ששה ימים, 45 שנה מאת מיקו פלד

האלופים מתי פלד ודוד אלעזר (מימין) עם הרמטכ”ל רבין בשטח

את תחילת יוני 1967 ביליתי בעודי יושב עם אמי ואחיותיי בשירותים בקומה התחתונה של ביתנו במוצא, במורדות ירושלים. חדר השירותים שימש לנו למקלט מאחר ובבתינו החדש לא היה מקלט, ולמרות שאבי היה מאלופי צה”ל באותה תקופה, לא ידענו מה מצפה לנו. לא עלה על דעתנו שהמלחמה שזה עתה החלה תסתיים תוך ששה ימים.  איש לא העלה על דעתו שצה”ל ישמיד שלושה צבאות, יהרוג למעלה מ 15,000 חיילים ערביים (במחיר מותם של 700 חיילים ישראלים), יגדיל את שטח המדינה פי שלוש ולראשונה ביותר מאלפיים שנה יגיש לעם היהודי את השליטה בכל ארץ ישראל, כולל יהלום הכתר, ירושלים העתיקה.

היום, כאז, יש המאמינים שישראל פעלה מתוך הגנה כאשר החלה בהתקפת הפתע, ב-6 ביוני 1967 מכוון שעמדה בפני סכנת מצבאות ערבים שעמדו נכונים ומוכנים להשמיד את ישראל. אך אבי ז”ל, האלוף במיל. מתי פלד היה חבר במטכ”ל 67 והוא היה מאלה שידעו שלא כך היה. במאמר שהוא פרסם ב”מעריב”, במלאת שש שנים למלחמת ששת הימים, הוא כתב: “הופתעתי לראות שנאצר החליט לעמיד את כוחותיו כל כך קרוב לכוחותינו מכוון שזה איפשר לנו לתקוף ולהשמיד אותם בכל רגע שרצינו, ולא היה איש בר דעת שלא ראה זאת”. מאוחר יותר גם האלופים אריק שרון ועזר ויצמן, שגם היו באותו מטכ”ל, הודו שלא הייתה שום סכנה למדינה.

ב-1967 בדומה להיום, שני מרכזי הכח במדינה היו המטכ”ל של צה”ל והממשלה. ב-2 ביוני 1967 שני מרכזי כח אלא נפגשו ב”בור” בתל-אביב. העוינות שבה קיבלו האלופים את ראש הממשלה דאז לוי אשכול זיכתה את המפגש בשם “מרד הגנרלים.” מתמלילי המפגש שמצאתי בארכיון צה”ל מתברר כי האלופים הבהירו לאשכול כי הצבא המצרי זקוק לשנה וחצי עד שנתיים כדי שיהיה מוכן למלחמה, ודרשו שירשה להם לפתוח בהתקפה מיד. אבי ז”ל אמר לראש הממשלה כי: “אנו יודעים שהצבא המצרי אינו מוכן למלחמה… הוא זקוק לשנה וחצי נוספות כדי להיות מוכן למלחמה.  לדעתי הוא סמך על הססנות ממשלת ישראל. הוא עושה שאת מתוך בטחון שלא נעיז להכות בו… מגיע לנו לדעת מדוע סובלים אנו את החרפה הזו…אולי נקבל בהזדמנות זאת הסברים”. לאורך כל הישיבה, כבישיבות אחרות בהן דן המטכ”ל במצב, אין תזכורת לסכנה אלא אך ורק להזדמנות להכות בצבא המצרי ולהשמידו.

בסופו של דבר, לאחר ימים מספר נכנעה הממשלה ללחץ והשאר כפי שאומרים, היסטוריה. ב-10 ביוני עם דום רעם התותחים היה אלוף אחד שראה הזדמנות שליתר ההנהגה הפוליטית והצבאית לקח עשרות שנים לזהות. במאמר שפורסם במארס 1995 משחזר חיים הנגבי את ישיבת המטכ”ל הראשונה לאחר הניצחון, ישיבה שבא אמר אבי את הדברים הבאים: “לראשונה מאז קום המדינה יש לנו הזדמנות לפתור את הבעיה הפלסטינית אחת ולתמיד. לראשונה אנו פנים אל פנים ללא מדינה ערבית בינינו ויש בידינו לתת להם להקים מדינה שתחיה בשלום לצד ישראל.”

