Dayan, Moshe

(1915–81)
   Israel general and political leader. For the outside world, Dayan’s fixed image was that of the famous general with the black eye- patch, hero of the Sinai Campaign and the Six-Day War. To the Israelis he stood for much more - the sabra generation knocking at the doors of power, still held by an establishment of older pioneers from eastern Europe. His parents were among those pioneers. Shmuel Dayan (1891–1968) came to Palestine from the Ukraine in 1908 at the time of the Second Aliyah. In 1911 he became a hired worker at the communal farm of Degania, founded two years earlier at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. It was the first kibbutz in the country and had at the time eleven members. In 1913, Devorah (1890–1956), who was to be Moshe Dayan’s mother, arrived alone from Russia, with a letter of introduction to one of the kibbutz members. She was an attractive and educated girl, and the others felt she did not fit in with them. They turned down her application for membership and she found work in another settlement. In 1915 she married Shmuel Dayan and the couple were accepted into Degania, where Moshe was born.
   In 1921, Shmuel Dayan was one of the group that started the new settlement of Nahalal, on a tract of land in the Emek that was part of a reclamation project. They discarded the rigid collectivism of the kibbutz, and Nahalal was the first experimental moshav - a village in which each family had its own cottage and small-holding, while the rest of the farming was co-operative. Moshe’s boyhood was a bleak one. At Degania and then at Nahalal, the settlers struggled against poverty, primitive living conditions, heat and sickness, mainly malaria and trachoma. His father was constantly absent on the affairs of the growing moshav movement, the Histadrut and the Labour Party. (After Israel was established he was a Mapai member of the Knesset.) His mother had to cope with the drudgery of farm chores and the three children: Moshe, his sister Aviva and his younger brother Zohar (later killed in the War of Independence). Never robust, she came to suffer chronic ill-health - but still sought an intellectual outlet in writing for the working women’s organization in Tel Aviv. From childhood Moshe had to help on the farm and at the same time attend the village school. As a teenager, he was already an active member of Haganah. During these years he got to know the Arabs in the surrounding villages, and learned to speak colloquial Arabic. While doing a two-year course at the WIZO Girls Agricultural School in Nahalal, he became friendly with a fellow-student, Ruth Schwartz (b. 1917), the daughter of a successful Jerusalem lawyer. At Ruth’s suggestion he went through a marriage ceremony with a German Jewish refugee girl living in Haifa. The purpose was to prevent her being sent back to Germany by getting her a Palestinian passport. A year later, when he became engaged to Ruth, she had to trace the first Mrs Moshe Dayan and get her consent to a divorce. Moshe was twenty when he and Ruth were married. Her parents arranged for them to go to England so that Moshe could study at the London School of Economics and see something of the outside world. The venture was not a success. Moshe knew little English, found it difficult to make contacts, and disliked the climate and the unaccustomed clothes: a jacket and tie, and shoes instead of sandals. After six months they returned to Palestine, where the riots of 1936 had broken out. After a period with a kibbutz group, they returned to his parents’ home in Nahalal, and then settled into a wooden hut of their own, which re-mained their home until 1944. They were divorced in 1973 and he remarried.
   With the Haganah
   Moshe became more involved with the Haganah. It had at that period an ambivalent relationship with the British authorities. The Haganah remained an illegal, underground Jewish militia, yet its members were drawn into co- operation with the British against the 1936–9 Arab rebellion directed by HUSSEINI, the mufti of Jerusalem. For eight months Moshe served as a guide to British patrols along the vital oil pipeline of the Iraq Petroleum Company that came through Palestine to the Haifa refineries. The authorities then recruited, trained and armed a force of auxiliary guards to protect the settlements, the roads and the railway. Moshe commanded one of its mobile units, a detachment of eight men armed with rifles and moving in a small truck. He led a dual existence since he also served as an instructor on secret Haganah training courses. In 1938, a Scottish artillery officer, Captain Orde WINGATE, obtained permission to select a group of Haganah volunteers, and use them on the northern frontier against Arab guerrilla bands raiding from Lebanon. Dayan, Yigal ALLON and other future Israel commanders learnt invaluable lessons in Wingate’s Night Squads: resourcefulness, surprise tactics, ambushes, speed, and movement in the dark. Wingate was a religious man and a believer in Zionism. His Haganah followers trusted him implicitly.
