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A prophetic Israeli history lesson for the Obama administration from 1967


Shmuel Katz, a South African native who emigrated to Israel in the 1930s, served in the Irgun and later held a seat in Israel's First Knesset was also a prolific writer. In his 1973 title, "Battleground: Fact & Fantasy in Palestine," Katz, writing of the run up to the Six-Day War in 1967, notes that the Arab world devised a mass propaganda campaign aimed at delegitimizing Israel, while enforcing a strict boycott on Israeli products as a means of economic warfare. Israel was frequently pressed to offer land concessions as well -- even before it obtained the now-controversial territory in Judea and Samaria resulting from the Six-Day War.

In light of the intensification of the Obama Administration diplomatic offensive led by Secretary of State John Kerry to try to broker a so-called peace agreement with Israel, we found the below passage from Katz's work on what occurred during the summer of 1967 to be timely and prophetic:

Israeli tanks advancing on the Golan Heights during the Six-Day War between Arab and Israeli forces, June 10, 1967. (Source: Assaf Kutin/© The State of Israel Government Press Office)

"The full significance of Israel’s vulnerability was made manifest suddenly, and to almost universal surprise, in May 1967. Ostensibly, everybody knew that Egypt was capable of turning Sinai into a vast offensive base threatening the very heart of the Jewish state. Ostensibly, it was common knowledge that the United Nations Observer Force, set up in 1957 after the Sinai campaign, would evaporate if Egypt decided to attack. Ostensibly, it was common knowledge that at a moment of destructive exhilaration the Arab states might be capable of united action, forcing a war on three fronts against an Israel outmanned, outgunned, and outnumbered in planes by nearly three to one and in tanks by more than three to one. These elementary facts were largely ignored even by many people in Israel itself–just as, since the war, Israel has been pressed to forget them again.

The facts became clear in quick succession. On May 14, President Nasser started moving his troops and tanks into Sinai. Three days later, the Syrians announced that their forces on the Golan Heights were also ready for action. On the same day, Nasser demanded the immediate withdrawal of the United Nations force from Sinai. The UN Secretary General, U Thant, promptly complied; the United Nations force disappeared.

Simultaneously, the Commander of the Egyptian forces in Sinai, General Murtagi, issued an Order of the Day. For greater effect it was broadcast on Cairo Radio on May 18, 1967: The Egyptian forces have taken up positions in accordance with our predetermined plans. The morale of our armed forces is very high, for this is the day they have so long been waiting for, for this holy war.

Four days later, Nasser announced the renewed blockade of the Tiran Straits. Then on May 30, King Hussein of Jordan hastened to Cairo and there signed a mutual-defense pact with Nasser. All now seemed ready. In two weeks, a noose had been drawn around Israel’s neck.

Believing in the power of their numbers, in their unity, and in their ability to exploit Israel’s glaring strategic weakness, the Arabic leaders and spokesmen now articulated the simple objective of their policy and their labors: annihilation of the Jewish state.

The Arab leaders, as it turned out, had miscalculated. They were, it is true, united; they did outnumber the Israelis heavily in men, planes, tanks, guns, and ships; if they had been able to exploit these conditions, Israel’s topographical weakness could have been fatal to her. Israel is now being asked (or told, or cajoled) to resume that topographical weakness, or that topographical weakness with, in the words of the United States government, "insubstantial modifications."

The Arabs’ war against Israel in the years between 1949 and 1967 was accompanied and dramatized by an incessant diplomatic offensive and a campaign of propaganda that grew progressively in volume and scope. Its purpose was not kept secret. It was repeated again and again. "Our aim," it was epitomized by Nasser on November 18, 1965, "is the full restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people. In other words, we aim at the destruction of the State of Israel. The immediate aim: perfection of Arab military might. The national aim: the eradication of Israel."

Year after year, the autumn sessions of the United Nations in New York were converted into a sounding board for the combined verbal onslaught on Israel of the delegates of the ever-growing number of Arab states.

The war against Israel on its many fronts was pursued against an Israel that did not embrace the "occupied territories" of today. At that time, too, Israel was pressed and urged from many sides to make concessions. What could these concessions have been? In those years, too, Israel was pressed to offer concessions of "territory." But it was the Arab refugee problem that was named as the prime cause of Arab intransigence, as the source of all the trouble in the Middle East. That was then proclaimed the major obstacle to peace."

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