On Monday, November 12, Yael Dayan (Meretz), Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv and Jaffa, spoke before a meeting of Meretz USA’s Executive Committee. Her talk concentrated on the Annapolis Conference and its prospects for commencing a new peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians. In particular, she bemoaned the low expectations that all parties now seem to have for it, citing as an example the fact that the “conference” is now being called a “meeting.”
These feelings, she said result primarily from skepticism, fatigue, and attempts to please different parties inside the Israeli and Palestinian societies. With the anniversary of Rabin’s assassination recently passed and years gone by since Oslo, the Israeli street lacks enthusiasm for a peace process. Every time Israel and Palestine have come close to peace, they have faced a schism within their respective populations.
In Israel, this mindset is supported by the widely-held belief that Hamas is succeeding in its takeover, as well as by fear that another evacuation (i.e., that of the West Bank) would further bolster Hamas and put more Israelis in danger. These convictions are also backed by the intelligence services.
Ms. Dayan stressed that, no matter what happens at the Annapolis Conference, it is vital to be well prepared for the day after. The Conference will be a green light to negotiations, and all pro-peace communities should help make sure that the Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans carry on with negotiations.
In these negotiations, Ms. Dayan believes that Israel will have the responsibility of taking the first step – largely because it has done very little to ease conditions thus far. For their part, the Palestinian authorities must take better control of security in the West Bank. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) must also negotiate with Hamas and work to reduce Qassam fire on Sderot.
Nevertheless, Ms. Dayan explained, it is also the responsibility of the Israeli government to provide better security and shelter for its citizens living in Sderot. After all, the only thing that will fully stop the Qassam fire is peace. Quoting Yitzhak Rabin, “We must fight terrorism as if there is no peace process, and we must pursue peace as if there is no terrorism,” Ms. Dayan explained that it is futile to wait for quiet. If Israel does so, peace will never come. Security must be a result of peace, not a precondition.
Closing, Ms. Dayan asserted that waiting for peace has been detrimental to Israeli society. She observed that, despite a strong economy, the country used to be much stronger in sciences, basic education, and other disciplines. She also pointed out the huge gap between Jewish and Arab education, and the gap between general Israeli education and education for immigrants. These things have been neglected with the understanding that, once peace comes, they will improve. However, Ms. Dayan argued that Israel cannot afford to think that peace is around the corner; some reforms must come now. And she said, peace may not be enough to push these necessary changes forward once it comes.
Summarized by Amy Kapit, Meretz USA Program Director
I do not agree with Ms. Dayan’s statements.
That quote from Rabin is a sad joke. A caricature of the famous white paper policy in pre-war Israel.