Israel's Defence Minister, General Moshe Dayan, this week faces an uncertain future. For this battle-hardened?
Israel's Defence Minister, General Moshe Dayan, this week faces an uncertain future. For this battle-hardened soldier is caught in political crossfire which could, at the very least, see the end of his control of Israel's armed forces.
At 58, General Dayan has seen his popularity -- once unchallenged as the result of Israel's victories in war -- unchallenged as the result of Israel's victories in war -- dwindle to the point where public demonstrations demand his removal from office.
Dayan leapt into world prominence in 1967 when, as Defence Minister, he was appointed to take charge of Israeli forces at a time when war with the arabs was imminent.
He took credit for the brilliant victory in the Six-Day war of 1967 and was acclaimed Israel's greatest general. With his distinctive eye-patch, Dayan seemed to embody the courage and daring of a small nation beset by enemies.
Dayan's personal history of service to Israel is unimpeachable. He was born, the son of Russian emigrees, on a kibbutz near Galilea. In his teens, he joined the Jewish underground movement, Haganah, and was imprisoned by the British. During World War Two, he was released to serve as a scout for the British Army, and lost his left eye during the battle of the Litani River, in Lebanon.
After the war, as a Colonel in the Israeli Army, he took part in the Arab wars which consolidated Israel's position. By 1953, he was Chief of Staff, and later commanded the operation which opened up the Gulf of Aqaba to Israel.
He retired from the army in 1958, to read law and economics at university, after which he entered politics and gained a seat in the Kneaset (parliament).
After the 1967 war, his future in politics seemed assured. He was being spoken of as the natural successor to the Prime Minister, Mrs. Golda Meir.
Paradoxically, it was the next Arab war which ended his long run of success. When Egypt attacked across the Suze Canal on the Day of Atonement in October last year, Israel's forces were taken by surprise and sustained heavy losses. Although they regained the initiative before the ceasefire, it was clear there would be an inquest on the army's unpreparedness.
The government inquiry which was set up, was severely critical of israel's commanders, and demanded the removal of the Chief of Staff, General David Elazar and other, but stopped short of criticising the Defence Minister, General Dayan.
To many people in Israel today, this appears as an injustice and they demand that Dayan assume responsibility. This movement of public opinion against him, coupled with the uneasy position of the ruling coalition government, in Jerusalem, has put General Dayan under severe pressure from both inside and outside politics.
Indeed, it is reported that Dayan has offered to step down from his position should there be a cabinet re-shuffle under Mrs. Meir's leadership. But in the current mood of unrest and disillusion which followed on Israel's near-defeat in the October war, it may prove difficult, even for the flamboyant General, to weather the storm.
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Jerusalem, 1967, and the Israeli cabinet meets to ratify the appointment of General Moshe Dayan as Defence Minister. Dayan was on the brink of international acclaim and unrivalled popularity at home. But, seven years later, that has changed.
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Whon Dayan took charge of Israel's armed forces, Israel was only days away from the 1967 June war. Dayan rightly took the credit for the brilliant victory which annihilated the Arab forces ranged against Israel, and was acclaimed Israel's greatest soldier.
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With his distinctive eye-patch -- the legacy of a lifetime serving Israel -- Dayan seemed to embody the courage and daring of a nation triumphant in the face of overwhelming odds.
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But, paradozically, it was another war which need Dayan's run of uninterrupted personal success. Still Defence Minister, he held ultimate responsibility when Egyptian troops attacked across the Suez Canal on the Day of Atonement in October last year. Israel's forces were taken by surprise and sustained heavy losses. And, although they regained the initiative before the ceasefire, Israel's Army and its people suffered a severe set-back in conference.
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Public pressure demanded an inquest. Prime Minister Mrs. Golad Meir set up an inquiry which was critical of Israel's military commanders and demanded the resignation of the Chief of Staff, General David Elazar and others, but which stopped short of blaming General Dayan.
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Dayan, the army commander who engineered so many victories, is now caught in a political crossfire which has damaged not only his position as on of Israel's leaders, but also his own personal popularity.
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To many people, both inside and outside the Knesset (parliament) the findings of the inquiry, blaming the generals but not involving the Minister of Defence, appear to border on injustice. Dayan, they say, should accept responsibility.
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The movement of public opinion against him, coupled with the uneasy position of the ruling coalition government, has put General Dayan under severe pressure. He himself has offered to step down from his position as Defence Minister, should there be a government re-shuffler under the leadership of Mrs. Meir, but even this may not mollify his critics.
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It may be a cruel reversal of fortune for a man who has served his country so long and so well in the past. But, in the present mood of unrest and disillusion which followed Israel's near-defeat in the October war, it may be difficult -- even for the flamboyant General Dayan -- to weather the storm.