Dayan, Moshe

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DAYAN, MOSHE (1915–1981), Israeli military commander and statesman, member of the Fourth to Tenth Knessets. The eldest son of Shemuel Dayan, who had been a member of the First Knesset, Dayan was born in kibbutz Deganya Alef, and raised in Nahalal. As a young man, he served as a watchman in Nahalal's fields, and later joined the Haganah. During the disturbances of 1936–39, he served with the special Jewish police force in the Jezreel Valley and Galilee. He was commander of a unit of the Haganah field squads in 1938, and participated in the operations of the special night squads commanded by Orde *Wingate. Dayan was arrested in 1939, in an illegal Haganah commanders' course, and was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment for possession of illegal firearms. Released in 1941, he joined an auxiliary force of the Haganah that cooperated with the British army in the conquest of the Lebanon from Vichy forces. In the course of this operation he was wounded, and lost his left eye. The eye patch Dayan started wearing from that time on, became his trademark. After joining the Palmaḥ, he helped British intelligence set up a broadcasting network, the purpose of which was clandestine operations behind enemy lines in the event that Palestine fell into German hands.

During the 1948–49 War of Independence, Dayan commanded the defense of Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley. In the spring of 1948 he was named commander of a mechanized battalion that fought in Ramleh and Lydda, and helped halt the Egyptian forces on the Southern front. In August 1948Dayan was appointed commander of the Jerusalem front and reached a local cease-fire agreement with the commander of the Arab Legion in the area. In this period Dayan was viewed as Mapai's answer to generals such as Yigal *Allon, who had emerged from *Mapam and *Aḥdut ha-Avodah. Dayan and Allon remained competitors, first in the military sphere and later in politics, for the rest of their lives.

In the spring of 1949 Dayan participated in the armistice agreement talks between Israel and Jordan at Rhodes.

In October 1949 he was appointed commander of the Southern Command, and in June 1952 commander of the Northern Command. In the same period he attended a senior officers' course in Great Britain. He was appointed chief of operations at General Headquarters in December 1952, and the following year was appointed as Israel's fourth chief of staff, a post he held until January 1958. As chief of staff, Dayan concentrated on improving the military capabilities of the idf. With the intensification of fedayeen terrorist attacks in the course of 1955, Dayan organized a series of reprisal raids into Jordanian and Egyptian territory, to hit fedayeen bases there. He commanded the Israeli forces in the *Sinai Campaign, at the end of 1956, and emerged as a national hero. Dayan retired from active army service in 1958 and spent the following year attending courses at the universities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In the fall of 1959 he was elected to the Fourth Knesset on the *Mapai list. In the government formed by David *Ben-Gurion after the election, Dayan was appointed minister of agriculture, a post he held until November 1964.

Dayan supported Ben-Gurion's position in the *Lavon Affair and resigned from Prime Minister Levi *Eshkol's government to join Ben-Gurion against this background. In July 1965 Dayan broke away with Ben-Gurion from Mapai, and was one of the founders of *Rafi and elected on its list to the Sixth Knesset. In August 1966 he made an independent study tour of war-torn Vietnam and wrote of his experience in a diary, which he published. Following public pressure, Dayan was appointed minister of defense on the eve of the outbreak of the *Six-Day War in June 1967, even though Prime Minister Eshkol, who had also served as minister of defense up to that point, had wanted to appoint Allon to the post. Dayan once again emerged from the war as a hero. After the war, as minister of defense, Dayan was responsible for administering the territories occupied by Israel. He devised a relatively liberal policy for the Palestinian population in the territories, following a policy of "open bridges" to Jordan, enabling the movement of both people and goods. Unlike Allon, who started to advocate a peace plan with Jordan based on territorial compromise and the establishment of a Jordanian-Palestinian state that would include most of the territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Dayan preferred a functional solution that would create a Jordanian-Israeli condominium in the territories.

