Homework for the summer

Knesset recess can be used to shift gear and show world that Israel is willing to back Netanyahu’s verbal sincerity regarding his desire for peace.

Bibi worried 311 (photo credit: AP)
Bibi worried 311
(photo credit: AP)
Summer. Tel Aviv is sizzling. Our Knesset is in recess and some members are out riding bicycles in the Alps. After the much talked about meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama at the beginning of July, it appears that the next focal point is September. But perhaps until then it is worth our leaders’ while to examine Israel’s international standing further to developments of recent months; to learn a bit about public opinion; to strategize the state’s next political steps; and in short – to do some homework.
A glance at this month’s peace index shows that 71.5 percent of the Israeli Jewish public supports holding talks with the Palestinians and that a clear majority (62%) supports direct talks between the sides. A joint poll conducted in June by the Truman Research Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, finds that a majority of Israelis (52%) support the Geneva Initiative overall package (versus 37% who oppose it) and that there is an increase in support for this type of solution among both publics compared to 2009.
THE OTHER side of the coin presents a more complex picture, with the peace index finding only 32.3% of Israelis who believe talks will lead to peace.
The above mentioned trend – in which Israelis generally support negotiations but show skepticism regarding the feasibility of such talks bearing fruit – has two significant and related side effects. First, it bubbles the public into an apathy which prevents it from criticizing our leaders for their foot-dragging. Second, it provides the same hesitant leadership with leeway for maneuvering out of any major compromises which may move the process forward – after all they are not really expected to produce any progress.
This is exactly where the summer recess can be utilized by our top policy-shapers to shift gear and show the world, as well as ourselves, that Israel is willing to back its prime minister’s verbal sincerity regarding his desire to bring peace to the region. This is the time – a moment after our leaders have abandoned their day-to-day parliamentary hassles and a moment before the world’s eyes are set to the region in anticipation of progress – to come up with our very own peace plan.
Such a plan would prove that Israel is indeed interested in making headway and ending the conflict; that our leaders are willing to take risks to improve the lives of Israelis; that Israel is strong enough to initiate and not only react; and that our elected prime minister is not merely paying lip service to the international community, which has of late highlighted its own interests in cutting an Israeli-Palestinian deal.
There won’t be a more pragmatic partner on the Palestinian side. The international community will not become any more supportive of Israel than it is now. Israeli public opinion needn’t be more ready for moving forward with the process than what polls currently show.
History proves that the summer heat will probably not delay September’s arrival – and by then Israel best not be caught with unprepared homework.
The writer is director of foreign relations at the Geneva Initiative.