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Moshe Dayan
20 May 1915(1915-05-20)-16 October 1981 (aged 66)
Moshe Dayan.jpg
Dayan in 1978
Place of birth Degania, Ottoman Syria
Place of death Tel Aviv, Israel
Allegiance British Army
Israel Defence Forces
Years of service 1932 - 1974
Rank Brigade commander
Lieutenant General
Chief of Staff
Battles/wars World War II
1948 Arab-Israeli War
Suez Crisis
Six-Day war
Yom Kippur War
Awards Distinguished Service Order
Legion of Honour

Moshe Dayan, (Hebrew: משה דיין‎, 20 May 1915 – 16 October 1981) was an Israeli military leader and politician. The fourth Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (1953–1958), he became a fighting symbol to the world of the new State of Israel. He went on to become Defense Minister and later Foreign Minister of Israel.


Early life

Moshe Dayan was born on Kibbutz Degania Alef near the shores of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) in pre-Mandate Palestine. His parents were Shmuel and Devorah, Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. He was the second child to be born on the kibbutz (after Gideon Baratz). He was named Moshe after Moshe Barsky, the first member of the kibbutz to be killed in an Arab attack.[1] Soon after, his parents moved to Nahalal, the first Moshav to be established. He attended the Agricultural School there. At the age of 14, he joined the newly formed Jewish militia known as the Haganah. In 1938 he joined the Palestine Supernumerary Police and became a company commander.

Dayan with Yitzhak Sadeh and Yigal Allon, Kibbutz Hanita, 1938

One of his military heroes was the British pro-Zionist officer Orde Wingate, whom he served as second-in-command.

World War II

He was arrested by the British in 1939 (when the Haganah was outlawed), but released after two years in February 1941, as part of Haganah cooperation with the British during World War II.

Dayan was assigned to a small Australian-Palmach-Arab reconnaissance task force,[2] formed in preparation for the Allied invasion of Syria and Lebanon and attached to the Australian 7th Division. Using his home kibbutz of Hanita as a forward base, the unit frequently infiltrated Vichy French Lebanon, wearing traditional Arab dress, on covert surveillance missions.

On 7 June, the night before the invasion, the unit crossed the border and secured two bridges over the Litani River. When they were not relieved as expected, at 04:00 on 8 June, the unit perceived that it was exposed to possible attack and — on its own initiative — assaulted a nearby Vichy police station, capturing it in a firefight. A few hours later, as Dayan was using binoculars they were struck by a French bullet, propelling metal and glass fragments into his left eye and causing it severe damage. Six hours passed before he could be evacuated and Dayan lost the eye. In addition, the damage to the extraocular muscles was such that Dayan could not be fitted with a glass eye, and he was forced to adopt the black eyepatch that became his trademark.

In the years immediately following, the disability caused him some psychological pain.[3] Dayan wrote in his autobiography: "I reflected with considerable misgivings on my future as a cripple without a skill, trade, or profession to provide for my family." He added that he was "ready to make any effort and stand any suffering, if only I could get rid of my black eye patch. The attention it drew was intolerable to me. I preferred to shut myself up at home, doing anything, rather than encounter the reactions of people wherever I went."

Military commander

Moshe Dayann with Avraham Yoffe at Sharm el-Sheikh.

During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Dayan occupied various important positions, first as the commander of the defense in the Jordan valley; he was then given command over a number of military units on the central front. He was the first commander of the 89th Armoured Battalion and took part in Operation Danny and Ten Days. He was extremely well-liked by Israel's founding Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion and became his protégé, together with Shimon Peres (a future Prime Minister and President). It was on Ben-Gurion's insistence that he became Military Commander of Jerusalem.

After the war, Dayan began to rise rapidly through the ranks. From 1953 to 1958, he was the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces. In this capacity, he personally commanded the Israeli forces fighting in the Sinai during the 1956 Suez Crisis. It was during Dayan's tenure as Chief of Staff that he delivered his famous eulogy of Roi Rutenberg, a young Israeli killed in 1956.

