CHAPTER THREE

The six bad years 1967-73

A powder keg

The outbreak of war in the spring of 1967 shocked Israelis to the core, for it came, to speak bluntly, as a bolt from the blue. And it is only because this war was so remarkably successful that no demand was ever made-as was to be the case after the 1973 war-to investigate the politico-military establishment, whose superficial optimism and complacency had led Israelis to believe that war was a remote and unlikely event. That the Israeli leadership was totally relaxed about the security situation in the period just before this war, is well illustrated in the following extract from a report written by Walt Rostow, National Security Adviser in Lyndon Johnson s administration, of his meeting with Israeli Ambassador Abraham Harman on 31 January 1967:

Israeli ambassador Harman came in yesterday…to share his observations on the mood in Israel. His theme was basically that Israel faces an economically difficult situation over the next three years or so… he said most Israeli leaders feel the long-term security situation is under control. 1

The view in Israel in the first half of 1967 was that its most implacable foe, President Nasser of Egypt, was unlikely to embark on a full-scale war. This opinion rested upon a theory that proved to be utterly erroneous; it was that as long as la crème de la crème of Nasser's forces, eight brigades in all, was still involved in the civil war in Yemen, he would not dare to attack Israel. 2 Complementary to this assessment was the view that neither Syria nor Jordan would open fire without the active participation of Egypt, which not only had the most powerful army but which was also in a geographical position to impose on Israel its traditional nightmare-a war on more than one front. And because the Israeli theory that war was remote was based heavily on the continuing Egyptian presence in the Yemen, the eyes of its intelligence services were fixed on airfields in Yemen and Egypt to check whether Egyptian troops were being brought back home, for their return to Egypt

-41-

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Israel's Wars, 1947-93
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • List of Maps x
  • Preface xi
  • Abbreviations xiv
  • Chapter One - The 1947-9 War 1
  • Chapter Two - A Nation-In-Arms 1949-67 26
  • Chapter Three - The Six Bad Years 1967-73 41
  • Chapter Four - War and Peace 1973-9 66
  • Chapter Five - War in Lebanon 1982 95
  • Chapter Six - Intifada 1987-93 118
  • Chapter Seven - Conclusions 134
  • Notes 138
  • Select Bibliography 163
  • Index 166
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