JERUSALEM (Jul. 8)
Some weeks ago, Knesseter Moshe Dayan celebrated his 60th birthday. A group of his friends in the Knesset arranged a small party. Dayan seemed moved by the gesture, but he asked his friends to refrain from praising him. They agreed. But when the assembled company raised their glasses in a toast, one of them told Dayan; “We want you to know that you have more friends than you believe.”
This remark reflected Dayan’s own feeling that he had been abandoned by most of his friends and supporters when he left the government a year earlier, By chance, the birthday party took place during the week that marked Yitzhak Rabin’s first year in the Premiership. It was, of course, the establishment of the Rabin Cabinet which brought about Dayan’s replacement after seven years at the Defense Ministry.
A year later, Dayan is a passive Knesseter, He attends the House regularly, but does not sit on any of its committees. He busies himself with writing his autobiography and giving lectures in Israel and abroad. Despite these calm and tranquil occupations, which could create an impression of near-indifference to current politics, Dayan in fact continues to follow the political situation keenly and closely.
He expresses his ideas willingly and is still a most popular subject of newsmen’s attentions. When he speaks, the whole country still listens, The political community is constantly referring to him, to his potential moves and to his ideas. A year after leaving office, Dayan is a bitter man, and still, as always, a human enigma and an Intensely political animal.
STILL COMMANDS LATENT POWER
Some observers believe that Dayan still commands the latent power to bring down the Rabin Cabinet, Dayan could still call on his ex-Rafi colleagues to back him against the government’s policy. In that case Rabin might lose his majority in the Knesset. But on several occasions during the past year, Dayan’s supporters have made it clear that he has no intention of doing this.
Dayan’s devotees maintained that he was quite satisfied with his new occupations and that he realized that he had lost much of the popularity he had had before the war. They also claimed that Dayan would not want to challenge Rabin’s Premiership on personal grounds, Dayan, they said, would continue to express his political ideas but had no intention of returning to active political leadership.
Recently, Dayan–in what seemed to be a frank and candid interview to this reporter–spoke at length of his feelings after the Yom Kippur War and of his political future. He seemed to confirm what his friends had been saying.
Dayan believes that the “change of guard” of the nation’s leadership level is a positive process which will not now change its course. He defined himself as belonging to the previous generation which left the key posts in the national administration making way for a new generation.
ONGOING INTEREST IN POLITICS
At the same time, he emphasized his ongoing interest in politics. He said he does not yet know whether he will be a candidate in the next Knesset elections. “I don’t know if I want it,” he said, “I don’t know if the party wants me; I don’t know if I could recommend the voters to support the party’s platform or its leadership.” Dayan added another unknown factor; “I don’t know when the next election will take place.”
While the last sentence seems innocent enough, political observers believe it has a profound significance. They claim that Dayan’s emphasis of the uncertainty of the date of the next election may indicate something of his true political ambitions. (Under the law, elections must take place every four years; the next poll must be before 1977.)
Dayan believes those commentators who say that external pressures may cause a political crisis in Israel, causing the Rabin government to resign. In the confusion, and the bitter internal disputes that may occur in such circumstances, Dayan may try to regain his popularity and seek to play once more an important role in guiding the nation.
‘I HAVE BEEN MISTREATED’
Although during the last year Dayan has, on the whole, not been active in politics, he demonstratively signed the Likud petition against returning the West Bank to “foreign control.” Dayan’s supporters claim that this move clearly expressed his intention to raise his voice against any possibility of ceding Judaea and Samaria. His political rivals claim that he does not in fact care so much about the future of the West Bank, but is adopting this sensitive and controversial issue in order to promote his political ambitions.
Both sides–Dayan’s supporters as well as his rivals–believe that he has by no means come to accept, as yet, his personal drop in public esteem as an irreversible fact.
In our interview, Dayan confirmed that he cannot accept the present verdict of the public regarding the role he played in the Yom Kippur War: “I have been mistreated,” he said. “I have been treated with injustice, People do not know what really happened in the war. The role I played was wrongly described in many publication. I feel deeply aggrieved.”