Documents from IDF archive shed new light on Six-Day War
48 years after the Six-Day War, documents released by the IDF paint a picture of the mounting tensions in the run-up to the war and the moments of triumph etched deeply in Israeli minds.
All of the tensions felt in the run-up to the Six-Day War accumulated into one IDF General Staff meeting on June 2, 1967, which included the members of the Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs.
Video footage and rare documents released by the IDF Archive this week shed more light on the military campaign which is considered the most successful in Israel’s history.
On one side were then-IDF chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin and his generals – eager, decisive and confident in their strength – who persistently demanded to strike as fast as possible and deliver a preventative blow to Egypt. On the other side was then-prime minister Levi Eshkol – level-headed, thorough and wary of the “one stroke” concept which was being presented to him by the uniformed officers with so much confidence.
In between were the ministers of the emergency government only recently appointed, including then-defense minister Moshe Dayan and new minister Menachem Begin.
Then-head of Intelligence, Aharon Yariv, explained to the gathered statesmen what the implications of postponing the attack in two-to-three weeks could be.
“There is no gain or benefit in freezing the situation with regards to the chances the military situation will change in our favor during this timeframe,” he said.
According to Yariv, any day that passes by allows the Egyptians to further enforce their fortifications in the Sinai Peninsula, train their troops for the upcoming war, and receive military equipment from the Soviet Union.
“Any day that passes by significantly reduces Israel’s chances of achieving aerial supremacy,” he said.
Yariv later warned that postponing the Israeli assault could encourage the Egyptians to make further initiatives, one of which could be “delivering a blow to destroy Dimona and perhaps even airports.”
Yariv then addressed the security cabinet’s main diplomatic concern: How would the United States respond to an Israeli assault?
The Intelligence chief tried to calm the gathered politicians, quoting a series of reports from the international media from which he reached the conclusion that “We are not being spurred to launch a battle, but there is also no terrible threat over our heads if we do…. the (US) president will be angry and we will be condemned, but if we act wisely and quickly – according to our assessments and based on all kinds of hints given to us, there is a possibility the United States will not constitute the main obstacle to our plans… I believe it is not the United States as a world power, nor the negotiations held between us and the US recently, should serve as an obstacle to a crushing and speedy action by the IDF.”
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