The Territories After the Six-Day War

An overview of Israel's relationship to the Sinai, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights.

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At the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a land dispute--and in order to understand that dispute, it is necessary to know the history of the territory in question. The following article, part two of a four-part series on the topic, discusses the dispute over the territories as it evolved between the years 1967 and 1981. It was published in 1998, and is reprinted with permission from The Jewish Agency.


There were different and even conflicting views within the government on the issue of the territories. 

There were those such as the finance minister, Pinhas Sapir, or the foreign minister, Abba Eban, who argued that incorporation of the territories would lead to economic dependence on cheap Arab labor or isolate Israel diplomatically. Members of some of the more hawkish parties, accompanied by certain voices within the Labor party, emphasized the historical and strategic significance of the territories. For the first time in 19 years, Israel's economic and demographic center would be out of the range of Arab artillery. Any attempt at invasion or air attack could be stopped before damage was caused to Israeli cities. Control of the Golan Heights released the Israeli settlements below from the constant Syrian shelling and sniping.

gazaProbably the most influential member of cabinet was the defense minister, Moshe Dayan, who emphasized three points:

1. maintenance of security within the territories through the creation of a military government and a network of army bases;

2. normalization of Arab life by allowing Arab residents to maintain their Jordanian, Egyptian, or Syrian citizenship and through the inauguration of an "open bridges" policy that would allow visitors and goods to cross the border between Israel and Jordan;

3. the right of Jews to settle in the territories, which necessitated Israeli investment in infrastructure and encouragement of business and industry in the territories.

A plan was drawn up along these lines by Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon. In the West Bank/Judea-Samaria, a belt of Israeli settlements was to be established along the mostly uninhabited Jordan Valley in order to prevent any attempt at invasion from the East. A corridor at Jericho would allow movement between Jordan and the West Bank/Judea‑Samaria.

Jewish settlements in the Etzion Bloc, conquered by Arabs during the 1948 war, would be re‑established. Due to its strategic importance, the Golan was to be settled and kept for the most part under Israeli control. A few military outposts would be established in the Gaza Strip.

While most of the Sinai was ultimately to be returned to Egypt, the Rafiah Salient--which later included the town of Yamit and several moshavim [semi-collective communities]--was to remain in Israeli hands. Israel would interfere as little as possible in the lives of the Arab population which was to be permitted to govern itself in some form. Although the proposal was never officially adopted, it did serve as a basic plan for settlement in the territories.

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Jonathan Kaplan is administrative director at the Rothberg International School, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.