Why Did the Drums of War Beat?

Video & Transcript
Dr. Jenab Tutunji
Transcript No. 520 (April 24, 2019)


Dr. Jenab Tutunji:

Thank you very much and thank you for coming. I don’t really have a PowerPoint presentation but we have pictures, which I found are the most impressive parts of PowerPoint presentations, so look at the picture. This is a picture of Israeli Troop movements in the Sinai in ‘56. The Israeli narrative has it that the ‘56 war was a war of Arab aggression. So I’m perplexed, I’m looking for the Arab tanks, the Egyptian tanks, they are not there. I only see Israeli tanks. So how does this work? What is going on? Basically I thought that to shed light on this, to really understand the motives and reasons for these conflicts, how the wars actually broke out, was to look at the decision making process in Israel. The decision making process in the Arab countries is also relevant. Particularly, for instance, Jordan and Egypt’s decisions to get involved to help Syria out in the ‘67 war. So one can bring in different theories, constructivism as well as realism, in studying this phenomenon, but we don’t need to get theoretical. Looking at the decision-makers and sometimes these struggles among Israeli decision makers, the opposed positions, we can get a better understanding of the wars. And I’m not one of those people who likes to speak about Israel as one unit. Like Israel did this, Israel did that. It’s much more useful to look at particular prime ministers, particular cabinets, what this government did, and what that government did. And you will see a difference, and within the government you will also quite often see a difference. And before going to war the practice is for the cabinet to vote on the action, yes and no. And if we can get some perception of the thinking of the different participants that’s useful.

So concerning the ‘56 war, I was surprised over the years that many students, not a majority but there is [a] significant number of students, [who] seem to come in with the perception that the ‘56 war was a war of Arab aggression. What was meant by Arab? I mean the only Arab country involved was Egypt. So is it Egyptian aggression? There is another question just to speak about Arab aggression. Imagine if you spoke about Jewish aggression, the sky would fall on your head. But there is no hesitancy to speak about Arab aggression for some reason. So we know some things about the ‘56 war. Many people call it the Suez War. Most people throughout the world who know something about the subject think of it as a tripartite aggression – that Israel, Britain, and France conspired to attack Egypt. Why did this happen? Well going back a little bit, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal and Britain and France wanted to get it back. Why did Nasser nationalize the Suez Canal? He did that because the Americans changed their minds about giving him money, financing the Aswan Dam. Why did they do that? Because he concluded the Czech arms deal. He decided to buy arms from Czechoslovakia. Why did he conclude the Czech arms deal? That’s an interesting question. According to Nasser he did it because Israel attacked Egyptian headquarters in Gaza, killing dozens of Egyptian soldiers. And this was a turning point for Abdel Nasser. He has said this many times up to that point he wanted to devote attention and focus on growth and development economic issues. But this war convinced him that he needed to pay attention to security, to arms, and to build up the Egyptian army. That this was not a matter of choice, but a necessity. So in a sense, Israel, by attacking Egyptian headquarters in Gaza in 55, indirectly caused the ‘56 war. There is an indirect chain that leads from one to the other.

Now after the war, there was a big propaganda effort to cover it up, to make it seem like a defensive war for Israel. And I’m quoting Avi Shlaim, the author of The Iron Wall, one of the best books on the Arab Israeli conflict, who says “Despite all the political miscalculations and failures of those who planned the Sinai campaign, it is their version that became firmly entrenched in the minds of the overwhelming majority of Israelis. The populist perception of the ‘56 war in Israel is that it is a defensive war, a just war, a brilliantly executed war, and a war that achieved nearly all its objectives. This version of the war was propagated not only by the members of the Israeli defense establishment but by a host of sympathetic historians, journalists, and commentators. However deeply cherished, this version does not stand up to scrutiny in the light of the evidence now available. It is a striking way in which history can be manipulated to nationalist ends. The official Israeli version of the ‘56 war, like that of the ‘48 war, is little more than the propaganda of the victor.” This is from The Iron Wall.

