"Israel's Wasted Victory," this is the headline of The Economist's editorial marking 40 years since the Six Day War. The Economist boasts a circulation of more than one million copies and its readership comprises members of the world's financial, political and cultural elites. The articles written by its authors (the majority of which go unsigned) are perceived as God's words. "The Economist says" - is a ruling that goes unchallenged in many circles.
Nonetheless, in describing the Six Day War as a "Pyrrhic victory" and "a calamity for the Jewish state no less than for its neighbors," The Economist is making a grave mistake. The Six Day War changed the course of history for the better, ensured Israel's existence and convinced the Arabs to come to terms with it. Thanks to Israel's full and shining victory, the rulers of the Arab states relinquished their vision of eliminating Israel, and by lack of choice engaged in dialogue based on the concept of "land for peace."
In his book "The Six Day War," historian Michael Oren wrote that events in the Middle East, which until 1967 only culminated ahead of the conflict, could have moved towards peace even after the war. He added that diplomatic breakthroughs considered unrealistic became almost commonplace after the war.
In November of that year, the UN Security Council passed resolution 242, which since then has constituted a cornerstone for every diplomatic effort in the region including the recent Saudi Initiative.
Resolution 242 called for "just and lasting peace" between Arabs and Jews; Israel endorsed it immediately. It took Egypt another decade to internalize 242 and to sign a peace agreement with Israel in exchange for return of the Sinai.
The maturation process took Jordan an additional 20 years. Syria announced its willingness to sign a full normalization agreement with Israel in January 2000. Here is therefore, a basic fact: Due to Israel's military victory in June 1967, Israel was accepted by the Arab world as a legitimate "Jewish State" entitled to exist within peaceful borders, land that until then was deemed Zionist occupation.
Somehow, The Economist manages to ignore these developments and minimizes their significance. The editorial focuses on Israeli-Palestinian relations. Israel, wrote The Economist, "embarked on its hubristic folly of annexing the Arab half of Jerusalem and - in defiance of law, demography and common sense - planting Jewish settlements in all the occupied territories to secure a Greater Israel." And "When, decades later, Egypt and Jordan did make peace with Israel, the Palestinians did not recover Gaza and the West Bank."
The Palestinians did not recover Gaza and the West Bank? Until 1967, Gaza and the West Bank were territories administered by Egypt and Jordan. It may well be assumed that that the Jordanian regime would not have permitted Palestinian refugees, their children and grandchildren to realize their national sovereignty in Gaza and the West Bank and to establish the Palestinian state there.
As to criticism regarding Israel's acts of annexation and settlement since 1967, large parts of the Israeli population share these sentiments, including the author of this article. Under the charismatic and destructive influence of Moshe Dayan, at the end of the Six Day War the government chose to prevent Palestinian autonomy, oppressed Palestinian rights and subjugated the Palestinian workforce to the interests of Israeli employers. This is indeed "hubristic folly."
But is it only ours? The "Land for Peace" movement immediately challenged the Greater Israel movement, and they divided Israeli society from within. Not Palestinian society.
It should be said unabashedly: Had the Palestinians really wanted a state of their own it would have been established long ago; even Israel's excessive military might would not have sufficed in preventing its establishment within some type of border.
Yet the Palestinians prefer a state of "no state," no responsibility, no commitments and no solution, alongside ongoing terror. Generation after generation, Palestinian nationalism has excelled in denouncement. Had Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres not unwillingly dragged the PLO leadership to the Oslo Accords in 1993 it would not have initiated a thing by itself.
The Economist is very wrong. For Israel, the victory of 1967 was not wasted. Israel's population grew from 2.6 million to 7.1 million, 2 million of whom were new immigrants. The Gross National Product grew by 630 percent. Real per capita product, the benchmark for measuring economic development, grew by 163 percent and last year crossed the $21,000 mark. The average standard of living in Israel is only 22 percent lower than in Britain; on the eve of the Six Day War there was a 44 percent gap. And The Economist has often noted Israel's information technology achievements.
Among Palestinians, however, the situation has deteriorated drastically. Are we to blame? Yes, it is our fault as well as theirs. Two states for two peoples: If this vision was wasted, it was not so because of the Six Day War, but despite it. And if it is realized, it will be another outcome of the Arab plan's defeat in June 1967.