AJC eBook: Israel’s Triple Anniversary - Page 12

10 During Israel’s early years Arab terrorists would often infiltrate across the border and attack Israelis—encouraged, in particular, by the new Egyptian regime headed by Gamal Abdel Nasser—triggering Israeli reprisals. By 1956 Nasser had nationalized the Suez Canal, was receiving large quantities of arms from the Soviet bloc, and spoke publicly of invading and dismantling the Jewish state. Israel countered by invading the Sinai, in cooperation with the British and the French who were eager to oust Nasser and retake the canal. Forced to retreat from the Sinai by international pressure, Israel insisted upon, and received, assurances that its ships could pass freely through the Straits of Tiran off the Sinai coast, a key trade route to Africa and Asia. Nasser violated that very pledge in the spring of 1967, blockading the Straits after convincing the UN to withdraw its peacekeeping force from the area. Egypt announced the mobilization of its armed forces and Nasser declared that, in coordination with Syria, it was about to erase the shame of 1948 and 1956 and deal Israel a knockout blow. Government-controlled Cairo Radio broadcast on May 25, “The Arab people is firmly resolved to wipe Israel off the map and to restore the honor of the Arabs of Palestine.”7 When diplomatic efforts to avert hostilities failed, Israel lau nched preemptive attacks on Egyptian and Syrian airfields on June 5, and after Jordan, ignoring Israeli warnings to 7 Ibid, p. 107.