"The State of Ishmael"

Shay Fogelman wrote in the weekend Haaretz that Rehavam “Gandhi” Ze’evi, a right-wing Israeli politician who was assassinated in an East Jerusalem hotel [the Hyatt Regency] nine years ago, at the height of the second Intifada, by Palestinian gunmen, had drawn up plans in 1967 for … well, not a Palestinian state, exactly… more like what Fogelman called the “state of Ishmael”.

Ishmael was the other son of the prophet Abraham, Patriarch of the Jews and founder of the monotheistic tradition is continued in Islam. Ishmael was fathered by Abraham with his wife’s servant, Hagar. Abraham’s wife, Sarah — who had been believed to be barren — then gave birth to Isaac. [It is believed that the Jewish tribes are descended from Isaac, while Arabs are descended from Ishmael…]

Fogelman wrote that “Ze’evi’s plan to create the state of Ishmael, in the form of a secret four-page document, has been gathering dust in the archives of the Israel Defense Forces since it was conceived. But anyone who examines the details closely will not likely describe it as a dovish project, reflecting a recognition of the Palestinians’ national rights. Submitted to then-chief of staff Yitzhak Rabin five days after the end of the Six-Day War, the plan was entitled ‘Political Arrangement for the West Bank − A Proposal’. Ze’evi begins by noting, ‘The following proposal follows conversations held recently and in light of the task assigned to me to put forward a proposal on the subject’. It does not, he notes, ‘refer to possible solutions for the Gaza Strip, which need to be considered separately’. Ze’evi’s proposal called for the establishment of ‘an independent Arab state in part of the West Bank, which would be tied to Israel by a contract that would ensure the rights of both sides. The new state will be called the state of Ishmael ‏(and not Palestine, in order not to increase its ‘appetite’ and representation‏)’ …

Fogelman continued: “Ze’evi wrote ‘The speed of the decision, and implementation of this proposal, even if done without administrative and organizational preparation, is important because of the willingness of the local Arab leadership − which is still reeling from the shock of defeat − before it can be turned around and incited by Damascus and Cairo. And before the great powers and the UN have spoken out clearly on the subject’. Ze’evi’s final argument in support of his case was the comment about the abyss of hatred that would develop under the occupation, which was quoted by Olmert and Peres”.

The Fogelman article noted that : “Immediately after the 1967 war, the political leadership said nothing about the future of the occupied territories. Similarly, in the period preceding the war, the country’s leaders had been silent about its goals and about a possible solution to the conflict. There is nothing explicitly mentioned about the future of the territories and their inhabitants in the minutes of the cabinet or of Defense Ministry meetings, which have been declassified. However, the army, in contrast to the political echelon, had contingency plans. In addition to the operational plans, the IDF had over the years compiled a systematic doctrine for the creation of a military government in occupied territory. Besides the experience gleaned from such a government that already ruled Israel’s Arab population from ‏(1948-1966), the army had learned much from its five-month occupation of the Gaza Strip following the Sinai War in 1956. In the early 1960s, the IDF, drawing on those lessons, produced a number of memoranda and orders relating to different aspects of its activity in occupied territory. The last such memo was issued two months before the Six-Day War and was based on previous doctrinal material, particularly a paper called ‘Summary of Military Government in Occupied Territories’, published in 1964 under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office. This document enshrines some of the principles that guided Israeli policy in the occupied territories for decades”…

The story continues:

    “The most important means of control is ‘reward and punishment,’” the document states.Under the “reward” rubric the authors include: “Removal of restrictions that were imposed. Granting permits to open and run businesses. Giving work to the unemployed. Appointments to key posts. Priority to returning seized property or giving compensation.”

    Recommendations for “punishment” were: “Administrative detention. Exile. Dismissal from job. Searching of homes.”

    In this context the document added, “Reward and punishment should be exploited to find a leadership that will collaborate. The reward and punishment measures are intended ‘to persuade’ the leader that it is worthwhile to collaborate; but, more than this, using them vis-a-vis the people under his influence will determine the extent of that influence. Accordingly, benefits should be granted to people who support a cooperative leader.”

