Danny Dayan, Tomer Appelbaum
Dayan in the settlement of Barkan. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
Text size

Danny Dayan, the head of the Yesha Council of Settlements, went to Washington at the same time as prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to monitor developments at the peace summit with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He intends to make sure that amid the Israeli gestures there is no further blow to building in the settlements.

Danny Dayan, does the attack near Hebron shuffle the deck and obligate the prime minister to cancel the direct-talks in Washington?

When the attack occurred, we called on the prime minister to return home. In my eyes, it is unfitting for Netanyahu to attend ceremonies and festive dinners as the four victims of the terrorist attack are being buried. Unfortunately, the prime minister did not follow our suggestion, just as he did not follow other suggestions given to him recently and the ceremonies continue.

On the left side of the political map, it was argued that the terrorist attack was intended to thwart the peace talks, and therefore it is imperative not to give in to it.

Only those who see the conflict through the prism of yesterday's newspaper can think that this is the situation. For the last hundred years, terrorism has been the Palestinians' strategy. Abu Mazen [Abbas] and his gang cannot absolve themselves of the murder. Abu Mazen, demonstratively, visited the grave of the female terrorist from the deadly attack on the bus on the coastal road. He named a square in Ramallah after her. The bigger the terrorist attack, the bigger the street named after the terrorist in the Palestinian cities under the auspices of Abu Mazen and his cronies. The Palestinian youths learn from this what to believe in and how to act, much more than they do from the mere participation of the Palestinian leadership in the direct talks with Israel.

You are essentially blaming the Palestinian leadership of being responsible for the terrorist attack, even though other organizations, including Hamas, claimed responsibility.

The Palestinian Authority leadership is fully party to the murder and is not a partner for peace. They continue the incitement, continue to praise vile terrorists. Even the condemnation issued by the Palestinian Authority after the terrorist attack was completely propagandist and did not contain a single word of grief. Therefore, I think that it is utterly incorrect for the prime minister of Israel to partake in festive meals with this group.

Nevertheless, isn't there a clear distinction between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and between the Palestinian leadership and organizations that do not listen to it?

The different factions play the roles of the good cop and the bad cop. But they all share the same worldview. There are organizations that call for efforts in two stages: first establish a Palestinian state and then eliminate Israel, and there are others that argue that this has to be done in one fell swoop.

Were you reassured by Netanyahu's remarks before the members of the Likud Central Committee on the eve of his departure to the United States?

Netanyahu did not say clear things about the freeze. Netanyahu said important things, on one hand, and worrisome things on the other. He said that Israel will not concede its security needs and that the Palestinian Authority must recognize Israel as a Jewish state and that is important. But we have been very worried about what Netanyahu is not saying for a very long time now: For over a year Netanyahu has not said that Jerusalem will not be divided. For over a year, he has not said that Israel will not return to the 1967 lines, for over a year he has not said that there will not be uprooting of settlements that were established legally by the government of Israel. These are very worrisome things. The same cabinet ministers who demanded that Olmert not conduct negotiations over Jerusalem must now demand the same today of Netanyahu also. The time has come for the current cabinet ministers to put red lines before Netanyahu in the diplomatic sphere. The ministers in the Netanyahu government were not elected to the Knesset to function as statistics.

Why travel to Washington? Do you think that your trip will have an impact on the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians?

I came for two objectives originally. The terrorist attack added another objective. I came to monitor the events and to keep my finger on the pulse of the situation. The decisions made here require speedy decisions on our part also. When the previous chairman of the Yesha Council came to the U.S. to monitor talks at the Wye Plantation, he saw how events were evolving and approached the head of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and the two started working on the process that led to Netanyahu's downfall during his first term in office. It's a historical curiosity, but I hope we will not require the services of the current committee chairman, MK David Rotem, who also resides in [Judea]. Another objective as far as we are concerned is a public relations objective. When the settlements are in the headlines, certainly in light of the latest terrorist attack, the presence of the head of the Yesha Council sparks curiosity. I have had several interviews with leading media outlets. There are topics where the prime minister will do the public relations work and we will just complement him - for example, the freeze regarding which we expect him to say there is no way that it will continue, as he explained when he was in Israel. There are topics that the prime minister will not discuss and we will take his place: such as for example, the fact that the Palestinian state is a threat to Israel's existence, the fact that is impossible to agree to Jerusalem becoming the Palestinian capital, exposing the true face of Abu Mazen and his ilk.