chapter  6
22 Pages

Summer 1967, the pre- settlement period

The interest and influence of the Settlement Department, which prepared the regional development plan and accompanied its implementation, greatly deviated

from its role as the planning body. The professional challenge in the development of a new area of settlement and an opportunity to retain its organizational status as a result of being involved, made the Settlement Department an interested party in advancing settlement and it fought for settlement progress within the political system and in public opinion. The central importance of the Settlement Department in the range of settlement matters was determined to a great extent by the personal connections between Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and the department directors at the beginning of the settlement process (June 1967-March 1969) and, later, by the relations of trust and the great measure of cooperation which existed between Galili and the Director of the Department, Yehiel Admoni (May 1970July 1977). Due to the paucity of new settlements in the years prior to summer 1967, a public committee had been appointed in March 1966 to re-examine the organizational framework which dealt with settlement in Israel. The heads of the Settlement Department and its workers, who had acquired great knowledge and experience in planning and establishing regional settlements and in dealing with them, felt threatened by the implementation of the committee’s findings, which would have meant significant cutbacks in the department. When new possibilities for settlement were opened after the Six Day War, these provided a lifesaver which rescued the department from organizational extinction, and this motivated them to action. Out of all of the territories which had been occupied, they focused attention on areas captured from Syria because of the special status of the territory which had been demilitarized in the past. Additionally, in the Golan Heights, almost none of the local population remained and the area had good agricultural potential. The first to begin action were representatives from the Galilee who were working in the department. Already on 12 June 1967, two days after the capture of the Golan Heights, Meir Shamir, Director of the Galilee Region, who was responsible for matters of settlement in northern Israel, met with officers of the Northern Command to discuss the possibility of settling in the areas which had been captured. In the following days Shamir was also the immediate address for a request for assistance from members of the existing settlements of the Upper Galilee who had organized to go up to the Golan to work. The salient factor which encouraged the development of these initiatives and enabled the Settlement Department to immediately become the organization which led Golan settlement was its connection to the Prime Minister, as described in the previous chapter. This made it possible for the Settlement Department to operate as early as June 1967 in anticipation of Golan settlement – preparing a preliminary survey, providing financial aid to groups of Galilee residents who were organized to carry out agriculture work in the Golan, and preparing a regional settlement plan. With the support of Eshkol, the department operated decisively to implement development. In order to establish its hegemony, in November 1968 it prepared a general development plan for the Golan Heights – as clarified by Admoni: “Because we thought that if we didn’t issue a preliminary general plan, we would not be ‘on the map.’ I say that openly here.”1