A New “Hamtana (Waiting Period)?”

For those of you unfamiliar with the  period before the pre-emptive attack on the Egyptian forces on the morning of June, 5th, 1967, in Israeli history, has become known as  “Heh Hamtana”-The Waiting. This was the time from the moment that Nasser closed the Straits of Eilat   (erroneously named the Straits of Tiran) to Israeli shipping, thereby choking off our southern port to all transit, both incoming and departing, and brought 100,000 of his troops and 900 tanks to our southern border with the Sinai Desert.  The president of Egypt ordered that the UN (then, as now, cowardly, feckless and inherently anti-Israel) to remove what was called the UNEF-United Nations Emergency Force-that was placed on the border as a result of an agreement made in 1957 that augured the withdrawal of the IDF from the Sinai and Gaza as a condition for our regretful retreat after our victory in Sinai Campaign of October 1956.

The “armistice” agreement stated that these troops could only be removed with the approval of the Security Council as a result of a request by the parties to the conflict. However, the UN Sec’y General at the time, the Burmese diplomat, U Thant, flew to Egypt in a panic asking  Nasser what his intentions were, AFTER the UN forces were to be removed. Knowing that the Egyptian dictator had formally, openly and publicly declared that his intention was to destroy Israel, the UN, as usual, knuckled under to the Egyptian demands that the UNEF be removed forthwith and immediately. As the soldiers of the United Nations Emergency Force, a military that was probably the only one from the UN in the Middle East that actually was successful in its mission to halt terror attacks on Israeli soil since their emplacement in Gaza in February, 1957, the Egyptian Army rapidly put up its battle ensigns and occupied the abandoned positions directly on the Israeli border. At that moment, Israeli and Egyptian forces were eyeball to eyeball.  As Barbara Tuchman, the eminent historian has written, U Thant acted with “the dynamism of a noodle.”

With this harbinger of doom sitting on our southern front, and when the Syrian, Jordanian and Egyptian governments signed a mutual defense treaty on May, 30th, 1967, in Cairo, the noose around our neck drew even tighter. Israel had no option but to mobilize our forces at a cost of millions of dollars a day in lost production and services. And recall, that in 1967, our ENTIRE population was less than 3,000,000 souls.

The late Levi Eshkol, z”l, the prime minister of Israel ,sent the redoubtable Abba Eban, z”l, the foreign minister, on a round of talks with our “friends.” Starting with the French president, DeGaulle,which was  probably the most important stop in his journey as France was our main arms supplier( the US to this point had NEVER PUBLICLY sold any arms considered offensive to Israel-no tanks, no fighter planes). Eban asked what was France’s intention-DeGaulle, who had called Israel, “our friend and ally,” warned Israel’s foreign minister,, “Ne tirez pas le premiere balle!”-“Do not fire the first shot!” When Eban said that this had already been done by the Egyptians by their blockade of Eilat, DeGaulle warned him that Israel would lose the support of France if it acted independently.

After France, Eban visited Harold Brown, the prime minister of the UnitedKingdom, and was politely rebuffed. Mr Brown told the foreign minister that England was powerless to act. Finally, after traveling for days, Eban arrived in Washington, DC, where he had previously served as Israel’s ambassador during the early years of the state. He  was received warmly by President Lyndon Johnson who told him that the US would attempt to raise an international fleet to break the blockade. But time was running out. Israel, FM Eban said, was breathing with one lung.  Johnson did try, but only Canada, Denmark and perhaps Australia, were willing to attempt the break, but the planning and the timing  were against Israel.

Israelis were emptying their basement shelters, hoarding food and fuel. Normal life had come to a standstill as buses, taxis and able bodied men disappeared from the streets. Secretly, rabbis were sent to public parks in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem to consecrate the grounds as cemeteries, should massive civilian deaths be caused in the war that was surely coming.

The Israel Defense Forces was also being held back by political considerations. A weak and vacillating prime minister, who delivered a speech to the nation by radio that was so ineffective and so poorly delivered as to sow more fear and less confidence among the populace. The Chief of Staff of the IDF, the late Itzhak Rabin, z’l, went to see Israel’s elder statesman, David Ben Gurion, z”l, at his home on Kibbutz Sde Boker, for encouragement and left with curses and threats ringing in his ears that he was destroying Israel, that we couldn’t fight alone and he was bringing Israel to the brink of extermination.

