Before the ink was dry on the signatures of the new ministers signalling the formation of Israel’s 34th government, the UN, the EU and other major world organizations have already called on Israel to return to the peace process.
Since the last talks failed so abruptly and without an inch of progress, Israel has had elections that resulted in the Prime Minister and the Likud Party remaining in power; Abbas continues as the leader of the Palestinian Authority, a more and more defunct governing body; and Hamas continue to hold their vice like grip over the people of Gaza. What incentive is there for Israel to even contemplate that any return to the peace talks would be anything other than a complete waste of time, energy and money?
Yet Israel MUST return to the peace talks in order to show every interest in finding a sustainable and acceptable agreement. Everyone knows the parameters of where the agreement lies. Everyone also knows that there is only a minute chance of any agreement actually being achieved any time soon. But, and this is the crux of the matter, Israel loses more and more of its international reputation and credibility as each day passes without her showing a willing to achieve peace with the Palestinians.
We can all explain how it is not Israel’s fault that peace talks continually fail; there is a list of offers, made by Israel, rejected by the Palestinians. We can all argue how the Palestinian leadership continue to preach hatred against Israel and Jews with impunity. Yet, we can also show how the real threat of BDS is growing. The political dangers of Israel being taken to the International Criminal Court cannot be taken lightly. The growing risk of a breakdown in economic relations with the EU can cause serious financial problems for Israel. Even FIFA is becoming embroiled in the efforts of the Palestinians to force Israel’s international isolation. And finally, Israel’s long lasting relationship with its strongest and most important ally is fracturing before our eyes. US support is vital for Israel’s security and defence, militarily and politically.
It is irrelevant and unhelpful when Israel and its supporters complain, “But it isn’t our fault!” People don’t listen or care about the facts. If they did, the world would be a very different place. We can cry all we like that the crisis in Syria is more serious and throw out the tragic figures of death and suffering that push into seeming insignificance the comparative numbers from Israel’s conflicts in Gaza. The real fact is that people see Israel differently to other countries in the region and expect them to behave differently. People see Israel and the Palestinian issue as the modern day David and Goliath, with the irony of role reversal, and everyone loves an underdog. The Palestinians have become the cause celebre and that is not going to change any time soon.
Therefore, what is left, is to ‘play the game.’ It is not a matter of whether there is little chance of finding a workable agreement. What is important is any refusal on Israel’s part to search for a suitable agreement is always used by its enemies and opponents to demonstrate the country and its government as evil oppressors of the poor Palestinians. Israel must send a serious team to sit at the table. That team must work with full effort and seriousness and those talks must be recorded so that Israel can demonstrate to the world that it is genuine in its desire to find peace. There is little down side. History has shown that the Palestinian leadership is likely to refuse any offer of an agreement, however close it may be to meeting all their demands. This way, Israel can show that it is working towards peace, removing a genuine threat of isolation in the political world. And should the talks actually prove fruitful then we will have cause to celebrate. Any unwillingness to take part in peace talks simply provides Israel’s enemies with the ammunition to continue to accuse it of suppressing the Palestinians.
If Israel does return to the talks, it can demonstrate that it is serious about peace. It can show how it is making genuine efforts in the face of Palestinian intransigence. It would enable its supporters to be in a stronger position to defend in social media battles, university discourse and parliamentary debates around the world.
So Israel, play the game.