Distance: Jerusalem to Jericho 27 kms (17 miles)|
Source: Atlas of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 7th edition - Sir Martin Gilbert;
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor & Francis), 2002;
ISBN: 0415281172 (paperback),
0415281164 (hardback); Map: NPR Online
679 dead, 2563 wounded
21,000 dead, 45,000 wounded
Following a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, the Sinai - but not the Gaza strip - was returned to them 1980-1982. In September 2005 Israel withdrew the last of its troops from Gaza.
June 04, 2007
As Israel prepares to mark the 40th anniversary (in the Western calendar) of the Six Day War, Abraham Rabinovich in Jerusalem reports on the unexpected successes that made history
THE woman I stopped to ask for directions in downtown Jerusalem froze when she heard me speak English. "Haven't you left the country yet?" she asked. When I told her I had arrived only the day before, she relaxed and pointed the way.
It was June 1, 1967, four days before the outbreak of the Six Day War. Foreigners had been streaming out of the country since Egypt had begun moving its army into Sinai two weeks before, giving Israelis the sense they were being abandoned to a grim fate.
The plane from New York had been half-empty. One of the passengers was Mandy Rice-Davies, who had a role four years earlier in the Profumo Affair, a sex scandal that brought down Britain's war secretary. She had subsequently married an Israeli nightclub owner and was returning to her Tel Aviv home. She agreed to talk to a reporter. When I asked whether she was aware war might be imminent, she said that was the reason she was going back. "This is where I should be," she said.
The sirens that sounded at 8am on June 5 were followed a few minutes later by a radio announcer saying Egyptian armour and aircraft had begun moving towards Israel's border and that bitter fighting had broken out. No mention was made of the Israeli air force, which was in the process of carrying out a pre-emptive strike on Egyptian air bases.
The Jordanian front was still silent, including in Jerusalem, which had been divided between Israel and Jordan since 1948. Salesgirls stood barefoot in display windows fixing tape to the plate glass to prevent shattering. Men slapped blue paint over car headlights, leaving a tiny gap in the centre as blackout lights.
With the outbreak of war with Egypt, Israel's prime minister Levi Eshkol sent a message to Jordan's king Hussein bin Talal via UN observers in Jerusalem saying Israel had no intention of attacking Jordan.
Hussein feared the war's outcome, but was in no position to resist the pressure to join the battle coming from the Arab world, his own army and Jordan's largely Palestinian population. A week earlier, he had signed a defence pact with Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and placed his armed forces under the command of an Egyptian general.
About 10am, the sound of distant rifle fire could be heard. The Israeli command, focused on the battle with Egypt, ordered the Jerusalem Brigade, the home guard defending the capital, to respond in kind to the Jordanian attack, but not to escalate.
Shortly after 11am, the first artillery shells hit. The entrance I ducked into turned out to be that of City Hall. The mayor, Teddy Kollek, agreed to see me in his top-floor office. He wore the resigned look of someone who knew events were out of his hands. The army had just informed him of an intercepted telephone conversation between Nasser and Hussein in which Nasser asked the king to attack in order to ease the pressure on Egypt. "We didn't know if he would do it," Kollek said.
Jerusalem hoped fighting would be contained after Hussein had satisfied honour by his artillery "salute" and a dozen air sorties that did almost no damage. Long-distance guns on the West Bank had hit Tel Aviv suburbs, the international airport at Lod and the Ramat David airbase in northern Israel, but the Israeli High Command rejected requests by the commander of the central front, Major General Uzi Narkiss, for limited ground attacks near Jerusalem.
This mindset began to shift imperceptibly around midday. Radio Cairo announced at 10.30am that the Jordanian army had captured a hill south-east of Israeli Jerusalem occupied by the British Government House, now a demilitarised zone serving as UN Truce Supervision Organisation headquarters.
Two hours later, an outpost reported a company of Jordanian troops emerging from those headquarters on to Israeli territory and moving towards a nearby neighbourhood, the first ground incursion on the Jordanian front. A swift counter-attack drove the Jordanians back. Radio Cairo, meanwhile, quoted a Jordanian official as claiming the Israeli enclave on Jerusalem's Mount Scopus had been captured. The 1949 armistice ending Israel's War of Independence had left Israel in control of the Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital complex on Mount Scopus, 1km inside Jordanian Jerusalem on the north-east.
There had, in fact, not yet been an attack on Scopus but the Israeli command took the radio broadcast as a statement of intent, particularly since the announcement about the Government House compound had proved accurate, if premature.
Relief of the 120-man Scopus garrison became the pivot of Israel's operational considerations in Jerusalem. Narkiss would later maintain that were it not for these two seemingly marginal episodes - the Radio Cairo report of the capture of Mount Scopus and the actual takeover of Government House by Jordanian troops - the Israeli command would not have set its ground forces in motion and the West Bank would have remained Jordanian. If the Six Day War was born of misreadings by the parties of each other's intentions, the battle for Jerusalem and the West Bank was, at least from Israel's point of view, an afterthought not conceived of when the first day, Monday, began.
Further details from Wikipedia That Monday, the Israeli Jerusalem Brigade (Brigade 16) captured the British Government house and the positions to its south. At dawn on June 6, the second day of the war, the Israeli paratroop forces broke into the city line in the northern part, and then captured the neighborhoods north to the Old City and joined the isolated Mount Scopus. At noon on June 6, the Jerusalem Brigade broke the fences dividing the Abu Tor neighborhood just south of the Old City, and the neighborhood conquest completed its encirclement.
End of extract.
On Tuesday night, the second night of the war, the government met to decide the fate of the Old City. At foreign minister Abba Eban's suggestion, the cabinet declared the conquest of the walled city (small in area, just under one square kilometre) to be a military response to the Jordanian shelling. History, religion and national emotions were thus set aside in order to get on with the war. They would return to the fore soon enough.
