Effects of Israeli-Arab 1967 Six-Day War still felt 50 years later

Free Press wire reports | 6/9/2017, 12:19 p.m.
Ron Kronish was an American college student when Israel defeated the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian armies during the 1967 Six-Day ...
Several days after entering the Old City of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel cleared the most sacred Jewish place, the Western Wall of the Temple. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute and author of “Like Dreamers,” which examines the divergent ideologies that have shaped Israel since the Six-Day War, said the war created two kinds of Israelis:

“There are the ones whose primal memory of May 1967 is the sense of existential fear, aloneness and the world’s abandonment. Then there are the June 1967 Israelis whose primary experience from the war was one of empowerment and who insist that Israel needs to take responsibility for the moral consequences of power.”

In practice, Mr. Halevi said, most Israelis have elements of both sensibilities, and the political debate over whether to relinquish the land Israel captured during the war “is often between which of these experiences is more powerful today.”

“Are we a people still existentially threatened or under siege or a people who know unprecedented power and face agonizing moral dilemmas” vis-à-vis the Palestinians? “My answer to both questions is yes,” he said.

What makes the debate so difficult is that Israel is still facing long-term threats from Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic State group, Mr. Halevi said, noting that “there are hundreds of thousands of rockets and missiles aimed at Israeli cities.”

On the other hand, the political “disintegration” of much of the Middle East “has ended any credible conventional threat to Israel, and growing numbers of Arab leaders are looking to Israel to defend the Sunni world against Iranian expansionism,” he said.

Yisrael Medad, an American-born settler activist and resident of the West Bank settlement of Shilo, believes there is no contradiction between living on land Israel captured in 1967 — most of which the Palestinians claim as their own — and Jewish moral values.

Shilo, Mr. Medad said, was a Jewish town in biblical times, “and if the Arabs refuse to make peace, refuse to negotiate, they are the ones who are immoral.”

The biblical land of Israel “is our homeland and it was the Arabs who, between 1920 and 1948, ethnically cleansed the Jews who lived in Jerusalem, Gush Etzion, Hebron and Gaza. People forget that chapter of history,” he said.

Decades after the Six-Day War, Rabbi Kronish, who lives in Jerusalem, raised his children there and is now mostly retired, said he was “naïve and enthusiastic” when he immigrated in 1979.

“I didn’t think about the consequences of what it would mean to rule over another people,” he said. “What it would mean to have a proper democracy. What it was going to do to our morals and ethics. It wasn’t uppermost in my mind.”

Which is not to say he regrets having moved to Israel.

“I feel generally positive about Israel. It’s my home. My disenchantment in recent years comes from the failure of the governments of Israel to seriously seek peace with our neighbors. I would be happy if the Palestinians were prepared to make similar painful compromises.”

Moving to Israel “has made it possible for me to contribute to peaceful relations between people of different faiths. I still believe peace is possible,” Rabbi Kronish said.