    As for those who refuse to play ball: “When a decision is made to humiliate a leader who does not collaborate, it is not enough to deny benefits to him and his followers. A rival candidate for leadership should be sought within the clans he represents and cultivated by being made a conduit for the distribution of benefits. He should be shown open preference by means of visits to his home and so forth.”

    The document’s authors also recommended “exploiting an offense committed by a particular leader as a means of pressure for collaboration. This refers to offenses which are not known to the public and are not security related. The threat to place him on trial if he does not collaborate is more effective than trying and punishing him.”

    The framers of the document cautioned against arresting public leaders and thereby turning them into “martyrs”:
    “They should be punished in other purposeful ways, which will hurt then without increasing their public prestige, such as by economic sanctions, undermining their social relations and so forth. It is a mistake to create a single, homogeneous leadership. Ensure that the local leadership is split and that competitive leaderships exist.”

    In conclusion, the writers recommended “keeping things on a low burner − preventing extreme mass despair and bitterness.” Even though “in most cases the Arabs themselves are far from carrying out what they say, they appreciate others doing so, particularly if the fulfillment of promises is to their benefit. Accordingly, binding promises should not be made, especially if they are of the type that cannot be kept.”

    Apparently, the final written guidelines for the army’s activity in the occupied territories before the war were issued by the then-military advocate general, Meir Shamgar, a future attorney general and Supreme Court president. On the first day of the war he issued a document that was sent to the GOCs and chief of the operations branch in the General Staff. Entitled “Modes of Legislation in Occupied Territory,” the document, which sets forth the operational principles permitted in occupied areas under the international laws and conventions, was drawn up by Shamgar several weeks or even months earlier…

    About two weeks after the war, defense minister Moshe Dayan told a closed meeting of IDF commanders: “The geographic, military and political achievements of this war have first of all afforded the maximum borders that anyone ever wanted to dream of, the most ideal ones … If someone had taken the broadest brush to demarcate the biggest and widest borders, he could propose for Israel, he would not have gone one kilometer beyond what the IDF reached in this war.”

    Dayan knew whereof he spoke: A perusal of minutes of the meetings held by the General Staff on the eve of the war shows that not even the most optimistic of the generals believed the IDF would emerge from just six days of fighting with an achievement on this scale. But the mechanism of rule in the newly conquered territories was quickly set in place.

    At Shamgar’s directive, four orders and three proclamations concerning “proper administration, security and public order” were issued already on the second day of the war and disseminated among the inhabitants of the conquered areas. On the same day, three military commanders were appointed for the new regions: Sinai, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Also that day, at the conclusion of a meeting of heads of branches in the Defense Ministry, in the office of the deputy chief of staff, there was a call for discussion on when to implement the military government and arrange the army’s activity in the occupied territories.

    For his part, on June 12, 1967, two days after the end of the fighting, the defense minister convened a “consultation on the areas of occupation.” Taking part were chief of staff Rabin, assistant to chief of operations Ze’evi, director of Military Intelligence Aharon Yariv, Maj. Gen. Haim Bar Lev and former chief of staff Zvi Tzur, who was Dayan’s aide.

    In the meeting, a six-point blueprint for a political plan, drawn up a few days earlier by MI’s research department, was presented. It stated that Israel supported the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This state would be barred from maintaining a military force, and the Old City of Jerusalem ‏(within the walls‏) would become an open city.

    After the meeting Rabin asked Ze’evi to examine the new conditions that would make a settlement possible. After working for two days, Ze’evi submitted his proposal for the State of Ishmael, under which East Jerusalem, the Mount Hebron area, the Jordan Rift Valley and the Latrun enclave ‏(halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv‏) would be annexed to Israel. The rest of the West Bank was to become part of the state of Ishmael. “The Arab refugees in the Mount Hebron area ‏(and in other annexed regions‏) will be transferred to the State of Ishmael and rehabilitated there,” Ze’evi explained. From the demographic viewpoint, he added, “Although the annexation of the Jerusalem region will bring with it a large Arab population, it is important for other reasons.”

    According to Ze’evi’s plan, the state of Ishmael would include “the majority of the Arab population of the West Bank: permanent residents, refugees in Samaria and refugees to be transferred ‏(23,000‏) from Mount Hebron.” The planned state would have a population of 623,000 upon its establishment. The remaining 260,000 inhabitants of the West Bank − most of them in Jerusalem and Hebron − were to be annexed to Israel.