In the year after the Six-Day War Dayan actively supported the formation of the *Israel Labor Party by Mapai, Aḥdut ha-Avodah, and Rafi. Dayan was still minister of defense on the outbreak of the *Yom Kippur War of October 1973, and was widely blamed for the country's lack of preparedness. Even though the *Agranat Commission established to investigate the background to the outbreak of the war (or the meḥdal, as the failure was termed in Hebrew) did not criticize Dayan, and did not find anything wrong in his conduct, after Golda *Meir resigned as prime minister following the publication of the Committee's interim report, Yitzhak *Rabin, who formed a government in June 1974, did not include Dayan in it. Following the 1977 "political upheaval" (mahapakh) Dayan, elected to the Ninth Knesset on the Alignment list, decided to leave the Alignment and join the government formed by Menaḥem *Begin as foreign minister, remaining an independent mk in the Knesset until May 1981, when he formed the Telem parliamentary group. As foreign minister, Dayan played a major role in the peace talks with Egypt that led to the historic visit of Egyptian President Anwar *Sadat to Jerusalem in November 1977, to the signing of the Camp David Accords in September 1978, and to the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty in March 1979. In October 1979 he resigned from the government in protest against the appointment of Joseph *Burg as head of the team to negotiate an autonomy plan for the Palestinians with the Egyptians. The new Telem Party that he formed towards the end of the Ninth Knesset advocated a continuation of the peace process on the basis of the Camp David Accords; continued Israeli military presence in areas vital for Israel's defense; opposition to any territorial compromise in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, on the one hand, and the extension of Israeli sovereignty to them, on the other; self-administration for the Palestinians in the territories, on the one hand, and continued Jewish settlement on State lands and land legally purchased. Telem received only two mandates in the elections to the Tenth Knesset.

Dayan passed away in October 1981, four months after the election, and was buried in Nahalal. His daughter, Yael *Dayan, was a novelist and a member of the Thirteenth to Fifteenth Knessets.


N. Lau-Lavie, Moshe Dayan: A Biography (1968); P. Jurman (ed.), Moshe Dayan, A Portrait (1968). add. bibliography: I.I. Taslitt, Soldier of Israel: The Story of General Moshe Dayan (1969); Yehudah Harel, Follow Me, the Story of Moshe Dayan (1972); Shabtai Teveth, Moshe Dayan: The Soldier, the Man, the Legend (1974); Y. Harel, Ha-Loḥem: Ḥayyav ve-Alilotav shel Moshe Dayan (1978); Y. Dayan, My Father, His Daughter (1985); A. Falk, Moshe Dayan: ha-Ish ve-ha-Aggadah – Biografiyah Psikho'analitit (1985); R. Slater, Warrior Statesman: The Life of Moshe Dayan (1991); A. Bar-On, Ḥotam Ishi: Moshe Dayan be-Milḥemet Sheshet ha-Yamim ve-Aḥareiha (1997); E. Ben-Azar, Ometz: Sippuro shel Moshe Dayan (1998); A. Yadlin, G. Teren, et al., Moshe Dayan: Bein Estrateg Li-Medina'i. Le-Zikhro shel Rav Aluf Moshe Dayan (2003); M. Levi Van Creveld, Moshe Dayan (2004).

[Yehuda Slutsky /

Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]

Moshe Dayan

views updated May 23 2018

Moshe Dayan

The Israeli general and statesman Moshe Dayan (1915-1981) served as minister of defense of Israel, beginning in 1967.

Moshe Dayan was born in the kibbutz of Degania, Palestine, in 1915. His father Samuel, a farmer, was a founder of Degania and Nahalal and a leader of the cooperative settlement (moshavim) movement. During the riots of 1936 to 1939 Dayan joined the Supplementary Police Force of Palestine under the British. Later he joined the first mobile commando platoons (palmakh) of the Haganah. In 1940 Dayan was arrested by the British because of his participation in the underground Haganah organization. After his release from prison in 1941, however, he joined the British army in order to fight against Nazi Germany. On a foray into Vichy-controlled Syria, he was wounded and lost his left eye. This scar, or rather the patch that covered it, would become his lifelong trademark.

During the struggle between the Palestine Jewish community and the British mandatory government in 1947, Dayan again served in the underground Haganah. During the War of Independence in 1948 he participated in the campaign against the Egyptian army. In 1949 he led the Israeli forces in the final battles around Jerusalem, and after the war he represented Israel at the Rhodes Armistice Conference. He was acclaimed a national hero for his part in the Sinai campaign against Egypt in 1956.

