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Amnon Rubinstein
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

Revisiting The Six-Day War: Amnon Rubinstein -The Mistakes After The Victory

by Rhonda Spivak, June 15, 2012


[Editor's note; I wrote this artcile 6 years ago. As the 46 anniversary of the  Six Daty war has just passed, I am reprinting it now]

What, if any, were the mistakes of Israeli leaders after the country’s military victory in 1967?  It’s a question that Professor Amnon Rubinstein grappled with at the international conference on the 40th anniversary of the six day war at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzylia.

Rubinstein, the Israel Prize Laureate in law, is a former Knesset member (for Shinui and Meretz ), a  former Minister of Communications and Education Minister, and also the  former President of the IDC.

Rubinstein began by saying, “How did we [Israelis] miss the opportunity immediately after  the six- day war to translate the victory into political gains?  Because of the victory, we figured that the Arabs had to deal with us.  But after the war the Arab world didn’t show any desire to have learned from the war and to want to negotiate a peace…”

As Rubinstein noted, after the Israel conquered the West Bank in 1967,   the policy at the time was expressed by then Defense Minister Moshe Dayan: “We are waiting from a phone call from King Hussein.”

 “The policy, looked rational since Jordan was defeated in the war…and Israel said we are ready for a peace agreement and for concessions.  Yet, it should have been obvious that Hussein didn’t have the political power to make an agreement with us.  In hindsight, we can ask how did Moshe Dayan even think in this way ?  It was a mistake in reading the map….He didn’t take into account that not only could King Hussein not speak on behalf of Palestinians, but he didn’t want to.  King Hussein and the Hashemite Kingdom said let’s be satisfied with what we have in the East Bank...We don’t need that bag of worms in the West Bank...So now [in 1967]we [Israelis] have 1 million Palestinians,” said Rubinstein.

Rubinstein  added, “Moshe Dayan believed in that the policy of open economics would work…Dayan was a very smart man…the truth is he liked the Arabs…but he made a huge mistake…he didn’t realize that the world wouldn’t accede to our continued occupation.”

According to Rubinstein, Israel made a mistake in neglecting the Palestinian population after the six-day war . “The fact is we had the responsibility for a population…of more than one million…and we could have expected, especially in a democratic state… there shouldn’t be a population that was just neglected…We never related to the population…Within time we deported mayors [of West Bank towns], people who were important…We should have started negotiations with these interlocutors…Maybe as a justification we can say that not too long after the six-day war, the War of Attrition began and that drew all of the attention of our political leaders and they thought the Palestinians can wait.”

In Rubinstein’s view, after the six-day war, not only did the Arab world not show any desire to negotiate with Israel, but “Israelis began to have a mifgash emotionali (an emotional encounter) with parts of the land that we returned to….So, we have a mix of intoxicating power on the Israeli side and refusal to recognize reality on the Arab side.”

In Rubinstein’s opinion, the building of the settlements after 1967 was a mistake.  “What was the idea? …To create [Jewish] islands?  There was not one decision of the government about what we wanted  [to do exactly]….Then we started with the entrance to Hebron…  When you put religious fundamentalist Jews in with Islamic Palestinians, the result is going to be a disaster,” Rubinstein noted.

At the end of his address, Rubinstein turned to the Egyptian Ambassador to Israel, Adel El Adawy, who was present at the conference and said “ Most Israelis will be ready to give back the West Bank, but the fear here is that giving back this territory will not be safe for Israel.  The fear is that this territory will be used to launch kassams into Israel, like what is happening in Gaza today…You must take this message back to Egypt.”

El Adawy responded, “When you are strong you must have confidence…You have the upper hand on the ground..Arab leaders reaffirmed their political stand [in Ridiya, Saudi  Arabia].”

El Adawy, also said that Israel has a Palestinian partner. “He  [Mahmoud Abbas] is a  moderate, who was elected by a very large majority of the Palestinian people to implement a two state policy.  After the Mecca Accord, he was authorized to negotiate for all of the Palestinian factions. Israel can negotiate with that partner and reach an accommodation with that partner.  I’m sure of that.”

Now, unfortunately, even though he spoke with a nice gentle demeanor I completely disagree with Ambassador El Adawy on that point.  Does anyone really believe that Mahmoud Abbas has any power to moderate Hamas, or that he would be capable of enforcing any peace agreement if he actually got the courage to sign one?  Abbas simply can’t and won’t be able to deliver the goods. As violence in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah rages, Abbas is afraid that Hamas will assassinate him. That’s why it’s hardly surprising that according to the results of a recent poll this month 84% of Jewish Israelis do not believe that it’s possible to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.