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Fulfilling a long-held dream


Panic in Israel
Uri Avnery Social activist
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But Israel panicked, real panic, which increased day by day. This crisis started to take on a life of its own, it developed. First, there was the Egyptian army in Sinai, the withdrawal of the UN forces from Sinai and then suddenly Nasser announced he was blocking the Straits of Tiran, the exit from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Red Sea. This strait had been opened after the Sinai Campaign. It was the only achievement of the Suez Crisis. This increased the panic in Israel. It really increased the panic. It was really an act of war, although with hindsight it became clear that there had been no blockade and no closure, nothing. There was nothing. Just a declaration! Nasser was an excellent speaker and loved to talk. If he could choose between speaking and actions, he usually chose speaking. And in Israel there was growing panic. First of all reservists were mobilized, all of the reserve forces. Suddenly the city was empty of men. All of the men were sitting on the border, in the Negev, the southern Negev. That alone created an unmistakable wartime atmosphere and the realization that this could not last long because the whole economy was paralyzed. Some elderly people came and took the place of the young people. Suddenly, older Egged drivers appeared. However, it was clear this could not continue. An envoy was sent to America to find out what the Americans were saying about it. It was Abba Eban and he heard what he wanted to hear, and said that the Americans would not agree to Israel taking any action.

אבל ישראל נכנסה לפאניקה, לפאניקה אמיתית, שגברה מיום ליום. והמשבר הזה התחיל ככה לתפוס חיים עצמאיים, הוא פיתח את עצמו: קודם הצבא המצרי בסיני, הוצאת כוחות האו"ם מסיני ואז פתאום נאסר הודיע: הוא חוסם את מיצרי טיראן, היציאה ממפרץ עקבה לים סוף. המיצר הזה נפתח בעקבות "מבצע קדש", זה היה ההישג היחידי של "מבצע קדש". זה הגביר את הפאניקה של ישראל. באמת הגביר את הפאניקה. זה כבר היה מעשה מלחמתי ממש, למרות שבדיעבד התברר שלא היה לא מצור ולא סגירה, לא בטיח. כלום לא היה. הצהרה! נאסר היה דובר עילאי ואהב לדבר. אם אפשר היה לבחור בין דיבור לפעולה, הוא בדרך כלל בחר בדיבור. ובישראל מיום ליום גברה הפאניקה. קודם כל גייסו את המילואים, כל המילואים. פתאום העיר התרוקנה מגברים. כל הגברים ישבו על הגבול, בנגב, בדרום הנגב. זה לבדו הכניס אווירה מלחמתית מובהקת, וגם הבנה שזה לא יכול להימשך הרבה זמן מפני שכל המשק היה משותק. כמה זקנים באו ותפסו את מקום הצעירים. ב"אגד" פתאום הופיעו נהגים זקנים. אבל היה ברור שזה לא יכול להימשך. שלחו שליח לאמריקה לבדוק מה האמריקאים אומרים על זה. זה היה אבא אבן. ואבא אבן שמע מה שהוא רצה לשמוע, והודיע שהאמריקאים לא מסכימים שישראל תפעל.‏

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Sinai, Straits of Tiran, Israel, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Abba Eban

Duration: 2 minutes, 48 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 11 May 2017