Sunday, June 10, 2007

Six Day War

Here are two rather different views on the Six Day War, whose 40th anniversary occurred last week. There's little question that the war, through which Israel acquired the West Bank of the Jordan and much of Gaza, had a profound impact on Israeli-Palestinian relations and thereby on the entire Middle East.

Tom Segev, a columnist for the Israeli paper Haaretz, asks the provocative question: "What if Israel hadn't taken East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the Six-Day War? Would the Palestinian situation have found some solution and Israel be living at least in relative peace with its neighbors. Would Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism have been avoided?"

The author of the new book, "1967: Israel, the War and the Year That Transformed the Middle East," (I have a copy but I haven't cracked it yet) thinks that's possible. "Forty years of oppression and Palestinian terrorism, both extremely cruel, have underminded Israel's Jewish and democratic foundations. With about 400,000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and with extreme Islamism as a driving force among the Palestinians, the conflict has become infinitely more difficult to solve."

On the other hand, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal argues that the war was in some ways the making of modern Israel. It had land it was able offer for peace. The U.S. became a firm ally, more European Jews immigrated, and Christian evangelicals became firm friends. "It is infinitely richer and more powerful today, sure in its alliance with the U.S. and capable of making concessions inconceivable 40 years ago."

These two views are not entirely contradictory. On balance, I'll go with the Israeli. Wall St. Journal types are often ready to praise wars in which other fight and die.

1 comment:

Qnunc said...

From 1920 -1947, before Israel became a nation, 685 Jews were killed by the Arabs in terrorist attacks. From 1948 -1966, before the Six Day War, 828 Israelis were killed in terrorist attacks.

Article 24 of the original Palestinian National Charter of 1964 reads:

Article 24. This Organization does not exercise any regional sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or the Himmah Area. Its activities will be on the national popular level in the liberational, organizational, political and financial fields.

It wasn’t until the 1964 Charter was replaced by the Palestinian National Charter of 1968 that the objective became the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state.

So, who knows? My question is: Would they be any closer to peace if the U.S. didn’t financially and otherwise support both sides of this “conflict?” We give Israel more than the Palestinians just to give them an "edge" but Bush waived a law prohibiting giving financial aid directly to the PA to give Abbas $20m at least three times. This was in addition to over $300m they receive indirectly each year.

The 1980, 1988, and 1992 Republican platforms all say the same thing: We oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, or any political entity that would jeopardize Israel’s security.*

The 2000 platform says “The United States seeks a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. . . But peace must be negotiated between the parties themselves. We will not impose our view or an artificial timetable.” (Except every single day.)

The 2004 platform, for some reason, expresses the exact opposite of the previous years: “We believe that terror attacks against Israelis are part of the same evil as the September 11, 2001, attacks against America.". . . YET “We support President Bush’s vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. . . If Palestinians embrace democracy and the rule of law, confront corruption, and firmly reject terror, they can count on American support for the creation of a Palestinian state."

Every time I read these words in an American presidential platform, I am amazed at our hubris. We will give someone their own country if they give up terrorism? Who do we think we are?

Who knows what effect Bush's promises of statehood, his "visions," and his constant interference have on Palestinian terrorism? It would be my guess that he does more to increase it than the results of the Six Day War ever could. (This is not just Bush of course; every American president thinks the world elected him to be their King.) We know every time Bush says "guest worker," the illegal population of the U.S. explodes. ("The illegal alien population grew by 5.3 million, or ABOUT 79 PERCENT, during the first six Bush years.")

The Bush legacy: "I have caused more destruction, death, war, and misery to more people in more countries than any other human being in history."

*(The Democratic Platforms have said almost word-for-word the same thing through the years.)