Border control / The peace that could have been in '67
During the Six-Day War, David Kimche and Dan Bavli handed the government a document outlining two states, but the state chose to ignore it.
During the first days of the war Lieutenant (res.) David Kimche, an Israeli Mossad agent temporarily assigned to Military Intelligence, was in Rafah. The young officer with a heavy British accent that reveals his origins, met with an Egyptian officer, one of the first prisoners from the southern front. Kimche persuaded him to tell listeners of the Ramallah radio station that the Arabs were the ones who started the war, which later came to be known as the Six-Day War. The mission assigned to Kimche by chief of Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Aharon Yariv, was to reactivate the station and use it to send reassuring messages to the Arab population. The kadi (Islamic judge) of Jaffa acceded to Kimche's request to speak on Israel Radio in Arabic and promise residents of the territories that Israel Defense Forces soldiers would not harm peaceful citizens. Intelligence people consider such efforts a major component of psychological warfare.
Kimche, who immigrated to Israel in 1946 and was wounded in the War of Independence, took along with him his friend Dan Bavli, who was a reserve officer in the 16th Jerusalem Brigade and was left with nothing to do. The two headed to the West Bank in search of Arab public figures and media personalities (at that time the term "Palestinians" was not in use), who would help get the situation back to normal. Yariv asked Kimche to carefully scrutinize key figures in the West Bank and the eastern part of Jerusalem and report back to him on the prevailing mood.
"We received a car, a driver and a sidearm," says Dr. Kimche, who was appointed director general of the Foreign Ministry by Yitzhak Shamir in the early 1980s. "In the Mossad, I didn't deal with the Palestinian issue, I was a blank slate as far as anything related to the territories was concerned. We searched for the elite. We particularly wanted to hear the most extreme people and understand what direction they were heading in."
While roaming among the homes of "dignitaries" (that is how they referred to Arab public figures), the two arrived at the spacious home of attorney Aziz Shehade in Ramallah. Shehade had represented the Palestinian refugees at the hearings of the Lausanne Conference in 1949, and in the 1950s he spent some time in a Jordanian prison. "Shehade did not conceal his hatred of the Jordanians," Kimche continues. In his book, "Halomot Vehizdamnuyot She-huhmetzu, 1967-1973" (Dreams and Missed Opportunities, 1967-1973), published in 2002, Bavli wrote of their first meeting with Shehade. "He called on us to use the surprise in the geopolitical change that had occurred after the removal of Hashemite rule and to work immediately to set up a Palestinian state. According to this line, he argued, it is vital for the state to be established within a week and that it sign a peace treaty with Israel within three days."
Before they parted, Shehade gave the Israeli visitors a list of influential local figures. In the coming days, the two went door to door, filling up their notepads with notes and recommendations. They heard a large variety of opinions and solutions. "Everything was virgin territory. There was a sense that we had to strike while the iron was hot and use the golden opportunity that had fallen into our laps to reach an agreement with the leaders of the territories," sighed Kimche, who in recent years has been using his connections in a quiet effort to save the peace between Israel and the Arabs. "The Palestine Liberation Organization was a new organization [it was established in 1964 - A.E.], and had yet to accumulate power, the hatred for the Jordanians was still fresh and we still hadn't had a chance to take the Palestinians' lands from them."
After two or three days, it was on a Saturday, they again sat down in Shehade's vast salon. "While Siham, Shehade's oldest daughter, served us coffee," wrote Bavli, "her father pulled out of his desk two sheets, typed by his son Raja in several copies on a typewriter, and handed them to us. With great curiosity, we started to read them." On the first sheet, Shehade suggested convening a kind of "founding council" within a week, at which the leaders from the West Bank and Gaza were to participate. The council would decide on the establishment of a Palestinian state within the borders delineated in United Nations Resolution 181 (the Partition Plan borders) of November 1947. The second sheet listed the names of the 43 leaders to be invited to the conference.
