Look around. Most Israelis next to have grown up into the results of the Six-Day War. The security, the economic prosperity, the Gush Emunim and Peace Now movements, the peace talk rounds, withdrawals and temporary agreements. Fifty years is a long time and few remember what happened earlier. Most people have grown up into a fabricated political dispute which serves as an excuse for almost everything taking place here. The “occupation” as a code word, ignoring the fact that the Palestinian Liberation Organization was founded in the Seven Arches Hotel three years earlier to liberate the 1948 “occupation”; ignoring the background and roots of the conflict; ignoring the strategic meaning of a state whose eastern border is in the 1967 lines.
To understand how the Six-Day War turned into the biggest excuse in history, let’s jump forward to 2048—the celebration of the State of Israel’s first 100 years. More than any other Jewish state which ever existed. Benjamin Netanyahu will no longer be prime minister, I promise. The tribalism which is being nurtured devoutly by some of the coalition’s politicians will become moderate—otherwise, we won’t get there. The Israeli-Arab conflict will still be in full force. The hatred, the incitement, the poverty and the backwardness will keep spreading in Arab states. Technology will solve security problems from the south and from the north, but it won’t change human nature.
I’m starting with the future, because then it will be easier to address the Six-Day War in its proper place. From a distance of 100 years, the history and civics books will define the first quarter of the century as the survival quarter, followed by the absorption quarter, the technology and development quarter, and finally—the quarter no one knew how to plan.
The war only changed borders
Three wars shaped the State of Israel—the most important war was in 1948. The big occupation starts there. The Six-Day War only changed the borders, not the essence of the battle. The euphoria was as large as the removed threat. The dozens of graves that were dug on the eve of the war and the plans to eliminate the civilian population disappeared at once. Finally, in 1973, came the big victory of the Yom Kippur War (yes, I know that people usually look at this war from its starting points rather than through the great achievements of its ending) which reminded us, on the other hand, that euphoria and arrogant leaders could claim lives.
These three wars turned Israel into a regional power with a greater economic and military strength than any other country in the region. In only 25 years, a young state was fortified despite Arab invasions and genocide plans. The area was expanded to posts that can be defended militarily and strategically—the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights—and since then, Israel has been fighting wars of choice. A battle for consciousness rather than for survival.
Whoever claims today that the Six-Day War changed us is talking out of wishful thinking, out of a childish dream in which we could have existed within the borders of small Israel and made peace with everyone around us. If only we had won and pulled out, according to this dream, everything would have been fine.
Israel lived under the danger of extinction for 19 years before the Six-Day War. Its laws were emergency laws. Its democracy was shaky. David Ben-Gurion, the man without whom we wouldn’t have a state, spied on opposition members. Israeli Arabs lived under tough military rule and Shin Bet supervision. The government Judaized the Negev and the Galilee without thinking twice. It built and established enterprises without one attorney general. The only restriction on corruption was internal ethics and the youth movement values. Those were painfully beautiful years. The most beautiful songs, the most beautiful outfits, the most beautiful girls, the most silent rabbis and the best clichés. Naïve and dangerous years.
Our situation is much better than those 19 years—not just from a security and economic perspective, but also under the criteria of those who are lamenting democracy. Israel, contrary to the claims, is not marching towards a binational state; it is marching towards a separation from the Palestinians as much as it can. In Gaza, we have completely separated from them (we still pay the electricity and water), and in Judea and Samaria there is a demilitarized semi-state with a political separation, but with no military separation. The Allon Plan is being implemented before our eyes.
Plenty of mistakes
When a historical event is just an excuse, occupation corrupts. Can we do without a military presence in Judea and Samaria? The answer is no. The only place where we have done that in an absolute manner is the Gaza Strip, and we still have to go back there every two or three years for a military operation. Elor Azaria is not the product of 50 years, but of a self-failure and a command failure. Breaking the Silence are not a product of anything either. These are the products of military service in the Middle East: A place where a Palestinian girl reminds you that we’re all human beings, while another girl attacks you with a knife. A Middle East where Muslims massacre each other and 2017 is similar in its brutality more than ever to 1017.
I wish things were different, but that’s impossible, which is why the preoccupation with the Six-Day War is an excuse. The supporters of the excuse and of the utopic solution are finding it difficult to accept the fact that the Arab states are deteriorating to more and more violence. It’s hard to believe that Muslims are massacring Muslims, that the natural aspiration to simply live in peace does not exist when refugeeism and hatred are nurtured. Neither a local initiative nor a Saudi initiative will change that. Neither US President Donald Trump, nor Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon.
And most importantly, Israel should have had a clear geographical-strategic vision, rather than leaders who mumble in accordance with the US president. A sea of mistakes. But would we have been able to survive without those victories? Without a large part of the settlements which established facts and the eastern border in the Jordan Valley? When we get rid of the excuse for the reality of the villa in the jungle, the answer is no.