September 13, 2016 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 103

The Story Of The Palestinian Village Leagues

September 13, 2016 | By Yigal Carmon*
Palestinians | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 103

Twenty-three years ago today, on the lawn of the White House, the Oslo Accord was signed. Both Israel and the US shared the questionable assumption that the PLO represented the one and only option for peace with the Palestinian people. Indeed, such was the situation at that time. However, this situation was the product of the policies of all the parties involved - the US, Israel, and, in its own way, the PLO, which had systematically eliminated its opponents. Fifteen years previously, a Palestinian movement had emerged in the Palestinian territories that sought peace with Israel in opposition to the PLO. It failed. Although 38 years have passed since that failure, the PLO and its supporters in the West are still haunted by this movement. I was personally involved in this endeavor and witnessed it firsthand. Here is the story of the Village Leagues.

In August 1978, Mustafa Dodin and a group of Palestinian activists submitted a request to the Military Administration in the West Bank to establish a village league in the Hebron area. Dodin, a former Jordanian minister, was a prominent figure in that region, and was known for his opposition to the PLO and his ties with the Jordanian government, especially with the circle of Wasfi Al-Tal, who had been Jordan's prime minister.[1] Having returned from Jordan to his native town of Dura near Hebron, Dodin wanted to establish a political movement that would strive for a settlement with Israel. However, the Israeli administration refused to allow political activity of any kind in the occupied territories, even if its objective was to negotiate a peace treaty with Israel. Dodin was therefore compelled to submit a new request for establishing a social-administrative body as was legal under Jordanian law (which continued to apply to the occupied territories under the Israeli Military Administration), namely a village league. Even this request was held up for about a year and a half until its final approval in August 1978.

The objection to political activity reflected what was known as the "Dayan policy," which had prevailed since the summer of 1967. This policy was never formulated systematically by Dayan himself, but was, rather, a composite of general principles, guidelines and specific ad hoc directives that he issued to his subordinates. It included a ban on political activity of any kind, as well as an instruction to avoid any preferential treatment of moderate elements. This applied equally to supporters of Jordan and to the handful of individuals who strove for Palestinian autonomy under the aegis of Israel, whose most notable representative was the renowned attorney from Ramallah, Aziz Shehadeh.[2] In practice, however, implementation of the policy went much further: extremist PLO supporters were treated sympathetically by the Israeli authorities and extremist newspapers such as Al-Fajr and Al-Shaab were granted licenses on direct instructions from Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan. The official explanation given for this was that Israel did not intervene in the public conduct and freedom of speech of residents of the territories so long as they refrained from terrorist activities.

The Dayan Policy And The Establishment Of The Village Leagues

The authorization accorded to former Jordanian government minister Mustafa Dodin and his supporters, who declared openly that their objective was a negotiated peace treaty with Israel, represented, therefore, an abrupt departure from the principles of the Dayan policy. This change was the outcome of a prolonged struggle on the part of the office of the Advisor on Arab Affairs at West Bank military HQ, which was headed by Professor Menahem Milson. But even after authorization had been given, members of the village leagues were obliged to deal with opposition from almost all bodies concerned - directly or indirectly - with matters in the West Bank, from figures within the Military Administration itself to local and foreign journalists. 

Why was there so much opposition to a policy that on the face of it was both necessary and desirable? The answer is that the Dayan policy was considered a success and was supported by most of these bodies. Never clearly formulated, the Dayan doctrine comprised a variety of constituents such as the open bridges policy, the holding of local elections, good and enlightened governance and a liberal attitude at all levels that included maximum freedom on the public plane. This attitude went so far as to create the impression that the Dayan policy sought to establish a Jordanian-Israeli condominium in the area. At the political level, however, the objective was just the opposite: Dayan wanted to reduce Jordanian political claims in the territories, partly, at least, by means of weakening Jordanian supporters' status on the ground.[3]

Despite the Dayan policy's intentions, liberal journalistic and political circles supported it for a variety of reasons: some because they disliked Jordan's autocratic monarchical regime and others because they favored Palestinian autonomy. Among Israel's right-wingers, too, there was support for Dayan's policies, because of their anti-Jordanian orientation, which suited the position of the proponents of "greater Israel."