After retiring from the army in 1958, Dayan entered politics as a leading member of the "Young Mapai" and was appointed minister of agriculture in 1959, a post he occupied until 1964. Shortly after David Ben-Gurion's resignation as prime minister in 1963, Dayan also withdrew from government. But he soon returned to politics as a member of the Rafi opposition party, which Ben-Gurion formed in 1965.

In May of 1967 Dayan became minister of defense for Israel. Under his command and with the close collaboration of the chief of staff, General Itzhak Rabin, the Israeli armed forces won an unprecedented victory over the combined Arab military forces of Egypt (United Arab Republic), Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia in the Six Day War of June 1967. As a result of its victory, Israel occupied vast Arab territories and blocked the Suez Canal to international navigation. After this conflict, Dayan continued to strengthen Israel's military forces in order to ensure the state's survival in the troubled Middle East. Dayan had a deep concern for the soldiers in the field and always paid meticulous attention to their safety and comfort. He became upset when, during retaliatory actions, lives were lost without territorial gains.

In the minority among Israel's leaders, Dayan foresaw a new war if the nation did not retreat from the Suez Canal. Mounting tensions exploded on October 6, 1973, the high holy day of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement. Forces from Egypt and Syria attacked Israel from north and south. Dayan predicted a grim, costly effort, yet he stood alone among Israel's military leaders. He flew to the Sinai after he received news of embattled Israeli troops, and reorganized command and strategy. Likewise, he worked with prime minister Golda Meir to organize an immediate airlift of supplies from the United States. The war turned in Israel's favor on October 10, and a cease-fire was declared by October 23.

Despite his efforts, Dayan was harshly criticized for what was seen as unpreparedness for the assault, and soon left the Ministry of Defense. In 1977 he was elected to the Ninth Knesset on the Labor party ticket, but continued to serve as foreign minister to the Begin administration until 1980. The next year he formed the Telem party and was its representative until he died on October 16, 1981, with his wife and his daughter by his side. He was buried in Nahalal, site of the Dayan family farm.

Dayan vigorously denied the allegation that he saw the problem of Arab-Israeli relations "through the sights of a gun." As minister of agriculture, he met frequently with Arab farmers and tried to give them every assistance. He always held that the Arabs of Israel should have equal rights and bear equal responsibilities with the other citizens of Israel.

Dayan's attitude toward prisoners of war and Arab civilians in the territories occupied after the Six Day War attested to his strong sense of justice. While energetically combating terrorist activities, he maintained a liberal policy toward the people of the occupied areas, giving them as much freedom as possible to run their own affairs and allowing commercial and social relations with Jordan.

Dayan had sides to his character that belied his image as a tough, unemotional fighter. He was passionately attached to the land and in particular to his farm in Nahalal. He had a great interest in archaeology, which he pursued through digging in his spare time and reading extensively on the subject. Dayan was also an author, and among his publications are Israel's Border and Security Problems (1955), Diary of the Sinai Campaign (1966), and A New Map, New Relationships (1969).

Further Reading

One of the best books on Dayan's life is his own autobiography, Moshe Dayan: Story of My Life. A biography was written by his daughter, Yael Dayan, My Father, His Daughter. Naphtali Lau-Lavie's Moshe Dayan (1968) is also a full-length biography. Moshe Ben Shaul, ed., Generals of Israel (trans. 1968), contains a succinct portrayal of Dayan by Doris Lankin. Two works that rely primarily on pictures are David Curtis and Stephen G. Crane, Dayan: A Pictorial Biography (1967), and Pinchas Jurman, ed., Moshe Dayan: A Portrait (1969). □

Dayan, Moshe

views updated Jun 11 2018

Dayan, Moshe (1915–81) Israeli army officer and politician. Dayan served with the British and led a Palestinian Jewish company against the Vichy French in World War II. He led the invasion of the Sinai Peninsula in 1956 and, as minister of defence, became a hero of the Six-Day War (1967). Active in Israeli policy-making, he served as foreign minister (1977–79).

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