On taking over command, based on Ben-Gurion's three year defence programme, Dayan carried out a major reorganisation of the Israeli army which, among others, included:-[4]

  • Strengthened combat units at the expense of administrative 'tail'.
  • Raising the Intelligence and Training Branches of the Israeli Army.
  • Surrendering the activities of stores and procurement to the civilian Ministry of Defense.
  • Revamping the mobilisation scheme and ensuring earmarking for adequate equipment.
  • Starting a military academy for officers of the rank of major and above.
  • Emphasised strike forces (Air Force, Armour) and on training of Commando battalions.
  • Developed GADNA, a youth wing for military training.


Moshe Dayan
Knessets 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th
Party Telem
Former parties Mapai, Rafi, Alignment
Ministerial posts
(current in bold)
Minister of Agriculture
Minister of Defense
Minister of Foreign Affairs

In 1959, a year after he retired from the IDF, Dayan joined Mapai, the leftist party in Israeli politics, then led by David Ben-Gurion. Until 1964, he served as the Minister of Agriculture. Dayan joined with the group of Ben-Gurion loyalists who defected from Mapai in 1965 to form Rafi. The Prime Minister Levi Eshkol disliked Dayan; however, when tensions began to rise in early 1967, Eshkol appointed the charismatic and popular Dayan as Minister of Defense in order to raise public morale and bring Rafi into a unity government.

Six Day War (1967)

Moshe Dayan was covering the Vietnam War to observe modern warfare upclose after his political life. In fact, he was on patrol as an observer with members of the US Marines Corps.

Although Dayan did not take part in most of the planning before the Six-Day War of June 1967, his appointment as defense minister contributed to the Israeli success.[citation needed] He personally oversaw the capture of East Jerusalem during the 5 June-7 June fighting. During the years following the war, Dayan enjoyed enormous popularity in Israel and was widely viewed as a potential Prime Minister. At this time, Dayan was the leader of the hawkish camp within the Labor government, opposing a return to anything like Israel's pre-1967 borders. He once said that he preferred Sharm-al-Sheikh (an Egyptian town on the southern edge of the Sinai Peninsula overlooking Israel's shipping lane to the Red Sea via the Gulf of Aqaba) without peace to peace without Sharm-al-Sheikh. He modified these views later in his career and played an important role in the eventual peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.

In 1997, years after Dayan died, an Israeli journalist, Rami Tal, published conversations he had with Dayan in 1976. In that conversation Dayan claimed that 80 percent of the cross-border clashes between Israel and Syria in the years before the war were a result of Israeli provocation (Dayan was not Defense minister at the time). He confessed[5][6]:

I know how at least 80 percent of the clashes there started. In my opinion, more than 80 percent, but let's talk about 80 percent. It went this way: We would send a tractor to plough someplace where it wasn't possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn't shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance farther, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that's how it was.

Also, later, he regretted it as:

I made a mistake in allowing the Israel conquest of the Golan Heights. As defense minister I should have stopped it because the Syrians were not threatening us at the time [fourth day of the war].

He also portrayed the desire of the residents in the Kibutzim beneath the Golan Heights that they be captured as stemming from the desire for their agricultural land and not primarily for security reasons. This description was hotly denied by the Kibutz leaders (the Hula Valley kibutzim did not get any land on the Golan). [7][8]

Dayan's contention was hotly denied by Muky Tsur, a longtime leader of the United Kibbutz Movement who said "For sure there were discussions about going up the Golan Heights or not going up the Golan Heights, but the discussions were about security for the kibbutzim in Galilee," he said. "I think that Dayan himself didn't want to go to the Golan Heights. This is something we've known for many years. But no kibbutz got any land from conquering the Golan Heights. People who went there went on their own. It's cynicism to say the kibbutzim wanted land." [9]

About Dayan's comments, Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren says

