It’s no coincidence that he’s also a desired guest at respected international gatherings where people want to hear interesting, well-expresses ideas, even ones they don’t necessarily agree with.
Specifically because Dayan is so deeply identified with so clear a view, his appointment as an ambassador is the wrong type of signal to send the international community. If Israel appoints right-wingers who oppose any peace initiative, like Danny Danon, and Dayan, they will find it hard to promote the message of a two-state solution, and that’s an understatement. That’s the prime minister’s message. If they start spreading it, they’ll need to betray everything they believe in, and that’s not a desired mindset, even for diplomats.
These appointments corroborate the idea that Netanyahu isn’t serious. Look, he’s even appointing ambassadors with positions opposed to his own.
Only, that’s where the political debate lay. Israel is a vibrant, living democracy. The freedom of speech we have here allows for any statement to be expressed. Election results show that it’s not a pointless argument. On the contrary – the pendulum swings. Up until a few years ago the center-left parties were in power. Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni held a diplomatic agenda that supported painful compromises. It didn’t help – they ran into a wall of refusals.
In recent years, we should take note, the political right has had a hard time gaining a solid majority. The current right-wing government also includes a centrist party, most of whose members don’t hold strict right-wing views. Any secret vote in the current Knesset about diplomatic and state issues would show that despite the baseless rumors, supporters of the settlement project’s expansion, for instance, are not a majority among Knesset members.
The thing is, instead of having that important argument, instead of trying to convince people here in Israel, there are those who chose to go to the Brazilian government, to try and get Dayan’s appointment denied. The reasoning given by Alon Liel, the man behind the move, is that his camp doesn’t have a chance of taking over the political reins any time soon. Of course: As long as that camp’s Image is similar to that of Liel himself, it really doesn’t have a chance. Those who have and express contempt for the voters, who want to dictate what happens from the outside – will never get back on top.
Liel doesn’t represent the “camp”. Just as the right has a variety of opinions, so does the left. Yair Lapid, Yitzhak Herzog, and Shelly Yachimovich have clearly expressed their opposition to this move. But Herzog’s efforts to place a wall between him and the extremist left are damaged more and more with every Liel-like display of arrogant, intolerable, anti-democratic leftist behavior.
There’s something deeper here. Because let’s assume, just for a moment, that Herzog was to appoint Yariv Oppenheimer, the recently-retired general director of the Peace Now (“Shalom Achshav”) movement, as ambassador to Washington, while a Republican president was in office. And let’s say a group of kooky right-wingers in Israel had contacted the white house in order to disqualify the appointee. The claims of political persecution, forced silencing, anti-democratic behavior, and McCarthyism would all start flying, and they’d be true.
Liel has long since crossed all red lines. He isn’t sufficed with a boycott on products made in settlements, and supports a general cultural boycott of Israel. Near-complete identification with the BDS movement, which is running a campaign against Israel’s very existence. He’s running a huge movement, whose major activity is reaching out to world parliaments and asking them to approve the Palestinians’ request that they be recognized as a state.
Liel can’t understand the difference between a battle of opinions inside Israel and subversion from the outside. It’s a monumental difference. The man who was once Israel’s ambassador to South Africa has turned himself into a Palestinian National Authority (PNA) agent, aiding in its world-wide struggle against Israel. In fact, it’s the same thinking held by bodies that demand Israeli officials be held trial by international tribunals. They don’t trust the Israeli democracy. Liel thinks as they do.
If Liel were alone, that’d be one thing. Any normal country, especially a democracy, has wild outliers. The problem isn’t with the man himself. The problem is the phenomenon. Because Liel manages to drag serious people, such as former Ambassador to France Professor Elie Barnavi, into this with him.
He managed to drag notable Israeli authors such as A. B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, and David Grossman into his campaign for Palestinian state recognition. They aren’t a part of the loony right, and aren’t wild outliers. They’re usually a part of the sane, Zionist, patriotic left.
What happened? There’s nothing that makes an entire political camp despised like allying yourself with these subversive groups and causes. Instead of being part of the peace movement, these people insist on corroborating those who claim the entire left is anti-Israeli.
Early in the year, Amos Oz gave a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). He spoke not just of the right’s errors, but those of the left as well. I didn’t agree with every word he said, but Oz represented what the Zionist left could have been: Sober, fair, Zionist, and mainly – an alternative to a group that’s leading us toward the disaster of a single state, which as Oz correctly pointed out, will not be a dual-nationality state but an Arab one.
And that’s the tragic part. The Zionist left has sober representatives. They can convince moderate right-wingers, who are many. But then initiatives like those of Liel come along and put the left just where the right-wing wants it to be: The dazed, anti-Israeli corner. There does exist a Zionist left, of the Shlomo Avineri-Amnon Rubinstein school, that loves Israel. And there’s a left of the Alon Liel-Yossi Sarid school, that irradiates hate, despair, and loathing.
The tragedy is twofold. Liel-like initiatives are not only creating antagonism for the left inside Israel, because hatred breeds hatred. They’re also strengthening the Palestinians’ insistence on refusing cooperation. After all, the Palestinian appeal to European parliaments isn’t meant to promote a peace accord that leads to a two-state solution.
On the contrary – it’s meant to allow the Palestinians to continue the rejection of Israeli peace offers, and to make the fact that talks fail over and over again because of a Palestinian demand that millions of independence war-era refugees and their kin be allowed to flood back into Israel more vague.
Yehoshua, Grossman, and Oz don’t support the Palestinian right of return, and do support a Jewish-democratic Israel. The Palestinians want the opposite. And yet, here they are, joining in on the anti-Israeli initiatives of a man who represents all the evil in what was supposed to be the peace movement.
The disturbing question left hanging in the air is this: Why so many in the left are dragged into the extreme, so many that Herzog’s refutation of it sounds like lip service.
Liel is right on one point: With these kinds of positions - a combination of anti-Israeli subversion and anti-democratic McCarthyism – the left will never get back on top. And in general, it sometimes seems like Liel is a caricature. Like the far right invented a ridiculous leftist straw man, so that the opposition could be eliminated and the Palestinian refusals reinforced. And it’s working.