Moshe Dayan may not wield the same clout as he did 10 years ago, when the familiar black eyepatch became the symbol of Israel's electrifying victories in the Six-Day War, but this week he demonstrated that he is still a force to be reckoned with in Israeli politics.
By threatening to resign from the Labor Party over a matter of principle, Dayan has virtually succeeded in committing the Labor Party - against the original wishes of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin - to a policy of promising new general elections before any territory on the occupied West Bank can be handed back to the Arabs as part of a peace treaty.
The Labor Party, which has ruled Israel since independence, is facing what may be the toughest fight of its life in next month's general election. Rabin was reluctant to commit his party to such a stand in advance of the elections. Labor's doves had already overruled Dayan's objections at the party convention in February by insisting on a party platform expressing readiness to cede territory in return for peace without making any distinction between the West Bank and other occupied territories.
Other Labor governments have promised to hold elections before ceding territory on the West Bank, which is considered by many Israelis to be both historically had militarily more important than other occupied territories, but they have made those promises only after forming a government. Rabin had hoped to remain flexible on this point both before the elections and, if he is the next prime minister, before going into negotiations with the Arabs.
Dayan's threat to resign, and his conversations with the more hawkish opposition leaders who were eager to have him in their ranks, caused considerable panic among Labor's leaders and a near-capitulation to Dayan's views.
Five Cabinet ministers and a score of party leaders sent Dayan a letter saying that, if re-elected in next month's election, they would insist upon a clause in any coalition agreement promising to hold new elections before ending West Bank territory if any of the coalition partners requested it. It is virtually certain that even if Labor wins the upcoming election they will need to form a coalition with other parties to form a government.
Rabin did not sign the letter, but he wrote Dayan a separate letter saying that although he did not think it appropriate to make such a commitment at this time, he did not object in principle to what the party leaders had promised.
Thus the specter of Dayan running with the main opposition party, Likud, which objects to any territorial concessions on the West Bank, or forming a new hawkish coalition list with himself at its head was averted.
A future government led by Labor would still be free to negotiate concessions on all fronts and to make concessions to Syria and Egypt. But Labor's leaders have promised not to make concessions on the West Bank without taking their case to the people in new general elections.
The independent newspaper Haaretz said the early commitment was likely to have a "negative effect on the freedom of political action of the next government."
This is precisely what Dayan had in mind.
Dayan said that if a future government should arrive at a plan for ceding West Bank territory in return for peace, "If it is a good proposal I shall support it and if it is a bad proposal I shall be against it. But what I cannot support is that any Israeli government - and we don't even know now who will be in the government - should have a carte blanche for implementing an agreement on the West bank. They want a free hand. I say, no, that is too much."
Dayan does not believe that territorial division of the West Bank between Israel and Jordan, or with another power, is a solution to the problems of the Middle East.
Dayan would end the present military occupation of the West Bank and arrive at a system where "we would not impose ourselves on the Arabs."
Jews would not be allowed to drive the Arabs from their homes but neither would they be prevented from buying land on the West Bank if Arabs wanted to sell, according to Dayan's plan. Arabs would have more autonomy than now.
"I would say to them, look, you can lead your entire lives without seeing one Jewish officials as long as you don't harbor terrorists . . ." Dayan said. He would keep Israel military control over the Jordan River as well as antiaircraft positions on the heights," but that does not mean we would have to interfere with what is going on on the ground."
Dayan readily admits that there is little chance of such a plan being accepted by the Arabs.