In a Bloomberg interview earlier this month, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu observed that due to the stalled peace process, “the idea of taking unilateral steps is gaining ground, from the center-left to the center-right.” Prof. Efraim Inbar has a counter-proposal, succinctly encapsulated in the title of his May 15 column in Israel Hayom: “Let’s do almost nothing.”
I’m a longstanding fan of that approach. As I’ve argued in previous Jerusalem Post columns, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is analogous to the Cold War: It can’t currently be solved; it can only be managed until such time as circumstances change. And while unilateral moves could theoretically contribute to managing the conflict, every actual proposal I’ve seen, from both left and right, would entail major security and/or diplomatic risks in exchange for zero benefits (for details, see Jerusalem Post columnist Martin Sherman’s dissections of both left-wing plans – here, here and here – and right-wing ones).
Nevertheless, I’ve become convinced that “doing almost nothing” is impossible unless Israel first does one big something – convinces Israelis themselves that time is not on the Palestinians’ side, but on theirs. Inbar, the director of Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, makes a start on this in his article, pointing out the conflict’s declining importance to Arab countries dealing with more urgent problems; Israel’s deepening relationships with numerous countries worldwide that care little about the Palestinians; and the waning influence of “the political actors most obsessed with the Palestinian issue, the Israeli political Left and the Europeans.” But he fails to address the issue that concerns Israelis most: demographics.