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January 1, 2017 7:36 am

A New Book on the Six-Day War Should Be Required Reading for President Trump

avatar by Jack Riemer / JNS.org

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Israeli reconnaissance forces from the "Shaked" unit in the Sinai region during the 1967 Six-Day War. Photo: Matanya via Wikimedia Commons.

Israeli reconnaissance forces from the Shaked unit in the Sinai region during the 1967 Six-Day War. Photo: Matanya via Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org — Guy Laron’s forthcoming book, The Six-Day War: The Breaking of the Middle East — to be published, fittingly, around the war’s 50th anniversary — is both impressive and disheartening, and it should be required reading for US President-elect Donald Trump.

Laron delved into the archives of different governments and thoroughly documents the mindset of the leaders of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Russia and the US in the days preceding the war, describing circumstances in which none of these countries really meant to go to battle, but political leadership, despite their misgivings, reluctantly capitulated to the pressure of the military.

There is a fundamental principle in the US that political leaders should set policy, while military leaders should carry it out, but — as former US President Dwight Eishenhower, himself a general in World War II, warned and as Laron corroborates — there is a powerful “military-industrial complex” that should have us all concerned. Yet, President-elect Trump is constructing a cabinet dominated by generals and business executives. I’m sure that Trump is very busy with other matters these days, but perhaps this book should be on his reading list, not only for what it can teach him about the Middle East of 50 years ago, but for what it can teach him about America today.

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Laron describes the power struggle in Egypt between President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who was primarily concerned with the country’s economic problems, and General Abdel Hakim Amer, who was eager for a confrontation with Israel and pushed rumors that the Jewish state would invade unless Egypt struck first. In Syria, the Ba’ath political party butted heads with its military-dominated rivals. The Jordan king wanted to stay out of the 1967 fight because he understood how poorly-trained and ill-equipped his soldiers were, but he feared a coup by army leaders if he didn’t agree to enter the war.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol hoped for peace and Foreign Minister Abba Eban wanted to ensure American support before going to war, but defense officials Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin and Yigal Allon believed that a surprise attack which destroyed the Egyptian air force on the ground was the only way to win a war that they were certain was inevitable.

The cover of “The Six-Day War: The Breaking of the Middle East,” by Guy Laron. Photo: Yale University Press.

The cover of ‘The Six-Day War: The Breaking of the Middle East,’ by Guy Laron. Photo: Yale University Press.

Behind all four of these countries were global superpowers, who sometimes goaded the Mideast nations to fight and at other times cautioned them to have patience. Laron writes that the Soviet Union government was divided between two groups with contradictory policies, one encouraging the Arab countries to fight — even hying them up with claims based on no evidence that Israel was amassing troops on their borders — and the other telling Egypt and Syria to stay out of a conflict that they were bound to lose. The US urged patience but made no commitments, except vowing to do what it could to keep Russia from intervening.

And so Israel, Syria, Egypt and Jordan slipped into war, each one convinced that they needed to do so because the other side was about to attack.

The war was an astonishing success for Israel. The country tripled in size by conquering the Sinai, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem. Before the war, Israel was bracing for a second Holocaust. After the war, it was suddenly a mighty military force. Israelis who lived in a cramped and crowded country suddenly felt that they had room to breathe — no wonder they were euphoric. But very few people realized at the time that every success also brings problems. Nobody thought much about the fact that with all this new territory that Israel had acquired, the Jewish state had also acquired hundreds of thousands of new and hostile people to govern beyond the 1967 lines. Nobody understood that with the euphoria of 1967 came a settlement movement embodied by the refusal to surrender of any land whatsoever in peace talks. Nobody realized that experiencing humiliating defeat would lead to even more intransigence within the Arab world. And so today — 50 years later — the Six-Day War still hasn’t ended.

This book shows that leaders sometimes make decisions on foreign policy for psychological reasons. Sometimes they go to war in order to maintain their personal popularity and their ability to govern. Readers will learn that it’s sometimes much easier for leaders to go to war than to make peace. So perhaps, despite everything else on his calendar right now, this is a book the president-elect should read. At the very least, we ordinary citizens should read it.

