Israel’s military victories were never the results of an inspired military or political leadership. While the anniversary of the Six-Day War has led to an outpouring of adoration for the usual suspects: the khaki-garbed generals striding victoriously through a carefully cropped photo, even if one of them had come down with a nervous breakdown not long before. Israeli generals have never been geniuses, the best-known ones have carried their own press releases into battle, and have walked a fine line between daring and criminal incompetence. Their victories were won for them by the men in the field, who survived to carry out their operations.
If Israeli generals are overrated, then Israeli governments are far worse, and, considering the number of generals who have played a role in politics, the confluence of the two conditions is not surprising. Israeli governments have, for the most part, been timid, cowardly and incompetent (Which is to say that they were, for the most part, a lot like the governments of the rest of the West).
The victories of the Six-Day War have for the most part been traded away by a succession of Prime Ministers in exchange for the promise of a peace that has yet to materialize. It is a miracle, nearly as great a miracle as the victory itself, that they were not actually traded away a week afterward.
The only political obstacle to the destruction of Israel by its politicians, has been the unwillingness of its enemies to accept its surrender. Western powers have repeatedly badgered Israeli leaders into giving up the store, only for Muslim leaders to turn up their noses and demand everything.
Israel’s greatest strategic defeat did not happen in the Yom Kippur War in 1973, a war in which Israeli leaders, in conjunction with pressure from Washington D.C., crippled the military so badly that Israel was nearly destroyed. It happened in 1991, when Washington D.C. and Israeli Labor politicians finally talked Yasser Arafat into accepting Israel’s surrender, while lying to the Israeli people about the terms of that surrender.
The Israeli fighting man was able to brave the largest tank battles in history, but his leaders could not manage to hang on to the country’s national rights after the dead were buried and the wounded went home. No sooner do Israeli soldiers win a victory than their leaders rush to snatch it away from them and give it back, out of fear of what the world will think.
If Israel has a vital and active settlement movement, it is because Israelis know that their own leaders cannot be counted on to secure their rights. A Muslim in Israel has the same special privileges that a Muslim in Europe or a Muslim in America has. Any claim he makes is automatically treated as fact by the media, academia and the judiciary.
That is the situation locally in every country, and it is the situation globally. It is the situation in Israel, a place that the media lambasts as a monster grinding up and chewing Muslim babies, but where a Muslim can walk into court, with a handful of papers that would not stand up to serious scrutiny in any other jurisdiction, and lay claim to the land of a small village, which holds legal title and full papers to it. And the court will refuse to accept any alternative, but to speedily evict every man, woman and child from that land, while the conservative government will threaten to fire any minister that takes legislative action against that court’s decision.
It would be nice to think that this is some horrid exception, but it’s the usual course of affairs in a country where a conservative government is one that occasionally talks about taking action on Iran and prides itself on boldly laying claim to its own capital. Past Israeli governments have not been better. Many have been even worse. Their victories were not won by them; they were won for them. They were achieved through bold actions taken out of desperation, by farmers and workers with guns facing impossible tasks and more impossible odds.
All this makes the Six-Day War that much more impressive and awe-inspiring. An act of God done through the hands of fighting men in a country facing annihilation. And it is also a reminder that Israel’s survival does not depend on its governments. If past governments had been able to fully enact their peace agendas, there likely would be no Israel. Can such governments celebrate the Six-Day War? Do they have any right to take credit for what they have given away and what they intend to give away?