Moshe Dayan

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If you want to make peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.

Moshe Dayan (20 May 191516 October 1981) was an Israeli military leader and politician. As commander of the Jerusalem front in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (1953–1958) during the 1956 Suez Crisis, but mainly as Defense Minister during the Six-Day War in 1967, he became a worldwide fighting symbol of the new state of Israel. In the 1930s, Dayan joined the Haganah, the pre-state Jewish defense force of Mandatory Palestine. He served in the Special Night Squads under Orde Charles Wingate during the Arab revolt in Palestine and later lost an eye in a raid on Vichy forces in Lebanon during World War II.


  • The Israeli army is called a "defense force" but it is not a defensive army. . . . The Sinai campaign (1956), the reprisal acts and the raids across the border were purely offensive operations, and were of decisive value. . . . Not only the actions which were actually carried out but also the IDF's prevailing conception is offensive. . . . The most significant technical expression of the new approach . . . is the absence of fortifications and fencing along the country's borders. Although the Government's policy is, politically speaking, essentially defensive – those responsible for the armed forces have refrained from adopting defensive measures. Their response to Arab provocation has been counter-attacks, raids on enemy bases, transferring the war to the Arab countries . . . to put it simply: the IDF is a characteristically offensive army as regards theory, planning and execution, in body and spirit.
    • April 1967. This quote is the epigraph to The Israeli Military and the Origins of the 1967 War by Ami Gluska (Routledge, 2007), ISBN: 978-0-415-39245-7
  • We came to this country which was already populated by Arabs, and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is a Jewish state here. In considerable areas of the country we bought lands from the Arabs. Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist; not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahalal arose in the place of Mahalul, Gevat — in the place of Jibta, Sarid — in the place of Haneifs and Kefar Yehoshua — in the place of Tell Shaman. There is no one place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.
  • There is no more Palestine. Finished . . .
    • As quoted in TIME Magazine (30 July 1973)
  • If you want to make peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.
    • As quoted in Newsweek (17 October 1977)
  • Let's say "we don't have a solution, and you will continue living like dogs, and whoever wants will go, and we'll see how this procedure will work out." For now, it works out. Let's say the truth. We want peace. If there is no peace, we will maintain military rule and we will have four to five military compounds on the mountains, and they will sit ten years under the Israeli military regime. Whoever wants to go, will want. It's possible that in five years, there will be 200,000 fewer people, and that's an enormous thing.
    • Strategizing an approach to the refugees in West Bank if Jordan rejects a peace deal, in Mehiro shel Ihud (Revivim, 1985) by Yossi Beilin, p. 42
  • It is not in our hands to prevent the murder of workers… and families… but it is in our hands to fix a high price for our blood, so high that the Arab community and the Arab military forces will not be willing to pay it.
    • As quoted in Warrior : The Autobiography of Ariel Sharon (1989)
  • In two cases I did not fulfill my role as defense minister, in that I did not stop things that I was sure should have been stopped.
  • Along the Syria border there were no farms and no refugee camps — there was only the Syrian army... The kibbutzim saw the good agricultural land … and they dreamed about it... They didn't even try to hide their greed for the land... We would send a tractor to plow some area where it wasn't possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn't shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance further, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that's how it was...The Syrians, on the fourth day of the war, were not a threat to us.
    • On pre-1967 clashes with the Syrians, from a private conversation in 1976 with Rami Tal, as quoted in The New York Times and Associated Press reports (11 May 1997)
  • Let us not today cast blame on the murderers. Who are we to argue against their potent hatred for us? For eight years they have been sitting in the refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we have been turning the land and villages in which they and their forefathers lived into our own inheritance... We are the generation of settlement, and without steel helmets and the maw of the cannon we will not be able to plant a tree or build a home. Our children will not live if we do not dig shelters, and without barbed wire fences and machine guns we will not be able to pave roads or drill for water. Millions of Jews, annihilated because they had no country, gaze at us from the dust of Jewish history and command us to settle and raise up a land for our people.
    • Rise and Kill First (2018) by Ronen Bergman, p. 49. Citing Moshe Dayan by Mordechai Bar-On, p. 128-129

Righteous Victims (1999)[edit]

Quotes of Dayan from Righteous Victims : A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999 by Benny Morris
  • The only method that proved effective, not justified or moral but effective, when Arabs plant mines on our side [is retaliation]. If we try to search for the [particular] Arab [who planted mines], it has not value. But if we harass the nearby village . . . then the population there comes out against the [infiltrators] . . . and the Egyptian Government and the Transjordanian Government are [driven] to prevent such incidents, because their prestige is [assailed], as the Jews have opened fire, and they are unready to begin a war . . . the method of collective punishment so far has proved effective.

