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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mr. Dayan goes to Washington

Barak Ravid reports with some consternation that former Yesha Council head Danny Dayan is giving the revenants something they never had before: A diplomatic alternative. Dayan is heading to Washington this week, and he is the first 'settler leader' ever officially to do so.
Dayan feels that there has been a change in the attitude of the international community towards the settlers in the past year. The United States and the European Community countries believe that the settlements are in contradiction of international law, that they are an obstacle to peace and must be removed. But they understand that the settlers are a significant political player that cannot be ignored. “From total indifference and treating us like lepers with whom one doesn’t speak, the situation has changed − now there’s curiosity and an eagerness to hear what we have to say,” notes Dayan.
For example, one day last October Dayan’s cell phone rang. It was former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, who is currently the vice president and director of Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington. The two, each of whom was at different meetings in the Knesset, arranged to meet in the Knesset cafeteria.
While talking to Indyk about “the situation” Dayan realized that he was actually in the midst of an “audition.” At the end of the meeting Indyk invited him to participate in the Saban Forum − one of the most prestigious events in Washington dealing with Israel-U.S. relations. The Israeli participants − politicians, academics, diplomats and journalists − are traditionally identified with the left. Dayan was the first representative of the settlers.
George Mitchell, the U.S. Middle East envoy during the first term of U.S. President Barack Obama, has never agreed to meet with Dayan or any representative of the Yesha Council. All requests were turned down at best, or ignored at worst. The only liaison for Dayan and the settlers was the U.S. consul general in Jerusalem, who is actually credentialed to the Palestinian Authority. Nowadays Dayan is invited to dinners in the home of U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro. When one of the most senior advisors to President Obama visited Israel a few weeks ago he sat with Dayan for two hours.
There has also been a change in the attitude of the international media. Last August The New York Times, which is known for an editorial policy critical of the settlements, wrote a flattering portrait of him entitled “A Settler Leader, Worldly and Pragmatic.” A month earlier Dayan published an article in the Times entitled “The Settlers are Here to Stay.” In March he published another article in which he declared that “The Two-State Formula is Impossible.”
But the most interesting example is the British newspaper The Guardian, compared to which the New York Times looks like the mouthpiece of the Yesha Council. Many European leaders read the op-ed page of The Guardian with their morning coffee. Two weeks ago Dayan published an article in the paper entitled “What You Call ‘Settlements’ are on Solid Moral Ground.” Dayan claimed that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace and that the world must recognize the fact that the settlers are not the problem but part of the future solution.
The article received 565 responses. Some were erased by the editors, apparently because they contained various types of curses and invective. The rest consisted mainly of harsh criticism of Dayan and of The Guardian itself for publishing the article. “The Al Qaida manifesto demands the return of Al Andalus in Spain where I live. Perhaps we should have an article by one of them explaining how the land is theirs. I am appalled that such a propaganda article has appeared in The Guardian,” wrote one respondent. Many bloggers also published posts attacking The Guardian.
One can think of many reasons for the change in the attitude of the international community towards the settlers. The stagnation of the peace process, the lack of hope for the two-state solution and the outcome of the recent election in Israel are some of them. “My explanation is that for the first time in 20 years the world is beginning to internalize that we don’t necessarily have to travel on the two-state highway,” says Dayan. “We’ve reached a crossroads and everyone is asking themselves where do we go now. People have understood that ignoring the settlers was a mistake and only undermined the attempts to find solutions.”
After many years of opposing the idea, Dayan now believes that the settlers have to present a genuine and serious diplomatic plan as an alternative to the two-state solution. He has no consolidated plan as yet, but his basic assumption is that there will be permanent Israeli control in Judea and Samaria and no foreign sovereignty west of the Jordan River.
Read the whole thing.

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