In all probability, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu will lead the next right-wing Israeli government. The Labor Party has been dead in the water since Oslo failed at Camp David in 2000. Hence the Israeli people will not choose a mild center-left coalition led by the centrist party Yesh Atid (There is a future), if it also includes Labor. Over the course of the last two decades, it has become a truism of Israeli politics that to make a future peace offering, there must be a right-wing component. However, another extreme right-wing Israeli government led by Mr. Netanyahu will spell the intensification of what can only be described as the inexorable march toward political disaster.
Israel’s central strategic relationship is, of course, with the US. But American domestic politics are certainly not what they used to be. The bi-partisan cooperation of the post-war era has all but collapsed. Now with the passing of Senator John McCain, the last great Senate unifier has been silenced. The US has been split politically into two waring camps. Benjamin Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing Israeli coalition have become thoroughly identified with the Republican Party and its new master, Donald Trump. Americans on the Left (and many US Jews) detest Trump with an overriding passion. Over the course of the last two years, they have become hyper-critical of Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing coalition. The new ascendant wing of the Democratic Party has moved farther and farther away from the Jewish state. In the process, they simply no longer subscribe to the historic Israeli narrative — that peace is primary, and that Palestinian rejection is what holds the project back.
But the vast majority of the Israeli public knows that the Palestinians still search for a way to defeat Israel. Whether it be through the two-state solution (the complete withdrawal of the IDF from the West Bank), the one-state solution and the right-of-return (Israel with a distinct Palestinian majority), or the internal collapse of Israeli national political cohesion, the Jews of the Holy Land know that the Palestinians have not surrendered their dream of Greater Palestine. This dream encompasses the geography from the desert of the Transjordan all the way to the Mediterranean Sea (the lands of the original Mandate).
But the US Democratic Party doesn’t understand Palestinian nuance. The party is drifting toward the far-Left, and Israel under Netanyahu is becoming ostracized. Sooner or later, the Democratic Party will once again become ascendant. This could easily happen by the year 2020. There is only one solution to Israel’s political dilemma with America’s increasingly fractured and see-sawing politics — a grand bargain between all the truly pragmatic Israeli elements of the right and the centrist Yesh Atid. Israel needs a new, moderate face at the head of a national unity government. This national coalition could also include the most non-doctrinaire elements of both the moderate Left and Right, and therefore span the entire pragmatic spectrum of a new and vibrant Israeli center. With such a development, there could be a fine political future in Israel and with its relationship to the Diaspora.
But what about the two-state solution? A national unity government can only offer the Palestinians a watered-down version of this eroded plan. Such a proposal would certainly be rejected. Hence the two-state solution can never work within a national unity context led by the Center: That is, Yesh Atid. Yet this same Israeli national unity government (as directed toward liberal American Jewry, the US Democratic Party, and the world’s great powers) can only be successful diplomatically with a strong peace foundation.
What to do? This is precisely where a 180-degree alteration in strategy might just work. In order for a Center-led national unity government to be successful, there must be a dramatic shift in the moribund peace equation. The shift I envision is from the local arena of the Israeli-Palestinian context to the larger regional balance of power. This regional context is ripe for a Sunni-Arab state and Israeli rapprochement. Also a truly viable solution to the prospect of the Iranian nuclear program has had neither majority Israeli nor American support. Donald Trump called Obama’s JCPOA the “worst deal ever”. Most people in Israel and the US would agree.
The regional context for Arab-Israeli cooperation must become outwardly dynamic, in order for the Sunni states to have the political cover necessary to proceed. If the problems of the region are hegemony and also the potential for the proliferation of nuclear weapons, a regional peace solution must become paramount and all-encompassing. A Zone of Peace — jointly established between Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the other Gulf states, Jordan and Egypt — could work toward envisioning a nuclear-weapons-free zone and the absence of war between these states. It is within this context (the absence of nuclear weapons and war) that diplomatic relations could be achieved sooner rather than later.
In other words, a world shattering diplomatic accomplishment — through a conference of friendly Middle East states — to set the stage for an ongoing dialog about a peaceful future for the entire region.
Eventually all friendly states of the region would be invited to the ongoing dialog, and unfriendly states could be isolated, both regionally and internationally. Also, outside powers could be asked to lend diplomatic weight and UN support toward both the non-hegemonic Zone of Peace and its nuclear-weapons-free zone. All forms of hegemony within the Zone of Peace would be considered illegal. This would also include foreign hegemony through land, air and naval resources. The Middle East could eventually become free of all weapons of mass destruction. Of course, this will be a long-term project. But states who refuse to cooperate could come under the most restrictive international sanctions.
Yes, Israel can have a future. And so too can all the Arabs, Turks and Iranians living within the region. But the era when the Israeli-Palestinian crisis drove the politics of the Middle East has been surpassed by the prospect of Iranian-Shiite attempts at empire building, nuclear weapon facilitation and missile based deployments. This has now become true throughout the entirety of the Levant. Prime Minister Netanyahu and the extreme Israeli right-wing have no long-term strategy for a future relationships with their Muslim neighbors.
Without a long-term strategy, Israel has no future. This is a human, political, and theological travesty. Israel needs a new orientation toward peace. The Israeli people, and all the world’s Jews, need to understand that the might of the Jewish state does not come from atomic weapon systems. For millennia Jews have believed that might can only come from G-d alone. King David taught us this essential lesson over 3000 years ago. Only with G-d’s help can Zion be redeemed. And only through peace is redemption possible.
Jews have always prayed for peace within human history. We do this three times a day, every day, because it is also G-d’s strong desire that human beings will achieve a permanent social harmony. Atomic weapons are the antithesis of our historic relationship with the G-d of Israel. These weapons are sins against G-d and the very future of His creation. Such weapons systems are the precise point upon which secular and religious Zionism fracture in total. This can only be true because Judaism, through Religious Zionism, makes no sense in the unredeemed world of Middle East nuclear proliferation.
Many religious and traditional Jews could support a national unity government. It should be led by Yesh Atid because they represent the balance between a pragmatic Likud and a pragmatic Labor. But to really be successful in today’s Israel, such a government must advocate a new blueprint for regional and international peace; such a government must portray its blueprint with a strong hint toward a Divine Plan. Traditional Jews of all stipes would rally to such a plan. Nowadays the vast majority of Zionists have rejected its atheistic form and look instead toward a long Divine Promise. Redemption requires compromise through the complete absence of coercion. There should be no coercion within religion nor between religions. Peace and national unity are our future!