"There is an element of truth to Dayan's claim, but it is important to note that Israel regarded the de-militarized zones in the north as part of their sovereign territory and reserved the right to cultivate them—a right that the Syrians consistently resisted with force. Syria also worked to Benefit from the Jordan river before it flowed into isreal, aiming to get use of it as a water source; Syria also actively supported Palestinian resistance movements against Israel. Israel occasionally exploited incidents in the de-militarized zones to strike at the Syrian water diversion project and to punish the Syrians for their support of the palestinian resistance. Dayan's remarks must also be taken in context of the fact that he was a member of the opposition at the time. His attitude toward the Syrians changed dramatically once he became defense minister. Indeed, on June 8, 1967, Dayan bypassed both the Prime Minister and the Chief of Staff in ordering the Israeli army to attack and capture the Golan."


Yom Kippur War (1973)

Moshe Dayan and Menachem Begin exit from an aircraft in Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, USA

After Golda Meir became Prime Minister in 1969 following the death of Levi Eshkol, Dayan remained Minister of Defense. He was still in that post when the Yom Kippur War began catastrophically for Israel on 6 October 1973. As the highest-ranking official responsible for military planning, Dayan may bear part of the responsibility for the Israeli leadership having missed the signs for the upcoming war.[11] In the hours preceding the war, Dayan chose not to order a full mobilization or a preemptive strike against the Egyptians and the Syrians.[11] He assumed that Israel would be able to win easily even if the Arabs attacked and, more importantly, did not want Israel to appear as the aggressor, as it would have undoubtedly cost it the invaluable support of the United States (who would later mount a massive airlift to rearm Israel, a major turning point of the war).

Following the heavy defeats of the first two days, Dayan's views changed radically; he was close to announcing "the downfall of the "Third Temple" at a news conference, but was forbidden to speak by Meir. Dayan further backed from high level political role, and turned publicly as symbol for Israel independence and hope for a Third Temple to be built.

Dayan suggested options at the beginning of the war, including a plan to withdraw to the Mitleh mountains in Sinai and a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights in order to carry the battle over the Jordan, abandoning the core strategic principles of Israeli war doctrine, which says that war must be taken into enemy territory as soon as possible.[citation needed] The Chief of Staff, David Elazar, objected to these plans and was proved correct. Israel broke through the Egyptian lines on the Sinai front, crossed the Suez canal, and encircled the 3rd Egyptian Army. Israel also counterattacked on the Syrian front, successfully repelling the Jordanian and Iraqi expeditionary forces and shelling the outskirts of Damascus, ending the war on favorable terms.

Foreign Minister in the Likud Government

According to those who knew him, the war deeply depressed Dayan. He went into political eclipse for a time. In 1977, despite having been re-elected to the Knesset for the Alignment, he accepted the offer to become Foreign Minister in the new Likud government led by Menachem Begin. He was expelled from the Alignment, as a result and sat as an independent MK. As foreign minister in Begin's government, he was instrumental in drawing up the Camp David Accords, a peace agreement with Egypt. Dayan resigned his post in October 1979, because of a disagreement with Begin over whether the Palestinian territories were an internal Israeli matter (the Camp David treaty included provisions for future negotiations with the Palestinians; Begin, who didn't like the idea, did not put Dayan in charge of the negotiating team). In 1981 he founded a new party, Telem.


Dayan's grave in the Nahalal cemetery

Telem won two seats in the 1981 elections, but Dayan died shortly thereafter, in Tel Aviv, from a massive heart attack. He had been in ill-health since 1980, after he was diagnosed with colon cancer late that year. He is buried in Nahalal in the moshav (a collective village) where he was raised.


Dayan was very complicated and controversial; his opinions were never strictly black and white. He had few close friends; his mental brilliance and charismatic manner were combined with cynicism and lack of restraint. Ariel Sharon noted about Dayan:

He would wake up with a hundred ideas. Of them ninety-five were dangerous; three more were bad; the remaining two, however, were brilliant.