Kimche and Bavli said that even Israelis who would support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state would not agree to deviate from the cease-fire lines agreed to in Rhodes in 1949, and which were in effect on the eve of the war. "An almost apologetic tone crept into Shehade's words when he said that he used the UN 1947 borders as a starting point for negotiations, as would be proposed to the council's members," wrote Bavli. "It was clear to him that the final agreement between the new state and Israel would be based on the June 5, 1967 borders."
The following day the two presented the documents to two of Kimche's Mossad colleagues, Yitzhak Oren and Maj. Gen. Hareven, who were also temporarily assigned to Military Intelligence headquarters. Oren, who later was appointed the head of the Foreign Ministry's center for diplomatic research, asked to join them for another meeting with Shehade and other personalities from the area of Ramallah and Nablus. They traveled via the Latrun enclave and watched the movement of refugee families forced out of their homes before they were razed. "There was something surreal and embarrassing in the slow and quiet movement of old people, men and women being expelled from their homes not to return," wrote Bavli in his book. On the way back, it was decided that the group of four would formulate a proposal for a peace agreement and submit it to the prime minister and several senior ministers.
So on June 14, nine days after the war broke out, under the classification "extremely confidential," the first outline for an arrangement for two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side peacefully, was written. Traces of its main principles can be found, more than 25 years later, in the Clinton plan and in the Taba talks, in the Ayalon-Nusseibeh document and in the Geneva understandings. Journalist Uzi Benziman first referred to the document in an article published in Haaretz in 1990, and in a book: an independent Palestinian state will be established in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This state will seek to join the UN. The state will be connected to the State of Israel through defense, economy, tourism transit (passage of people and goods), customs and other agreements.
The defense agreement will ensure the security of Israel using the following means: the Palestinian state will not have an army, only police forces; IDF forces will regularly secure the Jordan Valley, either on their own or in joint patrols with the Palestinian police forces. The border demarcation will include border adjustments important to Israel and will minimize to the extent possible the number of Arabs added to the State of Israel.
Jerusalem will be annexed to Israel with a special status assigned to the holy sites. A sub-municipality will be established for the Arab part of the Old City. The Palestinian state will establish its capital in the closest possible place to Jerusalem.
The Latrun enclave and the Gilboa range will be annexed to Israel and in order to create a dignified arrangement, the possibility of Israel ceding several Arab villages in its territory will be looked into, something that would reduce the Arab population of Israel and contribute to its internal security. The possibility of settling refugees in the El Arish region of Sinai will be looked into. An international monetary fund including several billion dollars will be established to deal with rehabilitation and compensation for refugees. The fund will serve to encourage immigration to other countries and large-scale development programs for Palestinian areas.
The next day copies of the document were presented to prime minister Levi Eshkol, defense minister Moshe Dayan and ministers Pinhas Sapir, Yigal Allon and Yisrael Galili. None of them responded. "Even though we received no response, we continued our efforts, but the momentum we had felt quickly dissipated," wrote Bavli. "It seemed that the growing intensity of the sense of victory on one hand, and the impression of the shock of defeat that was gradually lifting on the other hand, combined to dispel the positive environment for making real changes."
Maj. Gen. Yariv read the document and summoned Kimche to his office. He handed him a copy of a letter in which he notified the governor of the West Bank, Chaim Herzog, of the appointment of Kimche as the head of the "operation to investigate the approach of the political leadership in the West Bank." Yariv said Kimche would report directly to the general staff, military intelligence and the military governor.
Herzog became one of the strongest opponents of the Palestinian option. Kimche says that Abba Eban and Shimon Peres were the ones who sabotaged the document prepared by the four, claiming that it would be better to focus on the Jordanian option. "I believe we could have closed a deal," he concludes with unconcealed anguish. "It was a rare missed opportunity even for a state used to not missing opportunities to miss opportunities." As far as is known, no government official held a discussion on the document nor was there any mention of the ideas it presented.
Perhaps, after forty years, the time has come to discuss this pioneering document. True, the difficulties standing in its way have increased forty times over, but the ideas are still alive and well.