Shlomo Gazit filled many roles during his military career, most famously, it seems, head of the Military Intelligence Directorate. However, his most notable legacy is designing the Israeli policy in the occupied territories as an “enlightened occupation,” a regime that aims to make Palestinians’ daily lives as comfortable as possible, while staunchly suppressing any attempt at political resistance. As part of this concept, Gazit designed and developed several of the practices Israel has used, and continues to use, throughout the occupation – including expulsions and home demolitions.
The third conversation the David Institute had with Shlomo Gazit focused on Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories. In this conversation, Gazit talked about the extent of his involvement in policy design, the immense power he had within the system, his relationship with Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and working with the chief of staff, among other topics.
Below is a selection of quotes from the full transcripts:
About the division of labor between Gazit and Dayan: “Everything that has been written as principles [of the policy in the Territories], I drafted. It was not him [Defense Minister Moshe Dayan] who drafted [them]. There is an interesting point in general, which is […] that he had difficulty formulating things.” [p. 2]
About activity in the OPT: “The policy in the Territories, in its entirety, did not follow the rules of absolute justice, of absolute law and justice.” [p. 6]
In the context of Palestinian statehood and the Jordanian option: “The issue of the settlements. One of the things I am talking about, on the ground, is that we have not left the situation with all options open, but created things [on the ground] that changed reality in both directions. A policy that stopped exiting the area is a policy that established facts.” [p. 8]
More about the division of labor between Gazit and Dayan: “The entire system ultimately hinged on one man – Moshe Dayan. It was my personal function [to be] a conduit to him. No one checked or asked what went on between Moshe Dayan and me. In other words, when I give an answer, it’s either an answer I give, or I consult and get Moshe Dayan’s okay first. […] There was a very, very, let’s say, centralist approach to managing what happens in Moshe Dayan’s domain. […] [The approach was that] I would get questions about what to do here and what to do differently almost 24 hours a day. The most extreme expression of it, if you will, was Ghandi’s (the nickname given to Rehavam Zeevi, an Israeli military geneal appointed commander of the Central Command in 1968) famous saying that he soon wouldn’t be able to do anything in his command sector, including urinating, without first getting permission from Shlomo Gazit.” [p. 13]
About his power within the system: “[The coordinator of government activities in the Territories] was much more than a mini-prime minister. He was a very centralist prime minister.” [p. 13]
About working and power relations vis-à-vis the General Staff: “There weren’t, I don’t know if there were red lines, but there were very many problems. The problems stemmed from building a system that was nearly impossible. The chief of staff was neutralized on this issue [activity in the Territories] […] He preferred to be neutralized because he felt quite a bit out of his depth.”
About Moshe Dayan’s way of exerting control: Question: “In fact, all [you] left, or Dayan left for the General Staff, deliberately, was dealing with the units themselves, no more than that. Gazit: Correct. Although, once in a while, [Dayan] would play the game and say: ‘Me? It’s all the General Staff.’ It was his usual trick.” [p. 15]
About Moshe Dayan and the expulsions in Qalqiliyah and Latrun: Question: “[The expulsion in] Qalqiliyah etc., that was Dayan?” Gazit: Qalqiliyah and Latrun. […] None of it [the expulsions and destruction] was in the sense that he came and said, point-blank, ‘destroy Qalqiliyah,’ but he did, in a way, give his blessing.”
About Palestinians returning after the war: “The state of affairs we found on June 10 [when the war ended], [was] close to 150,000 people, men, outside the West Bank, working outside, in the East Bank […] and the question was who is going to join who. Would the husband go back to the territory, or would the family join the husband? The mass of Arabs who left Judea and Samaria during those months was almost exclusively old people, women and children. No men. […] There was hope that we could prevent the return of this mass of people and continue the exodus. That was, I would say, the substantive position.” [pp. 22-23]