Meanwhile, thousands of troops were sitting in their desert encampments,  pilots were sleeping next to the hangars and the navy was on full alert. Our military was drawn tight as a bowstring, waiting to hit the Egyptians before they could strike at us. Israeli families stayed  at home, unsure of the future, and some of the citizens  were demanding the resignation of the prime minister and the appointment of Moshe Dayan, z”l the hero of the Sinai Campaign of 1956 , as defense minister.

I am not going to recap the war’s history, that is not my intent here, but I needed to underscore that we are in a new “Hamtana” waiting for our government to strike the inevitable  blow at Iran before they can hit us.  A hesitant leadership  in Jerusalem,waiting to get “help” or the promise thereof from the United States or Europe and again, being told to wait and see what they might accomplish through diplomatic means, is eroding our image of deterrence in the eyes of the enemy. It is sucking at the vitals of our military and it is providing time for the Iranians to build their weapons of destruction, just as the waiting in May, 1967, gave the Arabs time to re-inforce their positions and build up their forces. The waiting made the war more costly than it needed to be, but at least, our home front, except for some sporadic firing from Jordanian artillery and a single attempt by a Syrian plane to bomb the Haifa refineries, was safe. There were no Kassams, no Grads, no Scuds, just some Arab artillery in the center and the north that were silenced quickly and easily.

That situation no longer exists, ALL of Israel is in the bulls’ eye now. We are told by the Americans to wait for diplomacy as there is a new president in Iran. But when we finally struck out at our enemies in June, 1967, the USA, our “friend,”  had the State Department quote on the first day of the war that the USA was, “neutral in thought, word and deed.” I sincerely doubt that the current American administration, nor the European Union nor the United Nations, would be silent if we did what must be done to preserve our sovereignty. After all, dead Jews don’t make trouble.

Neutrality, diplomacy, negotiations, will kill us if we let them. What we need to do is what our Air Force and ground forces did on the morning of 5 June 1967. We must defend ourselves and not wait for others to succor us into a stupor for their convenience. We MUST ACT even if it brings regional conflict. We know how to fight a war to win, we know now that it is better that war comes today than later, when the weapons facing us will be far more destructive and lethal than they are now. We MUST, ALONE, determine the time, place and method to cut our enemies’ throats-just as we knew in 1967 the opportune time for attacking the airfields of Egypt, so must WE DECIDE when to eradicate the foes of Israel.

We do not need another “HAMTANA”-what we need is an old fashioned Israeli VICTORY!

All else, the farcical “negotiations with the “Palestinian Authority” (the terrorist PLO in a new suit if clothes) are secondary to the existential threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and possible construction of atomic warheads fitted to the ICBMs(Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) it has already manufactured.

The terrorist threat, although not be taken lightly, is not an existential threat to the security of the State of Israel from a military point of view, but it can be a severely destructive threat to our civilian population as our enemies always target the innocent first.

Therefore, prior to any assault on the Iranian nuclear facilities, whether by the Israel Air Force and/or Israel Navy, covert messages must be delivered to the governments of Lebanon and Syria(whoever or whatever might be in power in Damascus) that ANY aggression carried out against Israel as a result of our legitimate pre-emptive assault on Iran, would be met by massive retaliation by the IDF.

Warnings could also be delivered through the necessary channels to both the criminal Hamas terrorists and their accomplices in Gaza, that they will be totally destroyed, without mercy, by overwhelming Israeli firepower if they dare to launch projectiles of any kind, into Israeli territory.

I realize that this entire plan might be deemed alarmist and somewhat fanciful, but is anyone willing to take a chance with our survival?

The late. first prime minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion, z”l, was once quoted, “When Hitler said he would kill all the Jews, no one believed him. When Nasser said it, we believed him.” Just substitute the proper names for this time in history and draw your own conclusions.


About the Author
Irwin was born in New York City and is now retired. He lives in Maaleh Adumim since making aliyah 7 years ago.