For decades, the Left has not been promoting a peace process with the Palestinians because it has not been in a position of power. The job has remained in the hands of NGOs that are primarily concerned with promoting the implementation of the Two State Solution, how to manage the separation from the Palestinians and the withdrawal of settlers, but never how to create the political majority needed in the Knesset to implement Two States or any other solution in the first place.
At the same time, the Left’s proposal to end the conflict and for all intents and purposes the only proposal on the agenda, dividing the Land of Israel into two states, has unraveled for several reasons: The decades long Israeli settlement of the West Bank abetted by not only right-wing governments; Palestinian stubbornness preventing progress towards an agreement; ineffective international efforts to force an end to the occupation and American reluctance to procure an agreement with single minded determination. Effectively the two-state solution has been rendered irrelevant because clearly it has become impossible to implement politically, if not on the ground. Nothing has demonstrated this more than the recently tabled “Deal of the Century” which has made a mockery of US even-handedness while completely obliterating a reasonable appropriation of territory both sides could live with.
The Israeli public, by and large, has already come to terms with the demise of the Two State Solution even though no alternative is on the horizon. Politicians on the Left nevertheless continue to do their best to promote the Two State dogma, regardless of the realities on the ground. Meantime support for this solution among the public, both Israeli and Palestinian, has dropped below 50% while a majority of 2/3 in both populations agree that the Two-State Solution cannot be implemented in the foreseeable future.
In this situation, to only consider separation and/or a Two State Solution without considering any alternatives cannot, in all seriousness be justified but that is exactly what the Left in the Knesset has been doing.
The Left should ask itself in all honesty how the separation of peoples on an ethnic/ religious basis, the central component of the Two-State Solution, has become the central objective of the parliamentary Left in Israel. How did separate Jewish and Palestinian nation states become a far more important political vision than the equitable distribution of civil and economic rights for all residents in the Land of Israel? Why is it that the Left has no problem insisting on the huge expenses needed to separate two populations that have actually physically and economically integrated over the last 52 years and even longer? Where else in the world is there such a Left?
We are trapped today between a weakened and disoriented Left who sticks to an unimplementable Two State dogma and an empowered Right that has all the energy that comes with the messianic settler movement that is part of it. However, while its political representatives in the Knesset can largely achieve what they want, the Right totally lacks any realistic long-term vision. What both, Left and Right do have in common is the demand for security control over the entire area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, regardless of the exact permanent status agreement reached with the Palestinians, if any.
Meanwhile what the Israeli public wants is a degree of separation from the Palestinians, it insists on security control over the entire region, it largely rejects the idea of an independent Palestinian State, does not want to lose access to ancestral Jewish land in the West Bank, and certainly does not want a repetition of a traumatic forced withdrawal in which tens of thousands of settlers (or more) would be removed from the West Bank. Such a withdrawal would have to be part of any realistic scenario of the Two-State Solution.
The Right, for now, is unwilling or incapable of shaping a political vision that is not ethnocentric and exclusive, a vision that can include all the inhabitants of the region and provide them with civil rights, equal economic opportunity, a feeling of citizenship and in addition could gain international legitimacy. The Left, if it only was interested, could certainly come up with such a vision.
What is needed is out-of-the-box thinking along with a return to historical policy proposals that were seriously discussed by the Zionist movement in the 1930s and 1940s, including proposals to include areas between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River in one federal state. This would mean a real paradigm shift and the adoption of a policy likely much closer to that originally contemplated by the founders of the state who always understood that founding Israel will create a bi-national reality and thus deliberately avoided the establishment of a Jewish Nation State. This in stark contrast to the current political leadership that has only recently legislated the Nation State Law.
This means bringing back the values of the Left and the ideology that is part of Zionist thought that led to the establishment of the state and called in the Declaration of Independence to foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; to be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; to ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; to guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; to safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and to be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
Why wouldn’t the public connect with a proposal that ends the occupation, establishes the security borders of Israel along the Jordan River, avoids withdrawal of settlements and separation, retains a 2/3 Jewish majority, gives equal citizenship to every citizen and leads the state back on its righteous path ?