In the midst of the euphoria of the aftermath of the Six Day War, Israel saw an opportunity to buy peace. They had captured territory twice the size of Israel, and they thought that they could exchange this victory (and territory)Â for a lasting peace.
The Arab response to Israeli’s overture was the famous “Three No’s” of the Khartoum conference following the war:
No peace with Israel
No recognition of Israel
No negotiations with it
But even in the face ofÂ Arab intransigence, Israel still heldÂ on to theÂ hope that the Arabs would take the opportunity for peace.Â Against the strong opposition byÂ religious parties, the Israeli governmentÂ denied repeated requests to build settlements in theÂ West Bank.
Unfortunately, to paraphrase Abba Eban, past foreign minister of Israel:
The ArabsÂ never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
Eventually, Gush Emmunim (Block of the Faithful) would forceÂ Israel’s hand and launch the first settlement in the West Bank – on the site of the Jewish town massacred by the Arabs in 1948. Even then, settlement activity was a mere trickle.
The Israeli government was still holding out hope for peace.
Then the Yom Kippur War shocked Israel and brought her to her senses. Israel had a powerfulÂ desire for peace and a place among the nations. That desireÂ combined with her great self-confidence encouraged a lack of preparedness that resulted in a war with almostÂ ten thousand Israeli casualties (2565 dead and 7250 wounded).
It was a catastrophe.
As a result, the Israeli government was forced to resign,Â allowingÂ Menachem Begin’s right wing Likud party to gain power.
Settlement activity went from a trickle to a flood.
It is ironic to see that the greatest supporters of theÂ settlement movement have been the Arabs themselves.Â Â Â