The Palestinian State of Ishmael, as Envisioned by Rehavam Zeevi

In the full flush of victory after the Six-Day War, as the Israeli military scrambled to impose its rule on its newly acquired territory its leaders also drew up plans for a Palestinian state. A rare look at slain right-wing leader's plan.

Three years ago, in a special Knesset session to mark the sixth anniversary of the assassination of tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi by Palestinian gunmen, then-prime minister Ehud Olmert related that Zeevi was actually one of the first to advocate the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Rehavam Ze’evi, center, and Moshe Dayan, left, in Hebron on June 8, 1967.
AP Photo / Israel Government Press Office

Two or three days after the Six Day War, Olmert told the MKs and invited guests, among them Zeevis children, Major-General Rehavam Zeevi, who was then assistant to the head of the Operations Branch of the IDF General Staff, hurriedly submitted a plan for the creation of a Palestinian State whose capital would be Nablus, and he even gave it a name: The State of Ishmael. More interestingly: Gandhi [Zeevis nickname, owing to his perceived youthful resemblance to the Indian leader] called for the establishment of the Palestinian state as soon as possible and cautioned, and I quote, that: Protracted Israeli military rule will expand the hate and the abyss between the residents of the West Bank and Israel, due to the objective steps that will have to be taken in order to ensure order and security.

Olmert, speaking a month before the Annapolis peace conference, was assailed by members of right-wing parties for choosing to cite this particular part of Zeevis legacy. MK Limor Livnat (Likud) lashed out at the premier, saying: You are making political use [of Zeevis idea].

Gandhi cannot respond to you. MK Zvi Hendel (National Union-National Religious Party) went further: If at a memorial for a son of this land, who was most faithful to it, [Olmert] saw fit to explain the degree to which Gandhi was actually not faithful to his country it is impossible to sink to lower depths. If this is the mental state of [Olmert], he constitutes a true danger to the country.

Two years later, at a state memorial for Zeevi on Mount Herzl, in Jerusalem, President Shimon Peres also referred to the plan to establish the state of Ishmael. After repeating the details and quoting the same comment by Zeevi about the hatred that would swell under military occupation, Peres added: Gandhi followed closely the changes that occurred in the geographical map, and demographic developments, and what he grasped and proposed already in June 1967 became in our time the basis for a different plan.

Right-wing MKs were again outraged. The president made a mockery of Gandhis memory by turning him into a member of Peace Now and claiming he supported a Palestinian state in his youth, Michael Ben Ari (National Union) said, adding, Peres obsession led to the disaster of Oslo and its murderous consequences, and he is doing everything including distorting history to go on making his deceptive allegations.

In strictly factual terms, the truth seems to lie on the side of Olmert and Peres. Zeevis plan to create the state of Ishmael, in the form of a secret four-page document, has been gathering dust in the archives of the Israel Defense Forces since it was conceived. But anyone who examines the details closely will not likely describe it as a dovish project, reflecting a recognition of the Palestinians national rights.

Submitted to then-chief of staff Yitzhak Rabin five days after the end of the Six-Day War, the plan was entitled Political Arrangement for the West Bank A Proposal. Zeevi begins by noting, The following proposal follows conversations held recently and in light of the task assigned to me to put forward a proposal on the subject. It does not, he notes, refer to possible solutions for the Gaza Strip, which need to be considered separately.

Zeevis proposal called for the establishment of an independent Arab state in part of the West Bank, which would be tied to Israel by a contract that would ensure the rights of both sides. The new state will be called the state of Ishmael (and not Palestine, in order not to increase its appetite and representation).

Under the rubric of implementation, Zeevi wrote, The speed of the decision, and implementation of this proposal, even if done without administrative and organizational preparation, is important because of the willingness of the local Arab leadership which is still reeling from the shock of defeat before it can be turned around and incited by Damascus and Cairo. And before the great powers and the UN have spoken out clearly on the subject.

Zeevis final argument in support of his case was the comment about the abyss of hatred that would develop under the occupation, which was quoted by Olmert and Peres.

