The state has released the protocols of Cabinet meetings that took place 50 years ago, after the Six Day War – and it appeared that many of the concerns and issues, as well as political differences that exist today were already on the agenda in 1967.
The new revelations constitute the second part of the Cabinet protocols for 1967 that cover the period between July and December of that year (the first part was released earlier this year, in honor of the day of the liberation) – after the massive Israeli victory had begun to sink in, and the government needed to decide what to do with the state’s newly acquired territory.
The protocols include dozens of Cabinet discussions, many of them focusing on different aspects of the Israeli victory. Among the issues brought up back then was the demographic one, with some ministers advocating returning Yehudah and Shomron to Jordan, and Gaza to Egypt, out of concern that the Arabs would quickly become a majority in Israel.
Taking an opposing view was then-Religious Affairs Minister Zerach Warhaftig (National Religious Party), who advocated increasing Jewish numbers – by birth and immigration – to balance out the Arab numbers.
Under all circumstances, Israel needed to retain Yehudah and Shomron, “which were liberated.” The fate of Sinai and the Golan could be different, he told the Cabinet, because “those are occupied.” Disagreeing with him was Labor minister Yigael Yadin, who said that “the Golan is also part of the Land of Israel.”
The protocols show that one of the biggest backers of negotiations with the Arabs over the future of the liberated areas was Moshe Shapira, the chairman of the NRP, who was acting Interior Minister. “Failure to tell the world that we are against peace provides a weapon in the hands of our enemies,” Shapira said, with Yadin retorting that “Israel plans to retain control of everything we have, so there is not much value to these discussions on peace.”
In another meeting, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan said that he did not believe the Arabs would remain quiet for long in the wake of their defeat. “Egypt will not agree to our remaining on the west side of the Suez Canal, and Syria does not see the ceasefire line as a basis for an agreement. Syria does not want peace with us at all, but in any event it will not consider the current ceasefire line on the Golan as a final border. Jordan will also not accept the current situation.” Another war was likely inevitable, he said.
Regarding the possibility that the residents of Judea and Samaria would manage their own affairs in a state of their own, Dayan said that “I am against a Palestinian state, but I don’t like to hear people saying that out loud, because it lessens our ability to negotiate. We may be able to make a deal, but if we say in advance that we don’t want one, we lose an important negotiation card.” He also said that he opposed offering Israeli citizenship to Palestinians, although he did advocate a form of autonomy, saying that “the military government should not be involved in their daily lives.”
In an earlier meeting just days after the Six Day War, then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol said that regardless of the circumstances, Israel could not grant citizenship to Arabs in the liberated areas. “No matter what, they cannot be given the right to vote for Knesset representation,” Eshkol said, according to the protocols, as there would be 1.2 million Arabs with the right to vote (when Israeli Arabs were counted in that figure), compared to the 3 million Jews in Israel at the time. Among the solutions, he told Cabinet members, was the possibility of setting up a military government that would administer the daily lives of residents, or doing so in cooperation with Jordan, which would supply civil services.
Herut leader Menachem Begin, who joined an emergency national unity government in the days before the war broke out, said there was no reason not to declare sovereignty over the entire area. “All of Western Eretz Yisrael belongs to us. We were attacked. Where have we ever seen that the victor in a defensive war that was forced to shed its blood should surrender? Which armies will they send to oppose such a move? We have already beaten them all. Why is there this rush to give it back to [then-Jordanian ruler King] Hussein?” He also opposed setting up a Palestinian state, which he said would be a “disaster.”
Begin said that the best solution was to treat them like immigrants. “The Palestinians should receive the status of residents, but not citizenship. After seven years, some of them could be made citizens. During that time, we can take steps to ensure that we remain the majority, to bring new immigrants from Russia, and encourage people to have children,” Begin said.
One solution that was discussed was the massive migration of Palestinians to Canada, and was broached by Eshkol at the meeting. Eshkol said that the government of Canada had made the offer in the days after the war, and Eshkol said that “voluntary emigration would be a good solution as well.” It is not clear if anyone followed up on the offer.