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Under fire at the Knesset


Arab-Israeli tension reaches breaking point
Uri Avnery Social activist
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Back to the matter at hand. The moment that Dayan came it was clear that war was inevitable. They had started not to believe Levi Eshkol's reports and sent another envoy to America, Meir Amit, head of Mossad. He returned, 'On the contrary, the Americans, President Johnson, would be very happy if Israel attacked Egypt'. Nasser began to panic. He did not dream about war, he simply wanted to make some sort of gesture that would excite the Arab world, help Syria, and would make him an even bigger hero. Suddenly, he began to feel that something was happening. The Israeli army in the south, on the Egyptian border, was like a dog pulling at its tether. It was impossible. All of the soldiers who were sitting there, sitting in the desert, were tired of doing nothing. Everyone was sick and tired. Some generals went to Levi Eshkol and demanded that he start the war. It was almost a putsch. Among them was Ezer Weizman, the Deputy Chief of Staff, and Matti Peled, who later became well known as a peace activist. What does the Egyptian President do when he thinks that any minute he is going to be attacked? Two things. On the one hand, he sharpens his rhetoric to scare the Israelis, and he said: 'We will throw Israel into the sea'. The saying 'throw them into the sea' came from that. And at the same time he urgently sent his deputy to America so that America would stop Israel from taking action. Now there was a problem with the Arabs. During that entire period, they firmly believed that Israel was merely an agent of America, that Israel would do what America told them to do. So he sent his envoy, Muhi a-Din Yusuf, I believe, to America to convince the Americans at the last minute to stop their 'dog', Israel. But that was far too much. America could no longer, in my opinion, did not want to, and would not intervene.

נחזור לעניין. ברגע שבא דיין, היה ברור שתפרוץ מלחמה. התחילו לא להאמין ללוי אשכול, לדיווחים שלו, ושלחו שליח אחר לאמריקה, את מאיר עמית, ראש המוסד. והוא בא חזרה: "להיפך, האמריקאים, הנשיא ג'ונסון יהיה מאוד מבסוט אם ישראל תתקיף את מצרים". נאסר התחיל להיבהל. נאסר לא חלם על מלחמה, הוא בסך הכל רצה לעשות איזה מחווה שתלהיב את העולם הערבי, תעזור לסוריה ותהפוך אותו לגיבור עוד יותר גדול. ופתאום הוא התחיל להרגיש שפה קורה משהו. הצבא הישראלי בדרום על גבול מצרים פשוט היה כמו כלב שמושך ברצועה. אי-אפשר היה. נמאס לכל החיילים שישבו שם, ישבו במדבר ולא עשו כלום. נמאס לכולם. וכמה אלופים הלכו ללוי אשכול ודרשו שיפתח במלחמה. זה היה כמעט “פוּטש'". ביניהם היה עזר ויצמן, סגן הרמטכ"ל וגם מתי פלד, שאח"כ נהיה לוחם שלום ידוע. מה עושה נשיא מצרי שחושב שאו-טו-טו הולכים להתקיף אותו? שני דברים: מצד אחד הוא החריף את הרטוריקה בשביל להבהיל את הישראלים, ושם הוא אמר: "אנחנו נזרוק את ישראל לים”. האמרה הזאת "נזרוק לים" באה משם. ויחד עם זה שלח באופן בהול את סגנו לאמריקה שאמריקה תעצור את ישראל. עכשיו הייתה בעייה לערבים. הערבים באותן השנים האמינו באמונה שלמה שישראל היא בסך הכל סוכנת של אמריקה. ישראל תעשה מה שאמריקה תגיד לה. אז הוא שלח את השליח שלו, מוחי א-דין יוסוף נדמה לי, לאמריקה לשכנע את האמריקאים ברגע האחרון לעצור את "הכלב" שלהם ישראל, וכו' וכו'. אבל זה היה הרבה יותר מדי. אמריקה כבר לא יכלה, לדעתי גם היא לא רצתה, והיא לא רצתה.



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: Egypt, Israel, America, Levi Eshkol, Meir Amit, President Lyndon Johnson, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ezer Weizman

Duration: 3 minutes, 10 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 11 May 2017