   The British White Paper of 1939 signalled the abandonment of the Jewish National Home policy, and a pro-Arab shift. The Haganah could no longer be tolerated for it was a potential Jewish resistance movement. Already it was defying the immigration restrictions by bringing in illegal boats. In October 1939, just after the outbreak of World War II, Dayan was one of forty-three men on a Haganah training course rounded up and thrown into the Acre jail. A military tribunal sentenced one of them to life imprisonment and all the rest to ten years. In Acre jail they were treated as common criminals, with shaven heads, prison garb, Arab food and convict labour. There was an outcry in the yishuv but the sentences were confirmed by the anti-Semitic general officer commanding in Palestine, General Barker. In London, Dr WEIZMANN appealed to the chief of the Imperial Staff, Field Marshal Lord Ironside, who privately called their sentences barbaric and stupid and reduced them to five years. After they had served sixteen months of their sentence, there was another change in policy. The war was going badly for the Allies in the Middle East. Rommel was advancing towards Egypt. Syria was in the hands of the Vichy French who collaborated with the Axis. Palestine itself was in danger. The yishuv had in any case thrown its full weight into the war effort on the side of Britain. In February 1941, the forty-three in Acre prison were suddenly released.
   Three months later, Dayan was detailed to form and lead a group of thirty-one Haganah volunteers, whose assignment was to carry out advance reconnaissance in Syria for the pending British invasion, and then to act as guides for the troops. Typically, Dayan engaged some former Arab bandits to work with them, maintaining that they had courage and knew the terrain. On 8 June, he crossed the border with an advance party, consisting of ten Australians, five Jews and an Arab, moving ahead of the invading force. They captured a police post but came under heavy French fire. From the rooftop, Dayan looked for the source of the firing, using a pair of field glasses taken from a dead French officer. A bullet hit the glasses, and drove them into his left eye. It was six hours before he could be evacuated and brought to hospital in Haifa, where some of the fragments of glass and metal were removed and the eye socket sewn up. The eye patch worn since then was to become a kind of status symbol and a ready reference mark for cartoonists. For Dayan himself it represented prolonged and painful treatment, and a difficult mental adjustment to the end of his active career in the Haganah. While being treated at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, he worked in the political department of the Jewish Agency on special jobs: an underground radio network in case of Axis invasion; arranging parachute drops of Haganah volunteers into Nazi-occupied Europe, and Arab contacts. In late 1942, when the Axis threat receded after the battles of Alamein and Stalingrad, Moshe returned to Nahalal and started farming on his own account.
   It was not till the war was over, and a showdown looming in Palestine that he was drawn back into Haganah service. During the War of Independence he was a battalion commander on the Jordan front, and personally led the jeep assault that captured the town of Lydda. He was appointed commander in Jerusalem and showed his capacity for dealing directly with Arabs by concluding a ‘sincere truce’ agreement with the young Jordanian colonel who was his opposite number. In 1949 he participated in the armistice negotiations with Egypt and Jordan.
   The Suez Campaign
   Dayan had impressed BEN-GURION, who was both prime minister and minister of defence, and he rose rapidly in the newly-organized Israel Defence Army. After serving as regional commander first in the south and then in the north, and doing a staff course in Britain, he was appointed chief of staff at the age of thirty-eight, a post he held for five years. He developed the fighting spirit and physical stamina in all ranks, and insisted on officers leading their men into battle. Although the armistice was more or less kept by the regular Arab armies, they organized hit-and-run fedayeen (‘terrorists’) attacks across the borders against the Israel civilian population, especially in the south from the Egyptian- held Gaza Strip. From time to time, the Israel forces hit back at terrorist bases across the lines, actions for which Israel was on several occasions condemned by the Security Council. In this policy of reprisal raids Dayan had the backing of Ben-Gurion, against the misgivings of Moshe SHARETT, the foreign minister, and some other members of the Cabinet. There was a close working relationship between Ben-Gurion and his chief of staff. The ‘Old Man’ admired Dayan’s intelligence, his unorthodox methods, and the loyalty he inspired in the troops. Dayan for his part deferred to Ben-Gurion’s bold and pragmatic way of tackling problems, his tenacity of purpose combined with tactical flexibility.
