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March 29, 2015 3:51 pm

Israelis Still Want Peace – the Right Peace

avatar by Asaf Romirowsky

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Yitzhak Rabin, Bill Clinton, and Yasser Arafat. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Prior to the Israeli elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came under fire for securing his right-wing base when he stated, “I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel.”

Those on the left, he cautioned, are ignoring reality by “burying their heads in the sand.” From there he went on to say that he would not support such a Palestinian state.

But would any Israeli government support such a state?

Netanyahu ran on a national security ticket and underscored the growing threat of Islamism and Iran. He did not need to remind Israelis about their last war with Hamas in Gaza, but rather pointed to growing regional instability. All represent real predictors of a radicalized West Bank, especially under a Hamas-Fatah coalition. If one looks at Gaza, the West Bank in its current state could easily be transformed into an ISIS like environment, and a clear and present danger to Israel perhaps worse than those Israelis face along their southern and northern borders.

Moreover, Netanyahu has always argued for a demilitarized Palestinian state. His recent statement was not a policy departure from the about kind of neighbor Israel’s seeks.

Critics have concluded that the Netanyahu’s pre-election comments abandoned the two-state solution proposed in his 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University, but a closer look reveals more about animosity towards Netanyahu.

This was only one of the misreadings surrounding the election. The Israeli media badly misread the pre-election signs and exit polls. These showed that while there were a plethora of domestic problems articulated by Isaac Herzog, Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid and company, the majority of Israelis see the real threat to Israel as Islamist. For them, Netanyahu still represents a reassuring voice.

Diplomatically, the two-state solution is still the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations which has been advocated by most of the international community, spearheaded by Washington. Reaching it is the official policy of both the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but it is no secret that Hamas does not support this notion, with or without PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

More importantly, from Yasser Arafat to Abbas, we have witnessed generations of Palestinians support rejectionism rather than statehood. They cling to the notion of being a refugee for life rather than a citizen of any country. Neither Herzog nor Netanyahu can overcome this.

In the heyday of the Oslo peace process, the push for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement was done on every possible level, socially, politically and militarily, and even reached a point where being “anti-Oslo” connoted being anti-Israel. But 20 years later of bitter experiences, Oslo has lost its allure and has been replaced by a more skeptical prism of the region.

The alleged centrality of the “settlements” is really an empty issue, which deflects attention from the real issues that obstruct a negotiated settlement. There is little debate over the fact that – should a peace agreement be completed – there will be a redistribution of land. Most of the bargaining is about whether these exchanges will take the shape of a total phased Israeli withdrawal, or exchanging the most populous Israeli towns for lands in the Jordan Valley or Negev desert. But this must be left to the parties to decide and not imposed by outside powers.

The Israeli commitment to a two-state solution predates Netanyahu and represents a consensus that encompasses the left to the right. As late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stated during his UN speech in 2005:

“…The essence of my Jewish consciousness, and of my belief in the eternal and unimpeachable right of the people of Israel to the Land of Israel. However, I say this here also to emphasize the immensity of the pain I feel deep in my heart at the recognition that we have to make concessions for the sake of peace between us and our Palestinian neighbors. The right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel does not mean disregarding the rights of others in the land. The Palestinians will always be our neighbors. We respect them, and have no aspirations to rule over them. They are also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign existence in a state of their own. I am among those who believe that it is possible to reach a fair compromise and coexistence in good neighborly relations between Jews and Arabs. However, I must emphasize one fact: There will be no compromise on the right of the State of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, with defensible borders, in full security and without threats and terrorism.”

Sharon’s final caution clearly mirrors that of Netanyahu and represents the majority of Israelis.

Israelis have not lost hope in peace but they are more prudent about the process. Netanyahu still underscore that “just as Israel is prepared to recognize a Palestinian state, the Palestinians must be prepared to recognize a Jewish state.”

Both sides need to make concessions, but Israel’s security and Jewish identity concerns deserve as much attention as Palestinian territorial claims.

This article was originally published by YNet News.

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  • Historian

    The only reason Arafat did not want peace is because that would cut the flow of money that came from the Arab states to support the Palestinian people BUT Arafat stole billions but if there was a Palestinian state the money would go to their State treasury and not into Arafat’s pocket. His wife now lives in Paris and has the billions shat should have gone to the Palestinians Arafat was not born a Palestinian but was an Egyptian.
    PM Natanyahu is correct. There is no environment now that would provide for any negotiations and no Palestinian state, They will never say that Israel as a Jewish State has the right to exist. Abbas to this date tells his people to kill Jews anywhere they are able.

