Encountering peace: There is no good occupation

This plan is nothing more than an advanced and sophisticated form of colonialism.

Border Police. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Border Police.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Danny Dayan, the former head of the Judea Samaria and Gaza Council (Yesha) published his plan for “managing the conflict” in the wake of the failed US negotiations efforts. The four-pillared plan has many positive aspects to it and when presented by Dayan, who makes a concerted effort to present himself as the reasonable, secular, non-fanatic face of the settler movement, it sounds almost too good to be true. But Dayan ignores the entire political context including the endgame which, if his plan were to be adopted, would lead us to a binational state, and therefore the plan itself, if not necessarily all of its components, must be totally rejected.
The plan calls for the gradual removal of all movement and access obstacles that Palestinians face both within the West Bank and between the West Bank and Israel. Palestinians, according to Dayan, should be able to freely enter all of Israel and all of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Dayan states that in order to enable this free movement there would be “zero tolerance” toward Palestinian violence and terrorism (he also mentions Jewish violence in this respect). The Israeli government would heavily invest in upgrading the Palestinian economy including the ability of Palestinians to work freely inside of Israel and the removal of all restrictions on Palestinian imports and exports. Lastly Dayan suggests that all discrimination against Palestinians be removed, that the civil administration be transformed from a military body into a civilian one and that Palestinian self-governance be strengthened.
The idea is that Israel will continue to be able to claim that since it does not rule of the Palestinians directly, there is no obligation to grant them Israeli citizenship; they have a self-ruling authority that governs them directly.
This plan is nothing more than an advanced and sophisticated form of colonialism. It is the ultimate expression of the so-called “benign, enlightened occupation.” It is great for the Palestinians living under Israeli rule to have (mostly) equal rights, to have access and movement possibilities to get to their places of work inside of Israel where they will receive better salaries and conditions than in the Palestinian-controlled areas. Palestinians will be able to come to the Israeli shopping malls and spend their money earned in Israel to bring home to their families better quality (and more expensive) commodities than they can buy today in most towns and villages of the West Bank. Truly an advancement.
Many Palestinians, having lost hope that one day they will be free and independent might very well be willing to accept Dayan’s “generosity” and take advantage of the fruits of Israeli domination and control.
But many others will not. Economic development, jobs, opportunities for social mobility, are all components necessary for building security and stability. But they are not sufficient. A people fighting for a piece of land they can call their own, for a territorial expression of their identity, could be temporarily bought into complacency. They might appear to forfeit national aspirations for short-term self-interest and benefit, but as long as the national flame stays lit in their hearts and the sense of injustice toward their national identity remains in their consciousness they will once again arise and resist.
Dayan once told me that he recognizes that Palestinians will never give up their national aspirations. In his mind, that is what essentially makes them dangerous to him and what he stands for (settling on the land which is supposed to be the Palestinian state). What if Palestinians see through his veiled attempt to fool them into acquiescence and reject his plan from the outset, despite the clear benefits that he proposes? What if only a relatively small number of Palestinians reject it, say ten to 20%, and they don’t agree to be silent or to behave as Dayan wishes and expects? Could Israel even implement the plan if Palestinian violence is on the rise? Or what if the Palestinian actually do what they are talking about – engaging in actions of non-cooperation with the occupation that will provoke Israeli violence and bring about international criticism, pressure and perhaps even sanctions on Israel? It would be so much easier and wiser for Israel to realize that the Palestinians will never give up their national aspirations. It would make so much more sense for us to place ourselves in their shoes and to ask ourselves if we would be willing to give up the dream of an independent sovereign state in exchange for better living conditions. Clearly we would not. If Dayan and his like were to invest the same creative energies that they have exerted in building the settlements into building partnerships with Palestinians based on two states for two peoples rather than domination, control and preventing Palestinian independence they would find true partners for peace.
Palestinians have already accepted that the majority of settlers will remain where they are under the plan for territorial swaps. Now rather than spending energy trying to trick the Palestinians into forgoing their dreams for statehood Dayan and friends should reach out to them and offer them similar terms through state-to-state partnership and cooperation.
The author is co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Creative Regional Initiatives, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit. His new book Freeing Gilad: the Secret Back Channel has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew and The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas by The Toby Press.