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Settlers’ leader applauds inertia on removing them

Lara Friedman Responds to Dani Dayan
By Lara Friedman , Daily Beast
July 26, 2012

Today’s New York Times features an op-ed by Dani Dayan, the head of the Yesha Council (the group that represents settlers and their interests). There isn’t really any news here: it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the settlers want the world to believe that settlements are good, peace efforts are pointless, and that the way forward should be premised on leaving all settlements in place, and leaving the West Bank under Israeli control, in perpetuity. Nonetheless, it is worth examining some representative snippets from this high profile op-ed.

Dayan starts with the assertion that, “Israel legitimately seized the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria in self-defense.” This assertion ignores the fact that in the post-colonial era, there is no such thing as a country “legitimately” seizing territory in self-defense or for any other reason. Love it or hate it, but the acquisition of land by force, even when that force is, at least initially, about self-defense, is not allowed under international law, period (nor is extended occupation of said land). This fact is enshrined in UN Security Council Resolution 242, which notes the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.”

Members of Yesha Council, the Mayors of all Jewish settlements in the West Bank, attend a protest against Israel’s settlement freeze policy on December 29, 2009 in Jerusalem next to Israeli Prime Minister’s residence.

Dayan also states that, “Giving up this land [the West Bank] in the name of a hallowed two-state solution would mean rewarding those who’ve historically sought to destroy Israel.” In fact, leaving settlements in place is a reward to those who in recent decades have worked the hardest to destroy Israel—i.e., the settlers themselves. Getting out of the West Bank, on the other hand, isn’t about rewarding Palestinians or Arabs for good or bad behavior—it is about what Israel needs to do for its own sake. Holding on to the West Bank comes at a cost of Israel’s own security, of the viability of Israel’s democracy, of the health of Israel’s economy, and of the strength of Israel’s moral claims as a Jewish state. The policies required for Israel to hold on to the West Bank, and the policies that cater to the settlers as they expand and deepen their hold on it, feed anti-Israel sentiment around the world—sentiment that no amount of hasbara will ever be able to overcome.

There is also Dayan’s argument that “…any peace agreement would collapse the moment Hamas inevitably took power by ballot or by gun. Israel would then be forced to recapture the area, only to find a much larger Arab population living there.” Dayan implies that he is actually open to a two-state solution but has concluded that it just won’t work. Given his clear commitment to the settlement enterprise, such openness to a two-state solution defies credulity. Moreover, Dayan ignores the fact that with a peace agreement in place, Israel will be in a far stronger position to defend itself from outside threats than it is today, including threats from a future Palestinian state that might turn hostile. Israel’s military actions with respect to the West Bank and Gaza today are often challenged and criticized, due to the blurriness of the line that separates defending the occupation (and quashing challenges to it) and true Israeli self-defense. A peace agreement that ends the occupation and yields universally recognized borders will mean that Israel’s right to use force to defend itself, within these borders, will be unchallengeable—leaving Israel in far stronger security position.

Dayan laments that “…the Palestinians have repeatedly refused to implement a negotiated two-state solution.” Of course, Dayan well knows that there has never been a negotiated two-state solution to implement. The Oslo Accords was just the starting point; since it was signed, both sides have undertaken actions that are inconsistent with a two-state solution. For their part, the Palestinian Authority leadership remains committed to two states and to a rejection of violence; indeed, such a commitment was implicit in their appeal to the United Nations last fall. On the other hand, successive Israeli governments have, over the years since Oslo, acted unilaterally without pause, in close collaboration with the settlers, to change the facts on the ground in a manner that seeks to pre-judge or even foreclose the possibility of any negotiated two-state solution in the future.

Dayan is similarly disingenuous when he argues that “Today, security—the ultimate precondition for everything—prevails. Neither Jews nor Palestinians are threatened by en masse eviction; the economies are thriving…” Yes, there is security for settlers, subsidized by the same Israeli taxpayers who are protesting the lack of government funding for social services inside the Green Line. There is little security for Palestinians, especially those who in some areas routinely face “price tag” attacks by settlers. There is no security for Palestinians living in the 8 villages that the IDF just announced will be evacuated to make way for an IDF training ground. There is no security for the Palestinians in Susya whose entire village is threatened with demolition. As for the thriving economy, settlers indeed enjoy the benefits of the thriving Israeli economy that exists inside the Green Line—in fact, per capita they enjoy far more benefits than Israelis living inside the Green Line. For Palestinians, it’s another story. The World Bank recently reported that the Palestinian economy “isn’t strong enough to support a state,” in part due to Israeli restrictions that make real economic growth, which requires investment, impossible.