עמדתו של אבי הייתה מוכרת היטב, ובמאמר שפרסם ב”מעריב” לאחר שפרש ב-1969 הוא כתב: “מעשה זה (הקמת ישובים וסיפוח הגדה המערבית הלכה למעשה -מ.פ.) פירושו דיכוי הרצון הלאומי של ערביי פלשתינה להגיע לריבונות מדינית…אין מקום לספק שדיכוי זה של האוכלוסייה ששאיפתה לעצמאות לאומית כל כך חזקה ומוכחת, יביא בעקבותיו, בהכרח, משטר של דיכוי…במערכת יחסים כזו תושחת דמותה המוסרית של מדינת ישראל.” במשך שנות חייו הוא המשיך לטעון שהמשך השליטה בגדה המערבית ורצועת עזה יהפוך את המדינה היהודית למדינת כיבוש אכזרית (ובכך הוא צדק) ויוביל בסופו של דבר למדינה דו-לאומית (גם כאן כפי שהדברים מתפתחים מסתבר שצדק). לעומת זאת, אם יורשה לפלסטינים להקים מדינה עצמאית לצד ישראל זה “יבטיח את טובתן של שתי המדינות גם יחד.”

במשך 45 שנה השקיעו ממשלות ישראל מיליארדי דולרים כדי להפוך את כיבוש הגדה לבלתי הפיך ובכך הרסו כל סיכוי לממש את פתרון הסכסוך על בסיס שתי מדינות. ישאל בנתה ערים ומרכזי קניות, סללה כבישים והקימה תעשיה שלמה כדי להביא מתנחלים להתיישב בגדה, וביחד עם זאת הטילה משטר של טרור על תושביה הפלסטינים של הגדה.  דיכוי העם הפלסטיני כולל בין השאר מניעת הספקת מים סדירה, מניעת גישה חופשית לאדמות, מעצרים של אלפי פעילים פוליטיים תוך הפרה בוטה של החוק הבינלאומי, החלת אין ספור חוקים וצווים המפלים את הפלסטינים לרעה וכמובן התקפות טרור ממשיות של צה”ל על אזרחים. ישראל משקיעה כמויות אדירות של משאבים לדיכויים ורדיפתם של הפלסטינים בארץ ומחוצה לה.

כיום שוב עומדות בפני ישראל שתי ברירות: להמשיך להתקיים כמדינה יהודית תוך כדי שליטה בעם הפלסטיני ושימוש בחוקים גזעניים ומשטר צבאי ברוטלי, או לעבור שנוי עמוק ומהותי שבו תהפוך ישראל למדינה דמוקרטית אמיתית בה חיים ישראלים ופלסטינים בשוויון זכויות מלא במולדתם המשותפת. יש לקוות, לטובתם של ישראלים ופלסטינים גם יחד שישראל תבחר בברירה השנייה.

  • מיקו פלד הוא ישראלי שחי בסן דיאגו, ארה”ב, ספרו החדש: “The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine” יצא לאור לא מזמן בהוצאת: Just World Books

 

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The 45th birthday of the Occupation Nurit Peled-Elhanan

9 June 2012

I dedicate my words this evening to three hunger-strikers. Mahmoud Sarsak, who has been striking for 83 days. An excellent football player from Gaza, he was arrested three years ago under the Law against Illegal Combatants, which permits him to be imprisoned for life, without a trial and without charge. Akram Rikhawi, who has been imprisoned since 2004 and has been on a hunger-strike since 12 April, in protest against his not being released despite the fragile state of his health. And Samer al-Barq, who renewed his hunger-strike after he had stopped it, with the signing of the agreement, because like many who were released, he got a new administrative detention order. Those prisoners are still alive because “when freedom takes hold of a person’s soul, even the gods cannot touch him.” (Jean-Paul Sartre) Not the god of Zionist power and not the Israeli angel of death. Those prisoners, and thousands more like them, including more than twenty Members of Parliament including the Chairman of the Parliament, Dr. Aziz Dweik, are being held without justice or trial, under humiliating conditions, for years, without visits or hope. They are the freedom fighters of this country who remind us again and again that we all live under occupation and that only their liberation will restore our freedom to us.

