As a young officer after the Six-Day War, President Reuven Rivlin was among the people who warned Defense Minister Moshe Dayan in 1967 against annexing too large an area of Arab neighborhoods to Jerusalem. Rivlin disclosed this in a conversation with Haaretz on Sunday following the publication of a study by Dr. Amnon Ramon from the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies which examined the cabinet meetings that preceded the decision to annex East Jerusalem.
During the war Rivlin was an assistant to the intelligence officer of Brigade 16 (the Jerusalem Brigade). The Israel Defense Forces in those days relied on maps that were prepared for the possibility that Jerusalem would be expanded to include what was then Jordanian Jerusalem, as well as extensive areas around the united city.
According to Ramon, the army played a central role in these events since the politicians were unfamiliar with the maps or the lay of the land. On June 27, three weeks after the war ended, the cabinet ratified the annexation of East Jerusalem. The ministers were presented with a map prepared by Maj. Gen. Rehavam Ze’evi, which included the annexation of widespread areas to the east of the city. During the meeting Dayan asked to contract the boundaries of the city and presented those present with another map, the one which was finally adopted with some small amendments. This map established the city’s boundaries to this day.
Rivlin remembers that shortly before the cabinet meeting he participated in a meeting with the defense minister and Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, together with the IDF’s Central Command chief Uzi Narkiss and the city’s chief engineer Amnon Niv. Dayan presented his map and asked for the opinions of those present.
“I said that politically I’m unreservedly for a complete Land of Israel, but I added that from a geographic and urban perspective, neighborhoods such as A-Ram belong more to Ramallah than to Jerusalem. I was a young man of 27 then, but Dayan knew me since we were neighbors in Jerusalem,” the president said.
Dayan replied that the Qalandiyah airport (later called Atarot) would become an important international airport and a secure area must be maintained around it. According to what Rivlin remembers, his exact words were: “You Revisionists have forgotten your ideals – two banks [a reference to the Jordan River] to the airport and we own both.”
Ramon’s study also notes some of what Justice Minister Ya’akov Shimshon Shapira said at that historic meeting. Apparently he had asked newspaper editors to play down the reporting of this decision so as not to incur international criticism. Shapira said that one editor refused, saying that “it’s more important that our readers know what is happening than to keep it a secret.”
Researcher Ofra Friesel from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem noted that later at that meeting the prime minister revealed who the recalcitrant editor was: “‘This must be played down in the newspapers even though [Gershom] Schocken from Haaretz will always complain,’ said Levi Eshkol.”