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Days after 67 war, 94% said Israel should keep Old City, 81% said Israel should retain West Bank

Surveys reveal a hawkish Israel immediately after Six Day War

Majority wanted to keep conquered territories, few were willing to make major concessions for peace amid hostility to Arabs

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Jews converge on the Western Wall to pray in the aftermath of the Six Day War, June 17, 1967. (From the collection of Dan Hadani, National Library of Israel).
Jews converge on the Western Wall to pray in the aftermath of the Six Day War, June 17, 1967. (From the collection of Dan Hadani, National Library of Israel).

In the immediate aftermath of the Six Day War in 1967, an overwhelming majority of Israelis thought the country should hold onto the territories just conquered, and very few favored major concessions for peace, according to survey material released Wednesday by the Israel Democracy Institute to coincide with the country’s marking of Jerusalem Day.

Four in ten people thought Israel should rule the newly conquered Palestinians by military law, the polls indicated, while 28 percent favored transferring them to other Arab countries.

The figures come from a series of surveys carried out by the IDI’s Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research (then the Guttman Center) just before, during and after the war, which saw Israel conquer the West Bank — including East Jerusalem — from the Jordanians, the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria.

Wednesday’s celebration of Jerusalem Day marked 50 years since the reunification of the city in 1967, according to the Hebrew calendar.

Army Chief Chaplain Rabbi Shlomo Goren, surrounded by IDF soldiers, blows the shofar in front of the Western Wall during the Six Day War, June 7, 1967. (David Rubinger/Government Press Office)
Army Chief Chaplain Rabbi Shlomo Goren, surrounded by IDF soldiers, blows the shofar in front of the Western Wall during the Six Day War, June 7, 1967. (David Rubinger/Government Press Office)

According to the Western calendar, Israeli paratroopers advanced through the Old City and took the Temple Mount and Western Wall — Judaism’s most venerated sites — on June 7, 1967.

Jews had been banned from visiting these sites, under Jordanian rule, since 1948.

During surveys carried out between June 11 and June 16 after the war ended on June 10, 94% of respondents thought that Israel should continue to hold on to Jerusalem’s Old City, 81% felt that Israel should hold on to the West Bank, 72% wanted the country to retain Gaza, but only 33% were interested in maintaining the Sinai Peninsula.

On questions of possible peace, 62% were in favor of small concessions, with only 9% willing for the country to make large concessions.

Respondents were almost evenly split on whether they thought the Arab countries would be willing to talk about peace.

The survey also revealed considerable anti-Arab feeling among Israelis, more than half of whom (54%) had never visited an Arab home in Israel.

The late former Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, center, shown as commander of an armored division in the Sinai during the Six Day War (Courtesy Israel Defense Force Archive)
The late former prime minister, Ariel Sharon, second from right, shown as commander of an armored division in the Sinai during the Six Day War (Courtesy Israel Defense Forces Archive)

Only a quarter of those polled thought Arab citizens of Israel should integrate into the life of the country, with the same rights and responsibilities as Jews.

More than two-thirds (67%) were unwilling to live in a mixed neighborhood, and 53% did not want to have Arabs living in the same building.

Regarding Palestinian Arabs living in land just occupied by Israel, only one in 10 respondents favored allowing them to create a state of their own.

The war began in the wake of mounting tensions between Israel and its neighbors which included Egypt’s decision to close the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and to mobilize forces along its border with Israel in the Sinai Peninsula.

Israel launched preemptive strikes against Egyptian airfields, wiping out nearly the entire Egyptian air force.

Israel ceded the Sinai Peninsula for peace with Egypt in 1979, after the signing of the 1978 Camp David Accords.

Prime Minister Menachem Begin (L) with President Jimmy Carter (C) and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt at Camp David in September 1978. (photo credit: CC BY-SA Jeff Kubina, Flickr)
Prime Minister Menachem Begin, left, with President Jimmy Carter, center, and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt at Camp David in September 1978. (photo credit: CC BY-SA Jeff Kubina/Flickr)

It withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but is still fighting the terror group Hamas which rules the enclave and which is committed to destroying the Jewish state.

The Golan Heights was annexed by Israel, though this has not been recognized internationally.

Israel’s continued control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem has deeply divided Israeli public opinion. Israel has annexed the Old City and the rest of East Jerusalem, but not the West Bank.

Supporters of “Greater Israel” advocate strengthening Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria — the area’s biblical names — to bolster security and to express the Jewish people’s historical right to the biblical Land of Israel.

Those who favor withdrawal from the territories taken in 1967 believe territorial compromise is a prerequisite for peace and fear that continued Israeli rule over a reluctant Palestinian population that will soon overtake Israel’s population in size constitutes a threat to Israel’s democratic character.

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