The Six Day War revisited

The Six Day War broke out forty years ago, on June 5, 1967. In Six Days of War: June 1967 the Making of the Modern Middle East, historian Michael Oren provides a masterly chronicle of the war. (Oren’s essay on Israel’s sinking of the Liberty is available online here. In his book Oren provides an abbreviated account of the incident based on the same research.)
Last week Oren provided a tour of the Six Day War battle for Jerusalem to a group including Jerusalem Post editiorial page editor Saul Singer. Singer’s column “The audacity of ’67” takes off from the tour and considers our current war in that context. I asked Saul if he would provide a few paragraphs on the subject for Power Line readers as a sidebar to his column. He kindly responded:

People don’t realize, or remember, how close Israel was to being wiped off the map 40 years ago. On the one hand, it may not seem audacious that Israel acted in the nick of time to save itself. On the other, Israel used almost its entire air force in its successful gambit to wipe out Egypt’s air force on the ground. If the attack had failed, Israel would have been extremely vulnerable to the forces already massed on the border.
It is also forgotten that all this happened when Gaza belonged to Egypt and the West Bank to Jordan. There were no “Israeli settlements” or “occupation,” yet the Arab states were poised to drive the Jews into the sea, as they put it. It is this Arab desire to destroy Israel, not Israeli intransigence, that remains the obstacle to both peace and to the creation of a Palestinian state (whether or not they are the same thing).
The similarity to today is that the West will likely have to strike “preemptively” against Iran before that country develops nuclear weapons. This would hardly be preemptive in the broader sense, however, because Iran has been attacking the West since 1979 mostly with impunity and with increasing intensity.

Saul adds that a recording of Motta Gur and others as they were capturing Jerusalem’s Old City and reaching the Western Wall can be heard here (in Hebrew, but with an English transcript), and that a handy website with timelines and lots more information can be found here.
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