Arab citizens of Israel have been living under occupation for nearly sixty-five years now, and the Jewish citizens of Israel are living under a siege that they have imposed on themselves. We are all subjects of a colonialist regime that includes the appropriation of lands and water resources, ethnic cleansing, destruction of the landscape and destruction of the human spirit. A language and culture of which they have no need except to express their being conquered has been imposed on the Arabs whose language and culture has been deliberately and institutionally removed from the lives of the Jews, so that we cannot teach our children and remind their children that “there can also be a love story between an Arab poet and this country.” (Mahmoud Darwish). Thus since its establishment Israel has been perpetuating, in the manner of oppressive regimes, an alienated society and a culture cut off from this place, its residents, its aromas and its tastes. Even the trees and the flowers in our gardens are alienated, foreign, and do not belong. This alienation testifies again and again that on the day of its founding Israel emblazoned on its flag the symbol of apartheid and racism, and eschewed the symbol of freedom and brotherhood that ensures democracy.

This year the apartheid regime of the State of the Jews proved its complete loyalty to racism and the principles of racism. Twenty-five racist bills were submitted and more than ten racist laws have been passed this year, and hardly any Jewish citizens went out onto the streets. More than three hundred people imprisoned without trial launched a hunger strike to the death for two months and more, and hardly any Jewish citizens went onto the streets. Thousands of children are not going to school in East Jerusalem because the Jewish ministry of education does not allocate classes or because the racist Citizenship Law makes them the citizens on no-place and no one is going onto the streets. The separation of families, the expulsion of residents, the confiscation of lands, children abducted from their beds and cruelly interrogated, families evicted from their homes out onto the street, farmers tortured by kippa-wearing bullies under the protection of the army and on the orders of the government – and hardly anyone goes out onto the streets. That is the peak achievement of the Zionist movement.

The State of Israel, which was officially declared as an apartheid state, is distinguished by what has always been the most typical and successful method of racism: the classification of human beings. The Hebrew language that keeps getting uglier under the auspices of the army of Occupation and the bureaucracy of Occupation, is full of classifications: there are people who are a cancer in the heart of the nation and there are people who are a security danger, and there are people who are a plague or a demographic nightmare and there are people who are a health risk, all of them classified and categorized in such a way that even the most ignorant and boorish of Israel’s ministers manage to learn this categorization by heart.

We are all subject to classifications. We are all controlled by the racist laws of this place, and voluntarily placed into ghettos. The Zionist ghetto has learned not to see and not to hear anything beyond the walls that surround it: the real walls made of concrete, and the imaginary walls made of obedience, hate and terrible fear. We do not dare protest against the racist laws, we do not dare to defy racist signs, we do not dare to defend tortured children, we do not dare to break the walls of Gaza, and we do not dare go to Hebron and Deheisheh, to Jenin and Ramallah to ask after the neighbours. That is the great victory of the Occupation. Under the cover of the Occupation, we choose again and again to fold under the rule of criminals of every kind, war criminals, ignoramuses and boors. Thus do we punish ourselves for our helplessness and the withering of our spirit. Year after year we take our children to the gates of the schools, let them learn in an education system that burns books of history and citizenship and authorizes books that incite the murder of children. We abandon them to brainwashing and lies about the War of Liberation we won and Jerusalem Day that signifies our conquests, and the parade for Samaria, which is ours, we let them be taken to Hebron, the City of our Patriarchs, and to the City of David – who is not alive and not well. The teachers in that system do not flinch when they are called upon to poison their pupils’ minds with mendacious stories about our historical rights to the neighbours’ lands, about heroism and victory when it was really ethnic cleansing, inspired and planned by the institutions of racism. The entire purpose of Israeli education is to prepare children to be obedient soldiers of the Israel Occupation Force.

