Davos diplomacy

We must all be evenhanded enough to recognize that the greatest obstacles to making progress in the negotiations US Secretary of State John Kerry is currently steering are not made-in-Israel.

January 22, 2014 21:05
3 minute read.
Palestinian activists protest Israeli-Palestinian activists peace meeting in Ramallah, January 9.

Palestinian activists protest Israeli-Palestinian activists peace meeting in Ramallah, January 9, 2014.. (photo credit: YouTube Screenshot)


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Whether we approve or disapprove of settlements, whether we like or dislike the current government, whether we cheer its negotiating stance or lament it, one thing should unite us all. We must all be evenhanded enough to recognize that the greatest obstacles to making progress in the negotiations US Secretary of State John Kerry is currently steering are not made-in-Israel.

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These obstacles are made-in-Ramallah.

With that in mind, it ought to be crystal clear to any thinking Israeli that our government should not be pressured from within. Israel already faces too much unremitting, often-brutal external pressure. Adding to this dire burden only undermines the government’s ability to defend this state’s vital interests. This can not be good for any of us, regardless of our political orientation. This is elementary.

Yet what should be obvious to all and sundry is hardly self-evident for 100 local self-proclaimed “leading businesspeople.”

Some of them went to the World Economic Forum being held in Davos this week to “hold discussions” with Palestinians and ply the line that an urgent deal with Ramallah is a prerequisite for a stable and flourishing Israeli economy.

Whether this is indeed so – and it is by no means axiomatic – is almost beside the point. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the 100 businesspeople (not all of whom confirm their association with the initiative), it is hard to escape the conclusion that they are not serving Israel’s cause or the cause of coexistence by pressing their political agenda in Davos, of all places.

Israel is already susceptible to disquieting economic pressure – quite unfair pressure at that – especially in Europe. Exacerbating things at the center of the economic hubbub sends signals that fortify Europe’s anti-Israel bias.

At some juncture, this denotes a loss of common sense – unless the point of departure is not what is reasonable and sound but what meshes with preconceived ideological/ political tendencies. If this is an act born of a partisan affiliation or worldview, it is misguided and counterproductive to say the least.

Not every attempt to influence the government to veer toward the perceptions of a given group is necessarily good for the country. Exerting pressure on the government in Davos, trendy and headline-grabbing as it may be, is not good for the country.

The businesspeople in question may relish the opportunity to weaken the government, but they should consider the nation – not just its elected representatives. In effect, they demand peace at any price on the grounds that it is good for the pocketbooks and bank balances of each one of us. This, too, is highly debatable.

In any event, peace at any price is an option that no sovereign state – especially one as existentially threatened, as beleaguered and as tiny as Israel – can afford to countenance.

The potential for outright catastrophe surely outweighs any pie-in-the-sky profits that various businesspeople may dangle under our collective nose.

The spectacle of well-heeled Israelis clamoring for peace at any cost is a sure-fire incentive for the other side to up the ante. This is all the more damaging considering the fact that what is holding up an accord with the Palestinians is unequivocally beyond the control of any Israeli government.

Some businesspeople may not be fans of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is attending the Davos summit together with President Shimon Peres and a host of Israeli and foreign leaders. But Netanyahu certainly is not the first Israeli leader who has been unable to convince Arab states in general and the Palestinians in particular to end their dispute with the Jewish state.

Yesteryear, the excessively generous architects of Oslo could not coax the PLO to make peace. Later, the same was true for prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, each of whom was ready to make considerable sacrifices.

Netanyahu has freed convicted terrorist murderers, of the sort no democracy would normally set loose, just to pay for Ramallah’s participation in the current talks. Yet he gets no credit for his concessions.

None of Mahmoud Abbas’s strident nays is counted, nor is the Palestinian Authority’s ongoing glorification of terrorism and incitement to violence and hate.

Why does the international community not criticize these? Why is Israel’s government blamed for Abbas’s intransigence? Something is off kilter here.

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