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The albatross of victory Six Days of War June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Michael B Oren 446pp Oxford University Press The six-day war which Arabs prefer to call the June 1967 war was a war that nobody planned and nobody wanted Nevertheless it was a major turning point in the history of the Middle East in the 20th century Big wars as AJP Taylor once remarked sometimes have small causes and this is probably true of the six-day war President Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt triggered the crisis by embarking on an exercise in brinkmanship that went over the brink with disastrous consequences for all concerned Thirty-five years on we continue to live in the shadow of that war with some of its problems still unresolved - notably the Palestinian problem Israel paradoxically was both the victim and the victor Before the war it was not nearly as confident or self-assured as it was to become in its aftermath Prime Minister Levi Eshkol captured Israels ambiguous position which combined military invincibility with an acute sense of vulnerability in the Yiddish words Shimshon der nebechdikker - poor little Samson True Israel fired the first shot but the slide into crisis that culminated in war was not of Israels making Rather it was the result of over-bidding in the Arab cold war Israel was like a football thrown on to the field and kicked around by the various Arab players - but the game ended unusually with the football kicking the players The war thus provides a striking illustration of the perennial predicament of the Arab states they cannot act separately and they cannot act collectively they keep getting in one anothers way On this occasion the level of incompetence displayed by the Arab leaders was quite staggering After 10 years of preparation for what was often referred to as the battle of destiny and after raising popular passions to
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