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Twitter Diplomacy, Danny Ayalon-Style

Deputy foreign minister defends Migron, denies Palestinian nationhood

Marc Tracy
April 02, 2012

A few days after the Israeli Supreme Court decided—in accordance with past rulings and Israeli law—that Migron must be evacuated and razed by August, several members of Yisrael Beiteinu, which is in the governing coalition and in the last elections was Israel’s third-most popular party, visited the West Bank outpost. This report, from a pro-settler outlet, has them speaking carefully about respecting the ruling and emphasizing the importance of finding alternative homes for the residents; Uzi Landau, who is a government minister, appears to hold his tongue more than does David Rotem, who is only a Knesset member.

And then there was Danny Ayalon, a former U.S. ambassador and currently the deputy foreign minister. In an Arutz Sheva video report, he says, “This is not in defiance, at all, to the decision of the court. The decision of the court has to be implemented. But we want to make sure that the implementation will be very sensitive.” Ayalon also said he supported the compromise the court voided, which would have kept Migron residents there another three years. “I prefer the term of ‘unauthorized,’ not ‘illegal,’ ” he added. “Nobody can tell me that it’s illegal to settle Jews in their homeland in Judea and Samaria.” A statement on his Facebook page read: “Visited the brave residents of Migron today where I told them that the Jewish People have a natural, historic and legal right to live anywhere in the Land of Israel.” Note the definition of Israel as Greater Israel.

Still! Freedom of speech! It’s one of the things we like about Israel. Not everybody has to agree. The problem is that Ayalon, Israel’s number-two diplomat, proceeded to conduct some distinctly undiplomatic Twitter diplomacy. “Interesting that there are so many people who seem to believe that there are parts of the world where Jews should not have right to live,” he said over two tweets. “Especially in our historic homeland. Should Judea and Samaria be Judenrein?” In addition to bringing Hitler into this way too quickly, Ayalon’s argument obscures what the debate within Israeli society is: not whether Jews should be allowed to live on the other side of the Green Line, but whether they should do so in government-subsidized settlements on land legally owned by other people, and as part of a broader occupation in part responsible for denying statehood to an entire people.

Not that Ayalon would agree with my premises. Take that part about “entire people”: “So all peoples with distinct culture & language deserve sovereignty? BTW the Pals do not have either, as distinct from other Arabs,” Ayalon argued, an articulation equivalent to Newt Gingrich’s notorious “invented Palestinian people” comment.

In fairness, this sure puts a dent in the theory that everything in Israel is geared toward hasbara and getting positive press.

These are not the Migron residents Daniella Cheslow spoke to for her article today in Tablet Magazine, who are at least relative innocents and some of whom may not be totally ideological. These are politicians, plain and simple, who ought to be held completely accountable for denying Palestinian nationhood and reductio ad Hitlerum-ing.

Michael Sfard, the lawyer who represented Peace Now and the Palestinians to whom the land is registered before the Supreme Court, told me last week that the decision was Israel’s Brown v. Board in the sense that it is absolutely crucial that the court’s decision be implemented: because of that decision’s substance, sure, but even more because if the executive ever felt it could ignore the judiciary, then nothing could be taken for granted anymore. As it is—and notwithstanding high-ranking government’ officials’ lip-service—this is one chicken we shouldn’t prematurely count.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.