The Promised Podcast — a podcast recorded in Tel Aviv by three thoughtful left-of-center Israelis — did a search of over 7,000 on-line Israeli election ads and found almost no mention of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by any political party platform except one. These commentators suggest that the occupation may be more of an issue in the 2020 American elections than in the Israeli election, should the American far left-wing Jewish organization Ifnotnow succeed in making it so.
The Blue-White, Democratic Union, Labor, and Likud parties mention many issues of concern to Israelis, but post nothing about the Palestinian-Israel conflict, arguably one central existential challenge facing Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Only Ayelet Shaked, the leader of the United Right list, declared her coalition’s commitment to the unity of the Land of Israel, its opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state, and its opposition to territorial withdrawal from the West Bank.
Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank and Israeli settlement building have long been issues dividing the left and the right in Israel and the American Jewish community. But in this election cycle, they are non-issues. Why?
The Promised Podcast commentators suggest that the lack of debate is testament to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ideological and political victory over the middle-left on the two-state issue, and that he successfully brought Israelis to accept the status quo, an unsustainable position for the continuation of both a Jewish and democratic state.
The Promised Podcast panelists suggest that Bibi’s diplomatic skills and Israel’s economic success under his leadership – despite the widening gap between the Israeli upper and middle classes – have persuaded Israelis who don’t feel the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a daily basis (as Palestinians do under occupation) that there are other more critical issues facing Israel. Israelis may have convinced themselves that they can have a decent life without solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The panelists acknowledged that the lack of discussion about the occupation may be a sign that no party has a viable peace plan on the left or the right, or it might suggest that everyone knows already where the political parties stand; Blue & White led by former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, the Democratic Union led by Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz, Labor MK Stav Shaffrir, and former Labor PM Ehud Barak, and Labor leader Amir Peretz (should they constitute the next governing coalition in a middle-left government) will make moves to encourage the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
IfNotNow, a left-wing American Jewish organization, advocates for the end of American support for the occupation and takes no position on the two-state solution nor on Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish democratic state (see http://ifnotnowmovement.org/about-us/our-principles/). It has said that it will strive to make Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians an issue in the 2020 presidential campaign.
Polls indicate, however, that IfNotNow does not represent the vast majority of opinion held by American Jews. According to a J Street 2018 survey following the November 2018 elections, 78% of American Jews supports a two states for two peoples resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (see https://jstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/J-Street-2018-Election-Night-Survey-Presentation-110818.pdf).
The Israeli election is five weeks away. The results will determine the course Israel takes relative to many issues including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
What can we do from America? We can support a bill making its way through Congress (HR 326) that affirms American support for a two states for two people’s. HR 326 currently has 164 co-sponsors. If your congressional representative has not yet endorsed this bill, I urge you to contact him/her and ask them to become a co-sponsor.
The Promised Podcast episode The elephant has left the building can be heard here.