Abraham Rabinovich: How the West Bank was accidentally won





... If the Six Day War was born of misreadings by the parties of each other's intentions, the battle for Jerusalem and the West Bank was, at least from Israel's point of view, an afterthought not conceived of when the day began.

On Tuesday night, the second night of the war, the government met to decide the fate of the Old City. At foreign minister Abba Eban's suggestion, the cabinet declared the conquest of the walled city to be a military response to the Jordanian shelling. History, religion and national emotions were thus set aside in order to get on with the war. They would return to the fore soon enough.

At 4am on Wednesday, right-wing leader Menachem Begin telephoned defence minister Moshe Dayan to pass on a BBC report that the UN Security Council would that day call for a ceasefire. ''We can't wait any more,'' he said. Dayan agreed.

By mid-morning, an epic drama was played out on the monumental stage of the Temple Mount. On the platform of the Dome of the Rock, a long line of Arab prisoners moved past the Islamic shrine, guarded by helmeted paratroopers cradling Uzis. A few dozen Arab prisoners, all in civilian dress, knelt in a line facing a stone wall, hands on their heads, waiting to be called for interrogation.

The night before, most of the Jordanian battalion posted in the Old City had slipped out through Dung Gate. A small number retained their arms and did battle when the Israeli troops broke in, and others had gone into hiding.

The Arabs appeared stunned by the display of might casually bristling about them. The debacle on the Jordanian and Egyptian fronts was as incomprehensible as it was humiliating.

In all, 179 Israeli soldiers and 20 civilians had been killed in the battle for the city. The Jordanians lost 330 soldiers and an estimated 100 civilians.

An Israeli flag raised on the Dome of the Rock by paratroopers was taken down at the order of Dayan when he arrived on the Mount shortly after the break-in....

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