As long as the territories remained quiet from the political and security point of view, the Dayan policy appeared to be a success, and, indeed, the continuing quiet was mistakenly attributed to this policy rather than to the presence of the moderate Palestinian elements who were in actuality responsible for maintaining calm. However, in the wake of the October 1974 Arab Summit decision to recognize it as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian People, the PLO gained strength in the territories, and anti-Israeli incitement increased. Violence escalated still more when Minister of Defense Shimon Peres, who had replaced Dayan while retaining his policies, ordered municipal elections to be held in the territories.

Two years had by this time elapsed since the Rabat resolution that recognized the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian People, and since the organization's recognition by the UN General Assembly. But the Israeli Military Administration, like many people in Israeli political circles, completely ignored the significance of these historic events and continued its long-standing embrace of the Dayan policy. Thus, when riots broke out in the occupied territories in 1975, these people were unwilling to recognize them as the outcome of the erosion of the public status of the pro-Jordanian faction and other moderates and the result of the policy of the Israeli Military Administration, which purposely undermined the status of pro-Jordanian elements while affording freedom of action to the anti-Jordanian faction, i.e., supporters of the PLO. They had believed that the 1976 elections would have a different outcome and when, contrary to their expectations, PLO supporters were elected, they sought every means to cast the results in a positive light: "When all's said and done, these are public servants who will clean the streets and develop the towns, because that's what they were elected to do - they won't get involved in politics." But the hopes of those who expressed this optimistic forecast were soon dashed, as the first action taken by the supposedly pragmatic Mayor of Hebron was not street sweeping but the rejection of government bonuses due to his municipality, as he wished to avoid having to sign a contract with the Israeli authorities in accordance with the formulation in use since 1967. Very soon the pro-PLO mayors united around their opposition to the imposition of value added tax in the territories, a purely financial issue stemming from the introduction of VAT in Israel, which they exploited for purposes of anti-Israeli propaganda. The heads of the chambers of commerce, however, who were known to be pro-Jordanian, assumed a pragmatic stance and conducted practical negotiations over the ways in which the imposition of VAT was applied in practice.

It should be emphasized here that the cumulative result of the implementation of the Dayan policy over the years was an increasing radicalization of the population in the direction of the PLO and its objectives. Nonetheless, the Military Administration and its senior officers continued to operate in accordance with the spirit of the Dayan policy, which still lived on in the offices of the Coordinator of Activities in the Territories and the Military Administration, even after Dayan was forced to resign and was replaced by Shimon Peres. Significant change in the political approach came only in the summer of 1976, when Professor Menahem Milson took office as Advisor on Arab Affairs in the West Bank. Now the sanctity of Dayan's policy was challenged and a new approach was introduced. In November 1976 I joined the Arab Affairs Department as Milson's aide.

Our activities contradicted the Dayan policy in practice at every level. It should be noted, however, that we did nothing clandestinely, nor did we violate military discipline. Unlike Dayan's policies, which tacitly contradicted and undermined official government policy, we acted in accordance with the declared fundamental principles of the Israeli government: namely, as Jordan was regarded as a non-hostile entity, we made efforts to transform it into a partner for political dialogue, despite the Rabat resolutions, and pro-Jordanian elements were now to be supported rather than suppressed.

Our point of departure was completely contrary to that of the Dayan policy. Dayan had striven to perpetuate Israel's control of the territories, while hoping that Jordan would collapse as a result of internal conflict with the terrorist organizations in 1970 and so provide a solution to the Palestinian national problem. His speeches at the time are evidence of the fact that he did not believe in the possibility of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. We, however, did not subscribe to this pessimistic and fatalistic view of strife as perpetual and inescapable. Although we were acutely aware of the depth and seriousness of the conflict and its historical roots, our familiarity with events on the ground gave us reason to believe in the possibility of pursuing a judicious peace-directed policy by strengthening moderate elements who understood that terrorism endangered the Palestinians themselves and were interested in promoting peace. Although we were well aware that these elements were not dominant and that the positions they espoused were not largely shared by the urban elite that for years had constituted the leading sector of Palestinian society, we also knew that most members of the non-urban population - the silent majority - were prepared to accept this approach if assured of an Israeli commitment to it expressed both on the political plane and by actions on the ground.