Political vacuum

The plan in question was created within a political vacuum. Immediately after the 1967 war, the political leadership said nothing about the future of the occupied territories. Similarly, in the period preceding the war, the countrys leaders had been silent about its goals and about a possible solution to the conflict. There is nothing explicitly mentioned about the future of the territories and their inhabitants in the minutes of the cabinet or of Defense Ministry meetings, which have been declassified.

However, the army, in contrast to the political echelon, had contingency plans. In addition to the operational plans, the IDF had over the years compiled a systematic doctrine for the creation of a military government in occupied territory. Besides the experience gleaned from such a government that already ruled Israels Arab population (1948-1966), the army had learned much from its five-month occupation of the Gaza Strip following the Sinai War in 1956. In the early 1960s, the IDF, drawing on those lessons, produced a number of memoranda and orders relating to different aspects of its activity in occupied territory.

The last such memo was issued two months before the Six-Day War and was based on previous doctrinal material, particularly a paper called Summary of Military Government in Occupied Territories, published in 1964 under the auspices of the Prime Ministers Office.

This document enshrines some of the principles that guided Israeli policy in the occupied territories for decades. Indeed, in many senses, the vestiges are discernible in policy to this day.

The most important means of control is reward and punishment, the document states.

Under the reward rubric the authors include: Removal of restrictions that were imposed. Granting permits to open and run businesses. Giving work to the unemployed. Appointments to key posts. Priority to returning seized property or giving compensation.

Recommendations for punishment were: Administrative detention. Exile. Dismissal from job. Searching of homes.

In this context the document added, Reward and punishment should be exploited to find a leadership that will collaborate. The reward and punishment measures are intended to persuade the leader that it is worthwhile to collaborate; but, more than this, using them vis-a-vis the people under his influence will determine the extent of that influence.

Accordingly, benefits should be granted to people who support a cooperative leader.
As for those who refuse to play ball: When a decision is made to humiliate a leader who does not collaborate, it is not enough to deny benefits to him and his followers. A rival candidate for leadership should be sought within the clans he represents and cultivated by being made a conduit for the distribution of benefits. He should be shown open preference by means of visits to his home and so forth.

The documents authors also recommended exploiting an offense committed by a particular leader as a means of pressure for collaboration. This refers to offenses which are not known to the public and are not security related. The threat to place him on trial if he does not collaborate is more effective than trying and punishing him.

The framers of the document cautioned against arresting public leaders and thereby turning them into martyrs: They should be punished in other purposeful ways, which will hurt then without increasing their public prestige, such as by economic sanctions, undermining their social relations and so forth. It is a mistake to create a single, homogeneous leadership. Ensure that the local leadership is split and that competitive leaderships exist.

In conclusion, the writers recommended keeping things on a low burner preventing extreme mass despair and bitterness. Even though in most cases the Arabs themselves are far from carrying out what they say, they appreciate others doing so, particularly if the fulfillment of promises is to their benefit. Accordingly, binding promises should not be made, especially if they are of the type that cannot be kept.

Apparently, the final written guidelines for the armys activity in the occupied territories before the war were issued by the then-military advocate general, Meir Shamgar, a future attorney general and Supreme Court president. On the first day of the war he issued a document that was sent to the GOCs and chief of the operations branch in the General Staff. Entitled Modes of Legislation in Occupied Territory, the document, which sets forth the operational principles permitted in occupied areas under the international laws and conventions, was drawn up by Shamgar several weeks or even months earlier.

Today Shamgar says he does not recall the circumstances which prompted him to write the document, but thinks it probably stemmed from the desire to ensure that my unit, of the military advocate general, would, like other legal units of other armies, be expert in the realm of the rules of war.

Ideal borders

About two weeks after the war, defense minister Moshe Dayan told a closed meeting of IDF commanders: The geographic, military and political achievements of this war have first of all afforded the maximum borders that anyone ever wanted to dream of, the most ideal ones ... If someone had taken the broadest brush to demarcate the biggest and widest borders, he could propose for Israel, he would not have gone one kilometer beyond what the IDF reached in this war.

Dayan knew whereof he spoke: A perusal of minutes of the meetings held by the General Staff on the eve of the war shows that not even the most optimistic of the generals believed the IDF would emerge from just six days of fighting with an achievement on this scale. But the mechanism of rule in the newly conquered territories was quickly set in place.

