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Did Israel Seek War In 1967?


Israeli diplomatic documents from the period leading up to June 5, 1967 offer overwhelming evidence against any suggestion that Israel sought war with the Arabs. Nor do the tens of thousands of declassified papers contain a single reference to any desire to divert public opinion from the economic situation, to overthrow Arab rulers, or to conquer and occupy the West Bank, the Sinai or the Golan Heights.

Confronted with a harsh economic blockade, military pacts between heavily armed neighbors for the express purpose of aggression against Israel, and hundreds of thousands of enemy troops actually massed on its borders, it would have been the height of irresponsibility for Israel’s government not to plan for preemptive action.

Nevertheless, the picture that emerges is one of a country and leadership deeply fearful of military confrontation, and desperate to avoid one at almost any price.

In the final analysis, the Israelis held back from acting militarily until the very last opportunity for a diplomatic settlement had passed, even though they knew that every day they waited was costing them dearly in resources, readiness and morale, and was likely to constrict their own maneuverability if war became unavoidable.

Given the archival records, it seems the new historians face a formidable task in trying to prove that Israel had hostile intentions in 1967.

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More Articles from Michael B. Oren

Great wars in history eventually become great wars about history. Only a few years after the last soldier leaves the battlefield, accepted truths about the nature of a military conflict and the motivations for it invariably come under assault by revisionists and counter-revisionists whose vehemence can rival that of the original combatants.

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