Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
We have enough experience with Benjamin Netanyahu at the helm of Israel’s leadership to know with a great deal of certainty that if he wins the elections he will not lead Israel to peace. Netanyahu has rejected every possibility of conducting serious negotiations with the Palestinians. Netanyahu has not presented a single plan, any initiative that could advance peace with the Palestinians. As a result of his rejecting any formula that could advance peace with the Palestinians he has jeopardized relations with the two Arab countries which have peace treaties with Israel – Jordan and Egypt. The peoples of Jordan and Egypt would be very happy to cancel the existing peace treaties with Israel and to never see an Israeli on their streets. The only elements of those treaties still really existing are the secret aspects of intelligence sharing and security cooperation. Now Netanyahu has even jeopardized the strategic relations with the US administration.
We have no certainty that Isaac Herzog as prime minister would advance genuine peace with the Palestinians. He has made a commitment that serious negotiations with the Palestinians would be renewed within his first 100 days in office. He has stated that he would go to Ramallah to address the Palestinian leadership and people directly. With Herzog as leader there are no guarantees that peace would be advanced, but the chances of advancing peace as compared to Netanyahu increase from zero to at least 50 percent.
We know with 100% certainty that Netanyahu will continue to rapidly expand Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He would make special efforts, as he has done until now, to pump large amounts of money into isolated settlements outside of the settlement blocs in order to create new blocs of settlements that would block any chance of partitioning the land into two states for two peoples. Netanyahu never intended to advance partition, even after he said the magic words of support for the two-state solution years ago. His actions have proven that he never intended to make a deal with the Palestinians. Netanyahu has never negotiated in good faith with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Netanyahu rejected every possible opportunity to negotiate directly with Abbas – even after Abbas sent to him numerous invitations to meet in public or in private. Netanyahu was not interested, then or today – he is simply not interested in making peace with the Palestinian people.
Unlike his potential coalition partner, Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu has not told us what he intends to do with the territories in the future. Bennett has made it clear – he will advance the annexation of Area C of the West Bank – 62% of the territory – and will ensure that a Palestinian state will never be established. Netanyahu has not been honest like Bennett, but Netanyahu is gradually implementing Bennett’s plan. Netanyahu has worked to remove all Palestinians from lands they own and live on in Area C. He has destroyed homes, wells, roads, farms, caves and even solar energy facilities. Netanyahu has prevented any Palestinian economic development from taking place in Area C – and the only available land areas where Palestinians can develop their economy. Most Palestinian privately owned land in the West Bank is in Area C, but they are not allowed to develop it.
Israel agreed in the Taba agreement of 1994 that it would withdraw from and transfer to the PA all territories in the West Bank except those associated with permanent status (meaning the settlements) and specified military locations (meaning military bases and early warning stations). This meant that even before the parties were to begin negotiations on permanent status, the PA should have been in control of more than 90% of the West Bank. That is what was agreed.
It was Netanyahu, in his first term, who violated those conditions of the Oslo agreements. He was elected in 1996 with the explicit intent of freezing Oslo. He implemented what he promised, built more settlements, all along expressing that it was the Palestinians who were not a partner for peace. It is Netanyahu who was not a partner for peace – not then, and not now, and certainly not after Israeli elections.
The Palestinians have long known that there is no partner for peace in Jerusalem. It is time for the people of Israel to recognize that their elected leader is not a partner for peace and that with Netanyahu in the prime minister’s office there is absolutely no chance of peace. It is time to understand that Netanyahu is working against the interests of the people of Israel. Netanyahu is dangerous for the future of Israel.
It should be as clear as daylight that without ending the occupation and making peace with the Palestinian people the situation which Netanyahu has helped to create – a one-state reality for two unequal peoples – will turn Israel into a pariah state, rejected by almost every nation in the world. Once the nations of the world understand that the two-state solution has been buried by the reelection of Netanyahu they will no longer relate to Israel as a Western democratic country, because it will no longer be one. It is a fantasy to imagine that anyone serious in the world will buy the Netanyahu-Bennett charade that Israel does not rule over the Palestinians because the PA is control of 98% of the Palestinian people in the West Bank. This is nothing more than a lie.
There is no Palestinian sovereignty and no Palestinian control. Israel is in complete control of every aspect of Palestinian life and Israel is in total control of every centimeter of Palestinian territory in areas A, B, and C. The game will be over and Israel will begin to have to face the pain of being rejected by even its best friends. First it will be boycotts of Israeli products, then boycotts of Israeli artists, movies and leaders. Israelis will be made to feel very unwelcome in many countries around the world and the pressure will increase over a very short time period. Sanctions and divestments will follow. If Israel then still refuses to end its control over the Palestinian people, we can expect that visa-free entry into Europe will be canceled and more actions against Israel will follow.
Palestinians will continue to make progress in their diplomatic offensive despite Israeli threats and penalties imposed on them. Israel will try to make the lives of Palestinians into hell and Israel will succeed in making life very difficult for them. This is completely against the interests of Israel – but Netanyahu is too blind to see that it makes no sense whatsoever for Israel to want to make its neighbors suffer. It makes no sense for Israel to do anything but to improve the lives of Palestinians. It is in Israel’s interest to help the Palestinians to be happy, prosperous and peaceful – and Israel has an enormous amount of power to help make that happen. But instead Netanyahu has done exactly the opposite and he will continue to do that. But we, the people of Israel will pay for this arrogance.
For the sake of Israel Netanyahu must be sent home.
The author is co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel PalestineCreative Regional Initiatives, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit. His book Freeing Gilad: the Secret Back Channel has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew and as The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas by The Toby Press.