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  • Shmuel Klatzkin

    The assertion that there was even more Arab intransigence after the Six Day War is exactly that – an assertion. Since actually peace treaties did eventually follow the Six Day War and none had come about, or were even pending, during the 1948 – 1967 period, we are left to wonder whether the assertion is historically credible or merely another way to regret that Jews have been enabled to settle more widely in their historical homeland and in their capital, all predicated on the false and noxious assumption that if we regret that hard enough, our enemies will love us and not contest our settlement in any part of the Holy Land, save possibly as dhimmis.

  • Paul Winter

    Laron’s book is pure tripe if the comment that the “settlers” would not give up any land for peace correctly sums up the thrust of the book. Perhaps Laron never heard of the Khartoum Declaration’s 3 NOs. Or of Barak’s and Olmert’s offers that were rejected by the Arab. And are we to seriously believe that if Israel had taken more casualties and if the war had been prolonged the Arab ego would have been more open to making peace? Fiction and anti-Zionist historical revision should not be portrayed as history.

  • alRassooli

    The WORST mistake after the brilliant success of 1967 was showing magnanimity to Muslims by allowing the WAQF (Muslims) to control the Temple Mount.

    Had Israel taken full control of it at that time, NOTHING would have been done to counter her by anyone especially since at that time Jerusalem was not on the radar of ‘spiritual or historical Islam’

    Muslims and Islam had declared TOTAL WAR against none Muslim humanity 1400 years ago and will continue this war until and unless WE none Muslims STOP them.

    Dear Infidels/ Kuffar/ None Muslims, it is VITAL that you realize that one does not need more than two brain cells of logic to understand Muslims & Islam in a nutshell~

    Since every Muslim is Sharia compliant, every Muslim cannot ever be a Law abiding LOYAL citizen in ANY none Muslim nation because these nations do not submit to Allah’s Sharia.

    Hence every Muslim is the enemy of every none Muslim Infidel/ Kafir on planet Earth (80% of current of none Muslim humanity)

    Every Muslim is a potential Mass Murderer the instant he/ she decides that he/she is NOT Sharia compliant enough

    Every Muslim is therefore a hair trigger Time Bomb primed to go off

    Only in the WARPED imagination of our elites can one find Moderate Militant Radical or Extremist Muslims because in reality Muslims are Muslims just as Nazis are Nazis and no one ever addressed Nazis as Moderate Militant Radical or Extremist

    All other explanations are superfluous and redundant

    It is time for every decent human being to go out in the street and declares these TRUTHS in public and always counter attack the apologists for Muslims and Islam with the FACTS above to utterly discredit them in public

    IQ al Rassooli
    Kafir & Proud!
    http://www.alrassooli.com

  • ANI N DA UK

    I disagree with the premise that Israel was about to attack, as the Arab’s were broadcasting that Israel was about to be destroyed. If the beginning statement is false, why should anyone continue to read?

  • brenrod

    trump likely read the true story years ago.. why is algemeiner propagandizing this revisionist rubbish.. The arabs were the most despicable in their threats towards the jews threatening total annihilation. disgusting

  • brenrod

    this is the most despicable revisionist rubbish I have ever read. this laughable rubblish trying to cast the arab nations as being confused and misled. Total rubbish… dont be fooled.. the arab nations used every despicable anti semitic attack for months prior beleiving they would wipe out the Jews.. There was no mistake here , their goal was to slaughter the Jews and any narrative otherwise is dishonest. The same exists today even though they seek to pretend to be civilized.

  • LtcHoward

    At this point I would advise independent qualified evaluation of this book.

    Having been involved in US advisory groups to various Arab countries and having been involved in US discussions at the White House level for numerous American administrations, I can testify that things are much more complex than the author describes.

  • watsa46

    However he Jews never made war against the Muslims or anybody else!

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