TEL AVIV, Israel — In an address to Jewish activists in Washington on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War, U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster praised the way Israel "seized the initiative" by exploiting opportunities that enabled it to route seven Egyptian divisions and wrest control of the Suez Canal, all within four days of that short and decisive war.

"In June 1967, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) saw that Egyptian divisions, so formidable on paper, were built up along the major roads through the Sinai. Israel saw the spaces between them as gaps to be exploited. They seized and retained the initiative," McMaster told a conference of the American Jewish Committee.

While today's security landscape may seem dire, McMaster asserted that opportunities must be found and exploited, much like Israel did in 1967. "In this department, Israel has adapted and performed amazingly well. It acted on opportunities, when others might only see difficulties," he said.

"We, as human beings and especially Americans, tend to see our own situations as unprecedented and typically, as… bad or dire," he said. "By understanding the past, we can ensure that we ask the right questions, make fundamentally sound approaches to day's problems and opportunities."

As an example of potential opportunities, McMaster cited the convergence of interests among Israel and Gulf Cooperation Council states, which he said is leading to a "reassessment of regional relationships."

"Today their interests are converging. This is an opportunity," he said.

McMaster noted that at the start of that war half a century ago, "the very survival of the Jewish State was in jeopardy." Nevertheless, "Israel's leaders and warriors saw past immediate danger" to exploit opportunities.

The top U.S. security advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump did not reference the position at the time of the administration of Lyndon Johnson, which exhorted Israel not to initiate the preemptive air campaign that set Israel on a clear path to victory in that war.

"By bold maneuver, they seized and retained initiative," McMaster said. "That creativity and ingenuity should apply to us today on and off the battlefields."

Noa Amouyal contributed to this report from Washington.

Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at

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