   A fresh threat to Israel security arose with the emergence of NASSER as the Egyptian leader, the arming and training of his forces by the Soviet Union, and the rallying of other Arab states to his pan-Arab banner. In 1956 Nasser concentrated substantial forces in fortified bases in the Sinai desert, near the Israel border, and signed a military pact with Syria and Jordan. His nationalization of the Suez Canal provoked an international crisis and Britain and France started to mount a joint military expedition, with the aim of occupying the canal zone. Israel sought to break the tightening Arab noose while there was yet time. There were secret contacts with the British and French in which Dayan was involved together with Ben-Gurion and the new foreign minister, Golda MEIR. On the morning of 29 October, the Israel forces struck across the border on three parallel lines of advance. Within a hundred hours of continuous fighting, the Egyptian army was smashed and routed, Sinai and the Gaza Strip occupied and six thousand prisoners were taken together with huge quantities of arms and stores. One column had worked its way along the Gulf of Akaba and, taken by surprise, the Egyptian garrison at Sharm-el-Sheikh surrendered. The blockade that had existed since 1948 was thereby broken, and the sea route to Israel’s port city at Eilat was open.
   The campaign was a swift and dazzling feat of arms. But the Anglo-French expedition had been a fiasco. It reached Port Said and was then abandoned. Israel was left alone to face the United Nations demand for an unconditional withdrawal backed by the combined threats of the Soviet Union and the Eisenhower administration in Washington. The withdrawal was carried out after months of negotiation and delaying tactics that extracted a number of concessions to Israel. The chief gain was a guarantee of free passage through the Straits of Tiran and the Gulf of Akaba. A United Nations Emergency Force was stationed in the Gaza Strip along the Sinai border and at Sharm-el-Sheikh. A decade of relative quiet ensued.
   In 1958 Dayan retired from the army. After doing some university courses on the Middle East he was elected to the Knesset in 1959, and included in the new Ben-Gurion government as minister of agriculture. In 1963 Ben-Gurion resigned as premier, though retaining his Knesset seat, and was succeeded by the finance minister, Levi ESHKOL. The new premier had undertaken to leave Dayan in the agriculture post but excluded him from the inner policy-making circle of the Cabinet, and conceded him no special say in defence matters. Dayan’s position became difficult and was further complicated by his loyalty to Ben-Gurion, who had now openly fallen out with his successor. The main bone of contention was the Lavon Affair.
   Dayan finally resigned in 1964, and occupied himself with a fishing company, and the writing of his Diary of the Sinai Campaign, published in 1965. That year Ben-Gurion and a number of his supporters formed a separate party faction called Rafi with ten seats in the Knesset. Dayan, its leading member after Ben- Gurion, remained half-hearted about this break and reluctant to make a frontal attack on his former colleagues. In the summer of 1966, he accepted an invitation to observe the Vietnam War at first hand. As a soldier he profited from the experience, and the series of articles he published had international circulation.
