A lucid history of a year that began in agony and self-doubt and ended with a nation made powerful and purposeful.
In the mid-1960s, writes Ha’aretz columnist Segev (One Palestine, Complete, 2000, etc.), most Israelis were convinced that the Arab nations surrounding them would one day resume their goal of destroying Israel, and, moreover, “that Israelis could offer nothing to induce them to recognize the state and make peace.” At home, Israelis found a fresh enemy in new militant and terrorist Palestinian organizations—but also in inflation and an economy guaranteed to frustrate anyone seeking to grow rich, or even make a living. Televisions and autos were new to many; so was Coca-Cola, that seal of modernity’s approval. Israelis, writes Segev, were cautious but enthusiastic travelers, always glad to huddle with other Israelis abroad; yet at home there were considerable divisions and inequalities, political and economic, between Ashkenazi and Sephardim. In short, the nation was undergoing a crisis of confidence fueled by very real threats, but also existential ones. The broad-front attack by Egypt and Syria (and soon Jordan) changed much of that, unifying the nation—and revealing some of the hidden quirks that shape history but are seldom described, such as Ezer Weizman’s response to that Jordanian attack. “Israel could have responded by defeating the Jordanian army without taking the West Bank and Jerusalem,” Segev charges, but did so because Weizman felt it necessary to humiliate King Hussein. Elsewhere, Segev chronicles war crimes on the part of the Israeli army, documents failed intelligence that cost many lives and recounts unseemly demands on the part of LBJ, all of which add to the overall newsworthiness of this fine book. What is clear is that Israeli resolve grew—and became more rigid—as a direct result of the 1967 war, which, Segev notes in closing, had a “troublesome permanency; everything that would now happen occurred in its shadow.”
Absorbing and convincing: an exemplary work of journalistic history.