The man who stopped the freeze and how he did it.

By Ted Belman

Moment Magazine just published an article THE MAN WHO STOPPED THE FREEZE by Ilene Prusher. And that man is Dani Dayan

    As the very public face of the Yesha Council, what Dayan thinks matters. Yesha, an umbrella organization of muni-cipal councils of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and formerly the Gaza Strip, is one of Israel’s most influential lobbies. Known by the acronym for Yehuda, Shomron and Aza, the Hebrew equivalents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, it is made up of 15 elected settlement municipal leaders and ten community leaders. Its mandate is to assist Jewish settlements in every possible way, working, for example, to acquire bullet-proof ambulances and buses, and pushing the Israeli government to provide roads, electricity and water to the settlements.

    The Council serves as the political arm of the estimated 300,000 Israelis living in West Bank settlements and wields power far beyond what its relatively small numbers would suggest: The group was instrumental in exacting a public promise from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the ten-month settlement building freeze that expired in September would not be renewed, in defiance of U.S. President Barack Obama’s efforts to restart Middle East peace talks. So far the Yesha Council been successful in preventing the freeze from being reinstated, which is likely to remain the case now that Obama’s foreign policy hand has been weakened by the Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Israeli government even turned down America’s hefty December offer of 20 F-35 jets, worth $3 billion, in exchange for reinstating the freeze.

    How did the Council stave off a seemingly good opportunity toward what many believe is the only path to peace? Not by amassing messianic-looking armed men wearing sandals and kippas—the dominant image of the Yesha Council in the past and the most persistent picture of the Jewish settler movement in the eyes of the world—but with a high-pressure campaign that included thousands of pre-recorded, computerized phone calls targeting members of the Knesset, central figures in Netanyahu’s Likud Party, and other political movers and shakers.

    This new approach is the influence of Dayan, a former IDF major and secular high-tech tycoon who sold his software company in 2004 and threw himself full time into settlement politics. Since becoming chair in 2007, he has worked to transform the council into a Washington-style lobby armed with the latest marketing tools. “We carefully timed a surgical campaign,” says Dayan of the Council’s efforts to prevent the freeze extension. “It was very effective and quite unprecedented. I know for sure that it influenced the prime minister. We showed that we still have political leverage and capabilities.”

    Coupled with the phone campaign—albeit to a government that is sympathetic to its cause—is a public relations effort targeted at everyday secular Israelis, most of whom live on the other side of the Green Line and have few ties, personal or otherwise, to the settlements or historic sites such as the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. More importantly, they have come to accept the inevitability of a two-state solution. “I wouldn’t call it PR,” Dayan says hesitantly. “It’s more like hasbara,” the Hebrew word that has come to mean public diplomacy. “We’ve shifted our focus,” he says. “We’re working to negate stereotypes. The Yesha Council was traditionally involved in promoting the interests of our communities, but we neglected the educational component of our task and failed to reach the Israeli public. The Israeli public needs to understand the historical link we have to the territories.” [..]


January 19, 2011 | 7 Comments »

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  1. When you agree with the premise of your opponet,
    then you lose the argument. Any copromise
    is admitting defeat. Yesha does just that. PR that
    If we are going to discuss about any two state solution
    we should begin with a second Jewish commenwealth the
    state of Judea that is governed by Torah law, and not by secular
    gentile law that destroys the Jewish identity of Israels society. If yesha
    is an albatross around Israels, wanting to be accepted by the world, PR neck,
    then give it to Jews who are willing to govern Yesha as a Jewish, and not
    to the enemies of the Jews who will govern it like
    a Nazi/Islamic terrorist state.

  2. Olivia,

    A slight correction to what you write above: He didn’t offer a “two state solution”, he offered to extend the freeze in return for recognition.

    Interestingly, less than two weeks before he did this, it was reported on Israeli news (I was watching the broadcast here with a friend who gets Israeli TV), that this was one idea “floated” as a possible means to break the impasse, but was rejected as being “unrealistic”.

    So, I sent the following as an e-mail to the Prime Minister’s Office:

    Honorable Prime Minister Netanyahu:

    At this critical juncture, you must stand firm.

    You must NOT bow to the pressure of the current U.S. president, who is merely a front man for Saudi interests in any event.

    He has proven repeatedly that you cannot trust his assurances or promises on any issue.

    If you stand firm, he will – with his Saudi-sponsored allies in the media and academia – certainly make Israel suffer in the near term.

    If you do not stand firm, Obama, with your cooperation, will only help enable Israel’s ultimate destruction. You must not be a party to this. DO NOT BELIEVE ANYTHING HE TELLS YOU.

