Memoirs of Jordanian official reveal unpublished details about Six Day War

"Egypt was not ready for war. The decision to go to war was 100% wrong."

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August 29, 2019 03:23
FIGHTING AT Ammunition Hill, site of one of the fiercest battles of the Six Day War

FIGHTING AT Ammunition Hill, site of one of the fiercest battles of the Six Day War. (photo credit: D. ROSENBLUM/STARPHOTO)

Newly published memoirs of former Jordanian prime minister and defense minister Prince Zaid Ibn Shaker discuss unpublished information about the details of the 1967 Six Day War and discussions between King Hussein of Jordan and former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. The memoirs have been published by A Sharq Al-Awsat ahead of a full book which will be published in September.  

The publication of these memoirs is important since Ibn Shaker was one of the closest officials to King Hussein and accompanied him for decades, according to Rose al-Yūsuf.

"King Hussein was a national and Arab man first and there was great pressure and distortion campaigns in that period. Unfortunately, he entered the war with Egypt," said Maj. Gen. Dr. Mahmoud Khalaf, an advisor to the Nasser Higher Military Academy who participated in the 1967 war.

"Egypt was not ready for war. The decision to go to war was 100% wrong. The main forces of Egypt were in Yemen, and the reserve forces were summoned in civilian clothes, suddenly, and they declared a state of emergency and raised the level of preparedness."

In his memoirs, Ibn Shaker wrote that "King Hussein's decision to participate in the 1967 war was based on false information he received from the Egyptian leadership about the progress of the Egyptian army and its destruction of three-quarters of the Israeli Air Force."

"King Hussein tried before the war to warn President Gamal Abdel Nasser about the war and the [trap] that the Israelis were putting in place to drag Egypt and Syria into the war, but Abdel Nasser always responded: 'We expect the attack and are ready for it.'"

The memos discuss documented information about the 1967 and the events leading up to it and discussions between King Hussein and President Nasser, reported the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.

"Personal notes are one of the most important sources on which historians rely, and it is also wrong to rely on the notes of one person to write history, so it is useful to have notes from more than one party," explained Dr. Mohammed Afifi, a professor of modern and contemporary history, adding that the 1967 war "is the subject of great debate by historians and writers."

Immediately after the 1967 war, the concept of a war of attrition arose in the Arab world, according to A Shaq Al-Awsat. Hussein delivered a speech at the time saying that Jordan would have an open-door policy for any Arab, especially Palestinians, who wanted to use Jordan as a base to carry out attacks on Israel.

“We opened the doors of the country,” said Ibn Shaker. "The idea was, in our eyes, to begin a process of resistance against the occupation within the occupied territory." They were trying to make sure that the Israeli military occupation of the territories taken over in 1967 would not end the fight against Israel.

Ibn Shaker explained that there were forbidden political parties in Jordan that entered the country when the doors opened, after the decision to allow every Palestinian to come forward and participate in fighting Israel.

"[Palestinians] who were fighting against Israel were active, and we were in the armed forces supporting them with artillery or machine guns until they crossed the river, although Jordan paid the price of this support and assistance as a result of the ongoing Israeli raids on Amman," explained Ibn Shaker.

Ibn Shaker described a large battle that took place near the Jordan-Israel border in March 1968 when the IDF attempted to stop attacks that were being launched from Jordan into Israel. "It was very fierce fighting, and the battle lasted 15 hours," said Ibn Shaker. Eventually, the fighting ended as the United Nations called for a ceasefire.

The Jordanian official described the Israeli losses as "huge."

"For the first time in their history, they left the vehicles and bodies of their soldiers on the battlefield (tanks, heavy vehicles and jeeps)," said Ibn Shaker. "It was very fierce fighting. The battle lasted 15 hours."

The battle raised Jordanian morale tremendously compared to how it had fallen after the Six Day War, according to the memoirs.

Ibn Shaker claimed that a central reason for the relative victory for Jordan was that the Israeli Air Force was unable to enter the battle. In his opinion, the IDF did not expect Jordanian armored vehicles to be able to hold them off after the Six Day War.

On June 5, 1967, Israel launched a preemptive aerial strike on Egyptian air force bases in response to Egypt’s ongoing provocations. Every military jet in the Israeli Air Force, except for 12, took off, flying low to avoid radar detection and observing complete radio silence. They bombed and incapacitated the runways of 11 Egyptian air force bases, as well as the aircraft on the ground.

In just four hours, Israel demolished two-thirds of the entire Egyptian air force, the largest in the Arab world.

Israel then issued a final offer to Jordan: if you stay out of the war, Israel will not retaliate - even though that meant that the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and other Jewish holy sites would remain under Jordanian control.


Jpost.com staff contributed to this report.

 


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