So to look at a little bit more depth at this issue, the facts of the case in a nutshell are as follows. President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal on July 26, 1956, following the cancelation of promised funding for the Aswan Dam by the United States and the World Bank. Britain and France refused to accept this outcome. They hatched a plot whereby Israel would land paratroopers near the Canal and invade the Sinai. Then they would approach the Suez Canal, upon which London and Paris, under the guise of peacekeepers, would warn Egypt and Israel to evacuate the Canal Zone, [In] which the two European powers would land forces and capture the canal. Although this is the British French idea, this actual version of events was in fact suggested by Moshe Dayan. This is his idea. On first hearing about the nationalization, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion saw an opportunity to bring about the downfall of Abdel Nasser. And Ben-Gurion himself even had dreams to redraw the map of the Middle East, but he did not want to appear in the guise of the aggressor. So Israel needed inducements to participate in the scheme and guarantee that Britain and France would keep up their end of the bargain.

In fact, Ben-Gurion was very reluctant to go along with this scheme, mainly because he did not want to appear to be the aggressor. And Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres are the ones who convinced him to go along. There are various motives here. France was angry at Egypt because of their support of Algerian rebels, which was a French colony. And both Britain and France wanted to reclaim the Suez Canal. They were offended by this oriental colonel, who had the temerity to nationalize property belonging to French and British shareholders, a leftover of the colonial mentality. So as inducement, during a meeting in a villa in Furmark, south of Paris, an agreement was reached on intelligence cooperation and joint operations. [It included] blowing up transmitters [for] Sawt Al-Arab, which disseminated Egyptian propaganda throughout the Arab world, and striking at the FLN, the Algerian National Liberation Front, base in Libya. In return Israel was promised 72 missile airplanes, 200 AMX tanks, and large quantities of ammunition and spare parts. The bill came to more than 100 million dollars, which was a vast sum in those days. A second inducement for Israel was a promise of French assistance in developing Israel’s nuclear technology, deals of which emerge only in 1995, when Paris published his memoirs. This involved an agreement for building a nuclear reactor at Dimona and the supply of uranium to fuel it. Nothing was said about later development of the nuclear application of this technology.

On 30 September, a second two-day conference was held at San Jaime at the level of French and Israeli ministers, including Golda Meir, Shimon Peres, Moshe Dayan. [This was held] to explore the possibilities of a partnership between the two countries against Egypt. They subsequently drew the UK into the deal, to the delight of Anthony Eden. To allay Ben-Gurion’s desire for guarantees, a three-day conference was held in a private villa near Paris from 22 to 24 October. France was represented by Prime Minister Guy Mollet, Christian Pineau, and Maurice Bush Bernoulli. Britain was represented by Foreign Minister Selwyn Lloyd and Israel by Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan. Ben-Gurion’s preference was that all three countries attacked Egypt together. Lloyd argued that this was impossible because it would expose the British and French plan for what it was. In fact it was essential, for this plan to work, that Israel be cast in the guise of the aggressor. Otherwise it doesn’t work. Ben-Gurion went on to describe a fantastic plan for the reorganization of the Middle East as a result of this war. Ben-Gurion recorded the next day that the conversation with the French prime minister [as this], “I told him about the discovery of oil in southern and western Sinai and that it would be good to tear this peninsula from Egypt. I suggested laying down a pipeline from Sinai to Haifa to refine the oil.” He also had plans for Lebanon, for Jordan, Sahara, very imaginary you might say. So there is no need to go into them. The general outline of the plan eventually adopted was proposed by Dayan. The plot was embodied in a formal document called the Protocol of Sevres. Pineau signed for France, Ben-Gurion for Israel, and Patrick Dean for the UK. There were three copies. The British copy was destroyed on Eden’s orders. The French copy was lost. And the Israeli copy was kept under lock and key in Ben-Gurion’s archives in Sde Boker, Ben-Gurion’s farm, for forty years. In 1996 the original French text of the proposal was released for the first time for a BBC documentary on the Suez Crisis. As Shlaim puts it, “The Protocol of Sevres constituted the smoking gun of the tripartite collusion.”

