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Number 1 Shimbun

From the Archives: Moshe Dayan— Symbolic Israeli Fighter

No1-2018-04 Archives


From the Archives: Moshe Dayan— Symbolic Israeli Fighter

by Charles Pomeroy

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Moshe Dayan, former Israeli defense minister, attracted 340 attendees, plus another 40 auditors in the main bar, to a professional luncheon on March 27, 1975, the FCCJ’s largest attendance following that of then-Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka some six months earlier. Dayan stated that Israel and the Arabs were closer to peace than ever before (page 219 of our history book). Seated to his right is Club Secretary Sam Jones (freelance) and to his left is Bela Elias (Hungarian News Agency), who was standing in for President Max Desfor (AP). At the far end of the table is Henry Scott-Stokes (New York Times) and the waiter standing in front of the Club sign is Jimmy Horikawa, who later was to become the Club’s general manager. The box of matzo (unleavened bread) on the table represents the Passover celebrated by Jews to commemorate their exodus from Egypt ca 1300 BCE.

Born on a kibbutz (commune) in 1915 on May 20th near the Sea of Galilee, Moshe Dayan was raised on a farming cooperative to which his family had moved in 1921. As a teenager, he joined an underground group to defend Jewish settlements from Arab attacks. In the process, he also learned guerrilla warfare from the British. He later served with special police forces for the same purpose. Arrested and imprisoned for two years, he was released and joined the British army in 1941 in their effort to liberate Lebanon from Vichy France. He lost his left eye in a battle there.

Dayan then played an active role in the 1948 War of Independence and, in 1949, participated in armistice talks. His military abilities led to rapid rises in rank, and he became chief of staff of Israeli armed forces in 1953. As such, he organized military operations to face hostile actions from surrounding Arab countries that had made the destruction of Israel their goal. These operations resulted in the Suez Crisis of 1956. Dayan left the military in 1958 and entered politics. Elected to the Knesset in 1959, he served as minister of agriculture until 1964, resigning after a dispute with the prime minister.

Dayan re-entered politics in 1965 and became minister of defense in 1967 – just prior to the successful Six-Day War, which he also helped end by arranging a cease-fire. That war cemented his reputation, making him a symbol of the Israeli military. He remained as minister of defense until his resignation in 1974 to take responsibility for Israel’s lack of preparedness to oppose Egypt’s surprise attack in the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

Three years later, in 1977, Dayan returned as minister of foreign affairs, a post in which he strove to bring about peace with Arab opponents. His efforts contributed to the eventual peace agreement mediated by U.S. President Jimmy Carter at the Camp David Accords of 1978. He resigned as foreign minister in 1979 following a dispute with the prime minister over the building of settlements in occupied territories. Although Dayan formed a new party in 1981 calling for disengagement from territories occupied in the Six-Day War of 1967, the party received little support. Moshe Dayan died of cancer on October 16, 1981. He is remembered by many as a symbol of Israeli military strength, but also as a complex and controversial personality.

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Charles Pomeroy is editor of Foreign
Correspondents in Japan, a history of the club
that is available at the front desk 

Published in: April 2018

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