If anyone gains from the national election likely to take place in early
September, it probably will be incumbent Prime Minister Binyamin
At least one major public opinion poll gives his right-wing
Likud party a two-to-one edge over its closest rival, the Labor party.
reaffirmation of Netanyahu’s leadership for up to four more years will enable
him to change the partisan and personal make-up of his next coalition
In that case, the losers might include the Yisrael Beytenu
party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
This blunt and gruff
Moldavian-born politician helped set the stage for the seemingly unnecessary
election by declaring that he and his followers no longer were bound by the
strictures of Netanyahu’s current coalition.
Under other circumstances,
an election this year could have determined whether negotiations on a two-state
solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute can get under way.
have given the balloting international importance. But the fact that the
Palestinian Authority has lost control of the Gaza Strip amid the fact that its
current domain is limited to the West Bank seriously detracts from the
The negotiations, if they were renewed and am
agreement were reached, would result in the existence of three states instead of
two in pre-1948 Palestine, and that is a non-starter.
Gaza’s Hamas rulers
have declared that they oppose recognition of Israel. The Islamic organization’s
deputy leader, Moussa Abu Marzuk, who until recently was based in Damascus along
with its supremo, Khaled Mashaal, has said that any agreement reached with
Israel would be regarded only as a hudna, meaning a temporary
His stand is based on Hamas’s overriding ideological
principle: That all of pre-1948 Palestine is an “Islamic legacy” and therefore
must be governed by an Islamic regime. This was the view of Hamas’s founder,
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and it has not changed since his
Consequently. the impending Israeli election will have to focus on
domestic issues only, the most prominent among them being the institution of a
new law covering military conscription. The legislation favored by Netanyahu not
only would reduce the number of deferments extended to ultra-Orthodox yeshiva
students to a minimum, but also would draft Israeli Arabs for military or other
national service such as work in hospitals and other humanitarian
If Netanyahu manages to forge a new coalition that would
have the middle-of-the-road Kadima party as a major component and leaves the
Jewish religious and nationalist extremists on the parliamentary sidelines, he
may escape the pressure constantly bearing down on him from the West Bank
settlers who constantly seek territorial acquisitions.
could then launch a process that would require the dismantling of a substantial
number of settlements and the removal of unauthorized outposts further to the
A proposed exchange of territory that might enable many of the
settlements to remain intact already has public support from Kadima. Its newly
elected leader, Shaul Mofaz, is on the record as favoring a deal of this kind.
But the transfer of thousands of hard-line settlers from the West Bank to ante
bellum Israel would be a daunting if not politically impossible
This apparent fact of life bears out the contention that the
permission given by the incumbent government and several of its predecessors for
350,000 to 500,000 Jewish settlers to move into the West Bank was a major
The financial cost of relocating them would be prohibitive, not
to mention the fury of the inevitable social backlash in ante bellum Israel that
would be a by-product.
All of these considerations suggest that it would
be wise for Netanyahu, his party and the electorate as a whole to consider
seriously whether there indeed are alternatives to the seemingly inoperable
One of them may be the hitherto unthinkable one-state
solution: Annexation of the West Bank and extension of Israeli citizenship to
its Palestinian inhabitants on the basis of total equality and political
This notion has been resisted in the past by Orthodox religious
politicians who fear that it would set the stage for intermarriages between Jews
and Arabs. But where and when did such an esoteric issue like intermarriage form
the basis of any country’s political program? That has not been the case in
Ireland, Ceylon or Nigeria where rival ethnic or religious groups also are
required to live under one political roof.
In the local case, the
one-state solution would take the form of a federation made up of two entities –
one primarily Jewish and the other primarily Arab (in demographic
Each entity could have its own parliament and governmental
The state as a whole could have a federal government
which would be responsible primarily for national security (for the entire
territory of the federated state) – foreign policy and economic affairs
including a common currency for both entities (as already exists in Israel, the
West Bank and the Gaza Strip). The federal government’s personnel and leadership
would be drawn from the two entitities.
Ironically, annexation was
originally proposed by the late Chaim Herzog when he served as the first
military governor of the West Bank immediately after the Six Day War.
was opposed then by the National Religious Party which was destined to spawn the
ideological core of Gush Emunim and other Jewish settlement
Its rationale then too was that annexation would foster
It all boils down to the likelihood that the prospective
election will give Netanyahu a chance to implement domestic reforms, especially
in the economic and social spheres.
These should include a more equitable
distribution of private income so as to reduce or (preferably) eliminate the
phenomenon of so-called “tycoons” lording it over the rest of the economy, and
reduction of the cost of new or suitable housing so that young couples will be
able to afford it and the deterioration of overcrowded neighborhoods can be
The winner (presumably Netanyahu) also might be in a better
position to rehabilitate the tens of thousands of Africans who entered Israel
illegally in the past five years, by integrating as many of them as possible and
facilitating the emigration or deportation of those who cannot adjust to Israeli
society to alternative destinations elsewhere in the world. These steps
certainly are preferable to letting them converge on neglected urban areas,
especially south Tel Aviv, and turning them into crime-infested
slums.The writer is a veteran foreign correspondent.