The plan was executed. Britain and France landed paratroopers at Port Said and Port Fouad, and the seaborne forces invaded Port Said and gained control of the Suez Canal. However, Britain and France and Israel were forced to withdraw under intense pressure from President Eisenhower and the Soviet Union. Eisenhower was outraged at this modern display of an outdated colonial mentality. The UN General Assembly called for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and Sinai. Mark Tessler noted that the Israeli invasion of Egypt was deemed to be inadmissible behavior on the part of a state claiming commitment to the rule of law. Charles Smith, a well-respected scholar on the Middle East, wrote on the Arab Israeli conflict in Louise Fawcett’s book, International Relations of the Middle East, “The Suez war of late October November 56 ended in political failure for France and Britain despite the military defeats suffered by the Egyptians. Nasser’s defiance in the face of aggression by the western imperial powers, Britain and France, allied with Israel, which the Arabs considered to be the product of British imperialism, reinforced his reputation as the defender of Arab nationalism. So Nasser emerged as a hero. No military victories to his credit, but he became the uncontested leader of Arab nationalism after that because he had challenged, at least it appeared, Britain, France, and Israel, and emerged victorious. A good example of snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat.”

Israel’s claim concerning the 1956 war being an act of Arab aggression relies on ignorance of the tripartite conspiracy described above. The Israeli narrative places emphasis on the encouragement by Egypt of Palestinian fedayeen to carry out sabotage missions in Israel in 1955. And in fact, there were missions carried out by fedayeen with Egyptian encouragement. The question is, was this the cause for the war or does it merit a war in order to handle it? Israel had already retaliated in various forms including shelling the city of Gaza in which 59 people were killed, including the attack on the Egyptian headquarters etc., [and] including the attack on the Egyptian forces in Sabha. So there had already been significant retaliation. The other excuses or justifications given by Israel for this being a defensive war against Arab aggression was Nasser’s refusal to allow Israeli ships through the Suez canal after nationalization and Egypt’s blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba, which halted shipping in the tiny Israeli port of Eilat. So Israel does not acknowledge the tripartite aggression plan and complains about Arab provocations. The record indicates lots of Israeli provocations prior to the tripartite Suez Invasion. It ignores Israel’s cruel and disproportional retaliatory policy for guerrilla raids into Israel. Such as, Israeli raid on the Jordanian village of Qibya on the night of October 14-15 by force, under the command of Ariel Sharon, which perpetrated a massacre in the village, reducing it to a pile of rubble, killing 69 civilians, two-thirds of them were women and children, none of whom were responsible for the raid on Israel. The doctrine of Hatfields against McCoys, collective punishment, one Israeli came to kill an Arab. Doesn’t matter which Arab. Probably both sides thought in that way but it’s unfortunate.

And Israel actually carried out these retaliatory raids whereas the Arab states did not. On November 25 or 24 of that year, the UN Security Council condemned the Qibya Operation and asked Israel to cease and desist from such actions in the future. The charge of Arab belligerence also ignores the Lavon affair where the defense minister, Israeli defense minister, Lavon and others in his ministry authorized the placing of bombs in the cinemas and other places in Cairo to dissuade the British from the plan to draw their forces from Egypt, which derailed secret peace plans between Egypt and Israel and their Prime Minister Moshe Sharett. Sharett is underrated. He was Prime minister only a brief period but he was perhaps the only unmitigated example of an Israeli prime minister who actually genuinely wanted peace with the Arabs, who spoke Arabic, who grew up among Arabs and who understood them. Ben-Gurion stepped aside for about a year and a half and allowed Sharett to take on the post of Prime Minister but in retirement Ben-Gurion could not resist the temptation to undermine Sharett in whatever way he did, including the appointment of Dayan as chief of staff, Peres as director general of defense ministry, and Lavon, so Lavon is minister of defense. And these three made life difficult for Sharett.

