I have just finished Daniel Gordis’ concise but thorough history of Israel from the time of Zionist Theodore Herzl to the present day.
It’s written from the Israeli point of view but aware of the country’s failings and sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians.
The journey from Herzl to Netanyahu requires skilful navigating – not least the land issue.
Premiers like Menachem Begin, an early terrorist but a brilliant Warsaw lawyer, claimed biblical rights to the land as originally Judeah and Sumeria.
The Palestinians regard it as their land which has been taken from them.
Ironically the problem was a direct consequence of one of Israel ‘s greatest triumphs – the Six Day War – which was followed by the annexation of the West Bank and Gaza.
Gordis makes the point that before that Pan-Arabist figures like Gamal Nasser did nothing for the Palestinians.
I was particularly interested in the role of the Israeli air force and sent a copy to that well-known aviator and sympathiser to, and advisor of, Israel Sir Harold Airborne.
Harry is now in a care home in Radlett but as alert as ever as I found out when I visited him.
“In the war of Independence …” he reminisced “… Israel only had 6 planes and pilots chucked soda ops over the side to give the impression of a bomb“.
Largely through American aid, they built a resource.
One of the finest hours was the Six Day War.
Tension was growing as Nasser built up an impressive land force.
Premier Levi Eshkol and President Johnson were against a preemptive strike. However in great secrecy the Israeli air squadrons flew under the radar to sea and then obliterated the Egyptian air force.
The war was over by the first day.
“In 1973 the Yom Kippur war, when initially Israel was caught unawares, once the Egyptian army moved outside their Sam missile cover the Air Force destroyed them.
Again, in conditions of the greatest secrecy, in 1981 the Israeli air squadrons flew low to take out the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osirak.
This attack was condemned world-wide and most vocally in America but that country was most grateful 9 years later in the Desert War“.
“With this Lineker nonsense the decision of the elite 69 squadron The Hammer to go on striker as a protest of Netanyahu’s efforts to suppress the Supreme Court has been little covered but it’s highly significant.
“I had the privilege of flying a F15 fighter bomber.
It’s a superb piece of kit. I like to think over the years that I have been of some minor assistance to the air force …“
Indeed you have Harry, as your honorary title of Air Vice Marshal of the Israeli Air Force attests.
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