October 17, 1981
By BROOKE W. KROEGER
TEL AVIV (UPI) — Moshe Dayan brought audacious originality to Israeli political thought and action even after his influence waned with his resignation as foreign minister two years ago.
Some also believed that had he lived, Dayan’s unique ability to invent solutions when none was in sight might have resolved future deadlocks in the Palestinian autonomy negotiations, his preoccupation in the last years of his life.
“Even out of office Dayan had his way of influencing political thinking and action,” a prominent academic said. “People had to listen to him. Dayan dead means that element is gone.”
Yet Dayan’s ideas will probably haunt the peace negotiations for some time.
As actors on the Middle East stage, there is no doubt the late Anwar Sadat played the leading role, closely followed by Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
Dayan’s supporting role was widely recognized as critical to the process. “Without Dayan, I don’t think we could have had the Camp David Accords,” said former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance.
Dayan quit Begin’s last cabinet in October 1979 over the government’s perception of autonomy for 1.2 million Palestinian Arabs of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“Begin and his party,” Dayan wrote in his newly published book Breakthrough, “wanted these territories to be under Israeli sovereignty though I doubt whether they had crystallized their views on what would be the status of the Arab inhabitants . . .
“I, on the other hand, did not believe that Israeli sovereignty could be imposed on these Arabs against their will. . .
“It was my view we had to establish a pattern of relationship between us and the Palestinians that would preserve our vital interests, but at the same time enable the Arabs to lead their lives as they wished,” he wrote.
Dayan’s solution was “unilateral autonomy” — imposing self-rule on the Palestinians of the territories by lowering the military government’s profile and handing over authority over day-to-day affairs to local Palestinian leaders.
He made unilateral autonomy and a future voice for Jordan in the question of East Jerusalem’s status planks in the platform of his new Telem Party. It won only two seats in the June elections for the 120-member Knesset.
The autonomy talks have resumed after a 15-month break imposed by Egypt. And Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, charged with authority over the territories, has begun taking steps to prepare the way for some form of self-rule.
These include such gestures as removing some roadblocks, easing military restraint on political dissent and announcing the “civilian-ization” of the military government.
Though he adamantly denies it — and only sketchy details of his plans are known — the measures Sharon has begun instituting bear more than a slight resemblance to what Dayan propounded.
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For National History Day contestants. Upcoming — January 30: Iona College. February 4: Sagamore Hill. March 27: Ephemera Society of America. March 30: TBA April 4: Avon-on-Sea Public Library, Avon CT June 4-6: “Métiers et professions des médias (XVIIIe-XXIe siècles),” Université de Lausanne. Link to past appearances.
Coming March 2020: Front Pages, Front Lines: Media and the Fight for Women’s Suffrage, Linda Steiner, Carolyn Kitch, Brooke Kroeger, eds.