The Man Who Stopped the Freeze
Can Dayan keep the increasingly powerful tide of a two-state solution at bay? After all, the Palestinian Authority, the Obama administration and even Netanyahu, according to the historic speech he gave at Bar-Ilan University in June 2009, believe in the inevitability of a two-state solution.
As he sits in his living room, with a modern painting mounted on the wall behind him, Dayan insists that a peace agreement that requires some form of Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank is inconceivable. “I refuse to answer the question of how such a withdrawal will be received by our public,” he says. “I put 200 percent of my thoughts into how to prevent such a withdrawal.”
Instead of pursuing conflict resolution, he says, “Israel should opt for conflict management.” By that, he means improving conditions for Palestinians and encouraging economic growth. The Palestinian refugee camps, he says, need to be rehabilitated so that “fourth-generation Palestinians aren’t kept in squalor as a bargaining chip.” Stability will also draw business to the area, so that an Israeli taxi driver from Tel Aviv can bring his car to a mechanic in Ramallah, he says.
Dayan’s vision includes economic integration but not Palestinian statehood. “The ones to blame for that are the Palestinians themselves, so my conscience is clear,” he says. “We are on solid moral ground. We took control of those areas in a defensive war intended to annihilate Israel.”
The raw demographic figures that worry so many other Israelis—that by 2020 Arabs will outnumber Jews from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea—don’t interest Dayan. “This conflict does not have a solution in real numbers,” Dayan says. “If security prevails, we can achieve economic prosperity and human rights. We need security and it must be in Israeli hands.”
To hear Dayan speak, it sounds like a zero-sum game, but some observers believe that Yesha is relying on the tried and true strategy of “facts on the ground,” should Israel give up most of the West Bank in a final status agreement: The highly populated settlements, which are costly and difficult to dismantle, are more likely to be kept. Already the effects of this strategy have been profound. Vast areas beyond the Green Line have become part of the consensus position on what land Israel will keep and what land will be returned. In December, The New York Times reported “a settlement-building boom” that had produced 2,000 new housing units in the three months since the freeze was lifted, with 3,000 more units “in the pipeline,” largely in territory outside the “consensus” settlements.
From Dayan’s point-of-view, anything remains possible: Settlers will return to Gaza someday, which is why Yesha continues to keep the ayin in its name representing Aza—Gaza. And he wants his daughter Ofir to be among the “hilltop youth,” as they’re known, but still be a woman of the world. “I would like her to establish an outpost on a very distant hilltop in Judea and Samaria, but I would also like her to know the road to the cultural centers of Israel well, and to be able to enjoy a trip to London or Paris,” Dayan says. “You don’t have to choose between Hebron and Tel Aviv. You can have both.”