Dayan’s statement that “Our presence in all of Judea and Samaria—not just in the so-called settlement blocs—is an irreversible fact” is perhaps the most interesting thing he has to say in his article. Israel is a democracy, with one of the strongest armies in the world. If an Israeli government decides to remove settlements, it has the ability to do so. In this context, could Dayan’s words be understood as a threat, similar to the threat implicit in the settlers’ “Price Tag” campaign? The goal of such a threat would be to scare and intimidate, by sending a message: don’t dare try to confront us or the price will be high.

Later in the piece, Dayan argues that “The settlements of Judea and Samaria are not the problem—they are part of the solution.” Dayan and his fellow travelers no doubt really believe this—because the solution they have always been committed to is “Greater Israel, at any price” This is an Israel that extends from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea—a mirror image of what they always claim Israel’s enemies want to achieve for themselves. This will be an Israel ruled not by pesky democracy that gives equal rights to all, but by some other form of government, perhaps something they will call “Israeli democracy” or “Jewish democracy.”

Such a system would boil down to tyranny of a Jewish minority over what will soon be a non-Jewish majority (as well as over any Jewish minority that might object to its rule). Under such a system, non-Jews will not have rights as enfranchised citizens with a recognized history and legitimate claims to the land, but will “enjoy” limited privileges deriving from Israeli magnanimity—privileges that could be revoked at will, including overt signs of ingratitude or misbehavior (for an example of what this could look like, the current status of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem might be instructive).

Finally, Dayan’s over-arching thesis in this op-ed is that “…our four-decade-long settlement endeavor is both [moral and wise].” The truth is that some of the settlers and their rabbis have twisted the whole concept of morality in order to justify an ideology that values land over human life, over security, and over peace. This is an ideology that can justify stealing land, destroying olive trees, and abusing and even killing children of the “enemy”, all for the goal of destroying the modern state of Israel—a state that is an imperfect but nonetheless vibrant democracy, with the rule of law and a healthy civil society—and replacing it with the a religious-fascist state characterized by the tyranny of a Jewish minority.

In short, the settlement enterprise is patently immoral and spectacularly unwise, from the point of view of anyone who cares about Israel and its survival as a democracy and a Jewish state.


Israel’s Settlers Are Here to Stay
By Dani Dayan, Op-Ed, New York Times
July 25, 2012

Maale Shomron, West Bank– Whatever word you use to describe Israel’s 1967 acquisition of Judea and Samaria — commonly referred to as the West Bank in these pages — will not change the historical facts. Arabs called for Israel’s annihilation in 1967, and Israel legitimately seized the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria in self-defense. Israel’s moral claim to these territories, and the right of Israelis to call them home today, is therefore unassailable. Giving up this land in the name of a hallowed two-state solution would mean rewarding those who’ve historically sought to destroy Israel, a manifestly immoral outcome.

Of course, just because a policy is morally justified doesn’t mean it’s wise. However, our four-decade-long settlement endeavor is both. The insertion of an independent Palestinian state between Israel and Jordan would be a recipe for disaster.

The influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere would convert the new state into a hotbed of extremism. And any peace agreement would collapse the moment Hamas inevitably took power by ballot or by gun. Israel would then be forced to recapture the area, only to find a much larger Arab population living there.

Moreover, the Palestinians have repeatedly refused to implement a negotiated two-state solution. The American government and its European allies should abandon this failed formula once and for all and accept that the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria are not going anywhere.

On the contrary, we aim to expand the existing Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, and create new ones. This is not — as it is often portrayed — a theological adventure but is rather a combination of inalienable rights and realpolitik.

Even now, and despite the severe constraints imposed by international pressure, more than 350,000 Israelis live in Judea and Samaria. With an annual growth rate of 5 percent, we can expect to reach 400,000 by 2014 — and that excludes the almost 200,000 Israelis living in Jerusalem’s newer neighborhoods. Taking Jerusalem into account, about 1 in every 10 Israeli Jews resides beyond the 1967 border. Approximately 160,000 Jews live in communities outside the settlement blocs that proponents of the two-state solution believe could be easily incorporated into Israel. But uprooting them would be exponentially more difficult than the evacuation of the Gaza Strip’s 8,000 settlers in 2005.

The attempts by members of the Israeli left to induce Israelis to abandon their homes in Judea and Samaria by offering them monetary compensation are pathetic. This checkbook policy has failed in the past, as it will in the future. In the areas targeted for evacuation most of us are ideologically motivated and do not live here for economic reasons. Property prices in the area are steep and settlers who want to relocate could sell their property on the free market. But they do not.

Our presence in all of Judea and Samaria — not just in the so-called settlement blocs — is an irreversible fact. Trying to stop settlement expansion is futile, and neglecting this fact in diplomatic talks will not change the reality on the ground; it only makes the negotiations more likely to fail.

