Dayan Says He Acted on Cabinet Orders in the Tragic Maalot Event

The Cabinet ordered Moshe Dayan to negotiate with the Maalot terrorists for the simultaneous rather than separate exchange of prisoners and hostages, the former Defense Minister told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. He said he therefore assumed that the Cabinet had decided to reject the terrorist stipulation that the 20 terrorists asked to be released be flown to Damascus before they released the 80 school students.

Dayan was thus rejecting the claim that lack of communication and misunderstanding between Maalot and Jerusalem was one of the main causes for the ultimate tragedy.

Minister-Without-Portfolio Yisrael Galili explained that in his assessment the Cabinet would not have agreed to flying out the 20 prisoners without securing the simultaneous release of the hostage youth. But there had been no express Cabinet decision rejecting this stipulation — because the Cabinet had not discussed this issue in isolation — but always in the context of its later-proven mistaken fear that the terrorists would insist on taking some or all of the students with them when they were released.

DAYAN’S WORDING CONFIRMED

Dayan revealed that he had sought and obtained Galili’s approval of the operative part of his Knesset speech Wednesday before delivery — and Galili confirmed that he had consulted other ministers over Dayan’s wording and they had confirmed its accuracy.

Dayan said in the House: “The Cabinet did not decide to accept the terrorist conditions (as Likud Knesseters Haim Landau had claimed.) The Cabinet decided to exchange the children for 20 imprisoned terrorists plus the three Maalot terrorists, to allow them to leave. But it did not decide to accept the terrorist condition, as formulated orally, as formulated in writing, as presented through the Rumanian Ambassador and as formulated in the famous letter.”

“In simple Hebrew, what the terrorists wanted…was: First send the prisoners to Damascus. When we receive word that they have arrived there, we will then free the children…and the Cabinet did not accept this condition.” Dayan also told the Knesset that this was “the key” to the events of the day. He thus implied that the Horev inquiry commission had overlooked or ignored this key factor, and that its criticism of the Cabinet’s handling of the emergency was casuistic rather than realistic in view of this.

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