There has been an explosion of writing about the Six Day War as we find ourselves at the 40th anniversary. Unfortunately, it would appear that there is a rather negative consensus. It goes like this: On the one hand Israel had an amazing victory in the war. On the other hand, everything since then has been bungled... the settlements, the Palestinians. The Six Day War is where all the problems of the Middle East began.
So let us deal with a few issues. An interview with Michael Oren in the jpost will help us:
Question Do you agree ... that the Six Day War was wasted and that it has caused more problems than it solved?
Michael Oren: ...If Israel had lost the Six-Day War, it would not exist today. Yes, it is true that the Six-Day War precipitated the controversy surrounding Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, the conflict over Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem, and contributed to the rise of Palestinian terror. But without Israel's 1967 victory, there would today be no peace between Israel and Egypt or Israel and Jordan. If the West Bank and Gaza remained under Jordanian and Egyptian occupation, as they were in 1967, there would be no talk today of creating a Palestinian state in those territories. And if Israel had not proven its military mettle over the course of six intense days, there would be no strategic alliance between the United States and the Jewish state...
In other words, the war was necessary to show our neighbours that they cannot defeat Israel, that the acquisitions of the war lead directly to the Peace deals with Egypt and Jordan, and that it forged a strategic alliance with the U.S. These are significant achievements.
But was a war really necessary?
Question: In recent times, renewed questions have arisen as to whether Egypt was indeed going to attack Israel at all at that time ...
Michael Oren: We know from Egyptian documents that the Egyptian army prepared a detailed plan for bombing strategic sites throughout Israel and for cutting Israel in half with a combined armored and infantry thrust. The plan, codenamed "The Dawn " (or al-Fajr), was set to be implemented on May 27 but was blocked when the United States and the Soviet Union together pressured the Egyptians not to attack.
Could Israel have returned the territories after the war?
Q: Do you think if Israel had offered all the territory it had conquered in 1967, including east Jerusalem, back to Jordan, Syria and Egypt the day after the war ended they would have accepted them in exchange for peace?
Michael Oren: Absolutely not. The Arab states were categorical in declaring their refusal to grant Israel peace or recognition, or even to negotiate with it in return for the territories.