Newly declassified Israeli Security Cabinet documents show government ministers planning to force Palestinians from their land.
“We should deal with this issue quietly, calmly and covertly, and we should work on finding a way for [the Palestinians] to emigrate to other countries and not just over the Jordan [River]. Perhaps if we don’t give them enough water they won’t have a choice, because the orchards will yellow and wither. Perhaps we can expect another war and then this problem will be solved.”
— Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, 1967
“Empty” the Gaza Strip, “thin out” the Galilee, rewrite textbooks and censor political cartoons in Haaretz: These are among the proposals discussed by cabinet ministers after the Six-Day War that will be available to the public in a major release of declassified government documents by the Israel State Archives on Thursday.
The material being posted on the state archives’ website includes hundreds of pages of minutes from meetings of the security cabinet between August and December 1967. From reading them, it is clear that in the several months that followed the June 1967 war, members of the security cabinet were perplexed, confused and sometimes helpless in the face of the new challenges to the state.
Israel conquered East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula in under a week. It was not even remotely prepared for this scenario, and had to hit the ground running.
In December 1967, six months after the war, then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol speculated over how to deal with the hundreds of thousands of Arabs newly under the state’s control. “At some point we will have to decide. There are 600,000 Arabs in these territories now. What will be the status of these 600,000 Arabs?” he asked.
Eshkol evidently felt no urgency in regard to the matter. “I suggest that we don’t come to a vote or a decision today; there’s time to deal with this joy, or better put, there’s time to deal with this trouble,” he said. “But for the record I’m prepared to say this: There’s no reason for the government to determine its position on the future of the West Bank right now. We’ve been through three wars in 20 years; we can go another 20 years without a decision.”