The Israeli claim also ignores [an] Israeli attack on Egyptian army headquarters in Gaza, which I mentioned, named Operation Black Arrow on 28 February, 1955, which killed 33 Egyptian soldiers and wounded 31, constituting the most serious clash between the two countries since the armistice of 1949. [It happened] about a week after Ben-Gurion emerged from his self-imposed retirement to serve as defense minister in Moshe Sharett’s cabinet. This operation forced a change in Abdel Nasser’s priorities from economic and social development to defense. This is what motivated Abdel Nasser to conclude the Czech arms deal in September ‘55, which caused the Eisenhower administration to cancel the funding of the Aswan Dam, which in turn caused Nasser to nationalize the Suez Canal, which precipitated the ‘56 war. There was also the Sabha operation on 2 November, 1955 near the border between Egypt and Gaza in which 50 Egyptians were killed and 50 captured right after Ben-Gurion had presented his cabinet to the Knesset. This is where Ben-Gurion returns as prime minister. He first came back as foreign minister under Sharett then he replaces Sharett as prime minister. This in turn became the largest military operation by the IDF since ‘48. According to Shlaim, “Dayan, after consulting with then defense minister Ben-Gurion, convened a general meeting of the general staff to announce the guidelines of the new defense policy not sanctioned by Prime Minister Sharett. [This] included the basic solution of Israel’s worsening security problem in the overthrow of Nasser’s regime in Egypt. Various means can alleviate the situation temporarily or postpone the decision but no solution barring the absolute removal of Nasser from power will remove the root cause of the danger threatening Israel. Point two, in order to topple Nasser’s regime, it is necessary to arrive at a decisive confrontation with the Egyptians at the earliest possible date before the absorption of the Soviet arms in Egypt makes the operation to difficult or even impossible.” It also ignores Operation Kinneret on 11 December, ‘55 on the Syrian border, one of the demilitarized zones, which led to, the joke has it, an explosion which went off under Sharett and caused him to resign.

Pnina Lahav, a professor at Boston University Law School wrote an article on the Israeli cabinet deliberations on the eve of the outbreak of the war titled, “A Small Nation Goes to War: Israel’s Cabinet Authorization of the ‘56 War,” published in Israeli Studies, volume 15, number 3, fall 2010. The author points out, of the five causes justifying a war listed by Ben-Gurion, the denial of freedom of navigation through the Gulf of Aqaba was the one that most ministers dwell upon. By implication they opined that the four other causes failed to qualify as valid reasons to start a war at that time. So the single issue they thought may be worth pursuing was the blockade on the Gulf of Aqaba. A minister from Mapam opened the deliberations with a blistering critique. He immediately named the elephant in the room. “On the table was a motion to go to war, this motion is for an initiated war or initiated action. We shall be the first to shoot. The first action of aggression will be ours.” He added that, “We are launching an aggression. We are the aggressors.” Of course this was the position of Mapam, which only had two ministers in the cabinet. It doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinion of all the others but clearly here is an Israeli cabinet minister recognizing that we are being asked to commit an act of aggression. And, they didn’t have much time, the invasion was to start the next day. So they had to agree. In fact Ben-Gurion had sort of tipped off the other ministers but he didn’t tell the Mapam ministers about what this meeting is going to do. However, the clear fact had to be cloaked, it had to be concealed, I mean the aggression. So Levi Eshkol supporting the notion tried to revert to an earlier terminology. Levi Eshkol becomes prime minister in the ‘67 war. And Eshkol says “I suggest that in the conversation and with regard to the press to be aware of the definition initiated war. This is an act of self-defense. We should have no doubt this is the way it will enter history.” Here we are seeing a strong example of the position that Israel should never admit to committing aggression, even if it is doing just that. Consequently that entails the need to place the blame on the other side and my feeling is that this may serve the interests of the government in power.

