Ami Gluska: Says the Arabs haven't denied Israel's victory in 1967, but they don't want to admit it

Historians in the News

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Ami Gluska, a lecturer of history and political science at the Hebrew University and the Ashkelon Academic College, Israel. He reached the rank of colonel in the Israel Defense Forces and was aide-de-camp, private secretary, speechwriter, and spokesman to Israel's fifth and sixth presidents. He has also served in diplomatic capacities and was speechwriter to three prime ministers. He has held senior positions in the ministries of defense and public security and was a member in negotiating teams with the Palestinians. He is the author of the recent book, The Israeli Military and the Origins of the 1967 War: Government, Armed Forces and Defence Policy 1963-67.

FP: Ami Gluska, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Gluska: Thank you, it's my pleasure.

FP: What inspired you to write this book?

Gluska: During the 1967 war I was a young officer at the Southern Command. I wasn't on the front line but I witnessed the tragic side of the war as I dealt with the casualties (dead and injured) which were evacuated to the rear. The Six-Day-War had the deepest effect on Israel for the last 40 years, and it was natural for me to try to look into the decision-making process and find out what happened behind the scenes and how Israel got into war against its intentions.

FP: Can you talk a bit about the effect the war had on Israel, on the losers, and on the rest of the Arab world?

Gluska: To answer this question one would need a lot more space than this framework offers. In a nut-shell: From the strategic point of view, Israel became considerably stronger and much less vulnerable to Arab offensive -- both because of its new geographical dimensions and due to better deterrence.

In addition, Israel’s strategic value was enhanced as an asset to Western interests in the region, and its ties with the US were dramatically tightened. All this came at a price. The euphoria and complacency were the main causes for missing opportunities to move towards peace. Israel and Egypt had to fight another bloody war before they were ready to reach peace. Israel also lost its internal national unity as a result of the deep rift and political and ideological controversy over the territories it occupied during the Six Day War.

FP: But the Arab world has remained in great pathological denial about the fact that Arabs lost that war to the Jews. For many Arab Muslims, it is inconceivable that Allah would allow a defeat to the Jews. The humiliation is indigestible. Can you touch on the psychological dynamics that were induced throughout the Arab world because of the war?

Gluska: You've touched on a very central dimension of the Arab-Israeli conflict that very few in the West understand. It's not that the Arabs denied their defeat. In both 1948 war ('al-naqba', the disaster) and 1967 war ('al-naksa', the setback) their defeat was too obvious to deny. Yet their injured pride, their religious conviction, and their huge advantage in numbers, territory and natural resources vis-à-vis Israel did not allow them to accept defeat and come to terms with Israel. Also, the Arabs are completely convinced, without even a shadow of doubt, that justice is entirely and undeniably on their side, and that the establishment and existence of Israel on (as they maintain) Arab and Muslim soil is an unacceptable injustice.

Radical and fanatic Islam, which has been on the rise in the region (and beyond) especially since the Khomeini revolution in Iran, and which legitimizes 'holy war' against the infidels and unrestricted terrorism, exacerbates the situation much much more. It would be wrong to portray the Arabs in stereotypic colors. They are not made of one skin, but religious faith and values are deeply rooted in Arab culture and societies and they have strong influence both emotionally and politically.

FP: What is the main argument of your book?

Gluska: In a state so burdened with security problems as Israel was before 1967 (and after), surrounded with enemies who reject its right to exist and vow to liquidate it, whose people are haunted by a traumatic past - the role of its defence forces becomes very strong. In the absence of diplomatic channels to solve the conflict (as was the situation at the time), even a 'dovish' government which abhors war and fears military entanglement would turn to the army to provide solutions. The government wants the army to take defensive means, the army suggests offensive means. When defence proves ineffective, the army prevails and escalation follows.

FP: How is your book original and unique?

