- The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War
The title of the book under review reflects upon a metaphor much used by Israeli politicians just after the Six Day War of June 1967: Israel’s war with the Arabs in June 1967 brought it a splendid dowry, it seemed — masses of land on the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights — but the Israelis were never able to separate the dowry from the bride: the Palestinians who lived in the occupied territories. The Israelis could neither happily marry nor divorce the bride, or even execute her, much as they might try. The unhappy bride — to continue the sexist metaphor — locked into an abusive relationship, adopted a policy of stubborn resistance (Arabic: sumud — steadfastness), as her husband alternately beat her or had a “one-way dialogue” in which she was at times asked for her opinion, but was then ignored.
Avi Raz’s readable, scholarly, and engaging volume is situated firmly within the “new” history on the Arab-Israeli conflict, a school of history first developed in the 1980s. It does not pull its punches in its assessments of what it sees as Israel’s “deception” or “deviousness” (Hebrew: takhsisanut) (p. 273) in its negotiations with the Arabs immediately after 1967 (the book stops in late 1968) as it sought to keep the occupied territory and get rid of the Palestinians. For Raz, originally an Israeli journalist, Israel in this period, unwilling to negotiate with the Arabs (who wanted a peaceful solution), tricky and deceitful in what it did and how it presented itself, undercut real attempts at peace made by the Arabs and by outside powers such as the US. The desire to keep the land spectacularly won in the Six Day War outweighed anything else.
This is, of course, a viewpoint at odds with the traditional image of Israel, one in which Israel is beset by extremist Arab enemies whose objective is the elimination of the Jewish state. Rather, it sets up Israel — a “warfare state” (p. 207) — as the motor for the Arab-Israeli conflict, relegating the Arabs to the victims of Israeli aggression and intransigence. This is a work of “new” history par excellence — favorably reassessing the Arabs as willing, flexible, and moderate negotiators — with Israel’s hawkish internal politics pushing forward the Arab-Israeli conflict. What Raz shows is that both the “hawks” and the “doves” inside of Israel believed the same thing: Palestine was an empty land before the first Zionist settlers arrived in the 19th century, and that a “Palestinian option” of an independent state “did not exist” (p. 263), as the Israeli leader at the time, Levi Eshkol, put it. Raz admits that the traditional Palestinian leadership of “notables” after 1967 was fractured, greedy, often self-serving, and did a poor job of representing the Palestinians but that this was a side issue to the main problem: Israel’s wish to hold on to occupied land and the bad faith politicking that flowed from this.
Raz’s chronologically-based chapters detail the path from the Six Day War to political impasse by 1968. Eschewing any magnanimity in victory, Israel put forward peace plans in bad faith — “an appearance of political progress” (p. 245) — right from the beginning in June 1967, including the subsequent “Allon Plan,” usually aimed at appeasing American (and/or European) sensibilities and giving a verisimilitude of wanting peace. Often, the aim was to placate the Americans so as to obtain new weapons, such as advanced Phantom warplanes. The Palestinians were willing to talk, even after Israel took the seminal, politically destructive decision to annex East Jerusalem on June 27, 1967, but the Israelis blocked this channel, preferring prevarication to action, knowing that doing nothing gave them the space to settle and consolidate the occupied lands, using at first fake Nahal military-style outposts to mask Jewish settlements and so circumvent international...