It may protect the politicians who are doing this from Israeli public opinion, but it creates certain attitudes, negative attitude, towards Arabs among the Israeli public. So if the Israeli public trusts its government, it’s going to see the Arabs as aggressors. It’s going to blame the Arabs. This, is needless to say, bad for relations between the two sides as time goes on, and as these things occur again and again. Bach alike reminded Ben-Gurion that he himself had theorized that only a political solution, not a war, would resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, and that in the past, he, Ben-Gurion, pledged that Israel shall never start a war. “[It is] better to keep the shaky peace,” he concluded. This is Bo Xilai’s conclusion. His insight struck a chord and started a lively debate. An interesting aspect of the debate was how Bo Xilai’s words were twisted. Whereas he stated that “The shaky peace was better than war, “Bar Yehuda, another minister, changed the term to “bad peace.” [He] stated that, “He would not necessarily prefer a bad peace to a war.” On his mind was the Jewish experience in World War II. “The bad peace with Nazi Germany only secured our destruction,” [he stated]. So there is this recourse to Israel’s past two former enemies, to the Nazis, to Hitler, which crops up time and again. [This is] not for everybody. There are some people who think that way, and there are others who don’t. But there is a faction of Israel’s politicians who see things that happen to Israel, challenges to Israel, attacks on Israel, as simply part of a long historical chain of events that includes the Holocaust, pogroms, and what happened before. So, in that case, choosing between war and peace was not a matter of principle but contingent on context. Yet Bar Yehuda refrained from analyzing the pending circumstances. The matter was already decided. “We are not asked to decide prospectively, but rather retroactively. The war had to start next day,” [he stated]. It is worth pointing out here that Ben-Gurion had already decided to place his trust in war. After all, the Prime Minister had only recently undergone a struggle with Moshe Sharett, the advocate for peace with the Arabs, and won. The gist of disagreement was survival. Ben-Gurion saw every war, even one initiated by Israel, as Israel’s survivor. Bentov, the other Mapam minister, urged a distinction between different kinds of war, and so the proposed war has related not to survival, but rather to benefits that may or may not materialize.

Incidentally, in thinking about other justifications for the war as we mentioned, the most permanent one that came up was the closure of the access to the Gulf of Aqaba. The ministers in their discussions show that this could not be used as an excuse. In order for a blockade to be casus belli, a justification for war, it had to be operationalized. In other words, Israel would have to try to send a ship through the Straits of Tiran and have the Egyptians fire on the ship. Then that would constitute justification. This had not happened. So legally, although it sounds on paper as though this could be a justification, it’s not because it had not actually been operationalized. Now it is true that Israel was severely angered by the flare up of fedayeen activity between December 1995 and March 1965, presumably with encouragement by Egypt, so that is a fact. The question is, did it merit this kind of response? Is this response in any way proportional or justified in view of what it responds to, if that is the excuse, that the fedayeen raids across the border are the justification. For its part, when the IDF took over Gaza, it took some 4,015 border guards and Egyptian soldiers prisoner. Dozens of fedayeen were summarily executed and 275 Palestinian citizens were killed as Israeli troops swept Khan Yunis for fugitives and weapons on December 3rd. Another 36 youths were killed in detention on the tenth of November, and two days later, between 46 and 111 unarmed Palestinians died when Israeli soldiers opened fire on a huge crowd they had assembled at the center of the city of Haifa. In all, between 930 and 1,200 Palestinians were estimated to have died by the IDF withdrawal from Gaza on March 7, 1957. This is from Musil Siren’s “Armed Struggle and the Search For State.” Lahav concludes–Lahav is the author of the article in the legal periodical, “Israel emerged with few gains from the 1956 war that were not foreseen by either Ben-Gurion or the Cabinet. The gains should be attributed to Ben-Gurion’s ability to change course in light of the United States’ fierce disapproval, and to define a diplomatic campaign led by Meir and Dayan. A campaign that galvanized U.S. public opinion in support of the small and vulnerable Jewish state. It may well be that without diplomacy, international ire may have seriously traumatized the fledgling polity.”

The 1967 war. Okay, I have too much to present here, so I’m going to summarize things. First, this is an Israeli tank in the 1967 war, [points at picture]. This is Prime Minister Levy Eschol facing Moshe Dayan, with the eye patch. It’s an interesting juxtaposition because here you have two different conflicting positions on the war. Anyway, what happened in 1956, there were clashes between Syria and Israel. This originated with disputes over the headwaters of the Jordan River, Lake Tiberias, etc. Syria got into trouble and this ended up with aerial clashes between Syrian and Israeli aircraft. An aircraft was shot down on top of Damascus, which severely embarrassed the regime. So Jordan and Syria started criticizing Nasser for inaction. Jordan had a problem because of an Israeli raid on the town of Samua, which is near Hebron, which had a large number of Palestinian casualties. Again, innocent villagers who had nothing to do with the action for which Israel was retaliating, which I think was the murder of a Jewish woman and her son. So both of them put pressure on Nasser to do something. Syria and Jordan put pressure on Nasser. Syria even suggested, “Why don’t you ask the UN forces or a chairman Sheikh to leave? Why don’t you send your troops into Sinai?” There had been an agreement at the end of 1956 war that Egypt would respect these constraints. So Nasser says, “Ok, fine, I’ll do it.” So he asks the UN to leave, he sends his troops into the Sinai and he blockades the Gulf of Aqaba again and his gated ships can pass the Suez Canal again.

