Moshe Dayan’s daughter, Yael, is now older than her father was when he died at the age of 66 in 1981. This is not to say that she’s old, but that she’s mature and accomplished. She has authored over a dozen books, including half a dozen novels, but has focused most of her energy since 1992 on politics. She served as a Labor party Member of Knesset for three terms before losing favor with that party, along with Yossi Beilin in 2003, for being too dovish, and moved with him to Meretz.
She led the Meretz electoral slate for the Tel Aviv city council to a plurality of the votes and as a result, became Tel Aviv’s deputy mayor in charge of its social welfare portfolio. She has since visited Meretz USA in New York on a variety of occasions, after or before heading west for urban affairs conferences and speaking engagements. We hosted her again two days ago at a public forum in New York and met with her privately last night at the monthly meeting of the Meretz USA executive committee.
These appearances have helped us understand the mess that Israel finds itself in today, following the summer war with Hezbollah. Ms. Dayan publically opposed Israel’s war weeks prior to the point that Meretz officially opposed it. Meretz as a party raised questions, abstained from votes of no confidence and called for negotiations and an expanded peace process, but actually opposed military operations only during the ground offensive in the closing days of the war.
So Yael Dayan spoke out early at an anti-war rally that was sponsored by Israel’s far left and not by the Zionist left of Meretz and Peace Now. But when she opened her speech by saying that she’s not there to criticize Israel’s soldiers, “all hell broke loose.” People stormed the stage and took away her microphone. She mentioned that rally participants largely consisted of Israeli Arabs, but she does not blame the Israeli Arab community, which she says mostly did not support this kind of behavior.
Her position is complex. First of all, she blames Israel’s new inexperienced leadership for starting a war of choice without knowing or ignoring the fact that Israel’s northern communities – both among Arabs and Jews – were without adequate defense, with shelters unprepared or non-existent. Military tactics appeared confused and inconsistent and the reserves were without proper supplies and training.
If the war had involved a response of the first few days to the Hezbollah attack on Israeli territory, killing and capturing soldiers, that might have been more defensible. But to choose an all-out war, when the army and infrastructure were not ready, was a bad mistake.
She sees Labor and Amir Peretz as having been badly damaged by taking the defense ministry – a position that he was totally unqualified for, and for having abandoned the social democratic platform that he had campaigned on and for which many people had invested high hopes. She confirms what others have said about the almost complete absence of an effective national government presence in the northern communities under attack. Non-governmental organizations and local communities took up the slack. In some cases, even local authorities fled in the face of the Katyushas, leaving the poor and disabled defenseless at this time of emergency. She indicated that the municipal government of Tel Aviv housed and served the needs of “tens of thousands” of refugees from the north.
In her stream of consciousness way (a prepared outline might have been helpful) she can both infuriate and inspire. Somewhat surprisingly she does not regard Israel’s use of cluster munitions as a “war crime.” She does not defend it, indicates it as possibly a mistake or wrong, but regards it as “malicious” to hurl such charges at a military that is trying to defend the country. Ms. Dayan is not necessarily consistent in everything she says, but she is clearly struggling for both a moral and practical solution for Israel and her neighbors fully in conformity with her progressive Zionist principles.