At Shamgars directive, four orders and three proclamations concerning proper administration, security and public order were issued already on the second day of the war and disseminated among the inhabitants of the conquered areas. On the same day, three military commanders were appointed for the new regions: Sinai, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Also that day, at the conclusion of a meeting of heads of branches in the Defense Ministry, in the office of the deputy chief of staff, there was a call for discussion on when to implement the military government and arrange the armys activity in the occupied territories.

For his part, on June 12, 1967, two days after the end of the fighting, the defense minister convened a consultation on the areas of occupation. Taking part were chief of staff Rabin, assistant to chief of operations Zeevi, director of Military Intelligence Aharon Yariv, Maj. Gen. Haim Bar Lev and former chief of staff Zvi Tzur, who was Dayans aide.

In the meeting, a six-point blueprint for a political plan, drawn up a few days earlier by MIs research department, was presented. It stated that Israel supported the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This state would be barred from maintaining a military force, and the Old City of Jerusalem (within the walls) would become an open city.

After the meeting Rabin asked Zeevi to examine the new conditions that would make a settlement possible. After working for two days, Zeevi submitted his proposal for the State of Ishmael, under which East Jerusalem, the Mount Hebron area, the Jordan Rift Valley and the Latrun enclave (halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv) would be annexed to Israel. The rest of the West Bank was to become part of the state of Ishmael. The Arab refugees in the Mount Hebron area (and in other annexed regions) will be transferred to the State of Ishmael and rehabilitated there, Zeevi explained. From the demographic viewpoint, he added, Although the annexation of the Jerusalem region will bring with it a large Arab population, it is important for other reasons.

According to Zeevis plan, the state of Ishmael would include the majority of the Arab population of the West Bank: permanent residents, refugees in Samaria and refugees to be transferred (23,000) from Mount Hebron. The planned state would have a population of 623,000 upon its establishment. The remaining 260,000 inhabitants of the West Bank most of them in Jerusalem and Hebron were to be annexed to Israel.

Zeevi needed only two days to formulate his proposal. Because he had only limited data to work from and was unencumbered by policy dictates, his plan was preliminary only and was missing significant details about the international status and degree of independence of the envisioned political entity. In broad terms, Zeevi determined that responsibility for the State of Ishmaels security and foreign affairs will be in Israels hands. Israel will be permitted to maintain military forces in the abandoned camps of the Jordanian Arab army or in operational deployment as needed. The state of Ishmael was to have free access to an Israeli port, and residents of both states would have free passage, with one exception: The Ishmaelites would be barred from taking up permanent residence in Israel.

Zeevi even specified the borders of the new state and included a map. In northern Jerusalem the border has been moved so that the Qalandiyah airport (henceforth to be called Jerusalem North) will remain in Israels hands. The Jordan Rift Valley has been left outside the State of Ishmael, with the border to pass 500 meters west of the longitudinal road, with two exceptions: 1. Jericho and its adjoining refugee camps, so that no further population will be absorbed into Israel; 2. the entry to Wadi Fara, where there is also a concentration of refugees (a bypass connecting road can be built in this section). The Latrun enclave will be annexed to Israel. There are only four Arab villages in that area. (The enclave has yet to be annexed, but the residents were expelled during the war and their villages leveled.)

In an alternative proposal for borders, which appeared on the attached map in the form of a broken line, Zeevi recommended expanding the area under Israeli control at the expense of the state of Ishmael. However, he noted, there were two drawbacks to this option: The addition of an Arab population to Israel and the further reduction in size of the Arab state, a fact that potential Arab leaders will find difficult to accept.

Zeevi used the occasion to consider the future of Israels Arab citizens as well. A preliminary examination is being made of a proposal to annex most of the villages of the Israeli Triangle to the State of Ishmael, he wrote, referring to the concentration of Arab towns and villages notably Baka al-Garbiyeh, Tira and Umm al-Fahm adjacent to the Green Line. This proposal has the advantage of sweetening the pill for the future leaders of the State of Ishmael, but also has the following limitations: reducing Israels size; the need to obtain the agreement of the Arabs in the relevant villages; complications regarding a number of Jewish communities located between and adjacent to the villages in question; a dangerous precedent of reducing the size of the original Israel which is liable to stir similar longings with respect to the Arab Galilee. Accordingly, it is suggested not to deal with this matter at this stage.

