Former Settler Leader Dani Dayan Is Trying to Establish an Outpost on the Israeli Left

Dean Issacharoff
Dean Issacharoff
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Dani Dayan, former head of the Yesha Council and a former member of the New Hope party.
Dean Issacharoff
Dean Issacharoff

I admit that the sight of Dani Dayan knocking on the doors of the left (Haaretz, April 24) is a bit pitiful. It seems like decades in the service of nationalism in the territories and endless mentions of Menachem Begin and Ze’ev Jabotinsky still don’t grant a person a permanent place in the right wing once they question the status of the leader.

Dayan’s sweet talk takes away his title of “right wing,” sloughs off the skin of an entire career spent in the violent disinheritance of millions of Palestinians in the territories, and he emerges as a liberal. Hebron – out. The Tiv Ta’am non-kosher grocery chain – in. Civil marriage for Jews yes, but human rights for Palestinians? Let’s not go overboard. It seems that you can take Dani out of the settlements, but you can’t take the settlements out of Dani, and the former Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements chairman is trying to establish an outpost on the left.

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Although it’s tempting to believe that behind the diplomat’s carefully chosen words is a sudden awakening, in fact his appeal to the left is a dangerous fraud. When he was Yesha Council chairman he knew full well that the occupation would go on as always. The settlements don’t rest on their laurels. They always aspire to expand. And so it’s easy for him to deciare that he temporarily forgoes the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar. In any case the days are numbered for the residents of the village, under military rule in the shadow of a settlement. Dayan can also propose promoting public transportation on the Sabbath in the center of the country, because in any case more Jews will continue to move into East Jerusalem.

Dayan is building this fraud on two dangerous illusions. The first disconnects our control over millions of Palestinians in the territories from the ongoing erosion of the democratic institutions within the State of Israel, and the second blames Netanyahu and his political needs for the spread in the right-wing camp of the messianic nationalism of MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Thus, by marking Netanyahu as the only one to blame for the situation, one forgets the main elements responsible for the dangerous state of Israeli politics – the occupation and the preservation of Jewish supremacy between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. After all, the assault on the courts did not start with the cases against Netanyahu; it started after the first time the High Court of Justice prevented settlers from taking over Palestinian land in the West Bank, and after it ruled against Gush Emunim in the Elon Moreh case.

Apparently Dayan would also prefer that we forget the constant attempts by the right wing to dismantle the welfare state, which inoculated millions of citizens and supported hundreds of thousands of unemployed people, a liberal project from the days when Netanyahu was still selling furniture in the United States.

In any case, if Dayan and his Revisionist friends have woken up and want to take part in the struggle to replace Netanyahu, there’s no reason we shouldn’t allow them to cooperate – but not every right-winger who extends a hand should grasp the wheel. These two illusions, which have led a few people to be impressed with Dayan, have also led many on the left to ingratiate themselves with MK Naftali Bennett and jump at the chance to crown as prime minister a far-right lawmaker with seven Knesset seats.

We must not be blinded by Dayan’s grandeur, believe in the false hope of MK Gideon Sa’ar or fall into Bennett’s statesmanlike trap. They are liberals in their own eyes, they have seen close up the uncontrollably violent nationalism springing up on the right, and they know they need us much more than we need them.

Dean Issacharoff is an activist and a media consultant.

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