With the 50th anniversary of the Six Day war, we are overwhelmed with newspaper articles, opinion pieces, historical perspectives, TV documentaries, never shown footage, etc. etc. of those six days in June 1967 that changed the Middle East and changed Israel with it.
The war was the outcome of a long crisis and there is no discussion over the justification of Israel starting this war. A small country, in the middle of struggles for survival. Without the brilliance of our military commanders, the courage of our leaders and the powerful effect of surprise, Israel may not have existed today. Israel did what it had to do in order to survive and it succeeded beyond everyone’s (including our own, I guess) expectations.
From there, after the big military success, the euphoria in the country, the relief of the population and the awe of friend and foe alike, things have moved in a direction, towards the Big Israel (which surely appears to have been chosen deliberately), and now we are there.
If right after the war arrogance may still have been blamed for the inaction (the famous remark by Dayan that he is waiting for a phone call), subsequently, a very clear mode of action was developed by all Israel governments (with the exception maybe of the second Rabin government), in particular and to the extreme, regarding the West bank of the Jordan river (including East Jerusalem), or as called by Israel, Judea and Samaria, and the guidelines where very clear and two-fold only:
First of all, a political guideline, saying very clearly to do nothing. Political developments towards a solution, in particular by outside sources, may not be ignored, may not be opposed, but should simply be met by inaction. Don’t do anything, do not agree to anything, do not make any concessions and prevent as much as possible that negotiations will take place, stall them as much as possible if their occurrence cannot be avoided, and always have “reasons” available why you cannot, or will not negotiate, not agree and not make concessions. Yitzhak Shamir gained notoriety (or fame) for this policy with the events surrounding the Madrid conference of 1991, but no doubt, Netanyahu is the one who perfected the “Art of Stalling” over the years he has been in power. Systematically, “new” reasons that prevent the start of negotiations with the Palestinians are being adopted and they have ranged from the security needs of Israel, to the payment of stipends to terrorist families, and have included such bizarre demands as the recognition by the Palestinians of Israel as a “Jewish State”. (This last one has been especially effective because it was obvious from the start that the Palestinians could not agree to this without matter-of-factly abandoning the 20% of the Israeli population that is Arab). And the systematic approach is so obvious, there is no doubt there is coordination (or orders) between Netanyahu and his minions, because one bright morning you suddenly will hear anyone who is asked saying how unacceptable the naming of streets in Ramallah in memory of terrorists is, (a memorial for Baruch Goldstein is allowed???) and this is the main thing preventing Israel from starting negotiations with the Palestinians. No matter that only the day before the main obstacle was the refusal of the World to recognize a “United Jerusalem” as the eternal capital of Israel, and this was mentioned by everybody you asked and the day before that the demands by the Palestinians for the Right of Return formed an impossible barrier to solving the problem. It doesn’t matter really which argument is made, which rhetoric is used, as long as it is repeated over and over again ad nauseam, until it is ingrained into the brains of every Israeli.
The second guideline is to create facts on the ground. The West bank of the Jordan, which was held (legally or not) by Jordan until 1967, was inhabited by about seven hundred thousand Arabs and very few Jews. In order to be able to lay claim to it, (in addition to the “historical” claim), it must be populated. This has been one of the reasons that Israel has always maintained that the West Bank is not occupied, because bringing in representatives of your own population into occupied territory is a violation of UN rules. And thus, soon after the elation of the war had subsided, Israelis started to settle in Judea and Samaria as well as in East Jerusalem, which was also taken from Jordan during the war. Seemingly, it was reviving the settler romance of the early days of the State, but in fact it has been a coordinated effort, led by subsequent Israeli governments and executed by various official and unofficial organizations, with one goal in mind only: bring as many Jews as possible into the occupied territories and spread them around as much as possible, place them in strategic positions, near Arab population centers, near “historical” sites, on hilltops and of course in East Jerusalem.
Together with this settlement effort, which has never stopped, an incessant campaign was run in Israel and the world, that the Jews have eternal rights to Judea and Samaria and to all of Jerusalem, and that settling the land is a fulfilment of both the Zionist dream and Jewish values. The world has opposed the occupation and settling of Judea and Samaria (albeit in a very passive way, too passive some will say), and also within Israel voices have been raised against the continued denial of rights to a complete people and against taking what is not yours. Arguments varied widely from worries about Palestinian rights to unease about the effects of the occupation on Israel society as a whole and soldiers having to deal with the day-to-day oppression in particular, but Israeli governments have always supported the settlement activities and often initiated new projects, while at the same time dismissing the opposing organizations in Israel as irrelevant, and when that did not have the desired effect, by calling them anti-Israeli. (Foreign organizations that dared to oppose the occupation were of course dismissed as anti-Semitic).
Incessantly, the Israeli public was brainwashed with government rhetoric justifying the occupation, of both the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which, depending on the situation varied from Israel’s security needs” to “Eternal Jewish Rights”, but always carried the same basic message: Israel has a right to the Occupied Territories and East Jerusalem, and anyone daring to oppose this is anti-Semitic.
And now, 50 years after this disaster started, we are there. The two very simple rules have had the desired effect. The government efforts over this half century have finally borne fruit. Results of various opinion polls, reported in this newspaper have two thirds of Israelis state that they do not consider holding on to Judea and Samaria as an “Occupation”. The majority of Israelis justify settlement activity in the West Bank and a majority does not believe Palestinians have a right to East Jerusalem.
In other words, as far as the Israeli public is concerned, the efforts by their subsequent governments to convince them that all of the land is ours, succeeded and now we consider the Occupied Territories as an integral part of Israel. Thus, the Two-State solution is off the table. It I not going to happen, simply because it cannot happen anymore. There are three quarters of a million Jews living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Nobody, not Trump, not Peace Now and not the UN, will ever be able to remove them and Israel has de facto annexed both the West Bank and East Jerusalem and if the current Knesset doesn’t have the gall to pass annexation laws, the next one probably will.
So a New Israel is created. The Zionist Dream isn’t dead, it has been adapted to the new reality and has given Israelis a very special trait: Zionist senses do no longer register Palestinians. Zionism had made invisible a complete people and thus we can simply claim they are not there and remain a progressive Democratic State. We can have or cake and eat it.
We will teach our children about the wonders of Zionism, the joy of living in our true homeland, and when they ask about who those “others” are, we will simply tell them that somebody needs to build our houses, clean our streets and do the dirty work in our factories. They will understand, they got a good Zionist education.
There will be some, mostly old people, in kibbutzim maybe, or in Ramat Aviv possibly, that remember a different Israel, an old Zionism, an idealism, a belief that once was but has now been thrown onto the scrapheap of history. But these people are indeed old, they will go to their graves with disappointment and pain over what could have been and what was lost, but who cares? The New Israel is born.