Around the 55th anniversary of the end of the Six-Day War, a war that is attributed as a great and glorious victory of the State of Israel against its enemies, it is important to ask ourselves the hardest question, but more necessary than ever - did we really win that war?
It is true that the Six-Day War was a resounding operational success, when in a brave, pre-planned and stunningly executed operation, within a day the Israel Air Force destroyed most of the air forces of the enemy armies. It is true that during the war, parts of our ancestral and indigenous homeland and our holiest places were liberated. It is true that these successes raised the morale and pride of the young and weak state and the entire Jewish people, in Israel and in the Diaspora. It is true that we proved to the whole world that we know how to fight.
However, this dizzying operational success was not leveraged for strategic achievements.
On the contrary, within nine days the State of Israel informed its enemies, through the United States, that it was ready to give up most of the territories it had occupied in exchange for peace agreements. That is, the enemies understood that Israel was actually afraid of another war, so much so that it was willing to return everything only in exchange for a promise not to be attacked again.
Moreover, our enemies understood from this that Jews do not respect their liberated land and are not deeply rooted in the place. This is contrary to the value of the land in Islam which sanctifies ownership of land as a symbol of wealth, connection with God, power and intimate connection. From their point of view, if the Jews, who were in exile for two thousand years, immediately after liberating their holiest places, are immediately ready to return them to the enemy, they have no true and lasting connection here and can be defeated in the future through pressure. They may be strong technologically and militarily, but they do not believe themselves that this is their land. In this case, our enemies surmised, it's just a matter of time and pressure until they leave.
Neighboring Arab states refused to get their lands back through agreement. This is for one reason only; they were sure that Israel could eventually be defeated and destroyed and they can take back everything without making concessions.
In his book "The Abyss" published in 2011, Eli Avidar, then an experienced diplomat working with Muslim countries and later a Member of Knesset, explains the gap in the perception of time between Jews and Arabs, between Israel and its neighbors. He explains that the sense of time in Arab culture and Islam is fundamentally different from the Western sense of time with which the State of Israel identifies. Haste is a despicable thing, and every process takes time.
It is not enough to win one short battle, consequential and significant as it may be. If the enemy is not convinced that we are capable and willing to continue fighting and control our land, over time, then we have not won the war.
We have just won the battle. War is a long process. By definition, the very name "Six-Day War" contradicts the principle of defining war in Arab culture and human culture. Most wars in history have lasted for years and even decades.
Thus, the war continues. Israel is getting stronger, and believes in itself more, learns from the grave mistakes of the past. It takes time. It is impossible to expect a people scattered, oppressed and frightened for 2,000 years to return to a sovereignty mindset in a short amount of time. It's a process.
Some of the enemies have already realized that we are winning, and it is better to cooperate with us than to fight. Others, not yet. Those who continue fighting us is very dangerous and can cause great damage. It is no longer enough to merely win battles. The war must be won, even if it takes time.
Alex Selsky is a member of the board of directors of and adviser to the Middle East Forum-Israel, which leads the Israel Victory Project, and a former adviser to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.