We bow our heads when the most institutionalized terrorist organization in the world takes our children from us and enlists them into its ranks and teaches them how to classify people, how to classify children, how to classify babies, how to classify pain and how to classify the dead. All that, in order to harden their hearts and to dull their senses so that they can abuse, destroy and kill with a clean conscience. We are occupied to such a degree that even when the human being turns into blood we continue to classify without understanding that all of us, the dead and the living, are victims of the corrupting Occupation.

We feel the pain of the parents of one captive Jewish soldier and do not let the pain of the parents of thousands of abducted Palestinian children penetrate through to us, parents who are not allowed to visit their incarcerated children for years because the price demanded of them for the visit is collaboration with the oppressor. We ignore the sufferings of the children of Gaza who are living on the margins of death, victims of malnutrition and lack of medical care, without electricity, without the right to education and livelihood, without a chance and without hope.

As everyone knows today, the 1967 war was not a war of no choice. It was a bolting from the corral by young generals, hot-blooded colts who had sprouted and grown up in the Zionist ghetto and learned to dream of conquest. They trained and trained until they could do so no longer and then took advantage of a moment of stupidity on the part of the neighbours to breach every obstacle, to cast off all restraints and to conquer and expand and destroy joyfully, with intoxicated senses, with a feeling of omnipotent supremacy but without any plan for the future, without any thought for the day after and the millions of human beings who became subjects overnight. In order to justify the devastation and the destruction, the official mythologists were mobilized to affix a scriptural verse to every profane killing and an entire nation was swept into the stream of plunder and exploitation, surpassing themselves every year, because the Jewish genius, from the moment it was enlisted for the task of ruin and devastation, destruction and killing, has not stopped taking out ever more patents.

Today, when the Occupation is beginning to show its effect on the quality of life of the ruling nation, they are rising up and demanding social justice. But social justice too is classified. Social justice is for residents of this ghetto, not of that ghetto. Residents of that ghetto will only spoil our social justice if we include them in our demands, if we give them a forum, if we let their voices be heard in demand of what is theirs. Because that ghetto is there for security reasons and its residents are not victims of injustice and racism but are a security problem, each and every one of them. And when they are killed it is not from racism but from political considerations and we don’t get involved in politics. Therefore that movement for social justice, the failure of which was written on the wall upon its inception, is the most spectacular product of the Israeli education system.

Woe to us that the criminals of the Occupation today are our children, woe to us that we have so succumbed to racism, that we have thus permitted the apartheid criminals to occupy our spirits and to cut us off from everything that is human, from everything that is just, from everything that is peace and quiet, good neighbourliness, love of humanity, mercifulness and compassion, in order to achieve their base objectives. The spirits of the hunger-striking prisoners in their cramped cells are breathing freedom and liberty, and our spirit is oppressed and expiring.

We are living in a ghetto that has no city and no homeland, the language of which is not the local language, a ghetto that has no place to open onto except the bypass roads that pass by everything that is alive.

The time has come when we must join our neighbours all over the Middle East, to sing the praises of the true rebellion, to declare the opening of the borders and the breaking of the barriers, to break down the doors of the prisons, to return the olives and the vineyards to their owners, to return the Children of Palestine to their borders and their land and to try to recover what was lost and trampled under the hobnailed boots of the fat bullies. Only then, if the true children of this country will permit us to learn how to live in it, we too may be able to liberate ourselves from the Occupation and be free from fear, because as Menachem Begin said: “The essence of freedom is freedom from fear, because fear is no less terrible a ruler for its being concealed.”

