An alternative to nothing

"The solution lies elsewhere. We shouldn’t change the goal but our partners."

By
June 4, 2015 21:55
3 minute read.
Dome of the rock

Dome of the rock and Israeli flag. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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In 2013, not long after I became finance minister, I had dinner with then president Shimon Peres. When we got to dessert I sought his advice about a major economic policy I wanted to put into place, to which most of my advisers objected. Peres smiled and said, “Remember one thing: doing nothing is also a decision, and usually it’s the worst one.”

The new Israeli government has decided to do nothing on the diplomatic front. After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got himself into trouble with conflicting statements (he was for, then against and then for a two-state solution in less than two weeks), he built a government with no mention of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in its coalition agreements.

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Less than a year has passed since Operation Protective Edge, during which missiles landed on Tel Aviv and near Ben-Gurion Airport. The next round is just a matter of time. The Palestinian Authority, for its part, is pushing unilateral steps in the United Nations and International Criminal Court against Israel. The threat of boycotts is increasing.

The safety net of our special relations with the United States is full of holes. It would be reasonable to think that to stand against this wave the new government would have some kind of a policy. A good policy or a bad one, but something that someone can understand and either support or oppose. But there is no policy.

The lack of policy undermines our ability to fight against the Iranian nuclear program, to improve our relations with the US, to counter the insidious BDS campaign in Europe and to build real coalitions against the threat of regional terrorism from Islamic State or al-Qaida.

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In this situation, the role of the opposition is to fill the vacuum and offer an alternative vision for the country. As the largest centrist party, and a party which aspires to lead the country after the next elections, Yesh Atid has a responsibility to present a framework that the Israeli government – and the international community – will need to respond to.

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There is one thing on which we are absolutely clear and on which we should all be united: there is no place for boycotts of Israel of any sort. Yesh Atid will lead the fight against the BDS movement. We can disagree about the best way forward while standing resolutely and unwaveringly against any attempts to boycott or isolate Israel.

The BDS movement is hypocritical, counter-productive, and infested with anti-Semitism.

The framework, which I will present in detail at The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York on Sunday, suggests a new approach to solving the conflict, without abandoning the formula of two states for two peoples.

To reach that point we must, unfortunately, abandon the idea of another round of bilateral negotiations. It hasn’t worked and it won’t work. After endless cycles of meetings we have to recognize the fact that the maximum Israel can offer is lower than the minimum the Palestinians are willing to accept.

The solution lies elsewhere. We shouldn’t change the goal but our partners.

We should initiate a regional summit, under American auspices, which will enlist the coalition of more moderate Arab States – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf States, to create a regional umbrella for the talks between Israel and the Palestinians. A summit, which will use the Kerry framework as a basis, will allow the Palestinians to reach compromises and agreements which they fear could see them branded as traitors to the Palestinian cause and the religious interests of the Arab world if not made within a wider regional framework.

In the previous government, in which I was a member of the Security Cabinet, I put this proposal to the prime minister, but his response was “that leaders don’t meet without first agreeing on the outcome.” That might be true about tax treaties, but to lead Israel to peace and security requires leaders who are willing to break old habits and create a new path. Leaders, and only leaders, can make historic changes.

The most dangerous thing Israel can do is nothing at all.

The author is the chairman of Yesh Atid.

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