Given the irreversibility of the huge Israeli civilian presence in Judea and Samaria and continuing Palestinian rejectionism, Western governments must reassess their approach to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They should acknowledge that no final-status solution is imminent. And consequently, instead of lamenting that the status quo is not sustainable, the international community should work together with the parties to improve it where possible and make it more viable.

Today, security — the ultimate precondition for everything — prevails. Neither Jews nor Palestinians are threatened by en masse eviction; the economies are thriving; a new Palestinian city, Rawabi, is being built north of Ramallah; Jewish communities are growing; checkpoints are being removed; and tourists of all nationalities are again visiting Bethlehem and Shiloh.

While the status quo is not anyone’s ideal, it is immeasurably better than any other feasible alternative. And there is room for improvement. Checkpoints are a necessity only if terror exists; otherwise, there should be full freedom of movement. And the fact that the great-grandchildren of the original Palestinian refugees still live in squalid camps after 64 years is a disgrace that should be corrected by improving their living conditions.

Yossi Beilin, a left-wing former Israeli minister, wrote a telling article a few months ago. A veteran American diplomat touring the area had told Mr. Beilin he’d left frightened because he found everyone — Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Saudi Arabia — content with the current situation. Mr. Beilin finds this widespread satisfaction disturbing, too.

I think it is wonderful news. If the international community relinquished its vain attempts to attain the unattainable two-state solution, and replaced them with intense efforts to improve and maintain the current reality on the ground, it would be even better. The settlements of Judea and Samaria are not the problem — they are part of the solution.

Dani Dayan is the chairman of the Yesha Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria.


What Dani Dayan Says and Why It Is Interesting
Richad Falk, blog
July 27, 2012

Dani Dayan’s article, “Israel’s Settlers Are Here to Stay,” was published by the NY Times on July 26, 2012. Dayan is the chairman of the Yesha Council of Jewish Communities, and has been long known as a leading spokesperson of the settler movement. An obvious response to such a settler screed might be to dismiss it out of hand as an extremist expression of Israeli views, which it certainly is, but it would seem a mistake to do this before taking some account of its content and timing. The moral and legal premises that underlie Dayan’s insistence that the settlers will never leave the West Bank are without substance, but the political arguments he puts forward are so strong as to be virtually irrefutable. It may also be helpful to speculate that Dayan might have been encouraged from the Netanyahu side, known for being as friendly to settler dreams as any Israeli leadership ever, to drop this bombshell into the midst of the American electoral maelstrom as kind of trial baloon.

Dayan’s first premise contends that the settler movement is entitled to the territory obtained in 1967 because it was the Palestinians who at the time were threatening Israel with the prospect of annihilation and it was Israel that acted in self-defense whereby it came into the possession of the West Bank and the whole of Jerusalem. This is a position lacking traction among almost all international law specialists, increasingly contested by diplomatic historians as to the actual sequence of events in 1967, and politically rejected shortly after the fact by the entire international community, including the United States. This rejection was expressed in the authoritative and unanimous UN Security Council Resolution 242 passed in 1967 calling for an Israeli withdrawal from the territories that had been occupied in the Six Day War. No Israeli leader, including even the rejectionist Netanyahu, has openly challenged this line of interpretation, although the settler movement from its origins has fed off Israeli ambivalence as to whether a peace agreement was really in Israel’s interest if it meant the substantial return of the territories occupied in 1967. The Israeli de facto compromise was to endorse the two state consensus by incremental stages, but simultaneously to engage in a concerted variety of actions that made its implementation increasingly implausible from the perspective of practical politics.

It is astonishing that most governments in the world and the highest officials at the UN have chosen to disregard this implausibility up to this very moment. What Dayan is in effect telling the world is that the realities of the situation make it hypocritical and useless to keep pretending that a negotiated peace between the parties is, or ever was, a political option. In his opinion, there are now too many settlers with no intention to leave ever, and most not apparently not susceptible to bribes having forgone profitable opportunities to sell their settlement property in the past. Dayan tellingly points out that it was nearly impossible for the pro-settler Sharon government to get 8,000 settlers to leave Gaza in 2005, making the idea of removing the 350,000 settlers now living in the West Bank (expected to rise to 400,000 by 2014), 160,000 of whom are outside the settlement blocs, a misguided pipedream, or in Dayan’s words, “exponentially more difficult” and hence their presence “in all of Judea and Samaria..is an irreversible fact.” Can any responsible person doubt the force of Dayan’s reasoning on this central issue?

