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Israel after the Six-Day-War: The Secret Peace Deliberations

To mark the anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day-War, in which Israel defeated multiple Arab armies and acquired the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem, the Israeli National Archives has declassified hitherto unseen transcripts of the top secret government deliberations that took place following Israel’s remarkable victory. The plan that emerged in those deliberations was to trade all the land back, except Jerusalem, for regional peace. Highlights of the transcripts include hardliner Menachem Begin proving surprisingly amenable to territorial concession and several religious parties favoring a return of land they would ultimately build settlements in.

You can read the 200-page document in Hebrew here, or view a five-page English extract here. Israel’s Chief Archivist Yaacov Lozowick, who is spearheading efforts to declassify, modernize and democratize Israel’s National Archives, has an excellent English summary and historical contextualization of the material here.

Anyone interested in unraveling the thorny political present in the Middle East needs to understand its past. For this reason, documents like these are essential reading for both interested laymen and professional historians, and they have Via Meadia‘s recommendation.

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  • Cunctator

    Very interesting. The English summary merely whets one’s appetite. Hopefully, a translation of the longer Hebrew document will one day become available.

  • Y.

    Not much new. We already knew that Israel passed along a peace offer to the US with these terms (that the Arabs rejected in Khartoum). We also already know that the same Israeli parties would have a strong change of mind, to the point of passing a government resolution to cancel the previous resolution offering these terms in Sept. 1967.

    P.S. Most of the current religious parties didn’t quite exist back then. Mead is thinking of the NRPL, which had a complete generational change in the 70s to people with much more hawkish POV.

  • JJ

    A few comments.

    First, these are the protocols of the Full Cabinet. Most decisions were made by an Inner Cabinet consisting of the most prominent ministers, and the meetings of the Full Cabinet were held mostly to let the less well-known ministers vent. They take up most of the time, and the leaders (Eshkol, Dayan, Begin) are content to let them talk. It is acknowledged that the minor ministers are in an awkward position—they have collective responsibility as the executive of the State, but they are not privy to any secrets and can’t really participate fully in decision making. The meetings have the tenor of an academic seminar; the PM doesn’t say much about his contacts with the US, the USSR, or the Arabs, nor about the state of the military (the air force was in very bad shape, France had embargoed aircraft, and the US had not yet delivered any and had a great deal of leverage).

    All the same, the thoughts of these lesser-known but still very talented politicians are interesting. Eliyahu Sasson, who was from Syria and who was one of the negotiators with the Jordanians in 1948, makes some very impressive statements, all of which came true: The Arabs would never agree to “Land for Peace”; If Israel tried to trade territory for Peace, the Arab States would get an indirect veto over settling the Palestinian refugee problem, which would become an impossible burden on Israel; governing the West Bank and Gaza was beyond the capabilities of the Israeli State; Israel should move immediately to settle the refugees, with Jordanian cooperation or without. It is not clear these ideas were realistic, but they were certainly prescient.

    Lots of other interesting stuff in there; but don’t kid yourself, these are not the inner workings of the administrative machine.

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