NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The first comprehensive account of the epoch-making Six-Day War, from the author of Ally—now featuring a fiftieth-anniversary retrospective
Though it lasted for only six tense days in June, the 1967 Arab-Israeli war never really ended. Every crisis that has ripped through this region in the ensuing decades, from the Yom Kippur War of 1973 to the ongoing intifada, is a direct consequence of those six days of fighting.
Writing with a novelist’s command of narrative and a historian’s grasp of fact and motive, Michael B. Oren reconstructs both the lightning-fast action on the battlefields and the political shocks that electrified the world. Extraordinary personalities—Moshe Dayan and Gamal Abdul Nasser, Lyndon Johnson and Alexei Kosygin—rose and toppled from power as a result of this war; borders were redrawn; daring strategies brilliantly succeeded or disastrously failed in a matter of hours. And the balance of power changed—in the Middle East and in the world. A towering work of history and an enthralling human narrative, Six Days of War is the most important book on the Middle East conflict to appear in a generation.
Praise for Six Days of War
“Powerful . . . A highly readable, even gripping account of the 1967 conflict . . . [Oren] has woven a seamless narrative out of a staggering variety of diplomatic and military strands.”—The New York Times
“With a remarkably assured style, Oren elucidates nearly every aspect of the conflict. . . . Oren’s [book] will remain the authoritative chronicle of the war. His achievement as a writer and a historian is awesome.”—The Atlantic Monthly
“This is not only the best book so far written on the six-day war, it is likely to remain the best.”—The Washington Post Book World
“Phenomenal . . . breathtaking history . . . a profoundly talented writer. . . .
This book is not only one of the best books on this critical episode in Middle East history; it’s one of the best-written books I’ve read this year, in any genre.”—The Jerusalem Post
“[In] Michael Oren’s richly detailed and lucid account, the familiar story is thrilling once again. . . . What makes this book important is the breadth and depth of the research.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A first-rate new account of the conflict.”—The Washington Post
“The definitive history of the Six-Day War . . . [Oren’s] narrative is precise but written with great literary flair. In no one else’s study is there more understanding or more surprise.”—Martin Peretz, Publisher, The New Republic
“Compelling, perhaps even vital, reading.”—San Jose Mercury News
This is the most complete history to date of the Six Day War of 1967, in which Israel entered and began its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. While no account can be definitive until Arab archives open, Oren, a Princeton-trained senior fellow at Jerusalem's Shalem Center who has served as director of Israel's department of inter-religious affairs and as an adviser to Israel's U.N. delegation, utilizes newly available archival sources and a spectrum of interviews with participants, including many Arabs, to fill gaps and correct misconceptions.Further, Six Days of Waris an attack on "post-Zionism": the school of politics and history that casts Israel as the author of policies that intentionally promote the destuction of Palestine as a separate entity and of Palestinians as a people, not least through the occupation that began with the 1967 War. By contrast, Oren convincingly establishes in an often engrossing narrative the reactive, contingent nature of Israeli policy during both the crisis preceding the conflict and the war itself. As Prime Minister Levi Eshkol held the Israeli Defense Forces in check that May, Operation Dawn, an Egyptian plan for a preemptive strike against Israel, came within hours of implementation. It was canceled only because Egypt's President Gamal Abdel Nasser feared it had been compromised. Israel's decision to seek its own security in arms was finally triggered, Oren shows, by Jordan's late accession to the hostile coalition dominated by Egypt and Syria. Geographically, the West Bank, then under Jordanian rule and occupation, cut Israel nearly in half. The military risk to Israel was unacceptable, Oren makes clear, in the context of a U.S. enmeshed in Vietnam and a West unwilling to act even in support of the status quo. Far from being a product of strategic calculation, Oren further argues, occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was also contingent: the consequence of a victory so rapid and one-sided that even Israel's generals found it difficult to believe it was happening. Israel, having proved it could not be defeated militarily and now possessing something to trade, hoped for comprehensive peace negotiations in a rational-actor model. Oren notes that some initiatives for peace did in fact develop. He seems, however, trying to convince himself along with his readers. Oren puts what he sees as Israel's enduring weaknesses in relief: not arrogance, but self-doubt, self-analysis and self-criticism, all carried to near-suicidal degrees in 1967. Arab policy, by contrast, featured a confident commitment to erasing Israel from the map. The Six Day War shook that confidence, he finds, but did not alter the commitment. About the nature of Israeli policy since the war, the book says little, but finds that "for all its military conquests, Israel was still incapable of imposing the peace it craved."