Moshe Dayan

Moshe Dayan

Moshe Dayan was born in Degania in 1915. He studied science at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Dayan helped form the Haganah underground militia and on the outbreak of the Second World War was imprisoned by the British authorities in Palestine.

Dayan was released in 1941 and was recruited into the auxiliary force supporting the British Army in Syria. During the fighting Dayan was badly wounded and this resulted in him losing his left eye.

The Jewish state of Israel was established on 14th May 1948 when the British mandate over Palestine came to an end. The neighbouring Arab states refused to recognize Israel and invaded the country on the 15th May. The war came to an end in March 1949. By the time the cease-fire took place Israel had increased the control of its land by a quarter. A close associate of David Ben-Gurion, Dayan was chief operations officer during the war.

Dayan became Chief of Staff in 1953 and led the army during the Suez Crisis in 1956. On 29th October 1956, the Israeli Army invaded Egypt. Two days later British and French bombed Egyptian airfields. British and French troops landed at Port Said at the northern end of the Suez Canal on 5th November. By this time the Israelis had captured the Sinai peninsula.

President Dwight Eisenhower and his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, grew increasingly concerned about these developments and at the United Nations the representatives from the United States and the Soviet Union demanded a cease-fire. When it was clear the rest of the world were opposed to the attack on Egypt, and on the 7th November the governments of Britain, France and Israel agreed to withdraw. They were then replaced by UN troops who policed the Egyptian frontier.

In 1959 Dayan, a member of the Labour Party, was elected to the Knesset and soon afterwards David Ben-Gurion made him Minister of Agriculture. In 1966 Dayan left the Labour Party to set up the Rafi Party. The following year he was appointed Minister of Defence.

In May 1967 Arab armies began assembling long the frontiers with Israel. At the same time General Gamal Abdel Nasser ordered a blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba. General Dayan decided on a pre-emptive strike. On 5th June, 1967, the Israeli airforce bombed the airfields in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Jordan. Egyptian tanks were also destroyed in Sinai and the Israeli army reached the Suez Canal and the west bank of the Jordan river on 7th June. Over the next three days the Israelis captured the Golan Heights and territory in Syria. The Six-Day War reopened the Gulf of Aqaba. It also gave Israel control over the West Bank of Jordan and the 600,000 Arabs living in that area.

Golda Meir became prime minister in 1969. In this post she clashed with Dayan who wanted to colonize the Arab territories occupied during the Six-Day War. For a while Meir wanted to negotiate a peace settlement that would allow the return of Sinai to Egypt and the Golan Heights to Syria. However, she eventually sided with Dayan.

On 6th October 1973, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched a surprise attack on Israel. Two days later the Egyptian Army crossed the Suez Canal while Syrian troops entered the Golan Heights. Israeli troops counter-attacked on 8th October. They crossed the Suez Canal near Ismailia and advanced towards Cairo. The Israelis also recaptured the Golan Heights and moved towards the Syrian capital. The October War came to an end when the United Nations arranged a cease-fire on 24th October.

Dayan was blamed for Israel's poor start to the war and was forced to resign. However, in 1977 Menachem Begin appointed him as Foreign Minister and in September 1978 arranged for Begin and Anwar Sadat of Egypt to signed a peace treaty between the two countries.

Dayan published Diary of the Sinai Campaign (1966), Story of My Life (1978) and Living With the Bible (1978). Moshe Dayan died in 1981.