On the eve of yet more peace negotiations, one gets the very strong feeling of déjà-vu. The same faces, the same obstacles, the same slippery slope to nowhere. If nothing else, the last twenty years have taught us that the catchphrase of “two states” is doomed to disappointment, where the cost of failure to learn the appropriate lessons is becoming ever steeper. No one has asked the question as to why. Why has this process always failed? Why are we so obstinate when it comes to drawing the obvious conclusions? Our Sages say that “if one errs, one should repent.” We must repair the damage.
One central obstacle is that a significant section of the Israeli public is at best skeptical of expanding a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria. In all of my policy discussions, whether in the Knesset or other settings, I never cease to be shocked by the hectoring tone of those people who cling to the notion of a “two-state solution.” I am scandalized that the condemnation of “Jewish (!) settlement” in Judea and Samaria has degenerated into an obsessive frenzy of hatred.
The point where reasoned political discourse has been replaced by the delegitimisation of those pioneers of the settler movement has come and gone. There is no hint of empathy in their opinions which would cause the uprooting of thousands from their homes. On the contrary, the schadenfreude such people display is palpable. This loathing gradually informs their entire outlook. It has reached a point that I feel that sometimes their vision of the “two-state solution” is not one between Israel and the Palestinians, but within Israeli society itself between those who would see Jewish sovereignty throughout the Land of Israel and those who oppose it.
There is however an even more pressing problem. The Right has for many years not provided an alternative to the “two-state solution.” It has been official government policy for so long that opposition to the formation of a Palestinian state is viewed as anachronistic and backward. The failure of all governments to recognize the gains made in the Six-Day War through Israeli sovereignty has created vacuum for any alternative to the “two state solution.” This silence has allowed the political discourse to be hijacked by interests which have been and continue to be opposed to that of the State of Israel. This is however no excuse for the failure of the Right to advance an alternative.
The impotence of the Right and the consequences of its inaction run far deeper than one might think. Those identified as being on the Right are constantly accused of being timid. Thursday 17th May 1977, the day the Likud came to power, represents a day when the Right thought that its dreams would be fulfilled, though with the benefit of hindsight we see that the Left held sway even then. In 1979, Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords with Egypt, perhaps the exceptional case of the success of the formula of “land for peace.”
From that moment the standard was set for all subsequent right-wing leaders who had been previously committed to safeguarding the national project; Shamir in Madrid, Netanyahu and the Wye Accords. Without doubt, the most significant volte-face belongs to Ariel Sharon, originally the father of the settler movement, who became the father and architect of its destruction. This has been a recurring theme for all Right-wing leaders, where they have been buffeted by events as opposed to actively shaping them.
For those who still see Judea and Samaria as an integral part of the State of Israel, this should serve as a wake-up call. We have a duty and a responsibility to advance a well-reasoned alternative that resolves this conflict. Firstly, we must fulfill our responsibility to return Judea and Samaria to mainstream Israeli consciousness. The second point of action would be to extend Israeli citizenship to all the residents of Judea and Samaria. This would be accomplished by a government characterized by self-confidence, secure in the knowledge it would be acting in the best interests of all concerned, not least its Arab minority who would enjoy the widest possible legal protections and economic opportunities in the Middle East.
It is time to end the tradition of obstruction and to stand up and positively, responsibly and confidently advance.