Among us the fear is overt; among us fear is the motivating force behind every action. Fear of refusal to serve in the Occupation army, fear of supporting a justified boycott of the produce of the settlements, fear of visiting the neighbours. Kindergarten children who arrived here from Ethiopia a few months ago already know whom to hate and whom to fear. They are struck with terror and fear of “the Arabs” they have never seen in person. They are sure that it was the Arabs who burned the Temple, who murdered Jews in Germany, who detained them in Gondar, who are lying in wait for them on all sides. We must liberate our children from the walls of fear and teach them the bases of liberty and responsibility, and explain to them and to ourselves that a person who obeys restrictions that prevent him from going wherever he wants, even if it is Hebron or Jenin or Ramallah – is not a free person but a conquered person. A person who invents laws that restrict the ability of their neighbours to get an education and make a living is a repressed person, a person under siege. That siege can be lifted only by resistance of the type that we see in Bil’in and Ni’lin, Babi Salah, Maasara and through courageous civil disobedience, with a blanket “no” – as our neighbours are doing.

I will conclude with a few lines written by Almog Behar, who wrote the following to Mahmoud Darwish:

To my brother Mahmoud Darwish: who made our history conflicted

And placed me among the high towers

Standing watch over the heavy gates of Gaza

Observing the windows of houses through the sights of rifles?

Who erected between us walls of concrete and iron and the eyes of cameras

And divided us into conquerors and conquered

When we should be brothers?

Translated from Hebrew by George Malent

Review of The General’s Son, by Steve Kowit in the San Diego UT

The author of this engaging and important memoir is a sixth-degree black belt who runs a thriving karate school in Coronado. He is also the son of one of Israel’s most notable generals and political dissidents, Matti Peled, a war hero who shocked Israel several decades ago by becoming a vocal peace advocate and a professor of Arabic literature at Tel Aviv University.

The author’s mother seems to have been no less a remarkable figure: In 1948, after several hundred thousand Palestinian civilians had been forced to flee, never to be permitted to return, she refused to follow the example of her compatriots and expropriate the abandoned home of a dispossessed family. She is quoted many years later as explaining: “That I should take the home of a family that may be living in a refugee camp? The home of another mother…. I refused…. And to see the Israelis driving away with loot, beautiful rugs and furniture, I was ashamed for them. I don’t know how they could do it.”

Even as a young man, the author, a proud Israeli patriot, encounters a number of disquieting realities. Shortly after he is drafted in 1980, the members of his elite commando unit are instructed by their commanding officer to walk up and down the streets of Ramallah in the West Bank and “if anyone so much as looked at us, we were to… ‘break every bone in their body.’” At another point, the author recalls an Israeli naval commando casually describing how his unit would torture and drown Gaza fishermen “to teach the Arabs who was boss.”

But the author’s real journey of awakening comes after his beloved 13-year-old niece, Smadar, is killed by a suicide bomber on a Tel Aviv street. Smadar’s father, Miko’s brother-in law, begins devoting himself to the Bereaved Families Forum, an organization of Jewish and Palestinian parents who have lost children to the conflict, while Nurit, Smadar’s mother and Miko’s sister, begins speaking and writing about the need to stop the bloodbath — for which work, in 2001, she was awarded the Sacharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament.

Not long after Smadar’s tragic death, Miko, who had already moved with his wife, Gila, to the United States, finds himself at a Jewish-Palestinian dialogue group in San Diego, and among Palestinians for the first time in his life. There, to his astonishment, he finds Jewish and Palestinian-Americans laughing together and treating each other as friends and equals. From the Palestinians in the group, he tells us, “I heard stories of displacement and ruthlessness I had never imagined possible.”

Traveling between Israel and the United States, the author continues to learn unpleasant truths, and by reading Israeli historians such as Ilan Pappé and Avi Schlaim, he begins to understand that the exculpatory explanations for the Palestinian mass exodus of 1948 are largely a collection of myths.