Buffer state

In the view of the veteran peace activist Uri Avnery, who was an MK at the time, Zeevis proposal, as well as the ideas of General Staff officers who supported the establishment of an independent Palestinian state without a political settlement with Jordan, stemmed from concern that signing a peace agreement that would restore the West Bank to Jordanian sovereignty might recreate the dangerous security situation in Israel on the eve of the war.

They preferred a small, weak Palestinian state that would be attached to us, rather than a whole eastern front that might be composed of Jordanian, Iraqi and other auxiliary forces, Avnery says. According to Avnery, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Israel Tal, who died last month, supported the plan to establish a Palestinian state without an agreement with Jordan, as did Maj. Gen. Matti Peled.

The Arab states unwillingness to accept Israels preconditions for negotiations led to a number of initiatives to resolve the conflict directly with the inhabitants of the occupied territories. Dan Bavly cites some examples in his book Dreams and Missed Opportunities 1967-1973 (Carmel, 2002. Hebrew). Bavly, who served in the military government as a reservist, was involved in some of the contacts with the local Palestinian leadership.

The borders proposed in what came to be known as the Allon Plan, drawn up in July 1967 by then-foreign minister Yigal Allon, were similar to those of Zeevis imagined state of Ishmael as well as plans drafted by other military and political figures of the day. Allons name was also linked to a plan to establish a Druze state in the Golan Heights.

According to Shimon Avivi, who researched the topic, this idea was first broached during the War of Independence, before Operation Hiram in Upper Galilee. After doubts were raised about the IDFs ability to conquer all of Galilee, the Foreign Ministrys Middle East desk suggested the idea of establishing a Druze autonomy with the communitys leaders in the Galilee. In the departments view, this could destabilize the adjacent Arab regimes. In the end, however, the idea was rejected by Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett and Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and was then completely abandoned in the wake of the IDFs success in the operation.

The idea of creating a Druze state was raised again after Israels sweeping victory in the Six-Day War. In a letter to Haaretz dated June 26, 1967, Binyamin Krisher of Tel Aviv wrote, I am not very expert in the demographic conditions of the Golan Heights. But it seems to me that it makes sense to settle (voluntarily) the Druze from Syria and from Israel in this territory, which will constitute a Druze unit of self-rule. Naturally, this can be considered only if the Druze themselves aspire to it. A week later, on July 2, a similar proposal was raised by another Haaretz reader, Zeev Katz, from Haifa: After the IDF inflicted a crushing defeat on the Syrian forces, I think now is the time to pay a debt of honor and help the Druze liberate themselves from the burden of their generations-long oppressors, the fanatic Syrian Muslims. It is our duty to extend them aid and support in their battle to establish a free Druze state on Jabal al-Druze. What we did not do during the Druze revolt, we must now rectify.

This public mood enjoyed wide backing, including from Jabr Moade, a Druze MK. His call to create a Druze state drew a tremendous ovation from his audience at the Bustan Club in Tel Aviv, as described in an October 1967 report in Haaretz. Allon and other politicians were aware of this, though the majority of Israels Druze leaders rejected the idea out of hand. In his book Copper Plate: Israeli Policy toward the Druze 1948-1967 (Yad Ben-Zvi, 2007.

Hebrew), Avivi made public a letter classified top secret that Allon sent to prime minister Levi Eshkol on August 20, 1967, containing a proposal to establish a Druze buffer state between Israel and Syria. Allon described the distribution of the Druze population in the area and broadly sketched the borders of the proposed state.

With the exception of brief periods, tension exists between the Druze leaders and Damascus, Allon wrote. Recently this tension has reached new heights in terms of the distinctiveness of the Druze community and in terms of their numbers and the geographic conditions of their pale of settlement. They might rebel against Damascus in order to establish their own sovereign state.

According to Allon, the success of this plan depended on the Druze being able to accept political guidance and military aid from an external entity. Our presence on the Golan Heights affords us an opportunity to assist them in realizing their aspiration. Allon also assigned a role to the Israeli Druze in the implementation of the plan. In his view, They can constitute an important element in organizing the Druze forces in Syria, in addition to Jewish officers and activists who are fluent in Arabic and are suitable for this special assignment.

