Documents indicate Israel wasn't the underdog in '67





Little-noticed details in declassified documents from the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, indicate that top officials in the Johnson administration -- including Johnson's most pro-Israeli Cabinet members -- did not believe war between Israel and its neighbors was necessary or inevitable, at least until the final hour. In these documents, Israel emerges as a vastly superior military power, its opponents far weaker than the menacing threat Israel portrayed, and war itself something that Nasser, for all his saber-rattling, tried to avoid until the moment his air force went up in smoke. In particular, the diplomatic role of Nasser's vice president, who was poised to travel to Washington in an effort to resolve the crisis, has received little attention from historians. The documents sharpen a recurring theme in the history of the Israeli-Arab wars, and especially of their telling in the West: From the war of 1948 to the 2007 conflict in Gaza, Israel is often miscast as the vulnerable David in a hostile sea of Arab Goliaths.

"You will whip the hell out of them," Lyndon Johnson told Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban during a visit to the White House on May 26, 1967. The president's conclusions were based on multiple intelligence reports, including a CIA assessment that Israel "can maintain internal security, defend successfully against simultaneous Arab attacks on all fronts, launch limited attacks simultaneously on all fronts, or hold any of three fronts while mounting successfully a major offensive on the fourth." As Nicholas Katzenbach, U.S. undersecretary of state at the time, recalled: "The intelligence was absolutely flat on the fact that the Israelis ... could wipe out the Arabs in no time at all."

A key discrepancy lay between U.S. and British intelligence reports and those conveyed to the administration by the Israelis. On May 26, the same day Eban met with Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, Dean Rusk, the secretary of state, relayed a message from Israel indicating "that an Egyptian and Syrian attack is imminent." In a memo to the president, Rusk wrote: "Our intelligence does not confirm this Israeli estimate." Indeed, this contradicted all U.S. intelligence, which had characterized Nasser's troops in the Sinai as "defensive in nature" and only half (50,000) of the Israeli estimates. Walt Rostow, the national security advisor, called Israeli estimates of 100,000 Egyptian troops "highly disturbing," and the CIA labeled them "a political gambit" for the United States to stand firm with Israelis, sell them more military hardware, and "put more pressure on Nasser."...




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Judith Apter Klinghoffer - 6/8/2007

The US army mired in Vietnam did not want a second front. The US intelligence was wrong. The Israel intelligence was right. Both Parker and Quandt admit as much though they placed the admission in their notes. Johnson believed the American intelligence (yes, Bush had predecessors) and was angry with Bush. There was no attack becaue the US notified the Soviets of the Israeli information and the Soviets stopped the Egyptian attack. Reading the documents of a single country and trying to pass judgement is lazy and inexcusable history. You can find my chapter on the US perspective here-
http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/39647.html
and the Israeli perspective here -
http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/39646.html


Adam Holland - 6/7/2007

http://adamholland.blogspot.com/2007/06/arab-armies-planned-to-destroy-israel.html

from the Jerusalem Post:

Steve Linde Q & A with Michael Oren

"The biggest myth going is that somehow there was not a real and immediate Arab threat, that somehow Israel could have negotiated itself outside the crisis of 1967, and that it wasn't facing an existential threat, or facing any threat at all," said Oren, who is a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at Jerusalem's Shalem Center and author of Six Days of War: June 1967. He noted that this was the premise of Tom Segev's book, 1967: Israel, the War and the Year That Transformed the Middle East. "What's remarkable is that all the people alleging this - not one of them is working from Arabic sources. It's quite extraordinary when you think about it. It's almost as if Israel were living in a universe by itself. It's a deeply solipsistic approach to Middle East history."

What's behind the myth, Oren argued, is "a more pervasive, ongoing effort to show that Israel bears the bulk, if not the sole responsibility, for decades of conflict in the Arab world, and that the Arabs are the aggrieved party.

"It's an attempt to show that Israel basically planned the Six Day War in advance, knowing that it was going to expand territorially. My position is that it was just the opposite. Israel was taken aback by the crisis, unprepared for it and panicked, believing it faced a true existential threat, and did not plan to expand territory.

"It did everything it could to keep Jordan and Syria out of the war. My reading of the Arabic documents show that the Arabs had real plans to attack and destroy the State of Israel."

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