 Miko and his Palestinian-American friend Nader Elbanna, a fellow Rotarian — a man who had grown up in a refugee camp in Jordan after his family had been forced to flee their home in the 1948 expulsion — begin giving talks to Rotary Clubs about the Israeli conflict and Palestinian dispossession. Eventually the two men raise enough money to buy a thousand wheelchairs, half of which they earmark for needy Israelis and the other half for needy Palestinians. By this point, the reader is not entirely surprised to learn that Israel resists permitting those 500 wheelchairs to reach a Palestinian hospital. After finally managing to deliver them, the two friends arrive at a checkpoint, where Miko is harassed and threatened with arrest and finally experiences for himself, “the humiliation thousands of Palestinians have to go through every day.”

Given the accumulation of such experiences, it should not be surprising that the author, a member of one of Israel’s most notable families, arrives at the conviction that genuine democracy for both Israelis and Palestinians is the only real solution to the conflict, and that Palestinians and Jews must “live in one state where we are completely equal in every way.”

For anyone wishing to understand the complex dynamics of one of the world’s most consequential and tragic conflicts, Miko Peled’s courageous, revelatory and compassionate memoir, “The General’s Son,” is likely to become required reading.

Steve Kowit is a well-known poet who teaches in the graduate writing program at San Diego State University.

 

June 9, 2012

Miko Peled’s Op-Ed article on Wednesday about Israel’s 1967 war prompted reader Desmond Tuck of San Mateo, Calif., to write:

“I share Miko Peled’s dream of peace in the Middle East. But his article brought the expression ‘Monday morning quarterback’ to mind. When Hitler was poised to enter the Sudetenland and no one stopped him, we all know what happened next.

“It is naive to argue 45 years after the fact that Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser was not able to launch a full-scale war against Israel in 1967. The U.N. peacekeepers who fled at Nasser’s demand didn’t think so. Israel’s preemptive strike was the needed sign of strength.

“The proof came when later in 1967 the Arab League rejected Israel’s offer to withdraw from all captured territories in exchange for peace. The ‘three no’s’ — no peace, no recognition and no negotiations — should have dispelled all doubts about enduring Arab hatred.”

Miko Peled responds:

The 1967 Israeli war was one of choice and conquest and not one of defense against an existential threat. The myth of the existential threat notwithstanding, Israel Defense Forces generals saw an opportunity to assert Israeli might against an ill-prepared Egyptian army, and as the generals anticipated, the destruction of the Egyptian forces was swift and relatively easy. This allowed them to then “finish the job” and take the West Bank and the Golan Heights, two regions that Israel had coveted for many years.

Even Menachem Begin, who was a member of the 1967 Cabinet and later prime minister, asserted: “Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches did not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”

The IDF knowingly decided to perpetuate the notion of an existential threat. This scare tactic was helpful in applying public pressure against a hesitant government reluctant to give the green light for a preemptive strike against Egypt.

Once the conquest of the West Bank was complete, forced expulsions of Palestinians and the settlement of Jews were almost immediate. Billions of dollars were invested in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to settle Jews there in contravention of international law. Palestinians are not allowed to live in Jewish-only settlement towns, access significant portions of Palestinian agricultural lands, drive highways reserved for settlers or attend segregated schools that Israel built in the West Bank. Palestinians receive only a fraction of the water allocated to Israelis, and they endure discriminatory laws.

Public perception of the conflict is rapidly changing. Increasingly, observers recognize that Israel’s peace plan consists of “three no’s”: no compromising on East Jerusalem, no compromising on the Jordan River Valley and no dismantling the main settlement blocs. In other words: no two-state solution.

Claims are made that a “one-state solution” is impossible, but Israel has created a one-state reality in which nearly half the population is Palestinian. One cannot seriously speak of peace without speaking of the necessity to transform Israel into a binational democracy from the current binational apartheid reality.

My Piece in LA Times on 6 Day War. (from ch. 2 of my book)

6 Days, 45 Years Ago
By Miko Peled

June 6, 2012

In early June 1967, as I cowered with my mother and sisters in the “safest” room of our house near Jerusalem — the downstairs bathroom — we feared the worst. None of us imagined that the war that had just begun would end in six days. It was inconceivable that the Israeli army would destroy three Arab armies, kill upward of 15,000 Arab soldiers (at a cost of 700 Israeli casualties), triple the size of the state ofIsrael and, for the first time in two millenniums, give the Jewish people control over the entire land of Israel, including the crown jewel, the Old City of Jerusalem.