Now the point here is, this is a game of brinkmanship. Nasser was not ready for war, and he was not contemplating fighting a war. The reason he acted the way he did is not explicable to realist politics, which would say these actions are crazy. It’s actually in terms of Arab nationalism, as a powerful force that impelled him to do this. Now there are different interpretations of this war. One interpretation by Avi Shlaim is that this was an accidental war. That neither side wanted this war. In demonstration of that he says, “The Israeli Cabinet did not have a political plan for the war.” Which is true, there was no political plan to seize territory, to get hold of the West Bank, the Sinai, Golan Heights. These things happened, but they weren’t planned. So then the Egyptian blockade, nevertheless, creates tensions inside Israel. Ordinary Israelis get scared. There’s a threat of a war that could break out at any time. Were their lives in danger? Were they in danger of being annihilated? There would be these broadcasts by Ahmad Shukeiri of going into the sea, things of that sort. So Levi Eshkol, who’s Prime Minister, comes under a lot of pressure for inaction, “You’re not doing anything, you’re fiddling while Rome burns,” etc. The reaction is primarily from the military establishment, who fear for one thing that the deterrent power of the Israeli Defense Forces, the IDF, is being eroded. Nobody’s going to fear us, nobody’s going to respect us anymore. There was also the military perspective that [said], “Look, the Israeli army are sitting ducks.” In fact, the Egyptian army, according to the CIA, according to the intelligence given to President Johnson, the Egyptian army was lined up in two defensive lines. One behind the other. They were not in a position to marshal offense. Nasser had one third of his army fighting in Yemen and he had about 50,000 troops in defensive positions in the Sinai. So there was no danger of them launching an assault. The Israeli assessment was different. The Israeli assessment was that Egypt is going to attack. Now if you look at what the military say, it doesn’t appear they were worried about an attack. It seems they were worried about passing up an opportunity, and the opportunity was to disarm the Egyptian army. Knock out the weapons it had acquired from the Soviet Union, similar to 1956, and to bring about the downfall of Nasser.

This movement is led by Moshe Dayan. It also includes people like Ezer Weizman, who was in charge of military operations, and a famous Israeli general who had a confrontation with Eshkol. He went to Eshkol’s home. He was having dinner with somebody and Weizman makes a scene and he tears off his epaulets with the General’s insignia on them, and it was all over the floor, and he storms out. Sharon says, “We are passing up this opportunity, which may not occur again, to strike at the Egyptian army and to defend the deterrent capabilities of the IDF. So now what happened is that there were several, well, at least two or three, votes by the Israeli cabinet as to whether to go to war or not. The last of these was on May 28, and the decision was “No, we do not want to go to war.” This position was led by Eshkol, who had contacted the United States in an effort to find a solution. Johnson was talking about sending an international flotilla through the Straits to open them, and warning Israel against going to war. Johnson warned both Israel and the Arab states not to go to war, and not to fire the first shot. Eshkol’s position was, “We depend on the United States. We don’t want the enmity of the United States. We want continuing productive relations with the United States. So we do not want to start a war.” The general’s position was, “No, we should. We need to start a war.” As a result of this, and as a result of mounting public pressure, Eshkol is forced to form a cabinet of national unity, into which he brings Menachem Begin and Moshe Dayan in the position of Defense Minister. In fact, initially, the Prime Minister had been supported by the head of the National Religious Party, who was averse to the idea of having a war, but by this time, by the end of May he changes his position. He says, “We need to bring Dayan in the position of Defense Minister.”