The Iron Wall (1999)[edit]

Quotes of Dayan from The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World by Avi Shlaim
  • Let us not today fling accusation at the murderers. What cause have we to complain about their fierce hatred to us? For eight years now, they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived.
    We should demand his blood not from the Arabs of Gaza but from ourselves. . . . Let us make our reckoning today. We are a generation of settlers, and without the steel helmet and gun barrel, we shall not be able to plant a tree or build a house. . . . Let us not be afraid to see the hatred that accompanies and consumes the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs who sit all around us and wait for the moment when their hands will be able to reach our blood.
  • We could not guard every water pipeline from being blown up and every tree from being uprooted. We could not prevent every murder of a worker in an orchard or a family in their beds. But it was in our power to set high price for our blood, a price too high for the Arab community, the Arab army, or the Arab governments to think it worth paying. . . It was in our power to cause the Arab governments to renounce 'the policy of strength' toward Israel by turning it into a demonstration of weakness.
  • All that is required is to find an officer, even a captain would do, to win his heart or buy him with money to get him to agreed to declare himself the savior of the Maronite population. Then the Israeli army will enter Lebanon, occupy the necessary territory, create a Christian regime that will ally itself with Israel. The territory from Litani southward will be totally annexed to Israel, and everything will fall into place.
    • While trying to work out a plan to internally destabilize Lebanon in favor of a Christian-Maronite government.
  • A new State of Israel with broad frontiers, strong and solid, with the authority of the Israel Government extending from the Jordan to the Suez Canal.
    • Statement made in April 1973 from the peaks of Masada.
  • During the last 100 years our people have been in a process of building up the country and the nation, of expansion, of getting additional Jews and additional settlements in order to expand the borders here. Let no Jew say that the process has ended. Let no Jew say that we are near the end of the road.
    • Ma'ariv, 7 July 1968.


  • [Israel] must see the sword as the main, if not the only, instrument with which to keep its morale high and to retain its moral tension. Toward this end it may, no — it must — invent dangers, and to do this it must adopt the method of provocation-and-revenge...
    • This has been reported to be a direct quotation of Dayan in the diaries of Moshe Sharett, but is actually derived from an interpretive commentary by Livia Rokach in "Israel's Sacred Terrorism" (1980) upon statements of Dayan reported in Sharett's diaries, from accounts provided to him by Ya'acob Herzog and Gideon Raphael — in other words, it is a third-hand interpretation of Dayan's meaning, based on a second hand report of his arguments. Sharett's summation of Dayan's statements of 26 May 1955 read:
We do not need a security pact with the U.S.: such a pact will only constitute an obstacle for us. We face no danger at all of an Arab advantage of force for the next 8-10 years. Even if they receive massive military aid from the West, we shall maintain our military superiority thanks to our infinitely greater capacity to assimilate new armaments. The security pact will only handcuff us and deny us the freedom of action which we need in the coming years. Reprisal actions which we couldn't carry out if we were tied to a security pact are our vital lymph ... they make it possible for us to maintain a high level of tension among our population and in the army. Without these actions we would have ceased to be a combative people and without the discipline of a combative people we are lost. We have to cry out that the Negev is in danger, so that young men will go there....
Rokach's interpretive assessment of this diary entry by Sharett produces:
The conclusions from Dayan's words are clear: This State has no international obligations, no economic problems, the question of peace is nonexistent... It must calculate its steps narrow-mindedly and live on its sword. It must see the sword as the main, if not the only, instrument with which to keep its morale high and to retain its moral tension. Toward this end it may, no — it must — invent dangers, and to do this it must adopt the method of provocation-and-revenge.. . . And above all — let us hope for a new war with the Arab countries, so that we may finally get rid of our troubles and acquire our space.

Quotations about Dayan[edit]

  • He would wake up with a hundred ideas. Of them ninety-five were dangerous; three more were bad; the remaining two, however, were brilliant.
  • Dayan didn't want the government to allow the kibbutzim to build there afterwards — he hoped to trade it back for peace.
    • Amos Eran on the taking of the Golan Heights, as quoted in The Washington Post (12 May 1997)
  • Moshe Dayan unfolded one plan after another for direct action. The first — what should be done to force open blockade of the Gulf of Eilat. A ship flying the Israeli flag should be sent, and if the Egyptians bomb it, we should bomb the Egyptian base from the air, or conquer Ras al-Naqb, or open our way south of Gaza Strip to the coast. There was a general uproar. I asked Moshe: Do you realize that this would mean war with Egypt?, he said: Of course.
    • Moshe Sharett, as quoted in Iron Wall (1999) by Avi Shlaim, on a suggestion in the mid-1950s to lure Egypt into a war to neutralize the modernization of its army.
  • Moshe Dayan saw no need for American guarantees of Israel's security and strongly opposed America's conditions i.e. that Israel forswear territorial expansion and military retaliation. In an informal talk with the ambassadors to Washington, London, and Paris, Dayan describe military retaliations as a "life drug" to the Israel Army. First, it obliged the Arab governments to take drastic measures to protect their borders. Second, and this was the essence, it enabled the Israeli government to maintain a high degree of tension in the country and the army. Gideaon Rafael, also present at the meeting with Dayan, remarked to Moshe Sharett: "This is how fascism began in Italy and Germany!"
    • Iron Wall (1999) by Avi Shlaim

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