With the approval of the minister of defense, seven village leagues were established in the West Bank, initially in Hebron, later in Ramallah and Bethlehem and finally in the northern districts of Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarm.

The fact that they were founded despite extensive opposition from both the Israeli and Palestinian Arab establishment shows that we had appraised the situation correctly. We regarded the encouragement of peace-oriented moderates opposed to the violent path of the PLO as a principle of moral and political importance. We could not be sure that it would lead to peace, but we were quite sure that peace with the PLO was impossible, as the organization represented the problem of the refugees of 1948 and the demand for the right of return. We were right about this, too: the PLO's demand for the right of return has hindered all progress towards a peace agreement, even when Israel offered ninety-seven percent of the occupied territories (when Ehud Barak was prime minister) or one hundred percent, with a territorial swap (during Olmert's term).

We did not regard our political struggle against the PLO as one that could be resolved decisively at a single stroke; we viewed it, rather, as a prolonged campaign that could be won on points. We were convinced it would be better for Israel to deal with Palestinians who opposed terrorism and sought peace negotiations, rather than with an organization whose very essence was armed struggle and a return to Israel within the Green Line. This strategic principle, which we regarded as natural and justified even if it did not bring peace, was not acceptable to Israeli politicians on either left or right. Each clung to its own policy: the right rejected dialogue with Arab moderates because of its fear that such talks would lead to territorial compromise, while the left refused to abandon its belief and hope that the PLO would turn out to be a partner for peace. Our successful establishment of village leagues throughout the West Bank was short lived because we were working against a political consensus that was not just international and pan-Arab but, unfortunately, Israeli too.

Authorization for the operation of the village leagues was, as we have said, the outcome of a prolonged and determined months-long struggle conducted tirelessly against the legal advisor to the Military HQ in the West Bank, the ministry of defense's department of international law, and, of course, the defense minister's bureau and the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. In order to promote the idea of the village leagues within the defense minister's bureau, Milson agreed to proposal of Ezer Weizman, defense minister in the Likud government, that he accept the post of Advisor on Arab Affairs to the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. Milson assumed the post in January 1978 and did eventually succeed in persuading Weizman, who was defense minister at the time, to agree, albeit halfheartedly, to the establishment of the village leagues. The office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, which represented the Dayan policy, was not the only factor involved in the dispute over the approval of the village leagues, as many other figures within the security establishment had also adopted this policy and regarded it as "the height of political wisdom."[4] Brigadier-General David HaGoel, commander of IDF forces in the West Bank, however, supported approving the village leagues and allowed us to fight for it, but he was replaced in the spring of 1978 by Brigadier-General Ben-Eliezer whose attitude towards the whole initiative lay somewhere between indifference and hostility. Several months later, at the end of September, Menahem Milson concluded his term of office as Arab Affairs Advisor to the Coordinator of Israeli Activities in the Territories and returned to his post at the Hebrew University, leaving me to fight on alone. Although I had a superb staff of aides - officers with an excellent command of Arabic and an extensive background in Arab and Middle-Eastern studies who did their work diligently and devotedly, identified with their jobs and shared my approach to the task in hand - I had no support from anyone within the defense minister's bureau who could fight for the village league initiative.

Opponents Of The Village Leagues And Their Motives

As was to be expected, the struggle did not end with the minister of defense's authorization. Instead it intensified, as all those who had been opposed and had prophesied, on the basis of their supposed expertise, that the initiative would fail, now strove with all their might to ensure that their prophecy would be fulfilled. Notable opponents included journalists reporting on the occupied territories and left-wing political figures; some staff officers in the Military Administration; military personnel, especially IDF Central Command under Major-General Moshe Levi and his successor Ori Or; the foreign press; the consuls, especially the US consul in East Jerusalem; Jordan; the PLO; and the settlers.

