WARRIORS FOR JERUSALEM: The Six Days That Changed the Middle East by Donald Neff

WARRIORS FOR JERUSALEM: The Six Days That Changed the Middle East

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The author of Warriors at Suez wants to show that, in contrast with Eisenhower's insistence on Israeli withdrawal from captured territories in 1957, the Johnson administration supported Israeli retention of the far vaster territories captured in the 1967 Six Day War--Sinai, Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Golan Heights--and thus fostered militant Israeli nationalism and continuing conflict in the area. There is much feverish pop-history dramatization, while much that is not new or out-of-the-way is shadowed with dire implication. But the central contention, though linked with the Israeli attack on the American spy ship Liberty, just won't go away. Neff has amassed a great deal of material showing the closeness of US/Israeli relations, as well as Johnson's intimacy with American-Jewish supporters of Israel and his attempts to gain America-Jewish political support (on Vietnam, in particular). None of this, however, had a significant effect on what occurred. Israel felt itself threatened by Egyptian mobilization, Arab troop movements into Jordan, and rumbles of Soviet support. Nasser closed the Straits of Tirhan and the US, which had guaranteed Israeli passage (in exchange for the 1957 Israeli pullback), ""wanted a compromise."" There followed, to nobody's surprise, the preemptive Israeli strike. Clearly: ""Israeli and US interests had reached a divide."" So swift were Israeli advances, then, that almost the next issue (after protests at a State Dept. spokesman's overstatement of US neutrality) was the UN cease-fire: with or without withdrawal? ""The popular sentiment for using the territories as a bargaining chip had now become""--without examination, Neff stresses--""the policy of the US government."" With hindsight, that policy may have been mistaken and wrong. But it's hard to envision any American leader trying, in 1967, to force Israel to return the captured territories to what were then 1) Soviet client states, 2) unwilling to recognize Israel's existence. (A much stronger case can be made against America's feeble stand on West-Bank settlement.) As for the Liberty affair, which Neff threads darkly through the narrative, it is basically Lt. Ennes' version (Assault on the Liberty, 1979)--plus Neff's suggestion that Israel, possibly at Dayan's direction, attacked the ship to prevent it from monitoring israeli movements against Syria (and prospectively jeopardizing US support). The evidence--some conjecture, a couple of CIA reports--is not compelling, A less solid book than Warriors at Suez, certainly; but an equally certain wave-maker.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1984
Publisher: Linden/Simon & Schuster