Former Yesha Council leader Dani Dayan has come up with an alternative proposal in response to the failure of the US-brokered peace initiative. He published his plan as an op-ed in the New York Times this week, as well as presenting it in its entirety on Monday at the Herzliya Conference on national security which took place June 8-10.
Claiming that the collapse of talks brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry after nine months has finally signaled the passing, at least for now, of the two-state solution, Dayan pointed to a “vacuum” left behind, which even the most right-wing elements in Israeli society must recognize as “problematic”.
“The vacuum should be filled by a courageous Israeli initiative regarding the lives of Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria,” Dayan said, and proceeded to outline what that initiative would look like.
The primary goal of Dayan’s proposal is to improve the lives of Palestinians and reduce the level of despair. Since a true and lasting peace is predicated not only on political agreements but on social and economic considerations, as well, Dayan encourages a shift of focus to the human element in light of the current diplomatic failures. Rather than a permanent peace plan, he calls it “a blueprint for peaceful non-reconciliation.”
His comprehensive plan begins with the equalization of treatment for both Jews and Palestinians. This means removing travel restrictions in both directions — allowing Palestinians to enter the rest of Israel freely, but also allowing Jews to travel to Palestinian-controlled Areas A and B within Judea and Samaria. To this end, Dayan advocates removing the security fence between Palestinian and Israeli populations.
“Israelis must let go of the trauma of the Second Intifada that terrorized them between 2000 and 2005. They can’t go on living under psychological siege while imposing sweeping, burdensome restrictions on the Palestinians because of heinous acts of terror perpetrated a decade ago,” he wrote.
Palestinians, not just Israeli Arabs, should be permitted to obtain gainful employment in Israeli institutions. “There is currently no satisfactory reason why Israel should import tens of thousands of foreign workers from all over the world while tens and hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs who live among us are struggling to earn a living.” Freedom of employment must also include reduced restrictions on imports and exports.
Infrastructure, such as roads, sewage and electricity, should be improved throughout Judea and Samaria, not just for Jewish settlements. Education must also be provided, as well as all other government services, and health care must be improved. “Whereas for now, Israel generously allows its advanced healthcare system to provide treatment of various humanitarian cases, the aim is to dramatically improve the Palestinian health care system so that it can treat more of these cases on its own.”
Dayan proposes applying the law equally to all parties, regardless of ethnicity or location. “There is no practical or moral justification to implement a different legal policy for Palestinian Arabs and Israelis.”
Currently, Judea and Samaria are administered by the Civil Administration, a military-run body responsible for relations and interactions between Israel and Palestinians. According to Dayan’s initiative, this body should be demilitarized, and Palestinians should be invited to participate actively in their own governance. “The civil administration should employ experienced people who understand full well that it is their job to serve the Palestinian civilian population efficiently and courteously…
“Joint Israeli-Palestinian courts will be established in Judea and Samaria, to hear and decide on civil disputes, including those involving land. This will involve extremely complicated legal proceedings, but will make a significant and genuine contribution towards alleviating the sense of hostility felt by Palestinians towards Israeli rule, and hence its decisive importance.
“Even before the establishment of the joint courts, Palestinian Arab residents will be included as full-fledged members of the Civil Administration’s planning and building committees that consider construction in Arab towns.”
Most importantly, Palestinian refugee camps must be rehabilitated; “It is intolerable for hundreds of thousands of people in Judea and Samaria to continue to knowingly live in poverty and unemployment, leading to frustration and violence, captives of political circumstances that have remain unchanged for almost seven decades, and which show no signs of changing in the future.”
Dayan’s plan also supports strengthening the Palestinian Authority rather than undermining it. Despite significant differences, “It is not in Israel’s interest to weaken or dissolve the Palestinian Authority or disrupt day-to-day Palestinian life. That means ending delays in transferring tax payments to the Authority and striving to promote its efficient functioning.”
Dayan sees the biblical city of Hebron as symbolic of his plan. “[I]t is Hevron that should serve as a symbol of Israel’s new and daring policy. As in the entire region of Judea and Samaria and Israel as a whole, all the ugly barriers and fences that restrict the movements of both Jewish and Arab residents of Hevron should be removed. The whole city of Hevron will be effectively open to all: Palestinian Arabs will no longer be subject to the severe restrictions imposed years ago to address the security needs of the Jewish community, and the latter will no longer be forced to remain within closed enclaves.”
Dayan does not see any impediment to implementation on either side of the political spectrum. “The desire and need to dramatically improve the quality of life in Judea and Samaria conflicts with neither the vision of the Greater Land of Israel nor the two-state solution. All the parties can – and in my opinion, must – wholeheartedly support this type of plan. Whatever political reality ultimately emerges, better and fairer conditions of day-to-day life in Judea and Samaria are prerequisites no matter how you look at it.”