(JTA) — Newly rediscovered footage of a 1968 interview with David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, shows him opposing West Bank settlements and instead favoring the return of most of the land Israel captured in the Six-Day War.
The six-hour interview with Ben-Gurion — segments of which appear in a new film called “Ben-Gurion Epilogue” — had been forgotten until filmmaker Yariv Mozer found them in the Hebrew University’s Jewish film archive, according to the Times of Israel.
At the time of the interview Ben-Gurion, a member of the Labor party, had left politics and was living on Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev.
Ben-Gurion’s views on the territories weren’t a secret before the footage reappeared: In a 1973 interview with the Jerusalem Post, the then 86-year-old Ben-Gurion said that after the Six-Day War he favored giving back all of the territories except East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights if the Arabs agreed to make peace with Israel. In the same interview, however, he said he changed his mind. “They don’t want to make peace with us,” he said in the 1973 interview. “Israelis should settle on every [part] of the land” but “not by displacing Arabs.”
In the footage aired in the film, Ben-Gurion said that Israel should immediately relinquish most of the territories it had taken a year earlier in the Six-Day War.
“If I could choose between peace and all the territories which we conquered last year, I would prefer peace,” he said, adding however that Israel should retain Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
Ben-Gurion also criticized efforts to build settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, saying Jews should instead settle unpopulated areas of the Negev.
Ben-Gurion, who was prime minister from Israel’s founding in 1948 until 1953 and again from 1955 to 1963, died in 1973 at 87.