Middle East: The Quickest War

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But Syria was not to be let off quite that easily. With each side claiming that the cease-fire had been violated by the other, Israel turned its full and angry attention to the nation that, by provoking terrorist raids and egging Nasser on, had probably done the most to create the crisis. Despite the natural advantage of the terrain they occupied, the Syrians were driven off the heights of Galilee as Israel extended its conquests 15 miles from the border. Israeli tanks and planes fought all the way to the outskirts of Damascus.

The Hebrew Version. Cairo received the news of the cease-fire in stunned and sullen silence. Extra police turned out at key points where demonstrators normally rally, but no one in the city seemed in the mood for demonstrating. Police moved swiftly through the empty streets taking down the anti-Israel slogans and banners that had festooned the city since Nasser's buildup began last month. Of the Arab alliance, only Algeria, which sent 36 MIGs too late to aid Nasser, vowed to fight on—presumably because the Algerians had not fought at all and were safely out of Israel's deadly reach.

Tel Aviv, however, was a different world. Suddenly it became a city of blue and white flags, fluttering from tall poles, flying from auto aerials, draped from terraces overlooking the sparkling sea. The beaches filled up with bathers and paddle-ball players; occasional soldiers, the dust of the desert still clinging to their boots, thumbed rides homeward on brief furloughs; concerts, chorales and cruises all resumed their schedules.

Jerusalem's Mandelbaum Gate, once a grim passageway into no-man's land, became just another street intersection, save for bands of religious Jews in their black hats and long coats who gathered to cheer every Israeli vehicle rolling out of the Old City. The sentimental Israeli city bus cooperative put its No. 9 bus to Mount Scopus back into operation; it had been saving the number for that particular route ever since the last run was made in 1948. Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kolleck called his municipal council into session to approve a $50 million fund "to rebuild the Eternal City of Jerusalem." Like Dayan and Eshkol and every other Israeli who could possibly manage it, Ben-Gurion visited the Wailing Wall. "This is the greatest moment of my life," he said, then frowned as he noticed that the Jordanian sign on the wall was in English and Arabic. He asked the soldiers to take it down and replace it with a Hebrew version, fussing at them all the while not to damage the stones.

No Clearance. Though at the outset of the fighting Eshkol had asserted that his country had no territorial ambitions, the magnitude of Israel's victory began to temper that resolution. Dayan himself said of the Old City on its capture: "We have returned to our holiest of holy places, never to depart again." Nor did he have to add that Israel was not likely to let Sharm el Sheikh fall back into Arab hands to renew the possibility of another blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba. It was equally clear to all concerned that taking the heights of Galilee permanently from the Syrians would remove the longstanding Arab threat to Israel's Jordan water supply. Holding fast to the west bank of the Suez would guarantee the right of passage to Israeli shipping, denied by Nasser since 1956.

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