The shock of defeat in 1967 | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

The shock of defeat in 1967

Fifty years ago, we were told – and this was the common belief then – that Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser had received information from the Soviet Union about a planned Israeli aggression on Syria. He reacted by closing the Strait of Tiran and alerting the Egyptian army. US President Lyndon B. Johnson had declared his full support for Israel, and we heard that King Hussein of Jordan had rushed to Cairo to sign a defense pact with the United Arab Republic (the union that had been formed between Syria and Egypt in February 1958, but by then only consisted of Egypt).

We marched in the streets of Jerusalem, full of Pan-Arab pride at President Nasser’s speech on defending Syria and being ready for war to nullify Israeli plans. In the last week before the war, we saw Ahmad Shukeiri, then chairman of the PLO, at the Ambassador Hotel in Jerusalem telling local media after meeting with the city’s notables that regaining control over Jaffa and Haifa was only a matter of time. We were awed by national zeal and false portrayals of reality.

Today we can tell the true story of June 1967 and admit that we lived an illusion. We know that the war was not so much the result of Arab aspirations to undo Israel as the result of Israel’s agenda against Nasser and its intention to occupy the West Bank. We know that back then, President Johnson told Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban that Nasser would not launch a war on Israel, and that Menachem Begin, well aware of this, later stated “we must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”