Monday, June 10, 2013

Moshe Sasson Talks to Palestinians

We recently mentioned that there seems to have been quite a bit of conversation going on after the Six Day War between high Israeli officials and public figures on the West Bank. Here's what appears to be a highly significant document, though it's unusually frustrating, too. It's a seven-page report by Moshe Sasson to Prime Minister Levy Eshkol from December 13, 1967, behind a cover letter from December 15; it's a summary of his discussions with 33 prominent Arabs in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza over the preceding month. Sasson, a Damascus-born diplomat and son of cabinet member Eliyahu Sasson, eventually went on to serve for seven years as Israel's ambassador to Cairo; in late 1967, he was serving as Eshkol's special advisor on the population of the West Bank. He spoke perfect Arabic, of course.

The problem is, the document's almost illegible. The copy in this particular file is a low-quality xerox copy of a low-quality carbon copy (remember those?). The first page is more or less decipherable, but the rest - hardly. So I've sent a description of the document to a clutch of our more knowledgeable staffers, and asked them if they can find one of the originals. There are more than 150,000 boxes of documents in the ISA, with an average of 15-20 files per box; a file can contain one document, or ten, or fifty. Which means we've got something like 30-60,000,000 documents (and roughly 300,000,000 pages). The current database of descriptions relates to files, not documents, so the only way to find a specific document is to be very experienced and lucky, both.

In the hope that by next week I'll have the original in my hand, I've given up on the deciphering for today. I'm posting the document so that it will be out there - readers who wish are welcome to have a go at it. In the meantime, here's a summary of the content of the cover letter, from December 15, 1967:
We'll discuss my findings at our upcoming meeting. In the meantime, I suggest topics for your decision
1. How to proceed with the discussions.
2. If and how to encourage pressure from the West Bank figures on [King] Hussein [of Jordan] so that he'll be empowered to represent them?
3. Should we be encouraging self rule of the WB populace?
4. Should we be promoting the idea of a Palestinian State?
5. How should we combat the Communists and limit terror?
6. Should we deport Rouchi elKahtib so as to encourage the populace of East Jerusalem to municipal cooperation?
I sure hope they find a good copy of this document.

Just as a matter of interest, here's a scan of an interview with Sasson in Maariv, October 13, 1969; actually, Maariv translated an Arab-language interview with Sasson from the East Jerusalem paper Al-Quds. Two years after his discussions with leading Palestinians, Sasson was not optimistic. He didn't see why Israel should be for or against a Palestinian state; sadly, however, so he said, the Arab and Palestinian forces outside of the territories were staunchly against the idea, nor were any of the locals pressing to make it happen.

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