Dayan combined a kibbutznik's secular identity and pragmatism with a deep love and appreciation for the Jewish people and the land of Israel --but not a religious identification. In one recollection, having seen rabbis flocking on the Temple Mount shortly after Jerusalem was captured in 1967, he asked "what is this? Vatican?" Dayan later ordered the Israeli flag removed from the Dome of the Rock, and gave administrative control of the Temple Mount over to the Waqf, a Muslim council. Dayan believed that the Temple Mount was more important to Judaism as a historical rather than holy site.

Dayan was also an author and an amateur archaeologist, the latter hobby leading to some controversy as his amassing of historical artifacts, often with the help of his soldiers, broke a number of laws. Dayan's habit of pilfering newly discovered archaeological sites, before arrival of the Antiquities Authority and State-authorized archaeologists, once almost cost him his life and left him with a slight permanent impairment. Shortly after the Six-Day War Dayan heard of a new archaeological find near Holon, due south of Tel Aviv. Not wanting to arouse suspicion, he entered the dig alone, and started to look for artifacts, when suddenly the entire dig caved in upon him, burying him alive. Only a hand remained visible. Shortly thereafter, a group of playing kids passed and saw a human hand protruding from the caved-in hole in the ground. They managed to dig him out alive, but due to possible oxygen deficiency in his brain, he remained with a speech impairment during the rest of his life, as well as with a partially paralyzed hand. Upon his death, his extensive archaeological collection was sold to the state.[citation needed]

Dayan was also a notorious womanizer.[12]

His daughter, Yael Dayan is a novelist. She followed him into politics and has been a member of several Israeli leftist parties over the years. She has served in the Knesset and on the Tel Aviv City Council, and is the current Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv, responsible for social services.

One of his sons, Assi Dayan, is an actor and a movie director.

Another son, novelist Ehud Dayan, who was cut out of his father's will, wrote a book critical of his father after Moshe died.

Books by Dayan

  • Diary of the Sinai Campaign, 1965.
  • Living with the Bible, 1978.
  • Story of My Life, 1978.
  • Breakthrough: A Personal Account of the Egypt-Israel Peace Negotiations, 1981.

Further reading

  • Lau-Lavi, Napthali, (1968), Moshe Dayan - A Biography. English Book Store, New Delhi (First Indian Reprint 1979).


  1. ^ Soldier of Israel: the story of General Moshe Dayan By Israel Isaac Taslitt Published by Funk and Wagnalls, 1969, p. 8
  2. ^ Major Allan A. Katzberg (US Marine Corps), 1988, Foundations Of Excellence: Moshe Dayan And Israel's Military Tradition (1880 To 1950) ( Access date: September 25, 2007.
  3. ^ Cited by Katzberg, 1988
  4. ^ Lau-Levie, Moshe Dayan - A Biography, pg 38.
  5. ^ The Iron Wall by Ari Shavit, p.236-237
  6. ^ Eyal Zisser, June 1967: Israel's capture of the Golan Heights, Israel Studies, Vol 7, 168-194.
  7. ^ "Israel and Syria: Correcting the Record", Stephen S. Rosenfeld, Washington Post, December 24, 1999.
  8. ^ "General's Words Shed a New Light on the Golan", Serge Schmemann, New York Times, May 11, 1997.
  9. ^
  10. ^ pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
  11. ^ a b Blum, H: "The Eve of Destruction",Harper Collins Publishers, 2003.
  12. ^

See also

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Moshe Dayan

Moshe Dayan (20 May 191516 October 1981) was an Israeli military leader and politician.



