Israel Pulse

Danny Ayalon Pivots on a Palestinian State

Article Summary
Shlomi Eldar wonders why former Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon suddenly supports a Palestinian state.

Here’s an earth-shattering news flash: As his term in office was about to end, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was attending this weekend a Shabbatarbut cultural event in a theater in Holon, when he declared: “Israel must recognize the Palestinian state as a member state of the United Nations. It must grant it sovereignty and independence. This must be the starting point for a permanent settlement''.

Now let’s go back a bit ... to Nov. 29. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas stood at the podium of the United Nation’s General Assembly, calling on the member nations to recognize Palestine as an observer state. Just one year earlier, Abu Mazen had failed in his attempts to declare the establishment of Palestine as a member nation of the U.N. because of the threat of a U.S. veto in the Security Council. Now back at the same podium, with the same sense of mission, he declared, “We did not come here seeking to delegitimize a State established years ago, and that is Israel…We did not come here to add further complications to the peace process ... rather we came to launch a final serious attempt to achieve peace…''

Abu Mazen had some harsh words to say about Israel further on in his speech. He accused it of just about every possible sin, from restricting the movement of people to ethnic cleansing. This infuriated many in Israel, and not without good reason.

At the same time, it is reasonable to believe that the Palestinian Authority head would not have taken such a sharp tone if he knew that Israel would be one of the countries supporting his petition. One of the people to make sure that this did not happen was Danny Ayalon. Both before and after the U.N. vote, the [at the time] deputy foreign minister did everything in his power to defuse the Palestinian move. With chilling indifference, [then Foreign Minister] Avigdor Liberman later dropped the political guillotine on Ayalon and removed him from his party list. Then, however, he sent Ayalon rushing from one U.N. delegation to another in an effort to thwart the Palestinians’ efforts.

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“Woe to the nation that depends upon the international community,” Ayalon declared, following Israel’s stunning diplomatic defeat. “When you examine the behavior of the General Assembly, you realize how hypocritical the international community really is.”

Ayalon also said: “It has been proved yet again that Abu Mazen is not a partner for peace. He has systematically rejected all calls for negotiations, and he continues to engage in unilateral steps and a campaign of de-legitimization and incitement against Israel.”

Then the results of the vote became known. A total of 138 states voted for granting Palestine observer nation status, nine opposed it, including the United States, and 41 abstained. While Liberman had the harshest words for Abu Mazen, Ayalon ran from one TV station to the next to minimize the damage and present Israel’s official position, which can be summarized as, “The real person to refuse peace is Abu Mazen.”

And so, the question must be asked: Who is the real Ayalon? Is he the one who supports the establishment of a Palestinian state as a member of the United Nations, or the one who opposed its elevation to observer-nation status with every fiber of his being? Only Ayalon himself can tell.

The day after the vote in the United Nations, and as “an appropriate Zionist response,” the Netanyahu government announced a new construction program for the “E1 area,” in order to ensure territorial integrity between Ma'ale Adumim and Jerusalem. This infuriated most countries, particularly the United States and Europe. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to punish Abu Mazen, and announcements about construction in the settlements became a daily occurrence, as did the summoning of the Israeli ambassadors around the world to their respective capitals for a dressing-down. Israel also stopped the transfer of taxes that it had collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, in keeping with the Paris Accords of 1994. Only after the elections in Israel were over, and Netanyahu no longer had to court the right voters, would his government announce that the money it had frozen would be released. Though it was late, the money was finally transferred to the Palestinians. Nevertheless, the condemnations were severe, and the enormous diplomatic damage caused by this rash decision to punish the Palestinians was irreparable. 

This website has already written about the “diplomatic incident” that occurred in Jerusalem, when Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor spoke out boldly against the timing of the decision to build thousands of housing units in East Jerusalem, a decision he had to defend in his speeches at the UN. He turned to  National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror with the question, “Why did we need that?” and he continued: “We are having a hard time explaining the logic behind this decision to the world.” His fellow ambassadors showed their support with a round of applause, but Amidror, who serves as Netanyahu’s adviser, responded furiously: “If you don’t like the government’s policies, then either go into politics or resign.”

Not one of them resigned, not even Ayalon, who suddenly believes that Israel should have supported the steps taken by Abu Mazen.

And so we are left with a long list of bad decisions and one deputy foreign minister who began to say what he really thinks only after he was fired. Where was he before this? It seems like the real question is not ''where you sit'' [in reference to a meeting between Ayalon and the Turkish ambassador to Israel who was seated in a seat lower than the deputy foreign minister’s] but ''where you stand.''

Shlomi Eldar is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse. For the past two decades, he has covered the Palestinian Authority and especially the Gaza Strip for Israel’s Channels 1 and 10, and has reported on the emergence of Hamas. In 2007, he was awarded the Sokolov Prize, Israel’s most important media award, for this work. He has published two books: Eyeless in Gaza (2005), which anticipated the Hamas victory in the subsequent Palestinian elections, and Getting to Know Hamas (2012).

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Found in: settlements, palestinian, israel

Shlomi Eldar is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse. For the past two decades, he has covered the Palestinian Authority and especially the Gaza Strip for Israel’s Channels 1 and 10, reporting on the emergence of Hamas. In 2007, he was awarded the Sokolov Prize, Israel’s most important media award, for this work.

Eldar has published two books: "Eyeless in Gaza" (2005), which anticipated the Hamas victory in the subsequent Palestinian elections, and "Getting to Know Hamas" (2012), which won the Yitzhak Sadeh Prize for Military Literature. He was awarded the Ophir Prize (Israeli Oscar) twice for his documentary films: "Precious Life" (2010) and "Foreign Land" (2018). "Precious Life" was also shortlisted for an Oscar and was broadcast on HBO. He has a master's degree in Middle East studies from the Hebrew University. On Twitter: @shlomieldar

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