Why were all these groups opposed to an initiative that had been approved by the minister of defense and which should have seemed natural and justified from all points of view, both moral and political? The following is a brief survey: 

The overwhelming majority of journalists reporting on events in the occupied territories had strong political views and regarded the PLO as the appropriate representative of the Palestinians. They maintained that, although the declared positions of the PLO were radical, its real positions were moderate, or else they believed that they would become so in the future. Most of these journalists were personally acquainted with supporters of the PLO in the territories, who saved them time and effort by supplying them regularly - and selectively, of course - with information as to what was happening on the ground. But this willingness of pro-PLO Palestinian figures to supply information came at a price, as the journalists were expected to reciprocate with sympathetic media coverage. As these reporters were in any case weary to the point of abhorrence of Jordan and its supporters, they had no difficulty in providing sympathetic coverage of pro-PLO public figures such as Fahd Qawasme (mayor of Hebron), Muhammad Milhem (mayor of Halhul) and their ilk. For some of the Israeli journalists, fostering relationships with radical Palestinian figures in the context of the Dayan policy was a way of representing themselves to the foreign media as enlightened and progressive. In short, their behavior was unprofessional and clearly uncritical.

Left-wing political circles in Israel regarded the Palestinian moderates as quislings[5] and referred to PLO supporters as "national figures" and "the authentic leadership." Thus, their opposition to the activities of the village leagues was both political and emotional.

The civilian staff officers of the Military Administration, who deserve credit for managing the routine of life in the territories for years and who were, in the great majority, conscientious civil servants, opposed the village league activities because their desire to retain their jobs and status made them extremely unwilling to transfer any responsibilities to the local population. Sometimes their behavior verged on the pathetic, so much so that we used to joke that some of them would, perhaps, prefer to remain at their posts under Palestinian rule rather than lose their jobs. This situation was very different from that of the early months after the 1967 war, when these posts were filled by senior staff officers ("ministers" who worked alongside the regional commander and dealt with civilian matters) who had held very high rank in the relevant government ministries before being seconded to these newly-created positions in the wake of the Six-Day War. Twelve years later, however, these posts were now filled by mid-level Israeli functionaries who had been dispatched by their ministries to this "exile" where they at once achieved the status of "ministers" - a position they were understandably reluctant to relinquish by transferring their responsibilities to members of the local population.

Some of the generals who headed IDF Central Command were similarly offended by our activities. Their indignation was primarily personal, as we had deprived them of their status as policy czars in the occupied territories and as the Central Command's representatives to the upper echelons of government - i.e., the ministry of defense and sometimes the cabinet, too - a status that was very important to them. This situation had come about because until 1981 the territories were under the control of a military administration that was subordinate to the military authorities and first and foremost to IDF Central Command. The generals strove to absolve themselves completely of any responsibility for our activities, which had attracted criticism from the media and left-wing elements: these officers wished to make it clear to critics that they had no part in this initiative and should therefore be excluded from any criticism of it. They undermined our activities, which often impinged upon those of the army, and generally helped the settlers, in part because of their military obligation to defend them. In most cases they also believed that the Dayan policy was indeed "the height of political wisdom" and that Dayan "understands the Arabs" better than the rest of us.

There was an additional reason for the army's dissatisfaction with our activities. When Professor Milson was appointed head of the Civil Administration in 1981, he asked Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon to remove a number of military governors whom for a variety of reasons we considered unsuitable, and replace them with a group of reserve officers, mainly from HaShomer HaTzair kibbutzim. These potential replacements possessed the following qualities: they had served in military intelligence, they spoke Arabic and had a background in Middle East studies, they understood the significance of political ideology and were familiar with political plans, demonstrations and pamphlets, and, most importantly, they had been brought up to strive for peace. The minister of defense approved this apparently odd request immediately. Naturally, he had his own reasons for doing so: he realized at once that people with these qualities would help to calm the situation on the ground. Milson approached veteran Mapam leader Yaakov Hazan, as the officers required permission from the movement to enlist as career soldiers. Hazan questioned him on our activities, on their objectives and on the aims of the Palestinian moderates whom we wished to encourage. When he had ascertained that the goal was a peace agreement with Israel, he allowed the officers to enlist. However, when Aliza Amir, then executive secretary of the Kibbutz Artzi Federation, heard of this, she appealed urgently to party secretary Victor Shem-Tov, shouting: "The old man (i.e. Hazan) has gone mad, he's going to help Sharon," and Shem-Tov revoked the authorization. Only two people were prepared to flout kibbutz discipline and join us, but neither was allowed to remain with us for very long.

