The composition of a broad coalition government presents opportunities to Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in several directions, including the possibility of
renewed dialogue with the Palestinians. The problem, however, is that this
government will have first to address 10 basic paradoxes that lie at the heart
of Israel’s foreign policy, which thwart the possible achievement of Israel’s
desired goals. Let me briefly enumerate these paradoxes: 1. Israeli leaders
often declare – even shout out – their willingness and readiness to invest every
effort to advance peace. In reality, however, the Zionist movement and the State
of Israel have formally offered only one peace plan to the Arabs in more than
100 years of conflict (the 1989 Shamir plan).
All other plans originated
with third parties (mainly the US) or the Arab side. In addition, Israel missed
several opportunities for peace (or at least for some serious negotiations). One
such missed opportunity was the Arab Peace Initiative (API), presented in March
2002 by the Arab League. Israel has never officially responded to that
initiative. The API is still on the table, as indicated by the most recent Arab
summit, held in Baghdad in March 2012.
2. Most of the parties in the
political system (Likud, Labor, Kadima and more) support the notion of a
two-state solution. This was also declared by Netanyahu at his Bar-Ilan speech
in 2009. Yet, Israel continues to build and expand the settlements which
undermine the very essence and logic of the two-state solution. The expansion of
current settlements and new ones stand in contrast to several agreements signed
by Israel (the Oslo accords; the Sharm e-Sheikh Memorandum in 1999), which
stipulate that nothing should be done to change the status quo.
continuation of the settlement activity undermines another target of Israeli
foreign policy: the desire to be a Jewish state – and be recognized as such.
This settlement activity – if continued without abatement – will eventually lead
to a de facto one-state solution, which is considered a by many Israelis as the
end of the Jewish state, taking into account the demographic trend among Jews
4. Israel supports the idea of a unified Jerusalem, which in
reality means controlling and absorbing some 300,000 Palestinians in east
Jerusalem – a policy that also contradicts the very essence of the desire to
establish a Jewish state. In addition, it contradicts the Israeli refusal to
admit more than a few thousand Palestinians refugees within a future
5. Israel recognized the international boundary as a mandatory
border with Egypt and Jordan (and negotiated with Syria on its basis), yet it is
unwilling to recognize the 1967 Green Line as a mandatory border with the
6. Israel advocates and supports the principle of
democracy, but in reality it is against the Arab Spring and the possibility that
Arab regimes will become democratic because it fears the rise of Islamic
7. Israel fears the rise of Islamic fundamentalist regimes, but
in reality Saudi Arabia – which twice in the past proffered peace plans (the
Fahd Plan, 1981- 82; the API, or “Abdallah initiative,” as noted, in February
2002) – is “a fundamentalist Islamic state.”
Therefore, an Islamic state
is not necessarily an immediate threat to Israel.
8. Israel claims that
there is no Palestinian partner, but in reality PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and
Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are perhaps the most moderate Palestinian leaders to
date and he is in favor of a solution based on the 1967 borders.
Israel is the strongest state in the Middle East militarily, with the possession
of nuclear capability (according to foreign reports), yet it views the
Palestinians, and certainly Iran, as existential threats.
10. The Jews
came to Palestine to establish an independent Jewish state and in such a way to
disengage themselves from the ghetto mentality they were subjected to in Europe
and the Arab countries.
Yet, several generations later, they have managed
– with the help of their neighbors – to establish a new ghetto in the Middle
East surrounded by walls and fences.
Obviously, the question is what to
do next. Well, the first step is to recognize these paradoxes in Israeli policy.
Second, there must be an attempt to address them by initiating a major change in
the thinking which guides the policy. The continuation of the more-or-less same
policy will lead to the perpetuation of these paradoxes in the Israeli foreign
policy. The entrance of the more moderate Kadima Party to the coalition creates
an opportunity for addressing these paradoxes.
The writer is a professor
in the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University