Sharon considered temporary Israeli coup in 1967

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

TEL AVIVPrime Minister Ariel Sharon considered a temporary coup d'état of the Israeli government with other members of the Israeli military shortly before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, it has been revealed.

Days leading up to the '67 Arab-Israeli War featured a build-up of Egyptian, Syrian, and Iraqi forces on the border that was perceived by many as a threat to the very existence of Israel. Military advisors pressured for a preemptive strike, which was felt necessary to offset Israeli numerical inferiority. Then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was under intense pressure from his cabinet and military on the decision to pursue diplomacy or war. Many pro-war officials considered war inevitable and a delay only harmful to Israel.

Ariel Sharon was a Major General in the Israeli military during the war. On May 28th, he advised the Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin that the cabinet could be detained and a coup declared. Sharon and others felt that the civilian government was unable to reach a necessary decision. The military would make the decision the government would not, and begin war in the government's best interests.

He explains: "We often asked whether in the State of Israel there could arise a situation in which the army takes control. And I always said it was impossible, that this couldn't happen in the State of Israel."

"And then, after the meeting on May 28, I said to the chief of staff and others who were present, that there had arisen a situation in which this could happen, and that it would also be well accepted - that is to say, to seize control not in the framework of wanting to govern, but in the framework of making a decision, the fundamental decision, and that [the] army can make it without the government."

"I don't remember if he agreed or not, but I think he also viewed it in this way."

Sharon stressed that no definite plan existed. However, he defended giving it serious consideration, saying: "They [the civilian government] would have accepted it with a sense of relief. That was my feeling."

Prime Minister Eshkol later decided in favor of war on June 5th. Ariel Sharon served as a commander of the Southern Division. His comments may be found in full in Ma'arachot, a publication by the Israeli defense ministry.