Other than a few oddballs who, every once in a while when there is a special occasion, like a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry or a noteworthy statement by this or that Arab statesman commenting about the need for a political solution of the conflict with the Palestinians, the Israel political scene has basically decided to disregard that single most important and urgent issue of our lives.
The West-Bank is sizzling, terrorism is raising its ugly head, the missiles from Gaza maintain an intermittent drizzle, the Arab world around us is seething, Europe and the US are pushing but our government has, for all intents and purposes decided to drop the subject. A peace process is not opportune. It might cause a fight in the coalition. Lapid and Bennett may have a fall-out.
The only legitimate foreign policy issues on the agenda are Iran and Syria, both for their non-conventional weapons threat, if for no other reason. And truth be told, we do not really view them as foreign policy issues – they are security issues only. Frankly speaking, all Israel is doing is contemplating when to launch an attack and at which target or whether to wait for the US to do so.
Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, rarely a substantive source of power in the past has now been rendered totally impotent. The parliamentary opposition, after having successfully changed the nation’s agenda from a frustrating and never-converging peace process to the burning social and economic issues of the day, still has absolutely no clue nor does it seem to have a vision for how to direct the nation towards a more balanced agenda. Nor is it particularly eager or able to push the government to do the inevitable now, negotiate with the Palestinians before the conflict blows, yet again.
It appears that at this time, there is no leadership, neither in the coalition nor in the opposition, ready to advance the peace process. A severely handicapped Tsipi Livni is all there is left to raise a lonely voice on the one issue that is the main theme of her political reinvention.
In a situation like this where there is a looming threat, an overpowering concern, a real critical issue that is not being dealt with, the public really does not have a choice: Unless we have absolutely no problem gliding effortlessly into the next intifada, the next exchange with Hizbollah or worse, a violent interlude on several fronts at the same time, we have to act. We cannot sit idly by, contemplating our navel and fret if we should agree to a 1% forfeit in salary improvements for the public service or be willing to suffer an additional increase in VAT while there is a serious threat to the future of the nation.
And we have done it before, with less of a threat looming: Almost half a million citizens found time to go into the streets and force the government to address serious economic and social issues that had been left unattended for years. And lo and behold, the government found the means to deal with at least some of those concerns. The Trachtenberg committee went quite a way in advancing some of the more serious issues embraced by the public protest only to be thwarted by an election outcome that was, in some ways, the opposite of the what the public protest movement had hoped for.
If the Israeli public doesn’t take the initiative, gets its act together and without much further ado marches on Jerusalem to convince our fearful politicians that this is crunch time, that we have to act, seize the moment and negotiate this conflict away before it consumes us, then we deserve no better.