Nearly all representatives of the foreign media supported the PLO, which by this time had already attained international recognition. Like the local Israeli reporters, they tried to compensate for their ignorance of the situation and their lack of Arabic by maintaining close ties with extremists who provided them with information that they did not have to go to the trouble of obtaining for themselves. The resulting reports were unprofessional and uncritical, though less so than those of Israeli reporters in the territories, as they lacked the sense of emotional identification that characterized the Israeli journalists.  (For example, when the village leagues held their large conference in Hebron in November 1982, attended by many thousands and covered by all the international television networks, at which the Village Leagues leadership called for peace with Israel, Davar reporter Danny Rubinstein headed his article "A Sad and Depressing Day in Hebron").

The foreign consuls, spearheaded by the US Consulate, implemented the policies of their foreign ministries, opposing Israeli occupation and supporting the PLO, which had been accorded international recognition by the UN. Insofar as they could, the consuls sabotaged our policies and extended help to extremist PLO supporters.

Jordan's attitude to the village leagues can be divided into two different periods. At first official Jordan lent them tacit support, as it realized that their activities were designed to strengthen Jordan's position in the territories and support its status as the political representative of the occupied areas, in defiance of the Rabat and UN resolutions of 1974.[6] However, after March 8, 1982, when Border Guard Commander Tzvi Bar revealed that the Border Guards were providing weapons training for members of the village leagues for the purpose of self-defense,[7] Jordan had no choice but to declare officially that the leagues were illegal under Jordanian law. After making this decision, it took a number of administrative measures to discourage Jordanian passport holders - i.e., all residents of the occupied territories - from joining the village leagues. Jordan was obliged to do this in order not to appear to be acting against the Arab consensus, which, in the wake of the Rabat resolution, viewed the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian People. It should be pointed out here that there was never any intention of establishing militias of any kind within the framework of the village leagues; a small number of league members were equipped with weapons from the IDF armory only after terrorists had murdered the leader of the Ramallah league, and this move was designed solely to allow members to protect themselves. The head of IDF Central Command refused to allow military personnel to provide weapons training, a problem the ministry of defense staff solved by approaching Tzvi Bar, who was close to Arik Sharon.

The PLO's natural opposition to the village leagues found expression in the murder of the head of the Ramallah league, and, several years later, of the head of the Jenin league, too. Throughout the entire period this opposition was also expressed on a routine basis by violent threats, a public boycott and a variety of actions designed to paralyze league activities.

From the outset the Israeli Security Agency (ISA, also known as the Shin Bet) had reservations about a policy of support for moderates and a corresponding withholding of support for hostile elements. There were a number of reasons for this, including a desire to stick to the Dayan doctrine, which opposed helping moderate elements and preferred the extremists, to whom it referred as "the authentic leadership." Moreover, as the ISA's mandate was defined as the prevention of terrorism and spying, the organization did not consider incitement or hostile public activity to be within its purview, even though both led directly to extremism and acts of terrorism. And the ISA had another reason for opposing the leagues: some very highly placed hostile Palestinian public figures had duplicitously acquired ISA protection in return for information. I believe it was hard for the ISA to come to terms with the fact that the Arab Affairs Advisory Department was operating in every way as an intelligence research network in an area so closely contingent upon its own and distributing its findings extensively to both the political echelon and the media.

