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.