Former Settler Leader Proposes Radical Plan to Improve Palestinians’ Lives

Dani Dayan advocates opening all checkpoints, boosting Palestinian economy and infrastructure and removing Civil Administration from military rule.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
Dani Dayan.
Dani Dayan.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

A diplomatic plan to “create a new civil reality” in the West Bank and dramatically improve the lives of the Palestinians living there is being proposed to the government by a former chairman of the Yesha Council for settlers.

Dani Dayan has not suddenly changed his spots, however. He does not support a Palestinian state or the evacuation of settlements. The plan doesn’t call for resolving the conflict, taking irreversible steps, evacuations, changes in sovereignty or annexations. But that’s exactly why he believes that both “Whole Land of Israel” adherents and those supporting the two-state solution could support and accept at least some of its components.

“The objective is maximum normalization of the lives of the civilians living in Judea and Samaria,” Dayan said. “The prime minister and defense minister have to act as if they are facing a virtual sign that reads, ‘What have we done to facilitate a dignified life for the Palestinians today?’”

A major component of his proposal is the gradual removal of all restrictions on movement for both Israelis and Palestinians, even if this involves certain security concessions.

“It’s about time we healed from the trauma of the intifada,” says Dayan. “We can’t continue to live under a psychological siege while imposing sweeping restrictions on the Palestinians.” He added, however, that a fundamental condition for this is “zero tolerance for violence” by either Palestinians or Jews. Israel Defense Forces patrols would continue in the Palestinian cities and villages.

During the first stage, all checkpoints and travel restrictions would be removed, and all roads would be opened to both Israelis and Palestinians.

The second stage would allow Palestinians to enter settlements and cross over the Green Line. All of the separation barrier’s gates would be open at all times to allow Palestinians entry, and at the final stage the wall would be taken down. Palestinians would also be allowed to travel abroad freely, with Israel arranging quick and convenient access corridors from the Palestinian cities to Ben-Gurion International Airport and Amman Queen Alia International Airport.

The second major component addresses the Palestinian economy, with the aim of raising per-capita income. Palestinians would be allowed to seek employment in Israel, and foreign workers would be replaced by Palestinians. Israel would encourage the integration of Palestinian academics into high-tech firms, the health system and more. Israel would also lift restrictions on the import and export of goods, particularly through the ports.

Israel would also work with the international community to comprehensively improve the water, transportation, education and health infrastructures in the West Bank, and to rehabilitate the refugee camps.

The plan also calls for building five jointly run industrial parks in the West Bank. Dayan stressed that these would not be sites for Israeli firms to employ Palestinians at low wages, but a place where independent, Palestinian-owned enterprises would be established.

The third facet of the plan targets the civic and legal inequalities. Under the plan, identical legal norms will apply to both Israelis and Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line, particularly with regard to sentencing policies. Dayan also suggests making the Civil Administration truly “civilian” by removing it from under the auspices of the military’s coordinator of activities in the territories, and replacing the officers and soldiers with experienced government clerks who know how to serve a civilian population.

Dayan’s plan includes setting up jointly run courts to adjudicate civil problems, including land disputes. Palestinians could also serve as full members of the Civil Administration’s planning and building committees that approve master plans or issue permits for construction in Palestinian communities.

Dayan’s plan also calls for “strengthening the governability of the Palestinian Authority.” He believes that Israel has no interest in undermining the PA and its institutions, which have been operating since the Oslo Accords were implemented in 1993. He recommends that even though diplomatic tension with the Palestinians remains, Israel should refrain from taking punitive steps – like withholding the transfer of taxes – that only destabilize the PA.

This is the first time that such a central and senior figure in the settlement leadership has drawn up a detailed initiative focusing on improving Palestinian life in the West Bank. While drawing up the plan over the past three months, Dayan consulted with senior IDF officers, government ministers, and confidants of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, including Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer.

Dayan also spent time in Washington, where he presented the plan to senior advisers of both U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Just another day. Palestinians on their way to work go through an army checkpoint near Jenin. Credit: AP

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