  • Paul

    This is an attempt to whitewash the despicable, extremely damaging utterances so successfully used by tricky-dicky Bibi to win the election by appealing to the fears and prejudices of his voters.
    His declaration that he will never allow a Palestinian state was designed to pull votes away from Bennet, who until then had enjoyed the exclusivity of stating clearly that he is against the 2-state solution. bibi had been paying lip service to the 2-state solution. Coupled with bibi’s statement that the left are bussing droves of Arabs to the polls, many Bennet supporters dropped Bennet to save Bibi. (Why not ?bibi seemed tohave adopted Bennets main claim to fame). It worked like a charm.
    It also probably has backfired. The damage caused by his two election tricks will be with us for a long time. He has openly alienated the Israeli Arabs, and to many outsiders who now see Israel’s leadership openly exhibiting prejudice and bigotry twards the Israeli Arabs. The Israeli arabs responded to his statement s to his flock with outrage, which sent them to the polls in record numbers. (Evoking hatred and anger can work both ways – it send Bennet voters to vote Bibi, but it also sent many more Arab voters to ther polls).
    Claiming he will not allow a Palestinian state, two days before elections, is playing with fire, lacking the responsible leadership our country needs to face the real threats about us. Bibi keeps implying that the left will immediately help establish a terrorist state. He said if the left assume leadership, we will have ISIS in Jerusalem, and they showed video cliips of SISI fighters asking for directions to Jerusalem – and they were told “tuern left”.Really ? The left raised this country – why would they want to destroy it ? The buzz-word LEFT, LEFT has become the total excuse, the fig-leaf for all the failures of the right wing administrations since 1977, when Begin first used blatant hatred as the most successful political weapon to influence his shallow-thinking supporters. The right successfully use the words “left, left” as shepherds say Brr Brr to THEIR sheep. Bibi’s announcement has really destroyed whatever international credibility he might have retained since his Bar Ilan speech accepting the 2-state solution, and may be the single most potent contribution to a possible imposed settlement – a much worse one for Israel than an agreed one. Bibi has spoken of 2-states, but has acted differently, constantly pursuing right-wing votes by irresponsible nationalistic activity. His words and his actions have appeared to be diametrically opposite. So when he says he will NOT support a Palestinian state, it is far more credible, since it is what he is DOING by his actions. HE has proven himself to be a liar, as he was openly called by many respected and respectable politicians from his own party, who left politics in disgust over his behaviour, stating they could no longer work with such a liar.
    When should Bibi be believed ? When he tries to undo his declarations the day after the elections, or when just before the elections he said the words that gain him votes, and that matched his actions ?
    Israel is facing two tragedies today: The need for a charismatic leader is so strong in the eyes of so many Israelis that they are prepared to accept someone who offers NOTHING except charisma – no direction, no integrity, no honesty.
    The second tragedy is the Messianic nationalism, that has risen here. The drive to settle the territories that are populated by millions of muslims is like the drive of the lemmings to the sea – it is national and political suicide. Worst of all is the fact that the settlement activity is so rejected by the entire world, that all the just claims Israel has are swept away and ignored because we are atempting to be colonialists in the modern age, and Bibi’s latest statement against arabs spit in the face of the values expected from a country who supposedly wants democracy. Canthe Jews really appear to be so nationalistic, in the very worst possible way ? A nice young religious person I buy food from recently explained to me that we need the West Bank so there will room for all the Jews. I shuddered and did not point out whose ideology that was.
    There is nothing more damaging to Israel than this settlement policy, that has NO FUTURE. Ask any right-winger what will be the situation in 30 years time if we do not separate – and YOU WILL GET NO ANSWER ! If the right wing wakes up from their emotional thinking and sees where they are leading us, as happened to Sharon, we might be able to reach the goal of survival in the long run. But more likely, we will be forced to accept an imposed settlement by the western world, despite the infantile bluster of the right wing.

    • Historian

      You have no idea how wrong you are,, It is obvious that your political and otherwise prejudice to Natanyahu is glaring. I really do not need to even try to rebuff your litany of wrong statements. All I could do ia shake my head at reading about someone so wrong. Tell that to the Israeli people who voted and agreed with PM Natanyahu.