The Six-Day War was run by a committee. A highly classified committee, whose transcripts have never been seen for 50 years. Until now: here they are.
Israel has no commander-in-chief. The military is subordinate to the cabinet, where each minister, prime minister included, has one vote. Often the cabinet sets up a smaller committee called the security cabinet (SC), to which it delegates supervising and commanding the military. Facing exceptional decisions, the prime minister may declare that the entire cabinet is the SC. This ensures secrecy, because leaking information from the SC has serious penalties. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol often reminded his colleagues that the very fact that they had met was itself a state secret.
The security cabinet of 1967 appears in these never-published transcripts as a group of serious, professional, and responsible decision-makers. While the ministers brought their worldviews to the table, they often didn’t vote on party lines, often did listen to one another, and generally managed to make decisions, albeit slowly and through compromises. These characteristics were not helpful in the maelstrom of the Six-Day War, when the cabinet receded in the face of its two most enigmatic members: Levi Eshkol, who can be read either as a weak figure or a master manipulator; and Moshe Dayan, who comes across as an arrogant but talented prima donna.
The SC met irregularly 36 times between January and July 1967. Three meetings took place in the final 24 hours of the war, then three meetings in two days about what to do with the new territories. There were five meetings in January, but only one in March. The ministers, being politicians, tended toward wordiness; the 935 pages of the transcripts reflect some 100 hours of talk.
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