Editorials in the New York Daily News

Two terrific editorials appeared in the New York Daily News upon the 40th anniversary of the miraculous Six-Day War.  Our only slight disagreement is that victory is attributed to Moshe Dayan, whereas we feel God had something to do with it...



Forty years ago this morning, Israel took decisive military action to stave off annihilation promised by a belligerent Arab world led by Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser. In just six miraculous days, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan destroyed the armies and air forces of three Arab states and tripled the land under Israeli control. And since then, Israel's leaders - Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon - made brave choices to preserve a peace. But on the Arab side - save for Anwar Sadat, who paid with his life - peacemakers have been few.

For the Israeli-Arab conflict has never been about land. Not in 1948, not in 1956, not in 1967, not today. It is about the refusal of too many Arabs to live in the same world with the Jewish state that history made their neighbor.

In 1967, there was no Israeli plan to seize land. The only plan was to keep the ranting nationalist Nasser and his followers from pushing Israel into the sea. Israel could live with Nasser's mere ravings, but then Nasser ordered a UN buffer force out of the Sinai Peninsula and moved his army into it, and then he signed a military pact with Jordan. Said another Nasser ally, Iraq: "The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear - to wipe Israel off the map."

That's the same language coming today from the death merchants of Hamas and Hezbollah and non-Arab Iran. Back then - before Israel ever won the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Old City of Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria - the threats were backed up by Arab armies massing on three fronts. Israel didn't wait to be destroyed. Dayan sent aloft his entire air force - at just 200 warplanes, outnumbered 3 to 1 - at 7:46 a.m. June 5, 1967, to target Nasser's planes. Two hours later, attacked by both Jordan and Iraq, Israel struck back at their airfields. Syria attacked at noon - and Israel demolished the Syrian Air Force.

"We have defeated Israel on the first day of the battle," brayed Nasser's radio. "Bid farewell, Israel."

But the air war was over. Arab forces had lost 452 planes; Israel, 19. Gaza was taken June 6. The next day, Dayan's troops freed the Old City, under Jordanian occupation for 19 years. The day after, the Sinai and the West Bank fell. On June 10, Israeli soldiers scaled the cliffs of the Golan Heights.

The unified Arab response: No recognition, no negotiations, no peace with Israel.

There was no hope of that for a decade, until Nasser's successor, Sadat, took it upon himself to broker sanity. He was later followed by Jordan's King Hussein. Today, Syria rejects peace, encouraging and abetting the blind hatred of Hamas and Hezbollah. Iran is seeking nuclear arms. The Palestinians war among themselves and lob rockets into Israel from Gaza, territory that was ceded to them voluntarily. And the Arab world stands on the sidelines.

Land? Not the issue. Not in 1967, not today. The issue is that there are no Arab peacemakers. Not in 1967. Not today.

Forty years ago tomorrow, Israel wielded its terrible swift sword against the attack-poised armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan - and saved the Jewish state from destruction.

It was the Six-Day War, and the fledgling state's stunning victory over enemies determined to annihilate it galvanized the world and changed the Mideast map - perhaps forever.

I was one of the handful of foreign correspondents who reached the front during that monumentally brief battle. I was in Sinai on the first day, then returned north and managed to enter Gaza just as that benighted city was falling to Israel's largely civilian tank corps. Then it was on to Jerusalem.

Like anyone who believes in the justice of Israel's existence, I was deeply relieved by its victory on June 10. I had heard the bloodthirsty Arab threats of a new Holocaust. I had seen the "Kill the Jews" posters in Gaza schools. I had seen the bunkers and mass graves that Israel had been forced to dig in expectation of invasion, if not defeat.

Yet, as we mark its 40th anniversary, it's become fashionable in some circles to rewrite the history of the Six-Day War. Radicals, so-called "humanitarians" and others who love to hate Israel now claim that what was essentially a war for survival was in fact just an excuse for Zionist imperialism. Even serious journals like Britain's The Economist say that while the war may have been necessary, it has ultimately proven "a calamity for the Jewish state."

How ridiculous! Despite the seemingly insoluble problems that have arisen over the past four decades - not the least of them, Israel's continuing rule over occupied territories and a million-plus hostile Palestinians - the war was not only necessary, it was one of Israel's finest hours.

If we are to be honest about the lessons learned, it's that many in the Mideast will never, ever stop until they can wipe Israel off the map - and therefore Israel must never succumb to naivete. Indeed, the core of Palestinians - then and now - reject the legitimacy of the Jewish state, seek its dismantlement and blame it for all Palestinian woes. What self-destruction!

There is no doubt that, in part because of self-inflicted strategic mistakes, Israel is now in its weakest position in years. Its government is faltering. Its current prime minister badly mismanaged last year's Lebanese War and is now the least popular Israeli leader in history. Its once powerful Labor Party is in disarray - its party chief, inept Defense Minister Amir Peretz, has been ousted from his job in an election that left the title of party boss, and that of Labor's next candidate for prime minister, contested by former Premier Ehud Barak and former intelligence chief Ami Ayalon.

These days, Israel's leaders are not doing its history - or its people - justice. But what ultimately must unite them, what will unite them, is the fact that 40 years after the Six-Day War, those eager to snuff out the Zionist flame still have it surrounded.

Shortly after the fighting stopped in the summer of 1967, I interviewed Golda Meir and asked her to sum up the importance of Israel's victory. "The only way to understand," she said, "is to imagine what would have happened if we had lost the war."

I still shudder to think. Israel's foes are eager to make the past prologue - only this time, with a different victor.

Link: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2007/06/05/2007-06-05_six_days_and_40_years.html