Next month marks the 43rd anniversary of the June 1967 Six-Day War, when the Jewish state went from the brink of extinction to breathtaking victory.
Few times in the modern era has the guiding hand of Divine providence been as plain and clear for all to see as it was during that heady period, when our Arab neighbors threatened to annihilate Israel and cast its citizenry into the waters of the Mediterranean.
But the Jewish people turned the tables on our foes, and in less than a week, with God’s help, we managed to reclaim the cradle of our civilization in the form of places such as Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.
It was an emotional reunion, one that had taken more than 19 centuries to occur. But the love and the longing of the Jewish people for their God-given land could not, and would not, be denied.
Sadly, however, with the passage of time, memories tend to dim and emotions often fade. And so instead of celebrating this miracle on its anniversary with all the verve and joy it deserves, many on Israel’s left descend into a state of semi-mourning.
In columns and editorials they regularly bemoan the outcome of the war, grieving over the “occupation” of the territories and fantasizing about how good life would be without them.
Indeed, it almost seems many would have preferred Israel to have lost the battle rather than emerging victorious with the blue-and-white flag flying over Hebron and Jerusalem.
But what they conveniently ignore is everything that preceded the 1967 war: increased Palestinian terrorism, a large Arab military buildup, and the brazen threats by Arab leaders to exterminate the Jewish state.
In effect, left-wing Israeli proponents of withdrawal have cast a fog over history, shifting the focus away from the “whys” of the 1967 war, and replacing them instead with “why us?”
Most people forget, but two years prior to 1967, back when Israel was narrow
and tiny and did not yet “occupy” anyone else’s land, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol unveiled a peace plan that could have resolved the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all.
Speaking in the Knesset on May 17, 1965, Eshkol proposed to open direct negotiations with the Arab states with the aim of turning the 1949 armistice agreements into full-fledged peace treaties.
Pointing out that Israel’s four Arab neighbors – Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon – together had 60 times the land area of the Jewish state, Eshkol suggested that the pursuit of war by the Arabs was a needless waste of human and material resources.
Instead, he laid out a vision of peace that would have included open borders, freedom of transit and communications, bilateral trade and economic cooperation, as well as access to the holy sites of all religions.
All he asked from the Arabs, said Eshkol, was “full respect for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all the states in the region.” It was a simple, yet compelling deal: peace for peace, with no strings attached.
But Israel’s offer was met two years later with a clear and unequivocal Arab response. Egypt and Syria mobilized their armies and vowed to destroy the
Here is just a sampling of some of the Arab rhetoric at that time:
On May 20, 1967, Hafez Assad, who was then serving as Syria’s defense minister, said, “Our forces are now entirely ready to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland. I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation.”
On May 26, Egyptian president Nasser declared in a speech to his nation, “Our basic aim will be to destroy Israel.”
At a press conference the following day, PLO founder Ahmad Shukeiry said, “D-Day is approaching. The Arabs have waited 19 years for this and will not flinch from the war of liberation.”
And on May 30, Cairo Radio was even more explicit: “Israel has two choices, both of which are drenched with Israel’s blood: Either it will be strangled by the Arab military and economic siege, or it will be killed by the bullets of the Arab armies surrounding it from the south, from the north and from the east.”
A week later, the war began.
And a week after that it was over, with Israel in control of Jerusalem, along with Judea, Samaria, Gaza, Sinai and the Golan Heights.
Ever since, the world has been pressing Israel to go back to the pre-1967 frontiers and to give its foes the territory from which they sought to launch its destruction.
As a matter of fact, Washington is now laying heavy pressure on Israel to retreat to the “Green Line” and create a Palestinian entity alongside its borders, as though Israel’s acquisition of these territories was somehow illicit from the start.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
Israel did not occupy Judea and Samaria – it won them fair and square in an act of self-defense, and it should have no regrets for doing so.
The war of 1967 was one that Israel neither asked for nor initiated. And the time has come for us to stop apologizing for winning it. Instead, let’s embrace the great gift God has given us by settling the land and filling it with Jews.
Our ancestors walked these areas centuries before the advent of Islam, and thousands of years before the establishment of the PLO, and we need not apologize for returning to the heartland of our proud and ancient heritage.
It is time for Israel to stand firm and be strong, and declare once and for all that the “Green Line” has forever been replaced.
In its stead we now have Red Lines, and chief among them is this: we will never, ever give up territory again.
Michael Freund, whose Jewish Press-exclusive column appears the third week of each month, served as deputy director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office under Benjamin Netanyahu from 1996 to 1999. He is founder and chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), which reaches out and assists “lost Jews” seeking to return to the Jewish people.