Bibi Bluff

In his overly choreographed visit to Washington DC this week, our Prime Minister once again did a wonderful song and dance at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, and the Jews of America lapped it up. He gave all the right sound bites, and now everything is just wonderful between him and President Obama, between the state of Israel and the United States of America.

Once again, he sang the two-state song which the Americans and Europeans like hearing. After all, they sing it all day, every day, even though they know, as we all know, that it has very little chance of happening during Mr. Obama’s last year as President, or during the next two years of Netanyahu’s unrivaled reign as the Prime Minister of Israel (Heaven help us!).

But if one listened carefully, he slipped in his little condition that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This time he did it quietly and a bit more subtley than he usually does, but it was there every time.  Why?

The answer is that he knows very well that the Palestinian leadership will not do this. It is a total non-starter, and he is well aware of this.  The Palestinian leadership has already recognized the state of Israel many times, in all the agreements up to now, but they are not likely to become Zionists and sing Hatikvah before they go to sleep at night!

So, once again, Bibi is bluffing. He gives lip service to the two-state solution without having any serious intention of doing what needs to be done to achieve it. In his world view, and that of his advisors, it is just a clever sound bite, another day of spinning the news, so we will win the propaganda war. Neither he nor most people in his right-wing government have any genuine commitment to the two-state solution.  Most of them prefer the ongoing status quo, which they think will enable them to continue to occupy another people and get away with it forever, as the state of Israel has  have done for the past 48 years.

In fact, many of the politicians to the right of Netanyahu within his own party openly oppose the two-state solution idea which is the international anthem of “the International Community”. Not to mention several of the most outrageous right-wing politicians in parties to the right of the Likud, such as the Jewish Home, whose leading lights helped incite the Palestinians into another mini-Intifada last month by all their provocative and unnecessary statements and actions concerning the assertion of Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount.

Does the world buy Bibi’s bluff? Not at all.  Most world leaders—and many intelligent people in Israel– see it as just more stalling for time. But he thinks that he can win the propaganda war by putting on a good show in Washington DC. What is needed instead of bluffing and putting on good shows in the face of the cameras of the world?

What is needed now and in the future is a serious commitment to making peace between Israel and the Palestinians– not cosmetic “gestures” and not more posturing, but the development of creative and pragmatic plans than can resolve the conflict.

At the moment, this commitment is lacking, and therefore most people in Israel and in Palestine are in a mood of political despair. The Palestinian people also see that their leader, who will retire soon, has not been able to make the painful compromises that will be necessary to achieve a peace agreement, which his people need in order to live normal lives.

It is high time for the bluffing to end and for our leaders –on both sides — to get serious about peace. Otherwise, we will, Heaven Forbid, continue to live by the sword for many years to come, as our Prime Minister advised us recently. This is not divinely ordained. It can be changed. But we will probably need a change of leadership to make this happen in our lifetime.

In the meantime, those of us who are still committed to peacemaking—preparing peace treaties between governments—and peacebuilding—changing the hearts and minds of the people on both sides for understanding the possibilities and the benefits of peaceful coexistence—will have our work cut out for us. Despite the ongoing political stalemate, our job is to keep the dream of peace alive, and to do whatever we can, even in small ways, to build relationships between Israelis and Palestinians now and in the future, for a life of mutual understanding and cooperation that can eventually lead to peaceful relations between our two peoples.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr Ron Kronish is the Founding Director the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), which he directed for 25 years. Now retired, he is an independent educator, author, lecturer, writer, speaker, blogger and consultant. He is the editor of 5 books, including Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel--Voices for Interreligious Dialogue (Paulist Press, 2015). His new book, The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, a View from Jerusalem, was published by Hamilton Books, an imprint of Rowman and LIttlefield, in September 2017. He is currently working on a new book about peacebuilders in Israel and Palestine.