By Yoel Marcus
1. The power of stuttering. When the "waiting period" that preceded the 1967 Six- Day War was at its height, and hundreds of thousands of reserve soldiers and Israeli citizens were sitting around in a funk, it was decided that the prime minister, Levi Eshkol, should get on the radio and speak to the nation. The speech was written by Yisrael Galili, who had tiny, cramped handwriting. The two Israel Radio secretaries had already gone home, and there was no one to type the speech. On top of that, one of the bulbs over the microphone was burned out.
While reading the text, Eshkol, who was known for his hemming and hawing (his nickname was "half-tea, half-coffee"), stumbled over a word. Galili had crossed out the word nesiga ("withdrawal of troops") and written over it hasaga (a fancier word for the same thing). Confused, Eshkol turned to his bureau chief and asked in Yiddish over the open mike: "What's this 'hasaga'?" The whole country heard him mumbling and got even more depressed. That was the turning point that led to the convening of an emergency government and Moshe Dayan being appointed defense minister. Within a few days, Israel went to war and won its greatest victory of all time. Looking back, Eshkol's indecisiveness put the Egyptians to sleep and allowed Israel to win big time. Wouldn't it be nice if we had leaders like that today, who would not go to war on two hours' notice and end up losing miserably? Sometimes, stuttering is also power.
2. The most justified war. As Haaretz's correspondent in Paris, I was at the Israeli Embassy when half a million people rallied in the streets to show their solidarity with Israel. There was a sense that the Arabs were about to wipe out the Jewish state. On television, people saw Egyptian troops marching into Sinai; they heard Nasser's warmongering speeches. Ahmed Shukeiry, the secretary of the Arab League, declared that the Jews of Israel would be sent back to the countries they came from and native Israelis would be slaughtered. Among the celebrities who showed up at the embassy to express their solidarity, the one who most touched our hearts was pianist Arthur Rubinstein, who wept aloud and infected everyone with his morbid prediction that Holocaust II was on the way. What those now denouncing the 40th anniversary of the occupation do not understand is that the Six- Day War was the most justified war Israel ever fought - because it knocked out of the Arabs' heads the idea that Israel could be destroyed by force.
3. Altitude sickness. After its victory, Israel came down with altitude sickness. By the eighth day of the war, this country of 21,350 square kilometers had become a country of 89,000 square kilometers - the same size as Austria. While the citizens of Israel were cheering and the victory albums were leaping hot off the press, only David Ben-Gurion and Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz advised giving the territories back right away. And that was even before the word "occupation" had rolled off anyone's lips. Not only that, but the government, and that includes Menachem Begin, voted on June 19 to return the territories captured from Egypt and Syria in exchange for recognition of Israel.
The Arab response came in September, in the form of the Khartoum summit's three big nos: no recognition, no peace, no negotiations with Israel. Actually, the real pioneer of settlement in the territories was the Israeli left, supposedly on the pretext of security. Yisrael Galili of the Ahdut Ha'avoda faction declared that Israel would never part with Gaza. And so, little by little, the victory turned into an occupation studded with wars, to the point where the myth of Israel's deterrent power and ability to win has been shattered in the eyes of Islamic extremists and the world as a whole.
4. Drowning its sorrows. So who invented the story about a war this summer? The weather forecaster? And what about the story that Syria is planning an attack on Israel? Did we get a fax from Damascus? Or is the army just covering itself in case it really happens because it cannot claim once again that it didn't know? I wonder what goes on at those government meetings in Damascus. Are they quaking in their boots or laughing their heads off? Are they saying: If Israel says we're preparing to attack, maybe that means they're planning to attack? Is it any wonder that they are sharpening their sabers over there? And in the middle of all this, the papers are reporting secret talks between Israel and Syria. But maybe that is camouflage, too. Maybe there is some surprise attack in the offing, and the Syrians are honing their defenses? Actually, it sounds more as if the Winograd Committee's final report is drawing near and the government is drowning its sorrows.
5. Peretz's binoculars. This week, Amir Peretz was seen observing a military exercise without binoculars, while the generals standing next to him were all peering through theirs. The rumor about the army no longer handing out binoculars to guests was flatly denied. The truth is that Peretz is still observing military exercises, but now he uses contact lens binoculars that Rafael, the armament development authority, invented specially for him.