By Michael B. Oren
Oxford University Press, 446 pp, 2002
This is a wonderfully concise,
well-written history of the war between Israel and Egypt, Syria, and
Jordan that lasted only six days in June 1967. The Arabs got pounded,
and Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai
Peninsula. The war, though won by Israel, also brought that country
decades of additional strife that continues to this day. It also made
the Arab nations more determined to wipe out the Jewish state.
Oren has written a fair history, with all
sides presented with no apparent bias or judgment. He gained access to
previously undisclosed material, so he has records of internal meetings
with all the political parties involved.
And there are lots of them. The Middle
East doesn't exist in a vacuum. Other nations have stuck their noses
into the region. In this case, the Soviet Union sided with Egypt and
Syria, but only to an extent, never daring to get involved in the actual
fighting. The U.S. played a similar role with Israel, pledging undying
support but no military involvement. So while outside actors did their
best to shape events, the real fighting and dying were done by Israelis,
Egyptians, Syrians, and Jordanians.
It's true the Arab armies were routed,
but they did fight hard, especially Jordan's troops in the West Bank and
Syrian soldiers on the Golan. The Israelis could have easily conquered
Cairo, Damascus, and Amman, but such actions would have had brought the
Jewish state solid international condemnation, including from the United
States. It must be very frustrating for Israel - its enemies fight for
its destruction, and it cannot retaliate in kind. And somehow, the
Israelis are considered the bad guys by many people.
If you wish to gain a greater
understanding of the Middle East, and find out why they still fight over
there, reading this book would be a great start.