Jerusalem is currently in contact with “half a dozen important Arab and Muslim countries that until recently were hostile to Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.
Netanyahu, speaking at Mount Herzl at the annual memorial ceremony for Levi Eshkol, Israel’s prime minister during the Six Day War, called this a process of “accelerated normalization,” much of which was taking place out of the public’s eye.
Netanyahu has for the last number of years been speaking about relations developing with Arab and Muslim states, though he has provided very few details. The reason for the secrecy, his spokespeople have said, is the concern that the relations will be torpedoed if they are made public.
Netanyahu said that these developing ties are an “important message for the vision of peace – peace through strength.”
Eshkol, Netanyahu said, faced a great test as a leader in that agonizingly tense period leading up to the war in June 1967, when Israel’s neighbors were loudly beating war drums and threatening the country’s annihilation.
“Eshkol was not eager for an unnecessary war, no responsible leader of Israel is eager for unnecessary wars,” he said. “He understood the price of this war, but when the war was forced upon us, it was clear to him that we needed to strongly fend off and repel the aggression directed toward us.”
Netanyahu said that it was clear that the overwhelming victory in the war, which included the removal of the Syrians from the Golan Heights, was a result of the IDF’s readiness which Eshkol promoted in the years beforehand.
The Six Day War, Netanyahu said, “was one of the firm foundations of the iron wall that we set up in the face of Arab superiority, just as [Ze’ev] Jabotinsky envisioned.” This was a reference to Jabotinsky’s famous 1923 essay – “The Iron Wall” – in which the Revisionist Zionist leader argued that the Arabs would only accept a Jewish presence in what is today Israel if they realize that they cannot defeat them. That same essay was quoted a day earlier by Netanyahu rival Moshe Ya’alon of the Blue and White Party, also when discussing prerequisites of peace.
“Only when our neighbors will become convinced that our strength and presence here are incontrovertible facts, only then will some of them be convinced to make peace with us,” Netanyahu said. “And we are advancing that process of recognition and agreement with the rest of our neighbors, not all of them, but with most of them.”