    The choice is as hard as it is obvious. There are no “good” options right now, but only one honorable option that has a chance of working, that makes any sense at all.


    They PA will never do this, of course, and that is your opening for you to begin the process of delegitimizing them as the representatives of Palestinian national aspirations. Jordan is their homeland! An old idea, I know, but one that bears a second look. What has King Abdullah done for Israel lately? Nothing but make trouble for you, threaten you…YOU DO NOT OWE HIM A THING!

    I know you have emphasized the recognition issue in the past, and the press barely reports on this. TRY HARDER! MAKE THEM LISTEN TO YOU! TELL OBAMA TO GET LOST, AND TELL THE WORLD WHY, AND THAT IS WHY!

    Respectfully yours,


    I sent this on October 4th. One week later, on October 11th, he did exactly that.

    Don’t get me wrong. I AM NOT taking personal credit for what trasnpired. No, I’m not a megalomaniac lunatic. What I believe actually happened, though, was this:

    I’m sure I’m not the only person on planet earth with the PMO’s e-mail address. I imagine what happened was that hundreds – perhaps thousands – of like-minded individuals wrote e-mails with a similar theme over the course of that week. By the end of the week, I picture an aide walking into the PMO and plopping a big thick stack of printed e-mails like mine on his desk. This in effect told him that he had public support from the Jewish community, both in Israel and abroad, for doing what he wanted to do anyway. SO, he did it.

    In the end, I take a little sliver of credit. Me, and a bunch of other people who will remain anonymous to me, and to each other.

    Later, it did seem that my efforts, along with those of my anonymous cohorts, might have been for naught. After intense negotiations over a package of “incentives”, it appeared Netanyahu might cave after all. But then he had the audacity to ask for the U.S. commitments in writing so that he could present them to his cabinet for approval. Obama refused to put them in writing…proving my estimation of Obama in the note above. And that, I believe, is what REALLY killed the current round of negotiations, the fact that Obama revealed once and for all to Netanyahu what a lying cockroach he really is. There is no trust at all left between those two (not that there ever should have been in the first place, but I suppose Netanyahu had to start out giving Obama the benefit of the doubt..).

    There isn’t going to be any real “progress” for the remainder of Obama’s term of office, and in a grim way, that is to the good (behaving like a genuine ally to Israel – What a radical concept! – would be far better, of course).

    What we all have to do now is whatever we can to counteract the hysterical anti-Israel media, who will dramatically increase the pressure on Obama to resume his “screw Israel” campaign, and related political initiatives, like that awful letter now being presented to Obama to vote for that dreadful Palestinian-written proposed UNSCR. We just have to hold the line/push back as we can on the political and media/PR fronts until January of 2013, when something resembling sanity MIGHT return to U.S. policy concerning Israel.

    Stout hearts, everybody. We’re all in this together.

  3. Dayan is a hero, using his head, hasbara, and technology in a war of ideas.

    I also really, really like Bland Oatmeal, Grandpa Jax, and Fred Leder today!

    And by the way, I still think Netanyahu offered a two-state solution tongue-in-cheek, as he coupled it with a demand he KNEW the Palestinians would NEVER agree to– that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state. So I think Netanyahu was “crazy like a fox” in his offer. I hope. Because a two-state solution is really a three state solution (with two states for the Palestinians– Jordan and the West Bank), or a four state solution (with three states for the Palestinians– Jordan, West Bank, and Gaza). Isn’t that getting pretty silly?

  4. There are between 600,000 and a million Jews still living in Europe. They cannot stay there and must move because of Islamic bigotry and harassment. Most will likely move to Israel and find homes more affordable, and living space more available in Judea and Samaria. These are Jewish lands waiting to accommodate Jewish people. It will happen soon.

  5. May his strength be enhanced.
    Ten more like Dani and We might be able to convince the rest of the world. You can move mountains one shovel at a time, especially if they are mountains of “organic fertilizer of bovine origin.”

  6. 300,000 Israelis living in West Bank settlements

    Add to that, hundreds of thousands more living in “East Jerusalem”, and divide this by Israel’s population of some ten million, and you get perhaps 5% of Israelis living in lands that the world wants to ethnically cleanse them from. The US equivalent would be to drive all Americans out of, say, the state of Illinois. If any country were to try to force my country to do this sort of thing, I would deal with them as enemies. Why should it be any different for Israelis? Those “West Bank” and “East Jerusalem” settlers did not steal land from anyone; they purchased unused public lands and developed them; and they deserve the same right as people in the US to live on them and to build for the future of their children. I am glad the Yesha Council has been sticking up for their fellow citizens; it seems to be their job, as well as their civic duty.