Territory Policy, Give or Take 40 Years

A book of Moshe Dayan's speeches following the Six-Day War reveals that the discourse has hardly changed, and refutes the claim that Israel did not intend to hold onto the West Bank

On a visit to a used bookstore I found a copy of Moshe Dayan's "Mapa Hadasha, Yehasim Aherim" ("New Map, Different Relations," published in Hebrew in 1969 ). The book is a collection of speeches delivered during the first two years after the Six-Day War in 1967, when Dayan was at the peak of his glory and prestige, and, in his role as defense minister, fashioned Israel's occupation policy in the territories.


Nowadays the book makes for an enthralling read. Dayan writes in excellent Hebrew that retains a contemporary ring, and he addresses topics that have not changed. Many parts of the book could be printed today and would still seem relevant to current events, as if more than 40 years of occupation, settlement and peace process hadn't passed.

At the book's core is Israel's decision, on the seventh day after the war, not to withdraw to the antebellum borders. Dayan explains that there are two reasons to control the territories: to persuade the Arabs to alter their relations with Israel and accept it as their neighbor, and to alter borders set in 1948, after the War of Independence.

Dayan was certain about what had to be done: "In areas from which we do not want to withdraw, and which are part of the State of Israel's new territorial map, facts should be created [via] urban, agricultural and industrial settlements, and army bases. That will create a new map, though not in one day or one month."

In those days, political discourse was more candid, and Israel was less isolated. Settlements could be discussed without the excuses that roll from the tongues of politicians today. Dayan had no shame: "I view settlement as the most important thing, as the thing that has the greatest weight in terms of creating political facts. This is based on the assumption that we will remain wherever we establish a holding post or settlement."

Dayan's words refute claims by contemporary historians who suggest Israel was dragged naively and foolishly into creating settlements. Dayan makes clear that the settling of the territories was done intentionally, with the aim of creating political facts that would preempt withdrawal to the Green Line. In fact, the current struggle over the settlement freeze should be understood in this light: Construction is not merely intended to allay housing shortages suffered by young people, as the Yesha Council of settlements and its supporters claim. The construction is intended to influence future borders, and this has been its aim from the start.

At the end of 1967, Dayan presented Israel's peace goals. These, too, have remained the same, as though nothing has changed. Dayan declared: "We want the State of Israel to continue to maintain, through its demographic profile, a Jewish character; it should be unequivocally a state of the Jews. We want borders that provide security for Israel. We want equal international rights, including free, equal rights at sea. We want borders that express the Jewish people's tie to its historic land. We want a state that is recognized by its neighbors. And we want peace agreements that resolve the problem of Arab refugees."

In his negotiations with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still presenting very similar demands.

The internal tension between the desire for a Jewish state and control over Palestinians in the territories became evident as soon as the 1967 war ended. Then-foreign minister Abba Eban warned that imposing Israeli law on the territories and incorporating them into Israel's economy "would create apartheid."

Dayan brushed away Eban's warning. He believed that the territories could be controlled by the military and that Palestinians could become part of Israel's economy without receiving civil rights (the prototype of the theory of "economic peace" ). In this regard, Dayan erred: The binational situation that was created, with Palestinian laborers relegated to an inferior status, without citizenship, began to fall apart after 20 years, when the first intifada erupted, and it has kept on disintegrating, with the current Palestinian campaign for separation and independence.

Dayan's belief that keeping the territories would force Arab states to recognize Israel and negotiate with it - his theory of "new relations" - was correct. However, his belief that establishing settlements would lead to border changes remains to be validated. Israel evacuated all its settlers from the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip and returned to the pre-1967 borders in both places. It also agreed, in principle, to withdraw all its citizens from the Golan Heights, should a peace agreement be forged with Syria. Regarding the West Bank, there is talk of territorial exchanges that would keep some of the settlements under Israeli sovereignty; however, such an agreement has not been reached, and the majority of the public doubts it is attainable. Only Netanyahu believes that Dayan's legacy can be fulfilled.