In June 1967, with ex-Vice President Richard Nixon, this writer toured an Israeli military hospital full of wounded Egyptian soldiers.
An Israeli officer told us that in the hospital was an Egyptian officer he had captured in the 1956 Sinai campaign, and that he had asked the Egyptian: "We have fought three times now, and three times you have been defeated. Why do you keep fighting us?"
The Egyptian replied, "You may have defeated us three times, and you may defeat us 11 times. But the 12th time we win."
From that Six-Day War, wise Israelis took away two lessons.
First, they had to remain alert and strong enough to defeat all their neighbors at once. Second, the more important struggle was that they must win the acceptance of the Arab peoples to survive in an Arab sea.
The Israelis were not alert in 1973 when Egypt launched the attack of Yom Kippur that sent their army reeling along the Suez Canal.
President Nixon intervened with a massive airlift to save Israel.
Half a decade later, President Sadat and Menachem Begin agreed at Camp David to a trade of land for peace. Israel would give up all of Sinai captured in 1967 in return for a peace treaty with Cairo.
A treaty with King Hussein of Jordan followed.
Israel was on its way to winning acceptance in the Arab world.
In 1982, after an Israeli diplomat was mortally wounded by an assassin in London, Begin ordered an invasion of Lebanon. Gen. Ariel Sharon swiftly reached the suburbs of Beirut, and Yasser Arafat's PLO was expelled to Tunis.
But as Yitzhak Rabin ruefully conceded, "We let the Shia genie out of the bottle."
In the south of Lebanon, quiescent Shiites had begun to fight the Israeli occupation in militias that came to be known as Hezbollah.
Bled for 18 years, the Israelis withdrew in 2000, leaving Hezbollah dominant in Lebanon.
Perhaps more critically, after the Six-Day War, the Israelis had annexed all of Jerusalem and begun to move settlers into East Jerusalem and onto the West Bank. In 1987 came the First Intifada, an uprising of the Palestinians using sticks and stones. Yet the movement of Israeli settlers continued. From a few thousand in the 1970s, the number has grown to half a million.
Having won peace with Egypt and Jordan, the Israelis began secret negotiations with the Palestinians. In 1994 came the Oslo Accords, an agreement to trade land for peace. As Sadat got back the Sinai by making peace with Israel, Palestinians would get a nation of their own in return for recognizing Israel.
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