Just what exactly will it take for Tzipi Livni to do the right thing and quit Binyamin Netanyahu’s government? What possible justification can she find for sitting around a cabinet table that’s tilting toward its most right-wing, extremist element, Bayit Yehudi? How can she claim to be having a moderating influence on a coalition that is doing all in its power to burn Israel’s bridges with its most important western allies?
The only thing Livni’s continued possession of her cabinet seat brings with it is a sense of security for Prime Minister Netanyahu as he concentrates on his own political survival ‒ to the detriment of Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.
There should be no doubt about it: Netanyahu’s do-nothing diplomatic policy is paving the way for the eventual establishment of a binational state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Without a determined effort on Israel’s part to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians based on the principle of two states for two peoples, the Zionist dream of an independent Jewish national home, based on democracy and social equality, will finally shatter due to the impossibility of maintaining an occupation that has already gone on for far too long.
Netanyahu prides himself on being the master of the message, on his ability to make his point on the international stage, but yet, once again, the prime minister’s words are falling on deaf ears. His call to the international community to boycott the Palestinian national unity government on the grounds that it is supported by Hamas has been roundly ignored.
This is hardly surprising. The new Palestinian government does not include any Hamas ministers and, as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has clarified, is committed to the principles of non-violence, negotiation, recognizing the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and the Quartet principles, which lay down the rules for any Hamas participation in the peace process.
It therefore should not have shocked anybody, particularly not the prime minister who has always seen himself as the most American-aware of all Israeli leaders, given the fact that he spent much of his younger days living and working in the US, that Washington was quick to announce that it would work with this new government, thus paving the way for the European Union and others to follow suit.
INSTEAD OF welcoming the opportunity to work opposite a Palestinian government that now represents both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as opposed to just the West Bank, the Netanyahu-led government has made itself the target of international criticism due to Housing Minister Uri Ariel’s predictable “Zionist response” of announcing more construction plans for Jewish housing over the Green Line.
(And given the refusal of Ariel and his party leader Naftali Bennett’s refusal to recognize the right of Palestinian self-determination, one wonders just how Israel can claim, with a straight face, that it can’t work with a Palestinian government that’s supported by a movement that refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist.) The recent collapse of the peace talks with the Palestinians created a diplomatic vacuum, but Netanyahu failed to seize the opportunity to fill it with an Israeli initiative, due to his fear of alienating Bennett, Ariel and the hard-right Knesset members who now fill the Likud’s backbench seats. This missed opportunity handed the advantage to the Palestinians who have once again managed to portray Israel as the intolerant rejectionists in the eyes of the international community.
What Israel needs is a new leader who can bring a fresh tone of voice and outlook to the table. Someone who can show the Palestinians and the world at large that Israel is serious about reaching a peace agreement, precisely because it is in Israel’s own interests to make the concessions vital if any such deal is to be made.
Before Shavuot, Labor leader Isaac Herzog outlined such a program, calling it the “Plan to Save Zionism.” It calls for any final agreement to be based on the 1967 borders, with land swaps to take into account the settlement blocs which will become part of Israel; a disarmed Palestinian state; Israeli military presence for a limited time in the Jordan Valley, to then be replaced by an Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian force; the Palestinian right of return will be to the state of Palestine, Israel will accept only a limited number of refugees; the Clinton parameters will apply to Jerusalem – Jewish neighborhoods will belong to Israel, Arab areas to Palestine, east Jerusalem will be the Palestinian capital but there will be one unified municipality and the Holy Basin will be administered by a special arrangement; and the Arab world will be invited to sign their own peace agreements with Israel.
This plan is not particularly original, but then it doesn’t need to be – these are the basics on which any deal will be made. If there is little in this plan with which Livni disagrees, she should do the honorable thing and resign, joining forces with Herzog to start the parliamentary ball rolling to bring about the end of the failed Netanyahu government.
The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.