  • There is no more Palestine. Finished . . .
    • TIME Magazine (30 July 1973)
  • In two cases I did not fulfill my role as defense minister, in that I did not stop things that I was sure should have been stopped.
  • Along the Syria border there were no farms and no refugee camps — there was only the Syrian army... The kibbutzim saw the good agricultural land ... and they dreamed about it... They didn't even try to hide their greed for the land... We would send a tractor to plow some area where it wasn't possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn't shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance further, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that's how it was...The Syrians, on the fourth day of the war, were not a threat to us.
    • On pre-1967 clashes with the Syrians, in a 1976 interview with Rami Tal, as quoted in The New York Times and Associated Press reports (11 May 1997)
  • It is not in our hands to prevent the murder of workers… and families… but it is in our hands to fix a high price for our blood, so high that the Arab community and the Arab military forces will not be willing to pay it.
    • As quoted in Warrior: the autobiography of Ariel Sharon (1989)
  • We have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads.
    • Yossi Beilin, Mehiro shel Ihud (Revivim, 1985), 42 speaking of the Palestinians
  • The quote is taken from an address Dayan gave to Technion University students on March 19, 1969. A transcription of the speech appeared in Ha'aretz on April 4, 1969.
In answer to a student's question suggesting that Israel adopt a policy of punishing Arabs who commit crimes in the West Bank by deportation to Jordan, Dayan answers that he is vehemently opposed to this idea, insisting that the answer to the longstanding Arab-Israeli problem is to learn to live together with Arab neighbors. He goes on to say:
“We came to a region that was inhabited by Arabs, and we set up a Jewish state. In many places, we purchased the land from Arabs and set up Jewish villages where there had once been Arab villages. You don't even know the names [of the previous Arab villages] and I don't blame you, because those geography books aren't around anymore. Not only the books, the villages aren't around...”
Dayan's conclusion was that the solution to the Arab-Israeli problem is to learn to coexist with them.

Righteous Victims (1999)

Quotes of Dayan from Righteous Victims : A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999 by Benny Morris
  • Using the moral yardstick mentioned by [Moshe Sharett], I must ask: Are [we justified] in opening fire on the Arabs who cross [the border] to reap the crops they planted in our territory; they, their women, and their children? Will this stand up to moral scrutiny . . .? We shoot at those from among the 200,000 hungry arabs who cross the line — will this stand up to moral review? Arabs cross to collect the grain that they left in the abandoned villages and we set mines for them and they go back without an arm or a leg. . . [It may be that this] cannot pass review, but I know no other method of guarding the borders. then tomorrow the State of Israel will have no borders.
    • On the anti-infiltration policy in the early 1950s
  • The only method that proved effective, not justified or moral but effective, when Arabs plant mines on our side [is retaliation]. If we try to search for the [particular] Arab [who planted mines], it has not value. But if we harass the nearby village . . . then the population there comes out against the [infiltrators] . . . and the Egyptian Government and the Transjordanian Government are [driven] to prevent such incidents, because their prestige is [assailed], as the Jews have opened fire, and they are unready to begin a war . . . the method of collective punishment so far has proved effective.

The Iron Wall (1999)

Quotes of Dayan from The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World by Avi Shlaim
  • Let us not today fling accusation at the murderers. What cause have we to complain about their fierce hatred to us? For eight years now, they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived.
    We should demand his blood not from the Arabs of Gaza but from ourselves. . . . Let us make our reckoning today. We are a generation of settlers, and without the steel helmet and gun barrel, we shall not be able to plant a tree or build a house. . . . Let us not be afraid to see the hatred that accompanies and consumes the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs who sit all around us and wait for the moment when their hands will be able to reach our blood.
  • We could not guard every water pipeline from being blown up and every tree from being uprooted. We could not prevent every murder of a worker in an orchard or a family in their beds. But it was in our power to set high price for our blood, a price too high for the Arab community, the Arab army, or the Arab governments to think it worth paying. . . It was in our power to cause the Arab governments to renounce 'the policy of strength' toward Israel by turning it into a demonstration of weakness.
  • All that is required is to find an officer, even a captain would do, to win his heart or buy him with money to get him to agreed to declare himself the savior of the Maronite population. Then the Israeli army will enter Lebanon, occupy the necessary territory, create a Christian regime that will ally itself with Israel. The territory from Litani southward will be totally annexed to Israel, and everything will fall into place.
    • While trying to work out a plan to internally destabilize Lebanon in favor of a Christian-Maronite government.
  • A new State of Israel with broad frontiers, strong and solid, with the authority of the Israel Government extending from the Jordan to the Suez Canal.
    • Statement made in April 1973 from the peaks of Massada.
  • During the last 100 years our people have been in a process of building up the country and the nation, of expansion, of getting additional Jews and additional settlements in order to expand the borders here. Let no Jew say that the process has ended. Let no Jew say that we are near the end of the road.
    • Ma'ariv, 7 July 1968.


