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Dayan reveals regrets over Golan, Hebron in newly disclosed interview


May 11, 1997 JERUSALEM (AP) -- Discounting claims of the Golan Heights' strategic value, war hero Moshe Dayan once told a reporter that Israel took the plateau from Syria simply because Israelis wanted it for farmland.

Dayan ranked his 1967 decisions to capture the Golan and allow Jews to return to Hebron as his two greatest mistakes as defense minister, the legendary Israeli general said in a newly disclosed interview given in 1976, five years before his death.

"In two cases I did not fulfill my role as defense minister, in that I did not stop things that I was sure should have been stopped,'' Dayan told reporter Rami Tal.

Tal told The Associated Press that Dayan had made him promise not to publish his remarks, apparently because Dayan planned to write his own memoirs -- which he never did.

Tal kept his notes on the interview secret until recently, when a friend persuaded him to publish them in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper this month.

To this day, Israeli settlement in war-won Hebron and the Golan remains one of the most divisive issues between Israel and the Syrians and Palestinians.

Israeli leaders have consistently said the Golan is too important to Israel's defense to return. Until Israel captured the plateau in the 1967 Mideast War, Syria often shelled Israeli border communities from its vantage point on the Golan.

According to Dayan, Israel deliberately provoked the shootings as a pretext to attack.

"We would send a tractor to plow some area where it wasn't possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot,'' Dayan said.

"If they didn't shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance further,'' he said.

Dayan said pressure from Israel's kibbutzim, or farming communities, led to the land grab.

"Along the Syria border there were no farms and no refugee camps -- there was only the Syrian army,'' he said. "The kibbutzim saw the good agricultural land ... and they dreamed about it.''

Amos Eran, a government official at the time of the war, said Dayan's regret came from the fact that he wanted the heights only as a bargaining chip.

"Dayan didn't want the government to allow the kibbutzim to build there afterwards -- he hoped to trade it back for peace,'' Eran said.

About 13,000 Israelis live on the Golan today, mostly in farming communities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists Israel must maintain control over the entire plateau.

Israel captured the West Bank city of Hebron from Jordan in the same war in which it took the Golan.

Dayan said he granted permission to settler leader Moshe Levinger to enter Hebron on the condition that the American-born rabbi and his family would stay only for the weeklong Jewish holiday of Passover.

Levinger never left Hebron, and became the father of the Jewish settler movement that today includes 144,000 Israelis living throughout the West Bank.

Dayan's daughter, Yael Dayan, verified her father's remarks to Tal. She told the AP that Dayan seemed to regret the handling of Hebron the most.

"He jumped to the sky with anger about Hebron and the provocation of Levinger that has become such a tragedy,'' she said.

After years of clashes over Hebron, Israeli troops withdrew from most of the city last year, following peace accords reached by previous Israeli governments and the Palestinians.

Tal said about 60 percent of the material from his interview with Dayan was still unpublished, because he considers most of it too personal -- such as remarks on the women in Dayan's life.

He said he didn't believe his revelations would immediately affect Israel-Syrian relations -- frozen since last year -- but said they cleared up misconceptions about the fateful 1967 war.

"It will give people here a more realistic overview: The Golan Heights are not something sacred and the man most closely associated with conquering the heights himself was reticent about doing so,'' he said.

"We are not always the victims. There is a myth of peaceful farmers being shot at by Syrians -- the truth is more ambiguous.''







Monday, May 12 1997; Page A16, The Washington Post
 

Israeli Hero Regretted Actions On Golan, Hebron, Writer Says


JERUSALEM -- Discounting claims of the Golan Heights' strategic value, war hero Moshe Dayan once told a reporter that Israel took the plateau from Syria simply because Israelis wanted it for farmland.

Dayan ranked his 1967 decisions to capture the Golan and allow Jews to return to Hebron as his two greatest mistakes as defense minister, the legendary Israeli general said in a newly disclosed interview given in 1976, five years before his death.

"In two cases I did not fulfill my role as defense minister, in that I did not stop things that I was sure should have been stopped," Dayan told reporter Rami Tal.

Tal said Dayan had made him promise not to publish his remarks, apparently because Dayan planned to write his own memoirs -- which he never did.

Tal kept his notes on the interview secret until recently, when a friend persuaded him to publish them in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper this month.

Israeli leaders have consistently said the Golan is too important to Israel's defense to return. Until Israel captured the plateau in the 1967 Middle East War, Syria often shelled Israeli border communities from its vantage point on the Golan.

According to Dayan, Israel deliberately provoked the shootings as a pretext to attack. "We would send a tractor to plow some area where it wasn't possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot," he said.

Dayan said pressure from Israel's kibbutzim, or farming communities, led to the land grab. Amos Eran, a government official at the time of the war, said Dayan's regret came from the fact that he wanted the heights only as a bargaining chip.

"Dayan didn't want the government to allow the kibbutzim to build there afterward -- he hoped to trade it back for peace," Eran said.

Israel captured the West Bank city of Hebron from Jordan in the same war in which it took the Golan. Dayan said he granted permission to settler leader Moshe Levinger to enter Hebron on the condition that the American-born rabbi and his family would stay only for the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover. Levinger never left Hebron and became the father of the Jewish settler movement that today includes 144,000 Israelis living throughout the West Bank.

Dayan's daughter, Yael Dayan, verified her father's remarks to Tal. She said Dayan seemed to regret most the handling of Hebron.



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