What Israel was willing to do for peace in 1967Yaacov Lozowick posts a summary of recently declassified deliberations of Israel's cabinet ten days after the Six Day War.
Yet while their perspective was different than ours, the positions they staked were mostly cool-headed – the parts they agreed on, and the parts they didn't. They all hoped there would be no more wars. They intended the new conditions to be leveraged into a stable and just coexistence with the Arab world. They assumed the fate of the Arab refugees from 1948 was the irritant that was motivating the conflict and that it could now be resolved.Today, Israel has given away Sinai. It continues to hold Judea and Samaria although many would (unfortunately) like to give them up. The Golan, if anything, seems the least likely to be given away. And Gaza is gone.
They implicitly accepted that land could not permanently be taken from sovereign nations by act of war. So they all accepted that the Egyptian Sinai and Syrian Golan would eventually be returned to their owners. Syrian-born Eliyahu Sasson, one of only two non-Ashkenazi ministers and the only one who explicitly grounded his position in a life-long acquaintance with Arab culture, insisted that since no Arab government would make peace with Israel, the Golan and Sinai should be returned for something less than full diplomatic peace. Stringent demilitarization and freedom of Israeli shipping should be enough. Most of his colleagues didn't want to be so pessimistic, but interestingly, Menachem Begin agreed. When in 1978 he agreed to evacuate Israeli forces from the entire Sinai, pundits the world over hailed his flexibility and willingness to change course. Well: read the transcript and you'll see that Begin actually got more in 1978 than he had expected in 1967. In 1967 he was willing to evacuate the Sinai for less than full diplomatic recognition and peace.
In the event, the resolution at the end of the meeting was that both areas would be held until peace was agreed. The West Bank and Gaza were another matter, however.
Many of the speakers felt the previous 20 years had shown there had to be Israeli forces on the River Jordan, but refused to countenance Israeli control over the large number of Arabs on the West Bank. Minister of Justice Ya'acov Shimshon Shapira was implacable on the matter of citizenship. Israel can give citizenship to the Arabs it controls or it can stop controlling them, but there's no third way. Most of his colleagues accepted this. Some thought the entire area should be handed back to Hussein, while a few thought it could be split along demographic lines, with the sparsely populated Jordan valley under Israeli control but the crowded mountain area to Hussein. A number of speakers so disliked the thought of handing territories to Hussein, that they suggested finding some local Arabs to hand it over to – what would later be called the two-state solution. Menachem Begin was the only speaker who demanded the entire area remain part of Israel, but even he didn't know what to do with the local Arabs, suggesting merely that the question be revisited in "6 or 7 years". Yigal Allon presented the first outline of the plan that would later bear his name: the Jordan Valley and the Hebron area should be annexed to Israel while the populous northern part of the West Bank should be either returned to Hussein or somehow handed to the locals. He was the only speaker who explicitly recommended creating Israeli settlements; even Begin didn't go that far. Levi Eshkol sardonically summed up the diversity of opinions: You do realize you're playing chess with yourselves, don't you?
Jerusalem: everyone in the room agreed Jerusalem must remain united in Israeli hands, even if this meant Hussein would refuse to reach an agreement which would take the Arab population off Israel's hands in return for some sort of peace. The lines of the city had not yet been drawn, and the official decision would be taken later that month, but those were (important) technicalities. Left to right, atheists to believers, no-one had any doubts. If there was any apprehension regarding Jerusalem, it was that the Christian world would refuse to countenance Jewish control of the city and would relaunch the demand for internationalizing the city.
Gaza: Seen from our perspective, the deliberations about Gaza were the strangest. As with the West Bank, no-one regarded Gaza as Egyptian. Yet nor did anyone see it as part of a future Palestinian State, since no-one, anywhere, including at the UN, had such a State in mind. So everyone agreed that Gaza must be annexed to Israel. Many of the speakers accepted this to mean the Gazan populace would be given Israeli citizenship, but others thought those among them living in refugee camps could perhaps be resettled: to the West Bank (and thus handed to Hussein or whoever); to the El Arish area of the northern Sinai, or perhaps even to other Arab countries. Eshkol shot down all these proposals. Why do we need Gaza and its population, he asked. There's no water in El Arish, you can't settle them in the mostly empty Jordan Valley and dream of holding on to it simultaneously, no far-flung Arab country will even give you the time of day. He speculated, rather wistfully, that if a general agreement with the Arab world could be achieved perhaps the Lebanese might be willing to pipe water down to the West Bank to help settle the refugees, but by the time the meeting moved to concrete proposals he had dropped that idea. No better one appeared, and the Gaza part of the discussion sort of petered out.
Hmmm. Read the whole thing.