In explaining his decision to resign as Yesha Council Chairman and campaign for Netanyahu, Danny Dayan said that, “We brought Oslo on ourselves” and, “We’re likely to make the same mistakes today.”
“In 1992 I was the secretary of Tehiya,” Dayan explained,” and together with Geula Cohen and Elyakim Haetzni we brought down Shamir over some nonsense.”
But wasn’t it Yitzchak Rubin’s Labor government that initiated Oslo? So what is Dayan talking about?
Tehiya was a faction of Knesset Members, including Lehi veteran Geula Cohen, that broke away from the Likud in 1979 protest of the Camp David Accords.
In 1988, the Likud and Labor was roughly evenly sized. Shamir was forced to form a national-unity government with Shimon Peres and the Alignment, for a second time. In 1990, Peres broke the agreement and the Alignment withdrew from the government, leaving Shamir without the minimum 61 seats for a coalition. Tehiya, at that time numbering three MKs, was brought in to form the new coalition of a mere 62 seats.
Then, after sustained pressure from the Bush administration, in October 1991, Shamir agreed to Israel’s participation in negotiations with Israel’s neighbors in Madrid, Spain, in what became known as the Madrid Conference. The conference included the participation of Palestinian representatives from Judea and Samaria and Gaza. In protest, the Tehiya party, for which Dayan served as its secretary, pulled out of the coalition to bring down Shamir’s government, which it did.
In the subsequent elections, Labor won and ultimately led Israel to sign the Oslo Accords and set Israel on the path towards establishing a Palestinian state.
Another unintended consequence was that Shamir resigned as Likud chairman in March 1993. That created a power vacuum which Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Tehiya’s ideological progeny – the National Union and now Power to Israel – disdain because of his lack of ideological purity.
How Tehiya’s lack of cooperation with the Likud compares with the current situation in which the Likud is losing mandates to the Jewish Home party is another discussion, but it is a clear lesson on the unintended consequences of taking extreme action – bringing down a right-wing government – over protest of a mere participation in a conference, in fear that it would set a precedent. Of course principle and precedents for the future matter, but consequences matter too and in promoting the good of the nation common sense must be used in the service of the principles we seek to uphold.