JERUSALEM (Jun. 5)
The second anniversary of the start of the Six-Day War today found Israel confident that the new war threatened by the Arabs was unlikely but no nearer to the end of the no-war, no-peace condition which has been Israel’s lot since its birth. The nation’s economic boom was accompanied by the knowledge that the country was militarily more secure than at any time in its 21-year history. The Six-Day War shortened from 500 to 390 miles the land frontiers which Israel must defend.
Observers noted that it is the Arab capitals, not Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which are now within artillery range and within a few minutes flying time by jet bombers. Israel’s armed forces are rated by experts as stronger than ever. The supply of French military aircraft, halted by the de Gaulle embargo, has been partially replaced by some 50 American A-4 Skyhawk bombers, now reported to be operational. The first supersonic F-4 Phantom jets are expected to arrive from the United States within a few months.
Politically, the country seems solidly united behind its 71-year-old Premier, Mrs. Golda Meir, who came out of virtual retirement to succeed the late Levi Eshkol. Characteristically volatile and argumentative, Israel’s political figures appeared to have declared a moratorium on politics. The multi-party coalition seems to be working without the bickering which marred the final months of the Eshkol regime. Political observers who had predicted that Mrs. Meir would be only an interim Premier now indicated the belief that she would head the list of the powerful Israel Labor Party in next October’s general elections and that she would continue as Premier for several years more.
Longing for peace, Israelis do not expect it to emerge from the Big Four talks in New York or from the concurrent United States-Soviet talks in Washington, which appear to have brought no visible progress. Israelis had initially feared such talks as a portent of an imposed settlement detrimental to Israel’s basic security interests. Now they are regarded as mainly an exercise in futility which could have positive results only if they brought the Arabs into direct peace negotiations–a. prospect considered remote at the present time. Israelis are therefore resigned to an indefinite absence of peace. Their belief that a new war is unlikely stems from the conviction that the Arabs are not ready for one. If the Arabs nevertheless do strike out, Israel is supremely confident that an even more shattering defeat than that of 1967 will be the result. Israel’s most serious concern is the continuing Arab campaign of terror and sabotage, despite the fact that Israeli security forces have managed to virtually seal off all infiltration routes. Moreover, the guerrillas have failed to evoke a popular arising among Arabs in the occupied areas. The almost daily skirmishes in the Beisan and Jordan Valleys, the Golan Heights and–until recently–the Suez Canal artillery duels, take place far from Israel’s population centers. But they are brought home sharply by a steadily rising Israeli casualty list. Six hundred Israeli soldiers have died in action or in military accidents since the Six-Day War, compared with the 700 deaths during that war.
Some observers do not share the views of Israeli leaders that the reported increasing strength and political impact of Arab commando groups is inflated. Those observers believe the Arab governments, particularly that of King Hussein in Jordan, are losing their freedom of political and military decision because of the spreading influence in the Arab world of the commando groups. President Nasser of Egypt is under increasing pressure by his restive officers for action to drive Israel from the Suez Canal, an action he is reported to oppose out of fear that his armed forces are not yet ready.