    Ze’evi needed only two days to formulate his proposal. Because he had only limited data to work from and was unencumbered by policy dictates, his plan was preliminary only and was missing significant details about the international status and degree of independence of the envisioned political entity. In broad terms, Ze’evi determined that “responsibility for the State of Ishmael’s security and foreign affairs will be in Israel’s hands.

    Israel will be permitted to maintain military forces in the abandoned camps of the Jordanian Arab army or in operational deployment as needed.” The state of Ishmael was to have free access to an Israeli port, and residents of both states would have free passage, with one exception: The Ishmaelites would be barred from taking up permanent residence in Israel.

    Ze’evi even specified the borders of the new state and included a map. “In northern Jerusalem the border has been moved so that the Qalandiyah airport ‏(henceforth to be called Jerusalem North‏) will remain in Israel’s hands. The Jordan Rift Valley has been left outside the State of Ishmael, with the border to pass 500 meters west of the longitudinal road, with two exceptions: 1. Jericho and its adjoining refugee camps, so that no further population will be absorbed into Israel; 2. the entry to Wadi Fara, where there is also a concentration of refugees ‏(a bypass connecting road can be built in this section‏). The Latrun enclave will be annexed to Israel. There are only four Arab villages in that area.” ‏(The enclave has yet to be annexed, but the residents were expelled during the war and their villages leveled.‏)

    In an alternative proposal for borders, which appeared on the attached map in the form of a broken line, Ze’evi recommended expanding the area under Israeli control at the expense of the state of Ishmael. However, he noted, there were two drawbacks to this option: “The addition of an Arab population to Israel” and “the further reduction in size of the Arab state, a fact that potential Arab leaders will find difficult to accept.”

    Ze’evi used the occasion to consider the future of Israel’s Arab citizens as well. “A preliminary examination is being made of a proposal to annex most of the villages of the Israeli Triangle to the State of Ishmael,” he wrote, referring to the concentration of Arab towns and villages − notably Baka al-Garbiyeh, Tira and Umm al-Fahm − adjacent to the Green Line. “This proposal has the advantage of ‘sweetening the pill’ for the future leaders of the State of Ishmael, but also has the following limitations: reducing Israel’s size; the need to obtain the agreement of the Arabs in the relevant villages; complications regarding a number of Jewish communities located between and adjacent to the villages in question; a dangerous precedent of reducing the size of the ‘original’ Israel which is liable to stir similar longings with respect to the Arab Galilee. Accordingly, it is suggested not to deal with this matter at this stage.”

    On June 9, while the war still raged, staff officer Moshe Tadmor issued an urgent order to the military government headquarters created the previous day in Gaza, Sinai and the West Bank, on behalf of the civil security unit of the General Staff Operations Branch: “Maj. Gen. Ben-Gal of the Israel Lands Administration has asked us to obtain and safeguard all land registration records” and transfer them to the agency. Two days later, military commanders in the field received a communique from ILA counsel Maj. Dov Shefi, instructing them to guard the documents until an ILA official arrived to take possession.

    Ten days after the war, the deputy director of the Justice Ministry land registration department, Y. Link, met with Maj. Gen. Uzi Narkis, GOC Central Command and commander of the Israeli forces in the West Bank, and submitted a formal request to the same effect, signed by the justice minister. Narkis approved the request and sent a confirmation in writing to military advocate general Meir Shamgar.

    The next day, Shamgar wrote to Link: “I would be grateful if in the course of conducting the survey that it has been agreed will be done by your unit, you would pay particular attention to the question of the ownership/leasing of the Jewish settlement known as Kfar Hashiloh. Information on this subject interests us, as we know there was a Jewish settlement in this village for decades. Of course, this is not the only Jewish settlement of this kind, but I request that you instruct your assistants to provide us with information about the above-mentioned settlement as soon as possible.”

    The Palestinians know Kfar Hashiloh as Silwan [now a hotspot in East Jerusalem where Israeli settlers and the semi-private guards who protect them, and privatiized archeological activities are threatening Palestinian homes]”.

This is posted on the Haaretz website here.

One thought on “"The State of Ishmael"”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *