Beyond the diplomatic shifts, however, is an even larger change that has happened in European-Israeli relations. The tiny Israel defined by its conflict with the Arabs that Europeans once knew is no more. When the first Cooperation Agreement [between Israel and the EU’s precursor] was signed in 1975, Israel, with its three million people, was smaller than all the European member states save Luxembourg. Sometime in the next two years, the Israeli population will cross the 10 million mark, making it significantly larger than Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Austria (among others), and roughly equal in population to Greece, Portugal, and Sweden.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Abraham Accords, Europe and Israel, European Union, Israeli gas