According to Allon, We can assume that this state will not be viewed askance by Amman, even if this is not openly admitted. Three days later, Eshkol sent a laconic reply: The subject you raised is to some degree being considered and dealt with and will be updated when more data exist on the situation. According to Avivi, the idea was raised in talks with Druze leaders on the Golan Heights, but was torpedoed when the authorities in Damascus learned of the overtures.

Druze transfer

In contrast to Zeevis plan for the state of Ishmael, Allons idea for a Druze state was never formulated in detail. Allon, who was familiar with the area since his service as a scout in the British invasion force in Lebanon and Syria in 1941, proposed making Sweida, in southwestern Syria, near the Jordanian border, the capital of the new Druze state. He also suggested that Israeli aid in creating the state be contingent on its signing a peace treaty with Israel, and that border adjustments would be required between Syria and Lebanon.

According to Taher Abu Saleh, a resident of the Golan Heights Druze village of Majdal Shams, his father, Sheikh Kamal Kanj, was apprised of the plan and thwarted it by revealing the details to Syrian intelligence. Kanj was the most important Druze leader to remain in the Golan after the 1967 war. He had studied law in Jerusalem, Beirut and Damascus, was a colonel in the Syrian army and was elected to the Syrian parliament in 1952.

In the mid-1960s Kanj returned to the Golan, where he stood out from the conservative farmers who lived in the villages. Yigal Allon visited our home a few times in the months after the war, his son Abu Saleh relates. Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan and many senior officers and MKs also came to see my father and other dignitaries of the community. The meetings were very intensive. Years later, Father told us that Allon and a few Israeli intelligence officers had tried to persuade him that the time was ripe for the Druze to have a state. They promised that Israel would help us establish it, Abu Saleh says.

According to Allons plan, as conveyed to my father a few months after the war, Druze from the Galilee and the Carmel would also be transferred to the state that would be created. It was obvious to my father that in order to establish this state it would be necessary to dismantle other states. He also thought that the establishment of a state on a religious basis would cause a split among the other communities in Syria and Lebanon. In his view, the Israelis assumed that in the wake of the establishment of the Druze state, the Alawites, the Christians and the other communities would demand states of their own, a development that would be directly beneficial to Israel.

But my father was a Syrian patriot and did not want to hurt his people. He told the Israeli intelligence officers that he needed to review their proposal with Druze leaders in Syria and Lebanon. Accordingly, he went to Italy, accompanied by an Israeli intelligence officer whose job was to ensure that Father did not reveal all the details of the plan and only tested the waters with the other Druze leaders. In Italy he met with a Syrian intelligence official of Druze origin, ostensibly an emissary and agent of the leaders in Syria and Lebanon. In a private meeting in the hotel cafeteria, without the Israeli officer, Father told him about the whole plan.

They decided to give all the details to the Syrian leadership and prevent its realization at any price.

According to Abu Saleh, this was the reason for his fathers arrest by the Israeli security services in May 1971. Up until then, Kanj had been the toast of the Israeli establishment. Newspapers reported on his numerous encounters with senior officers and leading politicians.

Menachem Begin, then an MK, ate at his home, while Dayan was an overnight guest. They marked him out for a crucial role in the regions future. He was invited to the Knesset and to the Presidents Residence. One can understand, then, why Abu Saleh concluded that his father was persecuted for his alleged betrayal of Israels leaders.

Sheikh Kanj was tried for espionage in the military court in Quneitra, in the Golan Heights. Eight of the 19 major offenses carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. According to the indictment, only part of which was cleared for publication, Kanjs main offense was having hosted in his home Giziya Abu Saleh, a relative and a sergeant first class in a Syrian commando unit. Abu Saleh allegedly gave Kanj letters from a senior Syrian intelligence official and from his brother Nur al-Din Abu Saleh, a Syrian army general who was then a commander in the Damascus area. The prosecution also claimed that Kanj had gone to Damascus, where he met with his brother and a Syrian intelligence officer, and that on several occasions he had met with a person from Israel whose name is banned from publication, who was to gather information for him through an intermediary.

