The recent improvement of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia has been significant for a few reasons. Not only is it an indication that hostilities between Israel and its neighbours could improve with time but that the perception of Israel as the enemy is fading fast. This has been illustrated by a visit to Jerusalem in July of this year by a Saudi delegation, the New York Times reported. However, despite such progress, relations have often not been as they are now, demonstrated in the wars fought over the course of the previous half century. It is with this in mind that I would like to focus on one war in particular: the Six Day War in 1967, mainly because it not only represented the greatest achievement but equally the greatest opportunity missed for Israel.
It is largely because of this war that we have the problems that we have today. The focus therefore will be on why that is the case, how it could have been so different and what the solution is going forward
A miraculous victory
The Six Day War was fought from 5th-10th June 1967 between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and ##Syria. Many Israelis have often referred to it as a biblical miracle mainly not only due to the fact that they were fighting a battle on multiple fronts but also because of the differences in personnel and arsenal. It was also a unique war due to the fact that it was a preemptive war; in anticipation of Egyptian movement on the Israeli border, Israel launched a series of preemptive airstrikes against Egyptian airfields. After six long days, Israel emerged victorious. However, despite what seemed as an impossible victory, it is what happened next that is still felt today.
In defeating its Arab neighbours, the rewards were great for Israel. Not only did they conquer Sinai, but the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip too.
It was clear that Israel were in a very strong position. But it is what one does with that strength that is most telling. Israel were in a position where they could have returned the land taken for peace deals, ensured that the nation itself was no longer under any threat and set about building internally for the future. But they did not do that. It seemed that greed had set in. What I do not understand is how things had changed in 20 years. In 1948 a partition plan was put forward by the United Nations which proposed dividing what was then Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish states. Although the Arab leaders rejected, the Jewish Agency for Palestine did not. If the land suggested was sufficient then, why not in 1967?
However, despite the strong position that they were in, no deals were struck. It was as a result of this decision that set the tone for the next fifty years.
The Yom Kippur War of 1973, the rise of the ##PLO, the emergence of Hamas, the intifadas and the threat of ##Hezbollah all happened as a result of the war. This desire for land, which they feel was unlawfully taken, has caused Israel much greater harm than without it. The deal with Egypt illustrates this. In 1979 Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty. The Politico website stated that as a result of the withdrawal by Israel of its armed forces and civilians from the Sinai Peninsula, a peace deal was struck. It was a clear example of what could have been.
It is clear that today's problems are heavily rooted in the mistakes made after the 1967 war. How different the world could have been had the right decisions been taken? It was meant to be a war to guarantee Israel's security, but it in fact did the exact opposite. Going forward, Israel must realise the mistakes that were made. Although the political climate is different today, there is still the chance to return land for peace. The West Bank and Gaza, if managed correctly, can still be returned. There can still be two states living side by side. The partition plan once proposed can still become a reality.