At 4am on Wednesday, right-wing leader Menachem Begin telephoned defence minister Moshe Dayan to pass on a BBC report that the UN Security Council would that day call for a ceasefire. "We can't wait any more," he said. Dayan agreed. By mid-morning, an epic drama was played out on the monumental stage of the Temple Mount. On the platform of the Dome of the Rock, a long line of Arab prisoners moved past the Islamic shrine, guarded by helmeted paratroopers cradling Uzis. A few dozen Arab prisoners, all in civilian dress, knelt in a line facing a stone wall, hands on their heads, waiting to be called for interrogation.
The night before, most of the Jordanian battalion posted in the Old City click here for a map, had slipped out through Dung Gate in the southern wall, a part of the Jewish Quarter that had been captured by Jordan in 1948. A small number retained their arms and did battle when the Israeli troops broke in through Lion's Gate in the eastern wall, and others had gone into hiding.
The Arabs appeared stunned by the display of might casually bristling about them. The debacle on the Jordanian and Egyptian fronts was as incomprehensible as it was humiliating.
In all, 179 Israeli soldiers and 20 civilians had been killed in the battle for the city. The Jordanians lost 330 soldiers and an estimated 100 civilians.
An Israeli flag raised on the Dome of the Rock by paratroopers was taken down at the order of Dayan when he arrived on the Mount shortly after the break-in.
While paratroopers from the 55th Paratroop Brigade, under the command of Colonel Mordecai Gur, were securing the Old City, Colonel Uri Ben-Ari's armour rolled through Ramallah click here for a Google map and turned eastward. Shortly after noon, the brigade commander informed Narkiss that he was descending the hills towards Jericho, already visible to his forward units. Dayan cut into the radio net. "What's Uri doing near Jericho? Get him back immediately."
However, even as Ben-Ari was attempting to get his tanks turned around on the narrow mountain trails, word was received that Hussein had ordered his remaining forces to pull back from the West Bank across the Jordan. Ben-Ari was ordered to turn again and take Jericho. Logic of events was inexorably pulling Israel into occupation of the entire West Bank.
At his makeshift command post at the Binyanai Ha'ooma convention centre in Jerusalem, Narkiss was joined late on Wednesday afternoon by Dayan, chief of staff Yitzhak Rabin and other generals returning from the Old City. It was Rabin who focused the diffused impressions into a stark bottom line.
"How do we control a million Arabs?" he asked. "A million, 250,000," said another general. The numbers have since changed but the question, in one form or another, is still being asked four decades later.
Six days and 40 years since Israel asserted itself
The Australian - COMMENT
June 05, 2007
FORTY years after the Six Day War, the consequences of Israel's extraordinary victory are yet to be sorted out. Israel was a tiny Middle Eastern backwater in 1967, with a population of 2.6 million surrounded by a hostile Arab world of 80 million. This disparity seemed to defy the natural order of things and it was a virtual consensus in the Arab world that the Jewish state would fall, sooner rather than later. In Israel itself, the enthusiasm and energy that marked the founding of the state out of the ashes of the Holocaust had been dimmed by the petty problems of getting by in a country with a massive defence burden and a lame economy.
It was the Soviet Union, for reasons never adequately clarified, that lit the fuse that would transform the region. In mid-May 1967, it declared that Israel was massing troops in the north in preparation for an attack on Syria. Israeli prime minister Levi Eshkol offered to personally tour the north with the Soviet ambassador to show it wasn't true. The ambassador declined.
There had been small-scale skirmishing between Israel and Syria over the headwaters of the Jordan and Israeli leaders had issued warnings, but there was no massing of troops. Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, the leading figure in the Arab world, felt impelled to come to Syria's aid by moving his divisions through the Sinai desert towards Israel. With a hostile army deploying on its border, Israel mobilised its reserves.
Nothing happened for more than two weeks. But mobilisation had paralysed the Israeli economy and Jerusalem had to either stand down or strike. On the morning of June 5, Israeli planes, flying low to avoid radar, suddenly rose into the Egyptian skies. Within three hours, the Egyptian air force was destroyed. Soon after, the Jordanian, Syrian and part of the Iraqi air forces were gone, too.
On the third day of the war, the West Bank and Jordanian Jerusalem fell. Syria's Golan Heights followed. The Arab world was stunned, Israel euphoric. The war catapulted Israel into a new era. Brimful of self-confidence and renewed energy, it attracted Jewish immigrants from the West and more than a million from the Soviet Union. Since 1967, Israel's population has tripled to 7.1 million (of whom 1.4 million are Israeli Arabs), its gross national product has grown by 630 per cent and per capita income has almost tripled to $21,000.
A major result of the Six Day War was to persuade the Arab world that Israel was too strong to be defeated. Internalising that view, Nasser's successor, Anwar Sadat, became in 1970 the first Arab leader to declare readiness to make peace with Israel if it withdrew from all territory it had captured in the Six Day War. Israel insisted, however, on territorial changes.
It took the 1973 Yom Kippur War to persuade Israel to withdraw from all Egyptian territory and for Egypt to agree to peace without insisting on Israel's withdrawal on other fronts as well.
The Oslo accords in 1993, marking the beginning of a dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians, also enabled Jordan to make peace with Israel without being accused of betraying the Palestinian cause.
In 2000, Syria announced its readiness for peace. Though negotiations with Damascus broke down, virtually the entire Arab world now accepted the legitimacy, or at least the existence, of the Jewish state in its midst.
But increasing radicalisation has brought to the Palestinian leadership a movement dedicated to Israel's destruction. If there is an answer for Israel, it lies, as in 1967, in bold and imaginative leadership - but this time on the political playing field.
**End of Both Articles