The Jewish settlers were another influential element in the occupied territories. Their attitude to the village leagues, like their attitude to the rest of the local population, ranged from indifference to hostility. Certain circles and individuals in the Hebron area were especially hostile; among them was Elyakim Haetzni, a well-known public figure because of his struggle within Israel as an activist in the Shurat HaMitnadvim organization in the early 1950s. Although he had taken up residence in the occupied territories, unlike most settlers he was a secular Jew and preserved a fair-minded attitude towards his Arab neighbors. As a lawyer he represented local Arabs in court cases against the Israeli authorities when he believed they had been unjustly treated, and also maintained good personal relations with a number of the village league activists. On the public and political plane, however, he was in favor of total annexation of the territories, utterly opposed league activities and appealed to Israel's ministers of defense to prevent their developing any further. He explained his opposition by claiming that he had no fear of the PLO, as Israel would never hold talks with it. The village leagues, on the other hand, posed a problem and it was Mustafa Dodin, rather than Arafat, who frightened Haetzni, as his striving for peace was liable to cause Israel to withdraw from the territories in order to reach an agreement with him. Later, after the massacres at Sabra and Shatila, when Minister of Defense Arik Sharon found himself in serious political isolation and vitally needed the settlers' support, Haetzni's pressure on Sharon to stop the activities of the village leagues acquired significant weight.

Sharon And The Village Leagues  

In 1981, after Ariel Sharon's appointment as minister of defense, it seemed as if the village leagues were being granted a fresh opportunity, as Sharon invited Professor Milson to become commander of the West Bank. Despite our many doubts, we wanted to believe that the mere fact of Sharon's having chosen to appoint Professor Milson to this position was evidence of a genuine intention to initiate new moves in the territories. Sharon expressed verbal support for the concept of the village leagues and appeared willing to help our activities. These hopes, however, were soon dashed. Firstly, he yielded to the pressure of many people who were opposed both to our policy and to us personally. Instead of continuing military rule in the territories - a situation that the Palestinians themselves had come to terms with since 1967, as it was rooted in international law as regards occupied territory - he transformed the Military Administration into a new entity known as the Civil Administration, which had no basis in international law. This new framework complicated our activities from the outset with a pointless and unnecessary struggle over its legitimacy. It also provided an excuse for all PLO supporters to fight against it on the grounds that this new framework constituted a step towards annexation of the territories. Secondly, Sharon did not keep a single one of his promises to help the village leagues; he provided no financial aid for development of the territories, and held no discussions - neither one on one nor in wider forums - on overall policy for the area. To our sorrow, we realized that all his promises amounted to nothing more than a great deception: he had no interest in the subject and no intention of devoting his time or the ministry of defense's resources to it. As a result the leagues, which in early 1981 had organized themselves into a national framework as the Federation of Village Leagues, continued to languish amid their internal and external problems without any prospect of improvement. This was despite their own best efforts and the widening of the circle of supporters who believed that the leagues represented a new political direction with which the Israeli government would cooperate for the sake of peace. In September 1982, less than a year after his appointment, Milson resigned his post in the wake of the Sabra and Shatila massacres, and I was appointed to replace him. Now began the inevitable process of decline, as the minister of defense was entirely preoccupied by the massacres and their repercussions. After Sharon was forced to resign and was replaced by Moshe Arens, Shlomo Ilya was appointed head of the Civil Administration. He treated the village leagues with hostility and plotted against their leaders until eventually, due also to the pressure their many opponents applied to the new minister of defense, the league federation was disbanded and the weapons supplied to its members for self-defense purposes were taken away from them, leaving them vulnerable and susceptible to harm. All the opponents of the leagues celebrated what they referred to as their "failure," which in fact was no failure at all: neither the PLO nor the Arab states nor any of the other hostile elements had been able to overcome them - the Israeli government alone was responsible for their demise, without ever once having discussed the concept, its significance or its prospects.  One could say that such failure was inevitable when an attempt was made to initiate a historic political process in the face of universal opposition. The subsequent initiative attempted by the Israeli government with the PLO in 1993, with the full support of a national and international consensus, was no more successful, for reasons we ourselves had foreseen and had warned against.

