Israel Stood Alone—Then It Stood Tall

Jewish Light Editorial

Fifty years ago, the very existence of Israel hung in the balance. Egypt’s fiery dictator, Gamal Abdel Nasser, shocked the world by ordering the immediate removal of the United Nations Emergency Force from the Sinai Peninsula. Incredibly, the anti-Western U.N. Secretary General U Thant immediately complied. Abba Eban, Israel’s brilliant foreign minister, asked the Security Council, “What good is an umbrella if it is removed the instant it starts to rain?” 

Then Nasser massed 100,000 troops and hundreds of tanks in the Sinai and forged a military alliance with Syria and Jordan bent on “pushing the Jews into the sea.” 

Israel appealed to the U.N., but the Soviet Union used its veto to prevent any effort to block the stated goal of thedestruction of Israel. Israel appealed to Pope Paul VI. Silence. Israel appealed to its strongest European ally, French President Charles de Gaulle, who responded: “Don’tdo anything rash. I will save you!”   

Nice words, but no action to help Israel. Eban appealed to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who offered to send Vice President Hubert Humphrey to Cairo to “reason” with Nasser, a futile gesture that was unlikely to lead to any real assistance.

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In short, Israel stood utterly alone, facing a very real existential threat. The besieged nation refused to count on the goodwill of world leaders. Instead, it achieved a lightning swift victory that is described in detail in a special section of this week’s edition of the Jewish Light. (Pages 8 – 13)

Today, a full half century after Israel’s very existence was threatened, the Jewish State is a robust and thriving nation with a start-up economy. Israel has absorbed more than 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union and 125,000 Jews from Ethiopia. Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, though a deal with the weak Palestinian Authority remains an elusive goal.

Israel not only survived the Six-Day War, it triumphed. Jerusalem and the Western Wall of the Second Temple are under Jewish jurisdictionfor the first time since Rome sackedthe city.

Certainly, problems and threats in the Middle East are far from settled, and Jerusalem remains a focus of  concern. For example, take the issue of where to put the U.S. Embassy in Israel. 

As a candidate, Donald Trump promised that he would move the embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. As president, Trump has backed off that promise, at least for now, claiming his decision was necessary for now to keep alive the possibility of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Resolving the issue will require time, determination and patient diplomacy, factors that were sadly lacking in the international response to the crisis 50 years ago. 

Other challenges remain as well, challenges that ideally will be resolved diplomatically, not by force. Iran’s potential nuclear capabilities loom over the region, and instability in Syria could boil over at any time. 

Trump’s stalwart declarations of support for Israel during his recent foreign trip were welcome, but strong actions have to occur to turn his encouraging words into reality.

Still, on this significant anniversary, Israel and its champions deserve a moment to look back with pride. As Israel faces its future as the only true democracy in the Middle East and America’s staunchest ally, the Jewish State, despite its imperfections, continues to deserve admiration and support.