In The Battle for Jerusalem: An Unintended Conquest, Rabinovich, a historian and former journalist for Newsday and The Jerusalem Post, does a masterful job of piecing together a mosaic of individual experiences, events, and commentary, expanding and

In The Battle for Jerusalem: An Unintended Conquest, Rabinovich, a historian and former journalist for Newsday and The Jerusalem Post, does a masterful job of piecing together a mosaic of individual experiences, events, and commentary, expanding and updating the account of the June 1967 battle found in his earlier book.[1] The author now includes Arab accounts, some additional information on the Israeli political environment leading up to the decision to go to war, and more detailed maps.

It is a gripping tale of individual heroism and the ambiguities of urban warfare, told from the perspective of top commanders down to privates in the field. The result is a coherent overall picture of the course of war in a city of immense religious and political importance.

The author depicts the individual initiative of Israel Defense Forces soldiers alongside the bravery of many of the Jordanian fighters, largely abandoned by their officers. He chronicles the mistakes of the incompetently coordinated Arab League military, their mutual deception, and the rather diffident leadership style of the overall commander, Egyptian general Abdel-Moneim Riad. The confusion over command structure resulted in orders and counter-orders to evacuate the West Bank. Promised Arab military help for Jordan was predictably meager.

The most instructive, if somewhat inadvertent, part of the book is the story of how the unprepared Israeli forces dealt with the dissolution of the Jordanian army and its rapid evacuation from the West Bank. Many in the Israeli leadership, including some religious figures as well as Moshe Dayan, only wanted a temporary occupation of the West Bank for tactical terrain reasons and were not amenable to an Israeli occupation of Jerusalem or, indeed, of the West Bank. This event has lessons comparable to those learned as a result of the nonexistent plan for the coalition's occupation of Iraq after the quick victory on the field of battle. It serves as a reminder that wars have unintended consequences.


[1] The Battle of Jerusalem: June 5-7, 1967 (Jerusalem: Sefer VeSefel, 2004).