Haaretz WikiLeaks Exclusive / Settler Leader Downplays Comments on West Bank Evacuation

Danny Dayan's response comes after Haaretz cited a WikiLeaks cable quoting the settler leader saying that settlers would agree to evacuate West Bank for 'the right price.'

Settlers leader Danny Dayan on Thursday downplayed his comments revealed by WikiLeaks that some settlers would be willing to leave the West Bank for "the right price."

His comments came following a Haaretz report quoting Dayan as saying that settlers would be willing to evacuate the West Bank in return for adequate compensation.

Danny Dayan
Tess Scheflan

Dayan's statements, which were made in closed-door meetings with U.S. diplomats in Israel in recent years, came in response to questions about a potential evacuation-compensation bill in the Knesset.

When asked about the issue, Dayan replied: "I'm an economist, and I know that some people will take it if the price is right."

In response to the Haaretz report on Thursday, Dayan criticized Haaretz for taking his words out of context, saying in an interview with Army Radio that "economical laws work in Judea and Samaria as well."

West Bank  settlement - AP-  Jan. 24, 2011

"Especially in the settlements [the United States wants] to evacuate," Dayan said, adding that he meant that "very few settlers would agree. Of course, the larger the bribe, the more settlers would agree to evacuate."

Referring to other comments he made concerning his willingness to remove roadblocks in the West bank, Dayan said that the settlers "have come to Judea and Samaria to stay. We have returned because it is our home."

"The fact that I am able to understand the Palestinians does not make me for them," he added.

In the WikiLeaks cable Dayan was quoted as telling the U.S. Embassy officials that he was aware of the Palestinians' attachment to the West Bank.

He acknowledged that he was "shamed and embarrassed" by the desecration of Palestinian mosques and the vandalism of Muslim gravestones.

Dayan added that settlers were guilty of "morally horrific" things, including attacks on Palestinian property as retribution for Israeli government efforts to rein in settlement construction, also known as the "price tag" policy.

The WikiLeaks cables report that Dayan told the U.S. officials that this policy was "a mistake that will not serve the interests of the settlement movement."

According to the documents, Dayan's sentiments were echoed by Elyakim Haetzni, a founder of the Yesha Council. Haetzni expressed concern that settler rabbis were not doing enough to dissuade the so-called hilltop youth in the West Bank from harming Palestinians.

Dayan also supported the removal of checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank so Palestinians could enjoy greater economic prosperity and human rights.

During one meeting with U.S. diplomats, Dayan said he was "deeply attached" to the West Bank, adding that the settlers had a "moral right" to settle there. Dayan said he understood why the Palestinians felt a similar tie to the land.