The global Left’s assessment that the Palestinians lack a credible partner for peace in Netanyahu is valid; its validity fails to address whether there are partners for peace in the governing bodies of either sides at present. More importantly, it continues in the same failed track preferred by Western governments to coax leaders into compromise rather than addressing the fundamental lacking trust that could give the solid foundation any future agreement would need to endure.
Many voices throughout the Israeli press these past 8 days (including in this publication) have pointed to the American Left’s astonishment at Netanyahu’s victory as a sharp misunderstanding of the Israeli public; its ill ease with the results of the Lebanon (2000) and Gaza (2005) withdrawals, its unwillingness to gamble on further territorial concessions handed over to a people that are overtly violent towards Israel – even by those groups in Palestinian society who do cooperate with Israel – and that the Right’s support was bolstered by the perception that Israel is being abandoned in the international arena vis-a-vis Iran and the Palestinians. The Right was perceived to stand for Israel regardless the external pressures, while the Left’s promise to mend international ties was deemed either unconvincing, irrelevant and by some even traitorous.
There are seemingly no checks on Palestinian hate rhetoric in media and primary through tertiary education towards Israel, Zionists and Jews at large. This has the double effect of keeping a population utterly convinced of the baseness and inhumanity of its enemy/neighbor, and convinces Jewish Israelis that there is no hope for reconciliation.
There is certainly room for debate about the legitimacy of Gen. El-Sissi’s rise to power; but the Egyptian leader is forging an innovative path that has been desperately needed in the Muslim world for a long time. Following a speech at Al-Azhar University, calling for an end to the glorification of violence in Islamic cultures, the President ordered that Islamic heroes revered for their violence or brutality be stricken from Egyptian textbooks. This is an incredible organic first stride in the Muslim world to fight the prevalence of violent ideologies from the bottom up; rather than allowing the rhetoric fester and produce the likes of the Islamic State, Hamas, Hezbollah and (sadly) countless others.
The undisputed fact is that Israel has control on the ground in the majority of the West Bank. The Israeli electorate has just sent another right-wing government on its way to power. If the world wishes for Israelis to vote for more moderate leaders, it must actively pursue a policy of ripening the circumstances in which Israeli voters will feel secure enough to vote for leaders that espouse dovish views.
There are a number of things that ought to be done and for which, I believe, Israelis would be willing to make some interim concessions should they occur:
1 – Build more Rawabis. The new Palestinian city of Rawabi should be replicated every where possible throughout the West Bank. The first planned Palestinian city has not only provided the immediate economic benefit of jobs for those who built it, but is an important step in changing the nature of clan based affiliations still dominant in Palestinian society. The promise for young couples to be able to afford their own apartment away from their parents allows the focus to be transferred to the promise of a better tomorrow rather than the struggle of the miserable present.
2 – Exert tremendous international pressure on the Palestinians to strike hate speech from their common rhetoric. Israelis will not take Palestinian peace overtures with any seriousness as long as Zionist remains a curse in Palestinian Arabic.
3 – Stand up for Israel at international institutions when (just for example) Israel is the only country in the world singled out for women’s rights abuses. The Israeli public needs to trust not only the seriousness of our neighbors for peace, but also the fairness of our would-be mediators. Europe’s rhetoric towards Israel, and now increasingly the White House’s, engenders enmity rather than a desire for cooperation in the average Israeli.
Conversely, it is the duty of the Israeli public to avoid the lures of jingoism, and to not entrench us in a situation from which there is either no desirable or moral exit. The average Israeli may be right to believe that peace at this moment is impossible, but it would be unforgivably foolish to believe that until peace is ripe, acting as if we have carte blanche in the West Bank wouldn’t produce dire consequences.
If Israel is to retain both its Jewish and democratic character than there is absolutely no alternative to two states for two peoples. Acknowledging that the conflict is not currently ripe for resolution does not mean throwing out the concept of a State of Palestine. The international community and intelligent peace-loving persons on both sides must expend their efforts to transform the atmosphere into one conducive to trust.