The anniversary of the Six Day War, which broke out 54 years ago this week, is an opportunity to revisit a constitutive moment in Israel’s settlement enterprise in the Occupied Territories: The affair that began with the Passover seder at Hebron’s Park Hotel in April 1968. The transcripts of a meeting between Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan and settler leaders in early June 1968 serve as another example of how false excuses, innuendo, and wordplay were employed by both the settlers and the security establishment from a very early stage in a bid to promote and legitimize the settlement enterprise.
Meeting between Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan and Hebron settlers
The transcripts of a meeting between the Hebron settler leadership and Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan offer another glimpse into the close relationship the settlers had with the security establishment from early on, and the minister’s open-door policy towards them. Minister Dayan explained during the meeting that establishing a Jewish city in Hebron was a complex endeavor, but clarified that a settlement under the guise of a “yeshiva” was possible, and even desirable as far as he was concerned. For those who did not quite catch the drift, Dayan added: “Neither the government nor I have ruled out that, alongside this ‘yeshiva,’ attached to it or not attached to it, there would be several other people.” Dayan further explained, “in the same framework around the ‘yeshiva,’ should the ‘yeshiva’ reach 80-90 people and there are 10-20 more people around, we won’t ask him whether he works here or there.”
The 295th plenum session of the sixth Knesset
The plenum opened with Minister of Defense Dayan responding to parliamentary questions submitted by MKs. Two concerned the Park Hotel Hebron settlement affair. MK Uri Avnery (Ha-olam Hazeh – Koah Hadash) asked how legal the Hebron settlement was, to which Dayan replied curtly that the settlers were following orders issued by the military commander. Avnery also asked about the weapons the settlers had been given. Then, MK Mikunis (Communist Party) asked what the Hebron settlers’ status was, who had decided to transfer them from the Park Hotel to the Military Governor’s building, and what the Ministry of Defense was planning to do with them.