  • [Israel] must see the sword as the main, if not the only, instrument with which to keep its morale high and to retain its moral tension. Toward this end it may, no — it must — invent dangers, and to do this it must adopt the method of provocation-and-revenge...
    • This has been reported to be a direct quotation of Dayan in the diaries of Moshe Sharett, but is actually derived from an interpretive commentary by Livia Rokach in "Israel's Sacred Terrorism" (1980) upon statements of Dayan reported in Sharett's diaries, from accounts provided to him by Ya'acob Herzog and Gideon Raphael — in other words: a third-hand interpretation of Dayan's meaning, based on a second hand report of his arguments. Sharett's summation of Dayan's statements of 26 May 1955 read:
We do not need a security pact with the U.S.: such a pact will only constitute an obstacle for us. We face no danger at all of an Arab advantage of force for the next 8-10 years. Even if they receive massive military aid from the West, we shall maintain our military superiority thanks to our infinitely greater capacity to assimilate new armaments. The security pact will only handcuff us and deny us the freedom of action which we need in the coming years. Reprisal actions which we couldn't carry out if we were tied to a security pact are our vital lymph ... they make it possible for us to maintain a high level of tension among our population and in the army. Without these actions we would have ceased to be a combative people and without the discipline of a combative people we are lost. We have to cry out that the Negev is in danger, so that young men will go there....
Rokach's interpretive assessment of this diary entry by Sharett produces:
The conclusions from Dayan's words are clear: This State has no international obligations, no economic problems, the question of peace is nonexistent... It must calculate its steps narrow-mindedly and live on its sword. It must see the sword as the main, if not the only, instrument with which to keep its morale high and to retain its moral tension. Toward this end it may, no — it must — invent dangers, and to do this it must adopt the method of provocation-and-revenge.. . . And above all — let us hope for a new war with the Arab countries, so that we may finally get rid of our troubles and acquire our space.

Quotations about Dayan

  • He would wake up with a hundred ideas. Of them ninety-five were dangerous; three more were bad; the remaining two, however, were brilliant.
  • Dayan didn't want the government to allow the kibbutzim to build there afterwards — he hoped to trade it back for peace.
    • Amos Eran on the taking of the Golan Heights, as quoted in The Washington Post (12 May 1997)
  • Moshe Dayan unfolded one plan after another for direct action. The first — what should be done to force open blockade of the Gulf of Eilat. A ship flying the Israeli flag should be sent, and if the Egyptians bomb it, we should bomb the Egyptian base from the air, or conquer Ras al-Naqb, or open our way south of Gaza Strip to the coast. There was a general uproar. I asked Moshe: Do you realize that this would mean war with Egypt?, he said: Of course.
    • Moshe Sharett, as quoted in Iron Wall (1999) by Avi Shlaim, on a suggestion in the mid-1950s to lure Egypt into a war to neutralize the modernization of its army.
  • Moshe Dayan saw no need for American guarantees of Israel's security and strongly opposed America's conditions i.e. that Israel forswear territorial expansion and military retaliation. In an informal talk with the ambassadors to Washington, London, and Paris, Dayan describe military retaliations as a "life drug" to the Israel Army. First, it obliged the Arab governments to take drastic measures to protect their borders. Second, and this was the essence, it enabled the Israeli government to maintain a high degree of tension in the country and the army. Gideaon Rafael, also present at the meeting with Dayan, remarked to Moshe Sharett: "This is how fascism began in Italy and Germany!"
    • Iron Wall (1999) by Avi Shlaim
  • Rocking the boat is his favorite tactic, not to overturn it, but to sway it sufficiently for the helmsman to lose his grip or for some of its unwanted passengers to fall overboard.*
    • Ambassador Gideon Rafael, about Dayan

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