Dayan: Palestinian state further away than ever

Outgoing settler council leader says price tag attacks imperils future; chastises settlers for driving Benny Begin out of Knesset.

Outgoing Yesha council leader Dani Dayan 370 (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Outgoing Yesha council leader Dani Dayan 370
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
“A Palestinian state has never been farther away than it is today,” said Dani Dayan on Monday, as he spoke with reporters in the Psagot winery on the last day of his almost six-year stint as head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
Dayan chastised the settlers that he charged drove former MK Bennie Begin (Likud) out of the Knesset. He also criticized Migron residents for breaking the council’s 2008 agreement with the government, a move that he said led to the outpost’s relocation last summer.
The 57-year-old secular hitech businessman took over the council in July 2007, when it was demoralized in the aftermath of the 2005 disengagement and the violent clashes between settlers and border police during the demolition of nine homes in the Amona outpost in 2006.
Relaxing with the reporters over breakfast, Dayan recalled that in July 2007 when he was voted in, Ehud Olmert was prime minister with a mandate to withdraw from isolated settlements.
At the time, new construction permits were almost nonexistent and the Defense Ministry was focused on keeping the government’s promise to the United States to demolish 24 West Bank outposts built after Ariel Sharon became prime minister in March 2001, Dayan explained.
“That was the singular topic: how and when will we evacuate those outposts,” Dayan said. Now, he said, the government’s philosophy has shifted to one that looks to legalize outposts, including those 24.
Some of them have indeed been authorized, he added.
Dayan weathered an unprecedented 10-month moratorium on new settlement building, and leaves at time in which the government has issued a high number of building approvals and permits. Most notable was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to advance plans to build 3,500 new homes in an unbuilt area of the West Bank settlement known as E1.
Obviously, he noted, that not all the changes were because of his leadership of the council.
“Not everything was because of us [the council],” he said, “but we have made a contribution.”
He noted that the number of settlers had grown in the last five years. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, there were 276,100 settlers in Judea and Samaria in 2007, and 325,500 in 2012.
“The settlements today are blossoming,” he said. “There is almost no settlement without construction.”
In the last five years the idea of evacuating settlements has been rejected, and there is a drop in support for a Palestinian state, said Dayan.
He acknowledged that under his watch, the Migron outpost had been evacuated and five apartment buildings, housing 30 families, had been demolished in the Ulpana outpost.
He described himself as a “tactical pragmatist” who did not believe that every demolition of a modular home was an evacuation.
“One can compromise on the path, while holding firm to the objective,” he said.
But he noted, that evacuated outpost residents were relocated close to their former homes. What is significant, he said, is that the entire framework and criteria of viewing outposts has changed from a diplomatic one of evacuation from the West Bank to an internal discussion over private property ownership.
In 2007, the issue was the date the outpost was created, because Israel was evaluating the situation from a diplomatic perspective and its relationship with the United States, he said.
“The great achievement was that the arbitrary parameter of when the outpost was established has ceased to exist,” he said.
As he looks to the future of the settlement movement, Dayan told reporters, it’s the internal dangers that he fears, not the external ones.
The moral issues aside, he said, price-tag attacks against Palestinians pose “one of the greatest dangers” to the settlement movement, he said.
“It sounds leftist, but it is one of the most right-wing critiques,” he said.
Similarly, he said, it is in the best interest of the settlement movement to normalize Palestinian lives in the West Bank.
Price-tag attacks as well as Palestinian hardship in the West Bank help fuel the international fight against Israel’s control of the area, he said.
Dayan chastised the Migron resident for violating a 2008 agreement he worked out with the government to relocate them to the Geva Binyamin settlement, once permanent homes were built.
“They could still be there now,” he said.
The government evacuated them because they built three new homes on the outpost in violation of the agreement, ignoring warnings that this was a mistake, he said..
Settlers, he said, have gained political power in the last five years, but now need to use it more wisely. Settler political attacks against former MK Bennie Begin (Likud) were responsible for his failure to retain his Knesset seat, said Dayan.
This was a mistake, he added.
Should the possibility of territorial withdrawal reemerge, he will be needed, Dayan said.
“In our true hour of need, we will have to seek him out with candles,” Dayan said.
A native of Argentina, Dayan came to Israel with his family in 1971, at age 15. He moved from Tel Aviv to the Ma’aleh Shomron settlement in 1986, where he still lives with his family.
At age 26, he created and then headed a software company, which he sold a few years before becoming the council’s fifth leader, replacing Benzi Lieberman.
Unlike past leaders, Dayan dedicated himself fully to that role and was not simultaneously the head of a regional council in Judea and Samaria.
Dayan’s Spanish and English speaking abilities made him an emissary to the international community.
He met with ambassadors and visiting dignitaries. As a tribute to the status he brought to the position, he became the first council head to be invited to speak at the prestigious Saban Forum in Washington, DC.
He had intended to resign in the spring, but advanced his resignation so that he could back the Likud party during the elections, Dayan said.
In the future, he said, he envisions himself as a “foreign minister” for the settlement movement.
The council and the settlement movement needs a foreign policy arm to solicit international diplomatic support in a way that goes beyond public relations, which focus primarily on the media, he said.
Of his time in the council, he said, “I enjoyed almost every moment.” But he noted, “If [Bank of Israel Governor] Stanley Fisher can resign, so can I.”