With Labor, there is hope for peace
We can change the public discourse and the reactionary politics of rejectionism. It can be so much better here.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the UN. Photo: Screenshot Al Jazeera
As secretary-general of the Labor Party and as a candidate for Knesset, I want
to make something very clear: If elected, we will fight for traditional Labor
values, we will pursue peace unflinchingly, and we will not be afraid to use the
word “peace” as some have accused us of. And, contrary to the media narrative
this election, it now appears we have a fighting chance of actually changing the
government and ending the diplomatic terrorism of Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor
“Traditional Labor values” means that a Labor-led coalition
would not abdicate its responsibility to pursue peace with the Palestinians and
the Arab states, in line with the Clinton Parameters, in spite of all the
challenges and in spite of the grim national mood.
Peace does not happen
in an instant. All change requires tireless chipping away at something until you
achieve the desired result. But no matter how hopeless things may seem, no
matter how recalcitrant our opponents may be, it is morally bankrupt, not to
mention un-Jewish, to walk away from the table and abdicate your national
As it is written in Ethics of our Fathers: “It is not incumbent
upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from
it.” (Pirkei Avot 2:21)
But that is exactly what this prime minister, who could
now be in his final days in office, has done. I have had a few conversations
with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and we have many, many points of
contention and disagreement, but one thing truly amazes me: Abbas says Netanyahu
is the first prime minister to simply stop talking to the other side.
is almost impossible to imagine, but it utterly fits with the public narrative –
Netanyahu chants the mantra, “There is no partner for peace,” and proceeds to
ignore the enormous challenges we now face in deciding what kind of country
Israel will be in the coming decades.
AND CHALLENGES they are. We have
the same choice today that we had in 1967: annex the West Bank, and give the
Palestinians there citizenship; annex the West Bank, and deny the Palestinians
citizenship; or withdraw to an agreed-upon border.
In fact, the choice is
essentially the same as it was in 1947 when the Zionist movement accepted the
UN’s decision: to partition the country into two states, rather than to create a
bi-national state and thereby Balkanize this conflict indefinitely.
view, to avoid replicating the bitter, bloody experience of the former
Yugoslavia, we must pursue a two-state solution, for the sake of the Jewish
state and the Zionist enterprise and dream.
Besides which, the very idea
that there is “no partner for peace” is an utter fallacy.
We watched this
fallacy play out on television a couple of months ago. Abbas appeared on Israeli
TV and stated that he has no right to return to his birth town of Safed, the
city in which I was also born, in Israel’s north. “Palestine now for me is the
’67 borders,” he said. “This is now and forever....This is Palestine for
me. I am [a] refugee, but I am living in Ramallah.”
Anybody familiar with
the Arab-Israeli conflict understands what a step forward it was for the
Palestinian president to publicly announce that he personally had no right to
return to his own place of birth.
Even on a personal level, we can all
imagine what a serious matter it is to claim that one has no right to return and
dwell in the city of one’s birth.
President Shimon Peres said, “His brave
words prove that Abu Mazen [Abbas] is a real partner for peace. [He] rejects
terrorism and has pledged that under his leadership, there will not be a third
intifada. He understands that the solution to the refugee problem will not be on
These are statements of great
Abbas’ statements should be taken seriously. They are in line
with the positions of most Israelis, who support the two-state solution. Israel
is a peace-loving nation and as such we need to bravely extend our hand out in
peace to a leader like Abbas, with whom Israel has a real hope for
I will add to President Peres’s words and say: Abbas is not a
great Zionist, he will never love us and will never admire the State of Israel,
but the same was true for Anwar Sadat of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan. They
were both our enemies, but both of them were partners for peace. So is
BUT NETANYAHU, the historical revisionist, publicly attacked
Abbas, issuing a pro forma statement claiming that Abbas had rejected peace for
four years, and that Abbas’s actions did not match his words.
Likud ripped into Peres, saying that the president’s support for a two-state
solution was “disconnected from the Israeli public’s stance.” Contrary to all
polls on the matter, which indicate that the majority of Israelis support a
You see, the truth is, the Netanyahu/Liberman coalition
has been a kind of a terror attack on Israel’s foreign policy and public
diplomacy. And the Israeli voting public can make a change
Without Yisrael Beytenu, Likud would barely be achieving 21
mandates in the polls. Likud Beytenu has lost as much as a third of its support
in the polls since the start of the campaign. A great many of those voting for
Netanyahu will do so holding their noses, and perhaps because they imagine that
it is a foregone conclusion.
25 seats are now in the hands of swing
voters, and another 10 seats’ worth of votes are predicted to be wasted on
parties that will not make the electoral threshold. There is a lot of room for
maneuver even – especially – at this late stage.
With all this, we only
need another few seats to be able to change this government.
It is far
more feasible than many Israelis have been led to believe during this campaign.
Your vote matters more than you can begin to imagine.
When you enter the
polling booth tomorrow, remember that we can replace this diplomatic nightmare,
we can change the public discourse and the reactionary politics of rejectionism.
It can be so much better here.
The author is the secretary-general of the
Labor Party and is number six on his party’s list for the Knesset elections.