Dayan develops his argument by invoking a combination of “inalienable rights” and a “realpolitik” favorable to settler claims . I find Dayan convincing from a realpolitik perspective, given the realities of the current balance of forces in Israel/Palestine, in the region, and in the world, although this could prove to be short lived. In contrast, Dayan is totally self-serving and one-sided when he also claims that inalienable rights support his conception of Greater israel. Such a claim overlooks the relevance of the generally accepted reading of Article 49(6) of Geneva Convention IV that prohibits an occupying power from transferring its population to an occupied territory or altering the character of an occupied society. Dayan’s views also seem blind to the immorality of displacing the Palestinian people who have lived on these lands for centuries even if one grants the underlying Zionist claim to a homeland in historic Palestine. The fact that the Palestinian leaders and the neighboring Arab governments rejected the UN endorsed partition plan back in 1948 does not mean that the Palestinian people implicitly waived or lost their right to self-determination, which is genuinely inalienable. And it certainly doesn’t mean that Palestinians can be doomed to live indefinitely under apartheid conditions as a rightless, subjugated minority (that might soon be a majority), remembering that apartheid is enumerated as one instance of crimes against humanity in the statute of the International Criminal Court. There are, to be sure, inalienable rights, but they belong to the Palestinians, and certainly not to the settlers.

Dayan refers to the West Bank throughout as “Judea and Samaria,” their biblical names in Jewish tradition, apparently as a way of signaling his defiance of world public opinion as to the status of the territories. Again we can at least welcome this brazen expression of honesty, not hiding behind evasions and linguistic ambiguities as Israeli diplomats have tended to do over the years when it comes to acknowledging the significance of continuously expanding the settlements, creating a network of expensive settler roads, and building the separation wall while still affirming their readiness to negotiate the formation of an independent Palestinian state. Dayan minces no words, insisting that a Palestinian state between Jordan and Israel would always have been an unsustainable security disaster for Israel. Such a Palestinian state would quickly fall under the control of Hamas as it became a place of refuge for hundred of thousands of embittered Palestinians who have been living in refugee camps for almost 65 years. According to Dayan, such a Palestinian state would be a crucible of anti-Israeli extremism that would inevitably prompt Israeli military reoccupation. This makes some sense once more from an Israeli realpolitik viewpoint, but its implications for the Palestinians is so manifestly unacceptable as to make its a declaration of total and permanent war against Palestinian hopes, aspirations, and rights. Maybe for this reason such a logic as espoused by Dayan has rarely been articulated outside of Israel.

To be fair, Dayan does not entirely brush aside considerations bearing on Palestinian wellbeing. To his credit, he does not even discuss, much less support, ethnic cleansing, to ensure the maintenance of Jewish identity in a democratic polity. Dayan seems content to endure an eventual Palestinian majority population so long as the Israelis are in control, that is, Israeli domination is apparently sufficient for security, and this outweighs the search for democratic legitimacy. Without raising the question of Palestinian rights, Dayan claims that the Palestinian Authority is not dissatisfied with the status quo, and that Palestinian economic development is proceeding in areas under their control, especially in and around Ramallah. Furthermore, if Palestinians would only give up their futile resistance, Dayan says that most checkpoints could be removed. His ‘solution’ for the refugee problem is to improve the conditions in the camps, which he acknowledges as wretched. To think that this is morally, legally, or politically adequate is to understand how far from accepted ideas of justice Dayan strays while seeking to convince readers that not only is the occupation over but that all can be made to be okay even for the Palestinians.

Why should not this assault of human dignity be merely refuted and cast aside as confirmation of just how extremist and bold the settler movement has become? There are several reasons for a more reflective response. Most importantly, Dayan’s analysis demolishes the existing unquestioned diplomatic framework that has locked Palestinian dreams into an endless nightmare of oppression and futility. By doing this, he opens the way to a necessary dialogue as to what kind of solution can be plausibly put in place of the two-state consensus? Less significantly, he lends credibility to arguments from critics, such as myself, of the peace process as foisting a cruel deception on the Palestinians and public opinion, while the settlement time bomb is allowed keep on ticking without being defused.

Also, perhaps, whether deliberately or not, the NY Times by highlighting Dayan’s views so outrageously at odds with its consistent editorial position over the years, has decided belatedly to acknowledge that a new set of realities pertains to the Israel/Palestine conflict. Maybe this august newspaper that never strays too far from the Pentagon/State Department line on Middle East foreign policy received a midnight signal from Washington that it was time to start a new debate on how to depict the conflict or even to begin the difficult task of envisioning the shape and auspices of a new peace process. Of course, to dump such a smoke bomb into the midst of an already confusing presidential electoral campaign seems so strange as to make one wonder whether the NY Times opinion gatekeepers, normally so vigilant, may have on this occasion been caught sleeping, allowing Dayan’s radical dissent from the liberal conventional wisdom of the newspaper to slip by unnoticed.

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