Popular Misconceptions About The Village Leagues

I should like to take this opportunity to lay to rest two false perceptions propagated by the opponents of the village leagues. The first is that the establishment of the village leagues and the assistance they received were part of a putative "Sharon-Milson plan."  As we have described above, the leagues were established three years before Sharon became minister of defense, and he was in no way involved in their creation: he assumed office years after they were already in existence. The expression "Sharon-Milson plan," which refers, of course, to something that never existed, was invented by a number of journalists in order to discredit the leagues by presenting them as Sharon's creation, and others parroted the expression through ignorance.

The second misconception is the claim that our objective in establishing the village leagues was to sow dissent between the rural and urban Palestinian populations, in accordance with the doctrine of "divide and rule." This claim, too, is devoid of any substance. As stated above, the real reason behind Mustafa Dodin's request to establish a village league was that he was precluded from establishing a political movement that would work openly towards peace negotiations with Israel. When he came to us with this request in 1977, we told him there was no chance it would be granted, as the minister of defense refused to allow the formation of political movements, even if their stated objective was to reach a peace settlement, and therefore his only chance was to establish an administrative body, as sanctioned by Jordanian law. A few days later Dodin proposed that he solve this problem by creating a village league. In other words, the village-league structure was imposed upon Dodin and his supporters against their will - and thus it was similarly imposed upon us, as we wanted to help those Palestinians who wished to work towards peace negotiations with Israel.

HaDerech LaShalom Movement

We cannot conclude this article without mentioning that the Israeli consensus against the village leagues was not total. In 1983 a movement supporting the leagues sprang up within the extreme Israeli left. This movement, which was named HaDerech LaShalom ("The Way to Peace") did not represent any official body, but was composed of leading kibbutz movement activists from HaShomer HaTzair, Ihud HaKvutzot and HaKibbutz HaMeuhad. Prominent figures included Yonah Eisenberg from Kibbutz Gan Shmuel, Hanoch Beeri of HaZorea, Dudik Shoshani from Lahav, Yaakov Yonish of Beit HaShita, Ezra Dloomy of Rosh HaNikra and Shlomo Leshem of Urim. They got in touch with members of the leagues, met with them, helped them, organized conferences and other events with them and generally made every effort to show the Israeli public that an option for Israeli-Palestinian peace could be found close to home, with no need to look overseas. But, as in 1983 the Israeli authorities were already engaged in the process of doing away with the leagues, there was little they could do and their support did not bring salvation.


*Yigal Carmon is President of MEMRI. This article was first published in the Israeli magazine Kivvunim Hadashim, Issue n. 29, Jerusalem, December 2013.



[1] Al-Tal was murdered by the PLO in 1971 for his activity against this organization in September 1970.

[2] Aziz Shehadeh was shot dead on December 2, 1985.

[3] The policy of open bridges and permission to bring in salaries earned by teachers and staff continuing to work as civil servants in Jordan under the auspices of the Israeli Military Administration were things with which Dayan was obliged to comply, even though initially he explicitly forbade them. Nor did the results of the local elections held in accordance with Dayan's orders in 1972, in which Jordanian supporters maintained their status as mayors and heads of regional councils, accord with Dayan's intentions: he had hoped to install anti-Jordanian elements in these positions, and to this end had encouraged them to run for office. In one instance he was successful in installing Karim Khalaf, who had served as district attorney in the Israeli administration, as mayor of Ramallah, after he had stood for office with the encouragement of the Israeli authorities. The year 1976 saw the election of well known self-professed PLO supporters held in high esteem by the minister of defense, who instructed the administration to help them, supposedly without reference to their declared political positions. 

[4] Much of the Israeli public likewise regarded Dayan as a man who "understands the Arabs."  

[5] The first person to apply this term to them was Major-General Shlomo Gazit, who was an indefatigable proponent of the Dayan policy and the first Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

[6] This was the position of King Hussein.  The prime minister of the time, Mudar Badran, while never actually acting contrary to the king's instructions, was not sympathetically inclined towards Mustafa Dodin, with whom he had clashed when the latter had held an official position in the Jordanian government.

[7] Bar leaked this information in a distorted and improper fashion for purposes of personal aggrandizement, with no regard at all for the consequences of his action. 

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