Gluska: I was first to gain access to classified material, including stenogramic protocols of the I.D.F GHQ discussions and cabinet meetings. The result is a unique view of the inner civil-military dialogue and decision-making concerning Israel's security issues from Eshkol's rise to power as PM and defence minister (and Rabin as chief-of-staff) in 1963 up to the government's fateful (but unavoidable under the circumstances) decision on 4 June 1967 to go to war.

FP: What are your thoughts on where Israel stands today in terms of the threat it faces?

Gluska: The whole strategic panorama has changed dramatically over the years, and there's not enough space here to describe the results of the 1967 war and the wars that followed. Israel has gained peace with Egypt and Jordan, but I think that its biggest mistake was by not adopting the so-called "Jordanian Option" (which was offered by King Hussein and was open for Israel for 20 years until 1987) thus ridding itself from the yoke of the Palestinian population of the west bank and the Gaza strip.

Today the main threat to Israel lies in the nuclearization of Iran, whose president speaks of wiping Israel from the map. The other threats are of course radical Islamic terrorism (regional and international) and the unsolved conflicts with Syria and the Palestinians.

FP: How do you think the U.S. and Israel must deal with Iran?

Gluska: Had I thought that there was a military solution that would solve the problem once and for all, I would have supported it. I don't think that there is such a solution. Regrettably, the U.S entanglement in the Iraqi mud weakens its position. I'm against unilateral Israeli action as I don't see how this can stop Iran from going nuclear and it certainly would open a new and even more dangerous 'account' between Iran and Israel. On the other hand, as a declared policy, ruling out a military option completely would not serve the goal of deterring Iran. I believe that strong international pressure, mainly economic, combined with impressive and menacing US military presence in the Persian Gulf, is preferable.

FP: What is your perspective on leftist Jews (i.e. Noam Chomsky) who reach out in solidarity to entities such as Hezbollah? What is their psychological mindset?

Gluska: That's really for psychiatrists to determine. Unfortunately this self-hatred syndrome is not an unknown phenomenon in Jewish history. That doesn't mean that 'leftist Jews' are all Noam Chomskys. God forbid. Many 'leftists' are among the best fighters, thinkers, writers and scholars of the State of Israel and among the cream of its society and culture.

FP: What are your thoughts on the terror state that Hamas has instituted Gaza? What lessons does this teach the peace process and what does it say about Palestinian culture?

Gluska: It was a grave mistake to allow a terror organization to take part in the election to the Palestinian national council (which had been established within the 1993 Oslo accords) as long as it refused to respect the Oslo accords. The Palestinians in Oslo recognized Israel and undertook to abandon terrorism, two things that are anathema to Hamas. Israel (and to a certain degree Egypt, although I don't trust that it will invest too much effort) must now contain the situation in Gaza, avoid humanitarian catastrophe but otherwise put constant pressure on Hamas and leave it no room to manoeuvre.

We must prevent by all means the spread of Hamas rule to the West bank. The fact Hamas was able to gain the majority of the popular vote among the Palestinians must raise serious doubts about the credibility of the peace process. On the other hand, Israel must in my opinion take the heart-breaking decision to withdraw from most of the Judea and Samaria in order to safeguard its future as a Jewish State. Unfortunately the day is not far when the Jews will lose their majority between the sea and the river Jordan (unless two or three millions from the diaspora join us and make 'aliya').

FP: So what lessons can Israel apply from the 1967 war in facing its external enemies today? Do you have any optimism? What must Israel do in facing its enemies?

Gluska: The first lesson is that war will not solve the conflict. Israel must be very strong militarily and otherwise, always maintaining and strengthening its qualitative edge. Israel cannot afford to lose a war, it must win decisively, but it has little to gain from war even if it emerges triumphant. Until that day in the far future when the Arabs abandon their dream to destroy Israel, we have to cultivate our deterrence and bring it to the highest degree.

FP: Ami Gluska, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview

Gluska: Thank you very much.

Read entire article at Jamie Glazov at frontpagemag.com

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