The reasons for the outbreak of the Six Day War, on June 5, 1967, are a subject of debate. Was it an inevitable step on a slippery slope none of the parties wanted, or were some within the leaderships egging it on? Available historical records, however, do indicate that in the years leading up to it, Israel engaged in meticulous preparations for organizing control over territories it thought it might take over in a future war. These records suggest that the occupation of territories was not an unintended outcome of the fighting, but part of Israel’s strategic, political concept.
Although serious staff work to prepare for a possibility of occupation and control of vast areas did not begin until 1963, as far back as 1961, and perhaps even earlier, the military’s operations department began planning for a possible takeover of territories in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Sinai desert, and detailing the required forces. If territories are taken over on the Syrian front, the document says, existing Military Government units would be used to install a military government there.
About two years after designing the future control of territories within existing military governance frameworks, the IDF’s General Staff came to realize that planning for the reorganization of the Military Government in the West Bank had been “rushed” and “did not entirely meet all needs.” This document was meant to propose a new format for the Military Government. It is another link in the chain of discussions held in the years preceding the occupation about how to control occupied territories.
The order, the full text of which is presented here, aims to define the future organizational structure for control of occupied territories. It was the result of at least two years of staff work on the topic. According to the order, “expected expansion trajectories” in the next war included the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula to the Suez Canal, the Syrian Heights to Damascus and Lebanon to the Litani River.
This document, authored by Colonel Yehoshua Varbin, who was the commander of the Military Government in the 1960s, demonstrates that senior officials within the Military Government imposed on Palestinian citizens of Israel were heavily involved in designing future control over Palestinians on the other side of the Green Line. The document warned little progress had been made with the implementation of the organization order issued about two years earlier, in August 1963, and stated that the Military Government headquarters for control of occupied territories lacked training and skills to fulfill their function.