When International Guarantees Utterly Failed

(Jerusalem Post) David Makovsky - On May 22, 1967, Egypt's president Gamal Abdel Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran, a critical blow to Israel which relied on oil imports from Iran. Israel believed it had received a guarantee from the international community in 1957 that it would reopen the Straits if Nasser again closed them, as he had in 1956. After the Suez Crisis of 1956, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion conceded in principle to withdraw from Sinai, but requested assurances that the Straits of Tiran wouldn't be blocked again, and that Israeli ships would have access to the Gulf of Aqaba and the Israeli port at Eilat. When in 1967 Prime Minister Levi Eshkol dispatched Foreign Minister Abba Eban to Paris, London, and Washington to see if the international community would re-open the Straits, as Michael Oren writes in his Six Days of War, de Gaulle declared, "that was 1957...now was 1967." President Lyndon Johnson was preoccupied with Vietnam. Properly constructed agreements, such as the peace treaty with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994, have withstood the test of time. Agreements work that serve the interests of both parties. The vacillation in the run-up to the 1967 war still teaches an important cautionary lesson, illustrating where international guarantees utterly failed. If the chips are down, Israel needs to be able to defend itself by itself. The writer is director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

2017-05-08 00:00:00

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