May 31, 2007
Historiographical struggles: Archives dispel claims Israel sought Six-Day War
(Page 2 - Previous Page)But the Lyndon Johnson administration, though favorably disposed to Israel, was limited severely by domestic political constraints and its all-consuming involvement in Vietnam. These limitations prevented the United States from taking the measures that might have restored the status-quo ante in the Sinai and the Straits of Tiran and stemmed the momentum toward war that Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser had generated.
Moreover, it cannot be claimed that Israel was wrong in considering the use of force, confronted as it was by the blockade, military pacts and enemy troops.
Nor can Israel be faulted for employing the threat of force to spur the United States to intervene diplomatically. The few measures Johnson did adopt -- reiterating America's 1957 pledges on Tiran, the Red Sea Regatta proposal, the representations to Arab leaders -- were directly attributable to those intimations by Israel.
In the final analysis, the Israelis held back from acting militarily until the very last opportunity for a diplomatic settlement had passed, even though they knew that every day they waited was costing them dearly in resources, readiness and morale and was likely to constrict their own maneuverability if war became unavoidable.
Given the archival records, it seems the new historians face a formidable task in trying to prove that Israel had hostile intentions in 1967. But the historiographical battle over the Six-Day War has scarcely begun.
In addition to the Israeli archives, numerous other primary and secondary sources must be culled, and further controversies tackled. Researchers confront a battery of potentially explosive issues, among them the conquest of the Golan, the flight of West Bank refugees, the annexation of Jerusalem and the origins of the peace process.
The conclusions reached here can only be considered preliminary -- if not quite the first round in this battle, then certainly an opening shot.
Michael Oren is a senior fellow at the Shalem Center (http://www.shalemcenter.com). A longer version of this article ran in the center's journal, Azure (http://www.azure.org.il)
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