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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Israel established a military government to administer the territories. The legal system which had been in effect was maintained, although additional ordinances were adopted by the military government, especially in the interest of maintaining security. At the head of the administration stood the defense minister, who delegated authority to a coordinator of activities in the territories and to regional military governors. The military government took on all of the normal functions of state government: health, finances, education, infrastructure, religious affairs, communications, utilities, etc.

Already in 1967, the Greater Land of Israel movement was formed with the goal of incorporating all of the territories into the state of Israel. After the Yom Kippur War of 1973 (in which Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in an effort to regain the Sinai and Golan respectively) and the blow to the Israeli government as a result of the intelligence and operational failures that surfaced in the following months, a new movement emerged. The movement was called Gush Emunim (Block of the Faithful, a segment of the National Religious Party).

As opposed to Allon’s proposal, which envisioned Jewish settlement in areas of low Arab concentration, Gush Emunim focused on the centers of Arab settlement territories as part of the unfolding messianic process. In the mid-1970s, members of the block initiated settlement attempts near the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Nabulus. These actions brought the group into confrontation with the Labor government (which relied on the National Religious Party), but on several occasions the government backed down and allowed the establishment of "temporary" settlements which soon evolved into permanent sites. During this time, direct negotiations were underway between Israel and Egypt over the separation of forces and the return of part of the Sinai to Egypt.


Likud, which came to power in 1977, had advocated the incorporation of the territories into the state of Israel for reasons of security and ideology. The territories provided an important buffer between Israel and its Arab neighbors as well as a significant obstacle to a potential Arab invasion. Their return to Arab hands would once again threaten Israeli security. Moreover, Judea and Samaria were in the heart of the historic Land of Israel.

After the Israeli‑Egyptian negotiations of the mid‑1970s under the Labor government and the unprecedented visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem in 1977, relations between the two countries began to thaw. At the Camp David summit in 1978, Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Sadat agreed that in exchange for the Sinai, including the Rafiah Salient, Egypt would agree to full normalization and diplomatic relations.

In a second set of accords, the two countries agreed that the Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank/Judea‑Samaria would be given autonomy for a five‑year period, during which time the final status of the territories would be negotiated among representatives of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians. These accords were embodied in the Israeli‑Egyptian Peace Treaty in 1979, and the withdrawal from Sinai was carried out in stages until 1982. Those in the Likud who strongly opposed the withdrawal broke off in 1979 to form the Tehiya (Renaissance) Party.

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