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

 

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