Okay, so that’s what happens because he can’t afford to have the National Religious Party pull out, or else his coalition would collapse. A vote is taken, two or three days later, and the vote this time is to go to war. On June 4th, the Israeli cabinet, the new cabinet, the cabinet of national unity, which includes Moshe Dayan in the position of Defense Minister votes to go to war. And the war takes place. Now in order for this to be an accidental war, as Shlaim explains, the war would have broken out as a result of the security dilemma. A security dilemma occurs when you have two opposed sides, and defensive actions by one side, [which are] perceived as offensive actions by the other. However, the information we have about the formation of Egyptian forces in the Sinai and their capabilities precludes the explanation that this was the security dilemma, at work. But Shlaim is correct in saying there was no Cabinet plan for the occupation of territory, no political plan for the war. There were military contingency plans which every state always has and in fact the decision to attack Jerusalem was taken by Moshe Dayan, which was supported by the Cabinet and basically the public in general. I mean, this is not controversial. But once he occupied Jerusalem, he discovered that the Jordanian army had retreated from the West Bank. Apparently, this was Jordan’s contingency plan. If you lose Jerusalem, pull out of the West Bank. So he says, “It’s a cakewalk. Hey guys, walk to the Jordan River.” Israeli settlers put pressure on Dayan to take the Golan Heights because the Syrians had been shelling them from the Golan Heights. Then he says, “No,no,no, we’re not going to do that. Who cares about the Golan Heights?” Then he receives a message. The Israeli intelligence intercepts a message from the Egyptians to the Syrians, saying “All is lost on our side. I’d do what you can to save your skins.” So Dayan says, “If this is their attitude now, they’re in the defeatist mode. What the heck, let’s take the Golan Heights.” So he takes the Golan Heights. The only territorial acquisition that was planned, intended by Dayan, was in Sinai. Not in the West Bank, not in Golan Heights. So that’s the story of the 1967 war.

Then the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. You know what this was about, the PLO was in Lebanon. They were firing across the border on Israeli settlements and they’d been there. They went to Lebanon in 1970. They established relations with the National Movement. They left their forces in Lebanon, and they were in South Lebanon, and they concluded the Cairo Agreement in 1969, which gave them control of refugee camps, etc., whatnot. So there’s an article by Barry Feinstein in the Israeli Law Review, titled “The Legality of the Use of Armed Force By Israel in Lebanon”, [published in] June 1982. He admits that this argument is limited to the legality of the entrance of Israeli forces into Lebanon. It’s not about the legality of everything Israel did in Lebanon, just the fact that it was justified in crossing the border without force. “I’m recording any real analysis regarding Operation Peace for Galilee,” [quoting above text]. Initial names were Little pines, Big Pines, things like that. By the time the operation actually took place, Menachem Begin, who was Prime Minister at the time, changed the name to Operation Peace for Galilee. That’s what politicians do. “We must take consideration into events that occurred in Lebanon and over the preceding 15 years. During this time Lebanon had efficiently authorized the terrorists’ freedom of action against Israel through successive agreements with the PLO and in practice allowed the creation of a veritable PLO mini state on its soil. This PLO state within a state was premised on the avowed reaffirmed purpose of the destruction of Israel. By not preventing territory attacks against Israeli targets, Lebanon violated its international legal obligation to curb out the carrying out of such injurious acts against Israeli targets. Lebanon violated its international obligations. Not only did the PLO’s terrorist activities constitute an armed attack against Israel, but the complicity of Lebanon in these actions may also be considered an armed attack under Article 51 of the United Nations charter. The launching of Operation Peace for Galilee, designed to remove the constant PLO threat to Israel, and the citizens, and to eliminate occurring PLO attacks against them was carried out in a court with international law. Quite apart from the ceasefire negotiations by Philip Habib, signed by Israel, which was observed by the PLO. [In which] the legality of considering the attempted assassination of the Israeli ambassador in London by dissident organization as a violation of the ceasefire by the PLO.”

