Monday, September 19, 2011

Six-Day War: How About One Day of Peace?

In June of 1967 465,000 troops, 2,880 tanks and 810 aircraft were aiming their sights on “the extermination of Zionist existence.” Egyptian President Nasser pulled no punches. At the time he simply stated, “Our basic aim will be to destroy Israel.” The Iraqi President hoped “to wipe Israel off the map.” Syrian Hafez Assad called it a “battle of annihilation.” Israel’s very existence was in jeopardy. Their immediate fate would be decided in six days.

On June 5, 1967 the state of Israel launched a preemptive strike against those who had made their intentions quite clear. Within six days of fierce combat these enemies backed down in retreat. Israel had defeated the odds and defended itself once again.

Yet a new problem emerged. Israel now occupied the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza strip from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria and the West Bank from Jordan. Thousands of Palestinian refugees now lived in occupied territories under Israeli sovereignty. Most of this land would be subsequently returned.

The Six-Day War may have been a decisive victory for the state of Israel but conflict in the Middle East was far from over. Not then, not now.

This week in the United Nations the Palestinian remnant is hoping for a favorable vote. They are hoping that the United Nations will come to their rescue. The hope is that the United Nations will recognize the Palestinians as a legal entity.

The United Nations has not been silent in the past. In fact following the Six Day War in 1967 the United Nations responded quite clearly.

“Expressing its continuing concern with the grave situation in the Middle East” the United Nations passed Resolution 242 November 22, 1967. The United Nations has always advocated for “ the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”

As the United Nations braces for a politically charged and toxic vote this week regarding the Palestinian question it would be appropriate to review Resolution 242.

Resolution 242 called for the “termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”

In other words, to those nation-states or people groups who deny the legitimacy of the state of Israel change your ways. Until Israel can be assured of its own security it is futile for others to call upon the sympathies of the world community.

Yitzshak Rabin coined the name Six-Day War. When asked “why” he suggested it had less to do with the duration of the conflict and more to do with what in his tradition comes on the seventh day. In the Jewish tradition the world was created in six days. On the seventh day there was rest. The seventh day brought peace.

If the United Nations still desires lasting peace in the Middle East it should remember its commitment made in Resolution 242. Many of those belligerents back in 1967, including the Palestinians, have yet to recognize the legitimacy of Israel. The United Nations can not compromise on this point.

As Israel sees its borders again under siege let’s hope the United Nations understands what is at stake. A wrong move this week by the United Nations will take more than six days to remedy. A right move just might bring us closer to one day of peace.

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