This is the most complete history to date of the Six Day War of 1967, in which Israel entered and began its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. While no account can be definitive until Arab archives open, Oren, a Princeton-trained senior fellow at Jerusalem's Shalem Center who has served as director of Israel's department of inter-religious affairs and as an adviser to Israel's U.N. delegation, utilizes newly available archival sources and a spectrum of interviews with participants, including many Arabs, to fill gaps and correct misconceptions. Further, Six Days of War is an attack on "post-Zionism": the school of politics and history that casts Israel as the author of policies that intentionally promote the destuction of Palestine as a separate entity and of Palestinians as a people, not least through the occupation that began with the 1967 War. By contrast, Oren convincingly establishes in an often engrossing narrative the reactive, contingent nature of Israeli policy during both the crisis preceding the conflict and the war itself. As Prime Minister Levi Eshkol held the Israeli Defense Forces in check that May, Operation Dawn, an Egyptian plan for a preemptive strike against Israel, came within hours of implementation. It was canceled only because Egypt's President Gamal Abdel Nasser feared it had been compromised. Israel's decision to seek its own security in arms was finally triggered, Oren shows, by Jordan's late accession to the hostile coalition dominated by Egypt and Syria. Geographically, the West Bank, then under Jordanian rule and occupation, cut Israel nearly in half. The military risk to Israel was unacceptable, Oren makes clear, in the context of a U.S. enmeshed in Vietnam and a West unwilling to act even in support of the status quo. Far from being a product of strategic calculation, Oren further argues, occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was also contingent: the consequence of a victory so rapid and one-sided that even Israel's generals found it difficult to believe it was happening. Israel, having proved it could not be defeated militarily and now possessing something to trade, hoped for comprehensive peace negotiations in a rational-actor model. Oren notes that some initiatives for peace did in fact develop. He seems, however, trying to convince himself along with his readers. Oren puts what he sees as Israel's enduring weaknesses in relief: not arrogance, but self-doubt, self-analysis and self-criticism, all carried to near-suicidal degrees in 1967. Arab policy, by contrast, featured a confident commitment to erasing Israel from the map. The Six Day War shook that confidence, he finds, but did not alter the commitment. About the nature of Israeli policy since the war, the book says little, but finds that "for all its military conquests, Israel was still incapable of imposing the peace it craved." Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
In perhaps one of the most valuable recent works on this subject, Oren, a scholar and Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center, Jerusalem, details events from the Six Day War known in the Arab world as Al-Naksah (the setback) or simply the June war. The book's value lies in its focus and extensive documentation of multilingual resources, including archives, newspapers, reports, books, interviews, and Internet sites. In addition, Oren covers the international, regional, and domestic implications of the war and uses maps to illustrate the geographical changes and military strategies. Many books, e.g., Ahron Bregman's Israel's War: 1947-1993, Tibi Bassam's Conflict and War in the Middle East, 1967-91, and Eric Hammel's Six Days in June, cover a broader period, rely heavily on analysis, or fall short of objectivity. While Oren also recounts some necessary historical context for understanding the war's catalysts and discussing its aftermath, he primarily focuses on the pivotal six days of conflict, dedicating a full chapter for each day. Predictably, the most controversial information is his new findings on an Egyptian top-secret plan that came very close to eradicating Israel's army and nuclear power plant. While this is an essential addition for academic libraries, the book's exhaustive documentary style makes it a lesser candidate for public libraries. Ethan Pullman, Univ. of Pittsburgh Lib. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
A thoroughgoing analysis of the events that combusted 35 years ago to produce a maelstrom in the Middle East. Readers comparing historian Oren's thesis to current headlines may feel a certain sense of deja vu. He traces the origins of the Six-Day War of 1967 to several causes that were in no way resolved by the conflict, and underlines one of its effects-the Israeli conquest of the Sinai peninsula and the West Bank-that remains a subject of controversy today. One of those causes was resurgent nationalism in the Arab world's "postcolonial, revolutionary period," when Egyptian president Nasser attempted to play the Soviet Union off against the US, and to craft a military and political union of Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt; Nasser's United Arab Republic soon collapsed, but among the unintended consequences of the destabilization were the rise of the Assad regime in Syria and, eventually, Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Another was a sudden upsurge of Palestinian nationalist activity, leading to the formation of groups such as al-Fatah and the PLO. Still another was internal conflict in Israel over whether and how to accommodate the demands of its neighbors. Slowly taking shape throughout the early and mid-1960s, these conditions "created an atmosphere of extreme flammability," Oren writes. "In such an atmosphere, it would not take much-a terrorist attack, a reprisal raid-to unleash a process of unbridled escalation, a chain reaction of dare and counterdare, gamble and miscalculation, all leading inexorably to war." Of course, that is exactly what happened, and Oren's narrative traces the military course of the war and its political aftermath, including lingering tensions in US-Israeli relations following the (accidental, in Oren's view) Israeli attack on the US naval vessel Liberty. Careful and well documented: Oren (Senior Fellow/Shalem Center, Jerusalem) finds fault on all sides of the conflict, which is sure to earn him critics everywhere he turns. Essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the history of the troubled region.
“Powerful . . . A highly readable, even gripping account of the 1967 conflict . . . [Oren] has woven a seamless narrative out of a staggering variety of diplomatic and military strands.”—The New York Times
“With a remarkably assured style, Oren elucidates nearly every aspect of the conflict. . . . Oren’s [book] will remain the authoritative chronicle of the war. His achievement as a writer and a historian is awesome.”—The Atlantic Monthly
“This is not only the best book so far written on the six-day war, it is likely to remain the best.”—The Washington Post Book World
“Phenomenal . . . breathtaking history . . . a profoundly talented writer. . . .
This book is not only one of the best books on this critical episode in Middle East history; it’s one of the best-written books I’ve read this year, in any genre.”—The Jerusalem Post
“[In] Michael Oren’s richly detailed and lucid account, the familiar story is thrilling once again. . . . What makes this book important is the breadth and depth of the research.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A first-rate new account of the conflict.”—The Washington Post
“The definitive history of the Six-Day War . . . [Oren’s] narrative is precise but written with great literary flair. In no one else’s study is there more understanding or more surprise.”—Martin Peretz, Publisher, The New Republic
“Compelling, perhaps even vital, reading.”—San Jose Mercury News