Two issues are raised by the above legal argument. One, the actual motives and goals of the Israeli operations and two, the proportionality of the Israeli response to the offense. So two questions have to be answered before we can accept the argument that this invasion of Lebanon is legal. One, was the goal of the operation simply to remove the threat posed by the PLO? One way to do this was to force the PLO to move 25 miles from the border. Or was it something else? And it turns out there’s a lot more. When Foreign Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and Prime Minister Menachem Begin supported this war, they had various ambitions and plans. These included: the total removal of the PLO from Lebanon, changing Lebanese politics, giving predominance to the Maronites, electing Bashir Gemayel as President, [and] forcing Syrian forces out of Lebanon. Syrians had moved in place missile batteries in Lebanon, and Israel thought this was a threat that had to be removed. And solving the Palestinian problem as a whole. Through this action in Lebanon, by demoralizing the Palestinians, by eliminating the PLO as a player, which would force the Palestinians, or according to Sharon’s hope, to actually move to Jordan and create a Palestinian state in Jordan. This is certainly not justified by the legal argument that we have heard. The other point is the proportionality of the Israeli response to the offense. Granted these offenses, if you want, were committed over 25 years, what is the total number of victims? You might find a few scores of victims. The military invasion of Lebanon produced 17,000 fatalities, most of them among civilians. One estimate is that 80 percent of them were civilians. So are 17,000 fatalities justified by these border actions firing of rockets by the PLO across the border? I think any reasonable person would say, “No, that is not proportional to the offense.” This proportionality is essential for the legal argument that the invasion was justified. So here we have an attempt to change the politics of Lebanon, to force it to sign a peace agreement with Israel, to choose who is going to be the President of Lebanon. In fact, Sharon had deceived the Israeli Cabinet. Sharon and Begin tried to convince the Cabinet to approve “Big Pines,” the operation that involved attacks on the Syrians, the elections in Lebanon, and the signing of the peace agreement. [But] the Cabinet did not approve that. The cabinet approved “Little Pines,” Which was just derived appeal to move the PLO 25 miles north of the border basically. So Sharon and Begin deceived the Israeli Cabinet and they carried out “Big Pines,” while pretending to carry out “Little Pines.” So again, looking at the decision-making process, the Cabinet’s actions to see what the Cabinet approved and did not approve, we conclude this is not justified. Not to mention the massacre [of] Sabra and Shatila, which everyone knows about, so we won’t spend time on that.

I just want to spend five minutes talking about the 1973 war. This is the one case in which the Arabs actually were the aggressors. Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in 1973. Here you have the picture of Egyptian forces crossing the Bar Lev Line. Egypt and Syria wanted the territory back, and said that in particular, they wanted the Sinai back and they wanted to reopen the Suez canal. He suggested a partial Israeli withdrawal back in 1971. Golda Meir was Prime Minister, and the United States, with Henry Kissinger being the most relevant actor, were quite satisfied with the status quo and did not want to change. So Sadat found that he could not convince them. He made offers to Golda Meir, and Golda Meir wanted Egypt to, in return for partial Israeli withdrawal, to end the state of belligerency. So the response was not reasonable, and the reason for that is that Israel and the United States were satisfied with the status quo. There was no model for them to change. So Saddat decided, “Let’s create a motive for them.” And that is the reason for the 1973 war. Again, according to realist theory, Syria and Egypt were the weaker party. It does not make sense for them to attack the stronger party, which is Israel. It is explainable, however, by looking at war as diplomacy through other means. We know what Sadat was after [which] was to get back to Sinai. He tried the diplomatic approach. But he was met with refusal and rejection. So he tried war. At the end of this war, we have the Egyptian Third Army surrounded by Israel. Henry Kissinger steps in, and tells Israelis to lift the siege and he starts cooperating with Egypt. He concludes partial withdrawal agreement, Sinai One, Sinai Two. He manages to move Egypt to the Western Camp from the Eastern Camp. That is the price for the United States. After this partial withdrawal agreement, Sadat in 1977 flies to Israel and addresses the Knesset. In 1978, we have the Camp David agreement. In 1979 he signs a peace agreement with Israel. So this is a chain of events. If you look at it in full, you see the design intention of Sadat was not to inflict harm on Israel, but to make peace with Israel. So, I will stop there, on time, I think. Thank you.