Many believe now, as they believed then, that Israel was forced to initiate a preemptive strike in 1967 because it faced an existential threat from Arab armies that were ready — and intending — to destroy it. As it happens, my father, Gen. Matti Peled, who was the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of logistics at the time, was one of the few who knew that was not so. In an article published six years later in the Israeli newspaper Maariv, he wrote of Egypt’s president, who commanded the biggest of the Arab armies: “I was surprised that Nasser decided to place his troops so close to our border because this allowed us to strike and destroy them at any time we wished to do so, and there was not a single knowledgeable person who did not see that. From a military standpoint, it was not the IDF that was in danger when the Egyptian army amassed troops on the Israeli border, but the Egyptian army.” In interviews over the years, other generals who served at that time confirmed this, including Ariel Sharon and Ezer Weitzman.

In 1967, as today, the two power centers in Israel were the IDF high command and the Cabinet. On June 2, 1967, the two groups met at IDF headquarters. The military hosts greeted the generally cautious and dovish prime minister, Levi Eshkol, with such a level of belligerence that the meeting was later commonly called “the Generals’ Coup.”

The transcripts of that meeting, which I found in the Israeli army archives, reveal that the generals made it clear to Eshkol that the Egyptians would need 18 months to two years before they would be ready for a full-scale war, and therefore this was the time for a preemptive strike. My father told Eshkol: “Nasser is advancing an ill-prepared army because he is counting on the Cabinet being hesitant. Your hesitation is working in his advantage.” The prime minister parried this criticism, saying, “The Cabinet must also think of the wives and mothers who will become bereaved.”

Throughout the meeting, there was no mention of a threat but rather of an “opportunity” that was there, to be seized.

Within short order, the Cabinet succumbed to the pressure of the army, and the rest, as they say, is history. The Six-Day War began three days later and was over on June 10, 1967. When the guns fell silent, one general saw yet another opportunity, one that would take most of Israel’s other leaders some decades to recognize. This was my father. A 1995 newspaper profile reconstructed the first weekly meeting that the IDF general staff held after the war. When it came his turn to speak, my father said: “For the first time in Israel’s history, we have an opportunity to solve the Palestinian problem once and for all. Now we are face to face with the Palestinians, without other Arab countries dividing us. Now we have a chance to offer the Palestinians a state of their own.”

His position was well known. He argued in 1969 that holding on to the territory gained in the war was contrary to Israel’s interests: “If we keep these lands, popular resistance to the occupation is sure to arise, and Israel’s army will be used to quell that resistance, with disastrous and demoralizing results.” Over the years, he argued repeatedly that Israeli control in the West Bank and Gaza would turn the Jewish state into an increasingly brutal occupying power (he was right) and could eventually result in a binational state (he may yet be right, as events are moving in this direction). Allowing the Palestinians an independent state of their own, he maintained, would lead to stability and calm.

For 45 years, successive Israeli governments have invested billions of dollars in making the 1967 conquests irreversible, and they have eliminated any chance for the two-state solution to become a reality. Cities, highways, malls and factories have been built in the West Bank in order to settle Jewish Israelis there, while a reign of terror was put in place to govern the Palestinians whose lands were being taken. From denying access to water and land and obstructing free travel, through a maze of discriminatory laws and restrictions, to full-on military assaults, Israel has dedicated huge resources to the oppression and persecution of the Palestinians.

Now once again Israel is faced with two options: Continue to exist as a Jewish state while controlling the Palestinians through military force and racist laws, or undertake a deep transformation into a real democracy where Israelis and Palestinians live as equals in a shared state, their shared homeland. For Israelis and Palestinians alike, the latter path promises a bright future.

Miko Peled is an Israeli activist living in San Diego and the author of the recently published book, “The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine.”

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times