50 years on, Israel takes a look-don’t-touch approach to Six Day War
Hebrew media review

50 years on, Israel takes a look-don’t-touch approach to Six Day War

An atomic revelation sends shockwaves through the press; pundits see little point in undoing the actual territorial gains in the West Bank

Smoke rising from targets hit by Israeli artillery at the Suez Canal during the Six Day War. (Han Micha/Government Press Office)
Smoke rising from targets hit by Israeli artillery at the Suez Canal during the Six Day War. (Han Micha/Government Press Office)

In the Bible, a 50-year Jubilee would mean everything was supposed to return to the way it was, with property going back to its original owner. Fifty years after the outbreak of the Six Day War, a look at the Israeli press Sunday morning shows little intention to turn back the clock, though an atomic revelation sends a shockwave through the media landscape and transports readers back to the tough decisions made in that fateful spring of 1967.

In other words, you can look at the war, but don’t touch its gains.

The New York Times revelation that Israel kicked around the idea of setting off an atomic blast in the Sinai desert as the Six Day War neared gets big play in both tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth and broadsheet Haaretz.

While Haaretz runs a translation of The New York Times story (the paper is part of the Times’s international network), Yedioth Ahronoth has a lot more to say, especially as its writer Ronen Bergman was told the secret 16 years ago, but kept his mouth shut for fear of the military censor.

Under the headline “Operation Judgment Day,” as the plan was called, Bergman explains that Gen. Yitzhak Yaakov told both Avner Cohen, who gave the info to the New York Times, and him about the plan.

However, Yaakov then told them the info needed to go through the censor (and he was eventually arrested for telling Bergman the secret), keeping it wrapped up.

Despite having been in the room, though, Bergman offers little more insight than one would get from reading the New York Times story based on Cohen’s recordings of Yaakov.

While the revelation is being hailed as the last big secret of the war, what’s well known is the fact that even without splitting atoms, Israel managed to demolish the Arab armies that were readying to attack it in just a few days. In Israel Hayom’s op-ed page, Efraim Kam writes that the victory (together with 1973’s) was important in showing that waging war for revanchist aims would not work for Israel’s neighbors.

“In 1967, the IDF took the Sinai in four days, and at the same time took the West Bank in two days, and afterward the Golan,” he writes. “The war brought about a revolution in Arab thinking on Israel. Arab leaders understood from here on out that Israel was stronger militarily than all the Arab countries, even a coalition of them. In the Arab view, the goal of war changed: Until the Six Day War, the goal was destroying the results of 1948, i.e., destroying Israel. Afterward it became destroying the results of 1967, i.e., returning land Israel captured in 1967. Destroying Israel was no longer mentioned.”

In a similar vein, in Yedioth Ahronoth’s op-ed page, Gilad Sharon writes that Israel was correct to capture and hold onto the West Bank. To prove his point, the writer creates an alternative reality in which Israel gives back the West Bank right away.

“Assume we left the territory immediately, what would happen then? Would the hatred of us disappear? We would again have to put our lives in borders that don’t allow a millimeter of breathing space, with Arab calls to ‘erase the Zionist entity’ continuing. What would the Arabs think? That war against Israel has no downside. If you win, you throw the Jews into the sea, and if you lose nothing happens,” he writes.

He need not worry. With Israel likely approving plans for some 2,000 new units in the West Bank this week, signs seem to point to little chance of Israel ending its 50-year presence or occupation (take your pick), in the West Bank during the Trump era.

Haaretz’s lead editorial, though, calls for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make a Trump-esque compromise modeled on not moving the US Embassy, i.e., refraining from taking action now that might imperil peace.

“Anyone who wants to maximize chances for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement should refrain from building in the settlements. Similarly, if in the future areas come under Israeli sovereignty in a diplomatic agreement, Israel will be able to build in those areas without any problem and without breaching international law, as is happening today. Netanyahu can act like Trump: not declare a construction freeze but postpone meetings of the planning council until further notice,” the editorial reads.

Other items making headlines have to do with problems that were barely a blip on the radar in 1967. Israel Hayom’s lead story is an exclusive blowing the lid off a plan to photograph every car that enters Jerusalem, in a massive increase in the number of cameras in the capital to help fight crime. The paper puts the plan in a positive light, which is just as Big Brother would like it.

“There will be no Israeli citizen who isn’t photographed,” the paper quotes a senior police source saying. “This is a unique project that will give is a better situational assessment for both hazards and solving criminal incidents.”

Haaretz’s top story deals with the Shiite crescent that Israel fears is being formed from Iran to Lebanon, reporting that Israeli forces are now closely monitoring the Iraq-Syria border, where this corridor will be bridged.

“The Syria-Iraq border is at the moment the most important place in the region. That’s where the regional picture will be determined,” the paper quotes Intelligence Ministry head Chagai Tzuriel saying (basically repeating comments he has made to several other outlets, including The Times of Israel, in the past several months). “Iran, with the assistance of the Shi’ite militias and the cooperation of other forces, continues to take steps whose goal is strengthening its hold in Syria.”

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