Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Forty Years Ago

למען אחי ורעי - אדברה נא שלום בך
"For the sake of my brothers' and companions, I will now say 'peace be within you,'" (Ps. 122)

The war that began on June 5, 1967, as a myriad of commentators have pointed out, is still with us. While Israel handily defeated the Arab states that had joined against it - crushing the Egyptian air force and army, pushing the Jordanians across the river, and taking the Golan from Syria over a period of 6 days - the country's leaders opened up a front in an unwinnable war, when they decided to occupy Gaza and the West Bank.

The triumph of 1967, the salvation from destruction, the opening up of the Holy City to the Jewish people, forty years later looks like a Pyhrric victory. Who can stand up today and say that the decision to occupy the captured territories to the east and to the south, and, later, even to tolerate the construction of settlements on them, was "worth it"?

The settlers believed that the Palestinians would consent to being "subjects," living in the Land of Israel like the ancient Canaanites. Maybe they were looking at the other Arab states in the region - few of which gave their populations the right to vote or to exercise sovereignty. But how did an entire generation of ostensibly sane people in the government and military come to believe that such an absurd scenario was possible? What role, did they imagine, would the newly-acquired land and its inhabitants play in the state?

It is true that the Palestinians have, time and again, provided Israel with plenty of reasons not to withdraw from these territories. What have concessions brought Israel, demands the right? Suicide bombings during the Oslo years? Qassam rockets from un-occupied Gaza? When one reads the prophecies of someone like Angry Arab, who cites a generous American professor "giv[ing] Israel 80 years" and who openly admits that he sees no future for the Jews in the Middle East -
"Personally, I am for a secular state in Palestine where Jews, Christians, and Muslims live together in peace, but Israel has made that ideal remote (in terms of Jewish-Arab coexistence in Palestine without a religious labeled-state). Israeli crimes over the decades have endangered Jewish existence in the Middle East, and I fear that Israel will endanger that existence further--even in Palestine"

- one wonders what the point of Israeli concessions might be.

However, the angry professor, try as he might to make his prophecy self-fulfilling, might be proven wrong after all. Even if the Palestinians cannot be trusted to deliver on any agreement, somehow Israelis might still be persuaded to evacuate the West Bank in exchange for a comprehensive peace with the Arab states still hostile to Israel. Following such an agreement, Israel would still have to endure attacks from the West Bank and Gaza. But perhaps Israeli civilian casualties (from whatever new tactic that the Palestinians will devise) will be reduced to a "tolerable" level, as they have been in the past year. And maybe, as unlikely as it seems given the Gazan example, some strong Palestinian leaders will slowly start giving their people an option other than armed struggle. The result of such a scenario would not be "peace." It would be the kind of conflict management that Tom Segev describes in the conclusion of an op-ed in today's New York Times.

Ha'aretz Op-eds:

Tom Segev, מה נשכח באותו בוקר [What was forgotten that morning], English
Saeb Erekat, הערבים בחרו בשלום [The Arabs chose peace], English
Shlomo Avineri, אחרי 40 שנה, להחליט לבד [Deciding alone after 40 years],
Dani Rabinowitz, איזה יום היום? [What day is today?], English
Bradley Burston, בגן הילדים השמאלני [In the leftist kindergarten]
Amira Hass, בשבחי הכיבוש [In praise of the occupation], English
Moshe Arens, נרתעת מלהרתיע [Flinching from deterring], English

Op-eds and articles in the U.S. and European press marking the fortieth anniversary of the war:

Fouad Ajami, "Israel's Triumph," US News & World Report
Ian Black, "Six days of war, 40 years of failure," The Guardian
Michel Bôle-Richard, "1967-2007 : la Palestine démembrée," Le Monde
Wolfgang Günter Lerch, "Ein Pyrrhus-Sieg vor vierzig Jahren," Frankfurter Allgemeine
Michael Oren, "Remaking the world in six days," LA Times
Ralph Peters, "Six-Day War, 40 Years on: Israeli Victories brought de-facto Peace," New York Post
Tom Segev, "What if Israel Had Turned Back," New York Times
Letters to the Editor in response to Segev, New York Times
"Les cicatrices de la guerre des Six-jours," Le Monde [Interview with Tom Segev]
"Les plaies d'Israël", L'Express [another interview with Segev]
Thorsten Schmitz, "Der hohe Preis des schnellen Sieges," Sueddeutsche Zeitung
Bettina Vestring, "Israel vor vierzig Jahren," Berliner Zeitung


Nobody said...

And maybe, as unlikely as it seems given the Gazan example, some strong Palestinian leaders will slowly start giving their people an option other than armed struggle.

to put it more correctly this line should be:

And maybe, as unlikely as it seems given the Gazan example, some strong Palestinian leaders will start imposing on their people an option other than armed struggle.

yaman said...

I think the point is that Israel has made not the existence and safety of the Jewish people in Palestine its concern, but rather the existence of a strong Jewish state, and in doing so, does a great disservice to the future likelihood of the former. Who knows what will happen when the balance of power tilts away from Israel's favor, as inevitably will happen--but when it does, I fear many of us will have a new cause to focus on, in correcting and limiting the injustices of the reaction.

Amos said...

The existence of a strong Jewish state is and has always been the only thing that can guarantee the safety and continuity of the Jewish people in the Middle East. Given the track record of other regimes in the region, I certainly would not entrust a "secular" Arab-majority state with the protection of the lives, liberty, and happiness of the Jews (or any other minorities); most of these regimes cannot even do this for their Muslim Arab populations.

I am glad, however, that there are people like Yaman and, who knows, perhaps even Angry Arab, who will defend the Jews when they get the punishment that their various enemies have been prophesying for years. And no, I'm not being sarcastic. But don't expect me to place all my eggs into the basket of human rights activists.

michael.di said...

The Six Day war was a great victory because it changed the Peace-discourse. Without this war, the "resonable" peace would be 1947-partion plan. The war moved forward Israels position to 1967 years borders including the wailing wall/jewish quarter.

The Settlements helps this even further. Of course the majority of them will be dismantled, but not all. And Israel will controll maybe not more land (becuase there will be an exchange), but more of the land that it wants (that is Ariel and Kiryat Arba)

Anonymous said...

The real problem of Israel is the almost total failure of the instruments of leadership selecting. Looking at the last elections in France and Israel clearly demonstrates that the Israeli equivalent machinary just does not work. Look at Netaniyhu, his war-peace politics and his social-economic politics are mutually exclusive. From the thought process point of view it a model case of cognitive dissociation. It is not only the total clush between what is expected from social-economic system of a nation at war and the Netaniyahu social-economy model but the fact that he seems to belive that the two can work eternally, that is so dangerous. This clush affected the results of the Leb. war and is clearly affecting the military situation opposite Gaza. The same goes for the peculiar way by which Ulmert is selecting Ministers, the intelectual level of the 120 MP. the level of municipal management. The level of the leading News papers and the level of many, not all, newspaper men, and many other indicators of the no good way by which the leadership selecting machine is functioning. Some thing went wrong in the last 30 or so years and it must be corrected, or else.

Anonymous said...

Who wants Qiryat 'Arba?