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Israel Looked into Establishing Palestinian State in 1967, then Hindered it | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Visitors are seen taking pictures close to the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount on May 15, 2017. Reuters

Tel Aviv- Documents that were revealed in Tel Aviv on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War confirm that a few days after the end of the war, Israel examined the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel as one of the several possibilities to get rid of the burden of controlling Palestinians. However, it failed to take a decision.

Instead, Israel took measures and carried out practices that eliminate this solution, impede the establishment of the Palestinian state and let it drown in occupation.

The Israeli government has unveiled new documents that it has considered for 50 years as “very confidential.” The documents are comprised of 1,000 pages for the 36 sessions that were held by the Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs in the government from the beginning of 1967 until the end of the war, on June 10, 1967, in addition to other documents.

The transcripts of the documents show how Israeli leaders shifted sharply from existential fear before the war to euphoria of victory following the war, and how they disagreed about the future of the country and forgot that this war resulted in the deaths of 779 Israeli officers and soldiers.

They also reveal that the Israeli leadership back then was busy on a number of issues, mainly: What to do with 1.2 million Palestinians under its control after it took over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

“We must start thinking about what we will do with the Arabs,” ex-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol said on June 10. A word that has been echoed till this day because all the Israeli governments over 50 years have not given any answer yet.

It is known that Israel has waged a war on June 5, 1967 under the pretext of self-defense. At that time, clashes broke out between Syria and Israel, causing losses on both sides. At one point, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser threatened to wage a war in solidarity with Syria. To prove the seriousness of his threats, Abdel Nasser demanded that UN peacekeepers in the Sinai withdraw from Israel’s border. He then blocked the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping, cutting off the Israeli port of Eilat.

One of the documents that were unveiled is the transcript of the special discussion Military Chief of Staff Ariel Sharon held with the ministerial committee on June 2, at the peak of the “waiting period” after the Egyptian army entered the Sinai Peninsula in violation of international agreements and closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships.

Israelis then held intensive talks on the controversial issue. There was a dispute between Levi Eshkol, who believed that waging war was unnecessary, and Sharon, who said the Israelis were more than ready to wage a just war.

Following the talks, the final decision was to declare war on Egypt.

At dawn on Monday June 5, Israel staged an air assault that destroyed more than 90 percent of Egypt’s air force on the tarmac. Its armored vehicles also headed to Egypt.

It was noticed that Israel was the first to declare war on Egypt, but it claimed that Egypt had attacked it first. At 7:24 am that day, an Israeli military spokesman in Tel Aviv announced that Egyptians attacked Israel with tanks and aircraft in the southern area of the country.

Then, a formal statement was issued by Israel stating that fierce fighting had begun and that the Israeli forces were carrying out a counterattack. Sirens were wailing in Tel Aviv and in other cities. Only half an hour later, Cairo’s radio station cut off its programs to declare that “Israeli forces started this morning their aggression against us.”

On the third day of the war, Israel launched a similar aerial attack on Syria and swept the West Bank and besieged East Jerusalem.

At the end of the sixth day of war, Israel’s army seized 5,900 square km of the West Bank, the walled Old City of Jerusalem and more than two dozen Arab villages on the city’s eastern flank. On other fronts, it conquered the Golan Heights from Syria, and Sinai and the Gaza Strip from Egypt.

On the third day of the Six-Day War, Israel was aware of its victory but was also facing troubles in controlling the Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

For the Israeli prime minister’s office, the foreign ministry and legal advisers, the thorniest questions were on how to handle the unexpected seizure of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the 660,000 Palestinians living there.

After the war ended, the Israeli cabinet convened a confidential session during which the premier and ministers were bewildered on their next move.

According to the minutes of the meetings, some of the officials had a far-sighted vision and considered the war as an opportunity to settle the conflict by establishing a Palestinian state immediately after the end of the war.
On the other hand, there were those who wanted to exploit the victory to annex the entire Palestinian territories to the Jewish state.

Senior foreign ministry officials had drafted a set of seven possibilities of what to do with the West Bank and Gaza. They considered everything from establishing an independent, demilitarized Palestinian state with its capital as close as possible to Jerusalem, to annexing the entire area to Israel or handing most of it over to Jordan.

The officials explained the need to move rapidly because “internationally, the impression that Israel maintains colonial rule over these occupied territories may arise in the interim.”

Option four is a plan to establish a Palestinian state only once there is a peace agreement between Israel and Arab nations.

At the end of that meeting they unanimously decided to annex East Jerusalem to Israel and considered all of Jerusalem as its “indivisible and eternal capital”.