Israel needs a Labour led government to prevent the Likud and its right wing allies from turning it into a binational state

 The peace process with the Palestinians collapses and the right rejoices. The phrase: ‘Be careful for what you wish for comes to mind.’  For what is the alternative to the peace negotiations and the two state solution.  It is the anti-Zionist option, the one state option, the bi-national state, something that should be anathema to all Zionists. It would be the end of the Zionist dream.

Martin Indyk Special Envoy to the Israel –Palestinian negotiations hit the nail on the head when he recently said at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that: “The settlement movement may well drive Israel into an irreversible bi-national reality. If you care about Israel’s future, you should understand that rampant settlement activity especially in the midst of negotiations doesn’t just undermine Palestinian trust in the purpose of the negotiations; it can undermine Israel’s Jewish future. If this continues, it could mortally wound the idea of Israel as a Jewish state and that would be a tragedy of historic proportions.”

During the nine months of negotiations, Netanyahu’s government broke a ten year record for settlement activity. Tenders for building 4,800 units were announced and planning was advanced for another 8,000 units.   Indeed, according to the Israeli Bureau of Census and Statistics, from 2012 to 2013, construction starts in the settlements more than doubled.

Where are the discussions about the consequences of a failed peace process or the consequence that will flow from increased settlement activity or from doing nothing in the cafes of Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem or Acre? There are absolutely none. The status quo has given Israelis a false sense of optimism that things can go on like this indefinitely, but the status quo can’t and won’t last forever. Israel is sleepwalking into a   binational disaster and the Israeli public is totally oblivious as to what is happening

The Palestinians have decided to go down the international route but ultimately as former chief peace negotiator Gilead Sher has pointed out, a two state solution will only come into fruition through “negotiations, hard work, painful compromises and constructive measures, not via UN votes and upgraded UN statuses.”

It is very unlikely that the Palestinians will achieve what they want through international forums, but will then  proceed to sit tight and wait a couple of years to see what will be the outcome of the next national elections in Israel.

The next elections in Israel will be the most important in its history.  The central issue at stake will be whether Israel remains a Jewish and democratic state or will become a binational sate. A vote for the Labour Party at the next election will be a vote to guarantee that Israel remains a Jewish and democratic state.

A vote for Likud is to condemn Israel to becoming a bi-national state and the possible “Lebanonization” of Israel. Likud Members of Knesset Danny Danon and Zippi Hotovely make it absolutely clear that the Likud’s   aim is to actively promote the anti-Zionist  one state solution by having  more and more settlers living in the West Bank to choke off the possibility a future Palestinian state whether in 5, 10, 15, 20 or 100 year’s time.

As the Anti-Zionist,  Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada has  stated on Al Jazerra…”The proposals from the Israali right wing, however inadequate.. add a little  bit to the hope (of bringing an end to Jewish Israel)…. We should watch how this debate develops and engage and encourage it.”

Israel needs a strong Labour Party not only to prevent the nightmare of the binational state and the end of Israel, but also to shape a better future for its citizens.   Just look at the social protest movement of 2011.  Why did the movement ultimately fail despite the fact that thousands and thousands of people took to the streets?  It failed because it needed a strong bloc of Knesset members inside the Knesset supporting the aims of the movement.  But what happened, Barak bolted from the Labour Party in January  2011 and Labour  were down to 8 Knesset members  and Kadima, a capitalist party under Zippi Livni with no roots,  was never going to put forward the case for social reform. Social change only ever comes about through a mixture of extra-parliamentary and parliamentary activity, and in 2011 the essential supportive parliamentary activities by Members of Knesset to complement the protestors was just not there.

Just imagine what a difference there would have been if the Labour party, a party truly committed to social justice had 28 seats in the Knesset in 2011, instead of Kadima.  A lot of social reforms demanded by the protestors would now be legislation and Israel would be a more fairer and just society because those Labour members would be arguing day and night for those reforms and Netanyahu would have been compelled to act for fear of the fact that failure to do so will see him ousted as Prime Minister and replaced by a Labour alternative.

If the Israeli public decide to give Netanyhu another democratic mandate at the next election and he forms a similar coalition as he has today.  It will be at this point that the Palestinians in my view will announce to the world in 2017 on the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, and 100 years since the Balfour Declaration that they do not see Netanyahu as someone who will ever give them a state, and that they intend to dismantle the Palestinian authority, and demand instead their full political and legal rights throughout the land of Israel. based on one person, one vote. The demand that 2 million Palestinians on the West Bank and 300,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem are given the right to vote in Knesset elections.  Indeed, Abu Mazen’s son has already stated in an interview with the New York Times that “maybe the two state solution is dead and if people don’t want to give me a country give me my legal rights as a civilian.”

The only thing that will prevent this from happening is the election of a Herzog Labour led government committed to negotiating with the Palestinians in good faith; a willingness to be flexible where need be, while at the same time ensuring that Israel’s security needs are met.

There is however a big question mark as whether there is a partner on the other side. In 2008, Abbas went missing rather than respond to Olmert’s proposals to end the conflict, and as Martin Indyk observed Abbas finds it extremely difficult to make the necessary compromises. It is far easier for him to sign up to international treaties than take hard decisions which by their very nature require difficult compromises.  And his tie up with Hamas has complicated matters even further.  As State Department spokeswoman Jen Paski has stated:”It’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist.” On the other hand as Gilead Sher has pointed out, “the reconciliation and the anticipated unity government in its wake are better than the current split between Gaza and the West Bank- if, and only if, Hamas recognizes Israel, renounces terror and honours past agreements.”

Even if there isn’t a partner on the other side measures should be taken to ensure that  whenever there will be a Palestinian partner,  the two state solution is still feasible and can still be implemented, not as a present to the Palestinians, but because it is in Israel’s interests to do so. Ephraim Halevy, former head of the Mossad recently said, “The two state solution is the least probable option, but the most desirable option, while the one state solution is the most probable, but least desirable option.”

Labour should be guided by the principle that it will take whatever measures are needed to ensure Israel’s long term survival as a Jewish and democratic state including the freezing of settlement growth if need be, and the relocation of settlers living outside the settlement blocs to ensure that even in 2, 5, 10, 25, 50 or 100 years time, the option of the two state solution can still be implemented.

The existence of Israel depends on a revitalized Labour Party.  All those who believe in a two state solution should join the Labour Party to help build it up as a credible alternative to this do nothing Likud led government. It is Labour’s historic mission to make the two state solution, not only the most desirable, but also the most probable. The Likud will never be in a position to make peace with the Palestinians, because the Party is under the thumb of the settlement lobby. Ultimately, only a Labour led government can end the 100 year conflict with the Palestinians and bring peace to the people of Israel.


About the Author
Ze'ev Portner from London is a former political adviser to British Labour Member of Parliament, Louise Ellman. He has written briefings for both Tony Blair and Jack Straw when they were prime minister and foreign secretary of the United Kingdom. In 2012, Portner qualified as an Israeli attorney, undertaking his legal training in the law offices of Gilead Sher and Co. He is currently working as a copyright law specialist at the National library of Israel. He also guest lectures at Greenwich, Liverpool (UK) and Tel Aviv Universities.