   The Six-Day War
   Dayan’s political fortunes remained at a low ebb until he was dramatically projected into the centre of the stage by the Six-Day War in 1967. As the crisis deepened, he offered to serve again in the army and there was some talk of appointing him as commanding officer of the Southern Command against the Egyptians. Meanwhile he visited army units and examined the plans for the war that was now imminent. Premier Eshkol had retained the defence portfolio in his own hands, like Ben-Gurion before him. In the tense atmosphere that prevailed, there was a growing demand from some of the coalition parties in the Knesset, and in the press, for him to hand over defence responsibility to Dayan. On I June Eshkol included Dayan as minister of defence in an all-party government of national unity. That was four days before hostilities erupted. Dayan immediately took personal control, and made last-minute changes in the operational plans. What followed between Monday, 5 June and Saturday, 11 June, is a matter of world history. The six days left the Israel army holding a perimeter that extended along the Suez Canal, the Gulf of Suez, the Gulf of Akaba, the Jordan valley and the Golan Heights. The Security Council ordered an unconditional cease-fire. As minister of defence, Dayan was in charge of the military government created to administer the occupied territories, that is, the Sinai desert, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and the Golan Heights. They contained over a million Arab inhabitants. The responsibility for their welfare and security was a major challenge for him. In the years after 1967 the policies applied to this population were remarkably successful. Local laws and local government institutions remained intact. Economic life prospered, and there was freedom of movement and opinion. A peace settlement remained elusive year after year. In 1969–70 Nasser embarked on an unsuccessful war of attrition across the Suez Canal. During the next three years, the no-war no-peace situation seemed to settle down into a political and military stalemate. It was shattered by the massive Egyptian-Syrian assault on Yom Kippur, 6 October 1973. Dayan’s position was shaken by the Arab surprise and the initial lack of Israel preparedness. But under his overall guidance, the Israel forces successfully counterattacked on both fronts and had gained the upperhand by the time a US- Russian ceasefire was imposed on 22 October.
   He was dismissed from the Cabinet in 1974, but in 1977, as Foreign Minister, he was instrumental in securing the Camp David Accord. He resigned from BEGIN’S government in 1979 in protest at its inflexible approach to the Palestinian problem.
   With all Dayan’s great prestige, his position in the national leadership remained anomalous. His unorthodox and often dissident views; his distaste for the manoeuvre and rhetoric of politics and his popular appeal in the country - all these factors made him distrusted by the party hierarchy. Nevertheless for many years he was a vital force in the Israeli political spectrum.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • 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… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Dayan, Moshe — (1915 81)    Born on 20 May 1915 in Kibbutz Dega nia and grew up in Nahalal, Dayan was one of the first to join the Palmah when it was established on 18 May 1941 and served under Orde Wingate in his night squads. From 1939 to 1941, Dayan was… …   Historical Dictionary of Israel

  • Dayan, Moshe — born May 20, 1915, Deganya, Palestine died Oct. 16, 1981, Tel Aviv–Yafo, Israel Israeli soldier and statesman. Born of Russian parents in Israel s first kibbutz, he became a guerrilla fighter against Arab raiders during the period of the British… …   Universalium

  • Dayán, Moshé — (20 may. 1915, Deganya, Palestina–16 oct. 1981, Tel Aviv Yafo, Israel). Militar y estadista israelí. Nacido de padres rusos en el primer kibbutz de Israel, se convirtió en un guerrillero que combatió contra los árabes durante el período del… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Dayan, Moshe — (1915 81)    Israeli military commander and politician, son of Shemuel Dayan. He was born in Deganyah Alef. During the War of Independence in 1948 he commanded the defence of Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley. In 1952 he was appointed chief …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • Dayan,Moshe — Da·yan (dä yänʹ), Moshe. 1915 1981. Israeli military leader and politician who directed the 1956 Sinai campaign and the 1967 Six Day War. * * * …   Universalium

  • Dayan, Moshe —  (1915–1981) Israeli general and politician …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • Moshe Dayan — Dayan in 1978 Born 20 May 1915(1915 05 20) Kibbutz …   Wikipedia

  • Moshe daian — Moshe Dayan Moshe Dayan Moshe Dayan (en hébreu : משה דיין) (né le 20 mai 1915, mort le 16 octobre 1981) était un militaire et un homme politique israélien. So …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Moshé Dayan — Moshe Dayan Moshe Dayan Moshe Dayan (en hébreu : משה דיין) (né le 20 mai 1915, mort le 16 octobre 1981) était un militaire et un homme politique israélien. So …   Wikipédia en Français

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