Think about it: The Knesset Land of Israel Lobby and Danny Danon

By
September 29, 2013 22:10

All of Danon’s premises stand on shaky ground. True, the Oslo process did not lead to peace, but it has not failed, insofar as it improved Israel’s international standing.




DANNY DANON attends a drill for IDF reservists last week.

DANNY DANON attends a drill for IDF reservists370. (photo credit:Ohad Neibrus)

On Friday, September 20, a large advertisement was placed by the Knesset Land of Israel Lobby on the front page of the major Israeli dailies.

The ad, signed by six deputy ministers, the coalition chairman, two deputy speakers, six Knesset committee chairmen, and three backbenchers – all from Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi – called upon Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to emphasize the right of the Jewish People to the whole of its homeland, and its capital Jerusalem, when he addresses the UN General Assembly next Tuesday, and meets with President US President Barack Obama.

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The ad also reiterated the lobby’s position that the Oslo process parameters should be abandoned, and that no more territory should be handed over to the Palestinian Authority.

For members of a government coalition it is unheard of to address the prime minister by means of a public ad rather than directly. Such ads are usually initiated by the opposition or worried citizens. The very fact that the lobby resorted to an ad indicates that there is a very deep crisis between Netanyahu and a large number of right-wingers in his coalition, and that the supporters of Greater Israel seem to be in a state of panic.

The members of the lobby believe that in return for the illusion of international support of Israel’s position regarding the Iranian nuclear plan, Netanyahu is willing to sell out on the Jewish settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria, give up additional territories to the Palestinians, and accept a two-state solution.

They also apparently believe that the negotiations being held between Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and PA negotiator Saeb Erekat will actually lead to some form of interim agreement within the nine-month time limit set by the Americans – to which all I can say is, I hope you’re right, but I have my doubts. At any rate, at this stage a direct dialogue between the lobby and the prime minister doesn’t seem to be on the cards, and the situation remains explosive.

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon of the Likud is one of the most active mouthpieces of the lobby, even though he is not its official spokesman.

On the day the ad appeared, Danon published an opinion piece in The New York Times, in which he introduced the case for abandoning the Oslo process, which is based on direct talks with the Palestinians, the principle of “territory for peace,” and the two-state solution.

Danon claims that the Oslo process has not brought peace, and merely increased the number of Israeli citizens killed in acts of terror. In an article he published in Haaretz on September 24, he added that the left-wing approach to a permanent settlement had failed, and that it was now time to reboot and try a different approach.

What Danon proposes is that the Palestinians be granted temporary autonomy, and that a final settlement be negotiated with Jordan regarding the West Bank, and with Egypt regarding the Gaza Strip.

All of Danon’s premises stand on shaky ground. True, the Oslo process did not lead to peace, but it has not failed, insofar as it improved Israel’s international standing.

Following the 1991 Madrid Conference and the Oslo accords numerous countries that had previously not maintained diplomatic relations with Israel, including China and India, established such relations. The Arab Boycott, in its secondary and tertiary forms, which had existed until the early 1990s, more or less evaporated. For example, until the early 1990s the only Japanese car manufacturer willing to sell to Israel was Subaru.

The fact that Israel has been released from the direct administration of most of the Palestinians is a real relief, and in many spheres there is fruitful cooperation between Israel and the PA. That more Israeli civilians have been killed since Oslo than before doesn’t mean that the Oslo process is to blame. There is no proof that without Oslo there would be fewer terrorist attacks, and fewer people killed.

No one is saying that the situation is ideal – far from it, but it is not Oslo that has caused the terror – it is the unresolved conflict, the frustration of many Palestinians with the lack of progress which has driven some to desperate actions, coupled with the rise of fundamentalist Islam.

As to the solutions that Danon offers, first of all, if Israel cancels the Oslo accords unilaterally, the situation will simply revert to chaos, and Israel will have to reoccupy the territories that are currently under the control of the PA and the Hamas regime in Gaza. Furthermore, Israel will lose its main argument against the Palestinians approaching the UN for full recognition of an independent Palestinian state within the June 1967 boundaries, and their actually receiving such recognition. Alternatively, the Palestinians might decide to demand that Israel annex the territories, and grant them full and equal rights. What shall we do then? AS TO negotiating a solution to the Palestinian issue with Jordan and Egypt – that has not been an option since the 1974 Rabat Arab Summit Conference, which decided that only the PLO has the authority to negotiate in the name of the Palestinians. Since 1974 Israeli attempts to negotiate with either Jordan or Egypt over the Palestinian issue have failed, including an attempt to return the Jericho area to Jordanian control in 1974, and an attempt to convince president Sadat to take back the Gaza Strip within the framework of the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty.

Also, Israel’s attempt to prevent direct Palestinian participation in the Madrid Conference didn’t really keep the Palestinians out.

With regard to autonomy for the Palestinians as an alternative to a state, the peace treaty with Egypt mentioned autonomy talks, and at the time interior minister Joseph Burg was put in charge of the issue. Prime minister Menachem Begin even developed some plans in this sphere, but they all came to naught, largely because Israel itself could not agree on the exact parameters of the autonomy, and refused to involve the Palestinians themselves in the process.

Many more half-hearted experiments were made, including an attempt in the early 1980s to create an alternative Palestinian leadership to the PLO in the territories, in the form of the Village League.

This experiment was a non-starter as no substantial Palestinian leader was willing to cooperate.

In short, Danon either doesn’t know what he is talking about or is merely offering an excuse for stalling, which has frequently been the favored position of both Labor and Likud governments, in order to continue with the Jewish settlement endeavor undisturbed.

With all its faults Oslo was and still is the only game in town. Israel can go on claiming that the Jewish people has an inalienable right to the whole of Land of Israel, and that the Palestinians will be tolerated only if they behave themselves, until it is blue in the face. The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, the 1947 Partition Plan, the Armistice Lines, Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, and everything that followed, all rejected such an approach.

In the territory of Mandatory Palestine west of the River Jordan there will be two states, or a single binational state – not a single Jewish state, nor a single Palestinian state, even though the lobby and Danny Danon claim otherwise.

The writer is a retired Knesset employee.

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