Michael Oren, historian and Israel’s Deputy Minister of Diplomacy in the Prime Minister’s Office, has written a piece in Newsweek speculating as to what would have happened had the combined Arab armies defeated Israel in the Six Day War.
It is a scary, but necessary reminder, as to why our victory was so important – not just for the Jewish people but the world.
Six days later, the war was over. Much of the Jewish state lay in ruins and untold numbers of its population—uniformed and civilian—were dead. Many of the survivors struggled to evacuate on U.S. Navy ships that the occupiers allowed to approach the coast. Radios throughout the region broadcast Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s declaration of victory over Zionism and the total liberation of Palestine.
The putative winners of the war were the Palestinian refugees from Israel’s creation nineteen years earlier. Nasser permitted them to return to deserted Israeli towns. But there they found themselves under a military occupation similar to Egypt’s in Gaza or a harsh civilian administration such as Jordan’s in the West Bank. Egypt quickly annexed the Negev desert, Jordan claimed Jerusalem, and Syria absorbed the Galilee. The small corridor that remained was placed under the Palestinian Liberation Organization, an Egyptian front group erected by Nasser three years earlier. Its rival, the al-Fatah movement led by Yasser Arafat, was crushed.
For the United States, in particular, Israel’s destruction had long-term repercussions. Emboldened, the Soviet Union sparked anti-American uprisings in Africa, Latin America, and the Far East, indefinitely prolonging the Cold War. Already strained by the Vietnam conflict, U.S. forces had to be diverted to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and other friendly Arab countries to protect them from overthrow by Nasserist revolts. China, which was also allied with Arab radicals, stepped up its operations in Southeast Asia, threatening South Korea and Japan.
Among the hardest-hit casualties of the Six-Day War were the Jews outside of Israel. The American Jewish community, still traumatized by the Holocaust, Israel’s defeat was thoroughly demoralizing. For the three million Jews languishing under Soviet oppression, though, the despair was even deeper. Having looked to the Jewish State for the inspiration and courage to demand their freedom, Soviet Jews now resigned themselves to eventual extinction.
No peace process, no U.S.-Israel alliance, no resurgence of Jewish identity, and no hope for Soviet Jews—these are just several of the possible consequences of the Six-Day War had its outcome been different.
Read the whole thing.