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Dayan, Moshe (1914–1981)

DAYAN, MOSHE (1914–1981)

Israeli military and political figure, born in Kibbutz Deganiah, Palestine. Moshe Dayan joined the Haganah in 1932. Arrested by the British forces in 1939, he was sentenced to ten years of hard labor. In 1941, after the Allies released him from prison, Dayan joined the ranks of the Jewish Brigade, which was merged into the British Army for the duration of World War II. In this unit he fought against the French Vichy forces in Syria. He lost his left eye in one of these confrontations. In 1948, as an officer of Haganah, he fought in the first Israeli-Arab war, Israel's "war of independence," in the course of which he was noted for both his courage and his gifts as a strategist. In 1950, he was made a general in Israel's new army and given the command of the southern and northern regions. Dayan became Israel Defense Force (IDF) chief of staff in December 1953 and led the Israeli Army during the Suez-Sinai War, where he demonstrated his extraordinary tactical talents.

In 1958, he quit the army and entered politics. He joined the MAPAI Party under David Ben-Gurion and became agriculture minister in 1959, a position from which he resigned in 1964. The following year, along with Ben-Gurion and Shimon Peres, he participated in the creation of a MAPAI splinter party, RAFI, and won a seat in the Knesset. On 2 June 1967, as the Arab threat escalated, Dayan was named defense minister in the National Unity government headed by Levi Eshkol. Already a hero of the 1956 Suez campaign, Dayan became a legend with Israel's victory in the 1967 Arab-Israel War when the IDF defeated the Arab armies and quadrupled the territory of Israel. In 1968, he joined the Israel Labor Party, which had just been formed through a merger of MAPAI with Ahdut ha-Avoda, Poʿalei Zion, and RAFI. In March 1969, he became defense minister in the government of Golda Meir. Although he supported Israeli sovereignty over the Occupied Territories, Dayan was aware that this situation could not last forever.

On 19 April 1974, revelations that Israeli intelligence and political personnel had been caught unprepared led Dayan and others to resign. In June 1977, after three years out of politics, he returned to government, joining the cabinet of right-wing prime minister Menachem Begin as foreign minister, provoking anger in the Labor Party leadership. The Begin government initiated contacts with certain Arab countries, in which Dayan participated, which led to the Israeli-Egyptian peace accord of March 1979. In October 1979, disappointed by the turn the peace accords with Egypt had taken, especially on the Palestinian question, he resigned his position to devote himself to his passion, archeology. He died two years later in Tel Aviv.

SEE ALSO Ahdut ha-Avoda; Arab-Israel War (1967); Begin, Menachem; Ben-Gurion, David; Haganah; Israel Defense Force; Israel Labor Party; MAPAI; Meir, Golda; Peres, Shimon; RAFI; Suez Crisis.

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