'The Claim That Dayan Tried to Perpetrate a Nuclear Coup Is Nonsense'

Researcher Avner Cohen responds to story of nuclear drama

PM Levi Eshkol and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, pictured at a press conference in Tel Aviv two days before the Six Day War broke out, were the key political decision-makers in Israel's push towards a nuclear device. June 3, 1967
PM Levi Eshkol and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, pictured in Tel Aviv two days before the Six Day War broke out, were the key decision-makers in Israel's push towards a nuclear device. June 3, 1967 Anonymous/AP

In response to "The De Facto Coup D’état’: When Moshe Dayan Tried to Steal Israel’s First Nuclear Device," by Adam Raz, July 15

I was shocked to see this article that ostensibly describes the nuclear drama in this country in late May and early June 1967. The language of the headline not only lacks any factual basis, it’s downright delusional.

For the last 25 years, I have been working to decipher this same drama. For this purpose, I have spoken with many of the drama’s key figures on both the civilian and military sides, most of them no longer with us. All confirmed that an incomparable drama took place, accompanied by terrible confusion.

There were no orderly procedures for the situation that arose out of nothing, it wasn’t clear who was responsible for what, and the entire relationship between the army and the government was unclear. Every bastard was a king. Still, no nuclear putsch against the authority of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol occurred back then.

Adam Raz uses a pamphlet that was self-published under a pseudonym in the United States two years ago as evidence in support of that coup. Not only is this evidence problematic and sometimes incredible, but even if there is some truth in it, this is truth about the confusion, not a coup.

Moreover, all my conversations with participants in the drama of 1967 indicated that Moshe Dayan wasn’t involved in the issue at all. From his perspective, the nuclear issue was completely irrelevant at that moment, and therefore, he transferred responsibility for it to his senior aide, Zvi Tzur, who also thought the issue wasn’t particularly relevant. The claim that Dayan tried to perpetrate a nuclear coup is nonsense.

Raz claims that the putsch was inextricably intertwined with a proposal by Shimon Peres. As noted, there was no coup, and Peres, as head of the opposition party Rafi, had no special foothold in the nuclear kingdom at that time. As for the proposal for a nuclear test, which Raz attributes to Peres, this was apparently no more than a whisper into a few ears.

Eshkol was in fact thrown out of the Defense Ministry in a kind of coup, but in contrast to what the pamphlet’s author and Raz suggest, this coup wasn’t carried out by army officers, despite their anger at Eshkol. It was a political coup. And the chief conspirator was the head of the National Religious Party, Minister Haim Moshe Shapira, who apparently didn’t even know anything about the nuclear drama.

Avner Cohen
Author of the book “Israel and the Bomb” and a professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Monterey, California

The glass Western Wall

In response to “Who are we to tell religious Jews what to do at the Western Wall?” by Irit Linur, July 13

Media personality Irit Linur and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz have something in common. Both are vehemently opposed to Women of the Wall, even though neither has even met with members of the group.

“I don’t believe a sudden outburst of holy lust has overcome us,” Linur wrote in a scathing tone that leaves a bitter aftertaste of cynicism. Perhaps the media personality from Tel Aviv and the ultra-Orthodox rabbi from Jerusalem recognize a resolve in Women of the Wall that threatens both of them and undermines the traditional place of religious women. It’s convenient for both of them that religious women be passive with their hair covered and, like Hannah in the Bible, with only their lips moving and their voice not heard.

The fact that the members of Women of the Wall insist on conducting Jewish rituals for themselves in the women’s section of the Western Wall Plaza forces the journalist and the rabbi to address the revolutionary question of “why not?” A challenging and subversive question indeed, to which neither has a real answer, aside from the fact that their grandmothers didn’t pray that way. I assume their grandmothers truly didn’t pray wrapped in a prayer shawl or put on tefillin or read the Torah at their bat mitzvah ceremonies, or know how to blow a shofar. But hello, your grandmothers also didn’t serve as Supreme Court justices, journalists or bus drivers.

The time has come to wake up and turn the clock 2,000 years forward. The status of women has changed, and with it, so has their desire to be full partners in the religious experience.

The Western Wall deal that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu froze was a rare historic opportunity for change. This deal had the potential to let the Wall be run in such a way that most Israeli men and women could feel at home there. All that’s necessary for that to happen is to respect the variety of traditions that exist among the Jewish people.

How ironic it is that the Western Wall rabbi holds a big ceremony every year in honor of the common swift — birds that come to the Western Wall every spring following a long migration. They come in organized groups, their feathers are black, and they integrate beautifully into the Western Wall Plaza. In contrast, thousands of secular Jews, women and Reform and Conservative Jews who visit the Wall suffer alienating, contemptuous treatment.

Anat Hoffman
Chairwoman of Women of the Wall and executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center

When Irit Linur visited the Western Wall “on a regular weekday,” the main plaza held “thousands of people,” but in the mixed-gender prayer space, “there was just a cat.” It’s clear Linur considers the mixed-gender area unnecessary, and therefore also the outcry that arose both in Israel and the United States over the flip-flop performed by our flexible prime minister.

“And if we insist on secularism as a value,” she wrote, we have no right to be “shouting out directives to a Jew who fasted not only on Yom Kippur but also on Gedalya.” Moreover, instead of complaining about the religionization of the school system, she thinks secular Jews should be complaining that we weren’t taught what a siddur looks like.

It seems to me that Linur should remove not just a beam but an entire wall from her eyes, which have recently been blinded by the holy light of religiosity. If she did, maybe she’d understand that the importance of the mixed-gender area doesn’t lie in the number of visitors it gets, but in the very fact of its existence in a country that’s rapidly losing its democratic character.

She might also realize that religiosity and secularism on their own aren’t values, but rather lifestyles based on values. Different values, admittedly, and sometimes conflicting ones, but certainly equal in their validity. And this fact is at the basis of the opposition that has arisen to the trend of overt religionization in secular schools.

As for secular people ostensibly sitting “on the tribunal” and giving directives to people who obey the religious commandments, if Linur examined reality with open eyes, she’d discover that secular people indeed don’t fast on the Fast of Gedalya, and some don’t “furiously read the entire Hagaddah every Passover seder.” But it would never enter their heads not to respect the rights of those who actually do so, much less to attempt to undermine their faith.

Next Yom Kippur, Linur should visit one of the many synagogues in our country. There, during the confessional prayer Ashamnu Bagadnu, she could read aloud this column of hers, and especially the section where she beats her breast over the ignorance she was taught at her secular state school. It’s just too bad that not many people will hear her when she’s forced to do so from the women’s section, and preferably from behind a curtain.

Amira Segal
Ra’anana