Kanj denied all charges. He confirmed that Giziya Abu Saleh had been a guest in his home and had brought him letters from his brother, but insisted that he had never engaged in espionage. Most of the court sessions were in camera. Kanjs argument, that the Syrians suspected him of collaborating with Israel and had sentenced him in absentia to a lengthy prison term was of no avail. He was convicted and sentenced to 25 years.

Kanj was released in June 1973 as part of a deal in which Israel returned five Syrian intelligence officers seized in Lebanon in exchange for the release of three captive Israeli pilots. Syrias Druze community was instrumental in pushing for the deal. Kanj promised, after his release, to abstain from political activity, but in the early 1980s he was a leader in the fight against the application of Israeli law in the Golan Heights and was arrested several times as a result. He died in 1983.

Land office business - Commanders ordered to collect property records in conquered areas

On June 9, while the war still raged, staff officer Moshe Tadmor issued an urgent order to the military government headquarters created the previous day in Gaza, Sinai and the West Bank, on behalf of the civil security unit of the General Staff Operations Branch: Maj. Gen. Ben-Gal of the Israel Lands Administration has asked us to obtain and safeguard all land registration records and transfer them to the agency. Two days later, military commanders in the field received a communique from ILA counsel Maj. Dov Shefi, instructing them to guard the documents until an ILA official arrived to take possession.

Ten days after the war, the deputy director of the Justice Ministry land registration department, Y. Link, met with Maj. Gen. Uzi Narkis, GOC Central Command and commander of the Israeli forces in the West Bank, and submitted a formal request to the same effect, signed by the justice minister. Narkis approved the request and sent a confirmation in writing to military advocate general Meir Shamgar.

The next day, Shamgar wrote to Link: I would be grateful if in the course of conducting the survey that it has been agreed will be done by your unit, you would pay particular attention to the question of the ownership/leasing of the Jewish settlement known as Kfar Hashiloh.

Information on this subject interests us, as we know there was a Jewish settlement in this village for decades. Of course, this is not the only Jewish settlement of this kind, but I request that you instruct your assistants to provide us with information about the above-mentioned settlement as soon as possible.

The Palestinians know Kfar Hashiloh as Silwan.

Money balks -Palestinian currency from the Bank of Israel

On July 2, 1967, defense minister Moshe Dayan convened an urgent meeting between representatives of the new military government and officials from the Justice Ministry and the Bank of Israel. The latter requested the issue of special currency for use in the occupied territories, citing legal and humanitarian grounds. A decision was made to print the notes but not to put them into circulation immediately. One week later, Military Advocate General Meir Shamgar sent a few sample notes to the chief of staff.

According to the central banks numismatic curator today, Rachel Barkay, on the third day of the war, Bank of Israel governor David Horowitz and acting finance minister Zeev Sherf briefly discussed the possible need to issue currency for the newly captured territories. She relates that a few days later, after Israel captured the West Bank and the Golan Heights, these areas were included in the plan to issue emergency currency. The graphic design studio of brothers Gabriel and Maxim Shamir designed 500-fils and one-dinar bills for the West Bank and a five-lira note for the Gaza Strip and northern Sinai. Gerd Rothschild and Zeev Lippmanns ROLI Studio designed the five-dinar note for the West Bank and the one-pound note for the Gaza Strip and northern Sinai. Lower denomination bills were designed by the Bank of Israel and the Government Printer.

The designers sought to hew as closely as possible to the design of the bills that had been in circulation before the Israeli occupation without violating the copyrights of the Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian graphic designers. In an effort to gain the approval of the locals, the studios incorporated camels, arabesques and Jerusalems Tower of David in the bills design.

The Government Printer began printing the notes in late June 1967, in Jerusalem.

Urgent orders were also placed with the Dutch printer Enschede and with the currency printer of Belgiums central bank. But the new currency program was canceled when it became apparent that Israeli money was being accepted in the occupied areas without a problem.

The notes remained in Bank of Israel safes until 1978, when it was decided that there was no reason to keep storing them. Millions of the bills were incinerated between 1978 and 1980.

The Bank of Israel retained 100 examples of each note for its collection.