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September 23, 2002

Why one should oppose a second Palestinian-Arab state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza - Part 7 of 23

This piece continues a series of which the first six parts were posted on September 8, 9, 11, 17, 19 and 22, 2002. The object of the series is to provide a data base that is not only reliable and well-documented but also one for which documents are easily accessible, preferably from web resources.

The text below cites passages from the tome written by the renowned historian, Sir Martin Gilbert. Where this is done, the relevant pages are noted. The full reference is as follows:

Gilbert, Martin. Israel, New York: William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1998.

7. Israel is in possession of Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha) as a consequence of the 1967 defensive war that Israel was forced into. The areas of Judea/Samaria and Gaza were occupied from 1948 to 1967 by Jordan and Egypt, respectively, but no calls for "Palestinian sovereignty" were heard during that period. Since Jordan and Egypt have renounced their claims to these territories, Israel has the strongest claim to Yesha.

The 1967 War is discussed and documented so extensively that only a brief summary is needed to establish the foregoing argument.

Israel’s war against Jordan as a defensive war may be established by recalling that on the day the Israeli war against Egypt started, Israel warned King Hussein explicitly not to intervene on the side of Israel's enemies. This statement is substantiated by an official Israeli document sent to King Hussein on June 5, 1967, via a UN official, General Odd Bull. The document is available from the site of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, MFA:

On the morning of 5 June 1967, Prime Minister Eshkol transmitted through the Chief of Staff of UNTSO a message to King Hussein asking Jordan to refrain from hostilities. Text:

We are engaged in defensive fighting on the Egyptian sector, and we shall not engage ourselves in any action against Jordan, unless Jordan attacks us. Should Jordan attack Israel, we shall go against her with all our might.

According to Gilbert, p. 385, This message was also conveyed by two other channels: the Israeli/Jordanian Mixed Armistice Commission and the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. The fact that Jordanian forces opened fire, shelling Jerusalem, and then began to advance, proves the defensive nature of Israel’s war on Jordan beyond any doubt.

The case against Egypt is based, first, on the casus belli created by Nasser when he closed the straights of Tiran to Israeli shipping on May 22, 1967. This is confirmed by
Nasser’s speech:
On 23 May 1967, Egypt announced that the Straits of Tiran had been closed and warned Israeli shipping that it would be fired upon if it attempted to break the blockade. The next day, Egypt announced that the Straits had been mined. Text of speech by President Nasser announcing the closure of the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping, 23 May 1967:

Yesterday the armed forces occupied Sharin ash-Shaykh. What does this mean? It is an affirmation of our rights, of our sovereignty over the Gulf of Aqaba, which constitutes Egyptian territorial waters. Under no circumstances can we permit the Israeli flag to pass through the Gulf of Aqaba.

On May 23, the closure of the straits of Tiran was condemned by President Johnson in these words:

The United States considers the gulf to be an international waterway and feels that a blockade of Israeli shipping is illegal and potentially disastrous to the cause of peace. The right of free and innocent passage of the international waterway is a vital interest of the entire international community.

Even had the closing of the Straits of Tiran been the only cause of Israel’s war on Egypt, it would have been enough to justify the war as one of self-defense. In fact, this closure was accompanied by a long series of other belligerent steps. On May 17, 1967, Nasser ordered the withdrawal of the UN buffer presence (UNEF, or United Nations Emergency Force) which was placed in the Sinai after the 1956 War. This was preceded by deploying Egyptian troops in the Sinai starting May 13, 1967, and by threats of annihilation against Israel. For Israel, the military pact among Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, with the explicit objective of annihilating Israel, amounted to a noose, especially when the pact members started moving troops towards Israel's borders. Finally, Nasser resumed the murderous infiltration of the terrorist Fidayin, an act that was among the prime causes of the 1956 War. During the week of April 24, 1967, for example, Egyptian-controlled terrorists sabotaged a main road leading to Beersheba.

The following chronology is culled from Gilbert, Ch 21-22, and demonstrates the foregoing narrative.

May 13, 1967 - Nasser moves large numbers of troops into the Sinai.
May 16, 1967 - Nasser demands the withdrawal of UNEF; UN’s Secretary General, U Thant agrees immediately. Withdrawal completed by May 19, 1967.
May 22, 1967 - Nasser closes the Straits of Tiran, generating an unambiguous casus belli. (On March 1, 1957, Israel announced that closing the straits would be considered casus belli.)
May 25, 1967 - Egyptian armoured units moved to Sinai.
May 26, 1967 - Nasser declares, “our basic objective will be to destroy Israel”.
May 30, 1967 - During his visit to Cairo, King Hussein joins the Syrian-Egyption pact against Israel. Israel was now surrounded on three sides.
May 31, 1967 - Iraqi troops move to Egypt to support a possible war. (On June 4, Iraq joined the pact of Egypt/Syria/Jordan.)

Israel’s case against Syria is based on Syria serving as a launching pad for Palestinian-Arab terrorists and on Syria’s continual harassment of Israeli settlements in the valley below the Golan Heights. So intense did the shelling become, that the civilian population had to pass many a night in underground shelters. A favourite tactic of the Syrian-controlled terrorists was mining roads, as in the incident on May 8, when an Israeli car hit a mine on the road to Tiberias. Gilbert, Ch 21, describes the situation as follows:

The first three months of 1967 were marked by repeated Syrian artillery bombardments and cross-border raids on the Israeli settlements in the north. Israeli air raids against Syrian positions on the Golan Heights would result in a few weeks' quiet, but then the attacks would begin again. On 7 April 1967 Syrian mortars on the Golan Heights began a barrage of fire on kibbutz Gadot... More than 200 shells were fired before Israeli tanks moved into positions from which they could reach the Syrian mortars.

As the Israeli tanks opened fire, the Syrian artillery did likewise. Firing quickly spread along the border to the north and south of Gadot. Then Israeli warplanes - Mirage fighter-bombers purchased from France - flew over the Syrian border and over the Golan Heights, strafing several Syrian strongholds and artillery batteries. Fifteen minutes later Syrian warplanes - Soviet MiG-21s - took on the Israeli planes in aerial combat. Within a few minutes, six MiGs had been shot down and the rest chased eastwards to Damascus... One Israeli plane was shot down.

Following the Gadot clash, Fatah renewed its campaign inside Israel, using the Syrian border as a conduit. On April 29 a water pipeline was blown up, and a few days later mines were laid on the main road leading north from Tiberias, damaging an Israeli army truck.

Israeli control of Judea, Samaria and Gaza are a direct consequence of the defensive war that Israel was forced into in 1967. In the course of a meeting in Rabat, 28 October, 1974, the Arab Summit adopts a resolution recognizing the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. This in fact meant that the former occupiers of Judea/Samaria and Gaza (Jordan and Egypt, respectively) officially renounced their claims over these territories. When Germany lost WW I to the Allies, she lost Alsace-Lorraine to France. When Germany lost WW II, she lost East Prussia. There is a price to pay for aggression and for being defeated in a war in which the opponent is exercising self-defence. The Arabs, and especially the Palestinian Arabs, should not be exempt from the realities of life.

The issue of Israeli claims over Judea, Samaria and Gaza, together with the associated issues of "occupied Arab land" and "illegal settlements", will be dealt with in greater detail in a forthcoming article in this series.

Contributed by Joseph Alexander Norland