The True Partner For Peace Is Waiting For Us To Reach Out

Aryeh Felman, former division head and deputy director of the Shin Bet

A left-wing protester holds up a sign that reads, "No to Code Red, yes to peace," during Tel Aviv rally. (photo credit: LIOR NOVIK)
A left-wing protester holds up a sign that reads, "No to Code Red, yes to peace," during Tel Aviv rally.
(photo credit: LIOR NOVIK)
"There is no partner" is a common refrain voiced by those who oppose any agreement that will grant the Palestinians self-determination, whether it is those from Bayit Yehudi who declare it publicly, or those from Likud, some of whom accept Netanyahu's statements in support of a two-state solution and some of whom oppose the statements. In addition, there are many good people who want an agreement, but don't believe it is possible. From the viewpoint of the first group, "it's good that there is no partner," and from the viewpoint of the majority of Israelis, (according to polls), “it's a shame that there is no partner." The result is the same in both cases - treading in place, sanctifying the status quo and an endless cycle of violence. Essentially, we are walking with eyes closed to an expected conclusion. The reality of the past will continue in the future, only it will be worse.

The Palestinian Authority as a sole partner for a bilateral agreement is no longer a viable option, and we should no longer exhaust ourselves with negotiations of this kind

There is some truth to the claim that the Palestinian Authority is not a partner for peace. The PA takes pains, occasionally, to create reasons to see it as a partner. However, the PA is not a partner, in part, due to its very make-up. Beyond the PA’s being unstable, there are additional reasons it is not a partner. First, it does not have the power or desire to make decisions on issues that have become the heart of the Palestinian struggle - the right of return for refugees and control of Jerusalem. Second, if an agreement is signed, it is doubtful that the PA has the power to uphold it when support for such a deal is divided among the population and its ability to rule is limited. The third reason is that a bilateral agreement will not survive without the exterior support of countries in the immediate circle - Egypt and Jordan, and it has no chance without the support of pragmatic Arab and Muslim states in the wider circle.

For these reasons, the Palestinian Authority as a sole partner for a bilateral agreement is off the table and there is no place to continue to exhaust ourselves with this type of negotiation, which has failed time and again. We must pursue an alternative route. And it is laid out before us.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict long ago became an issue that does not only interest us

The New York Times' Thomas Friedman coined the phrase, "The world is flat." In his book, he details the factors that flatten and shrink the world - global, economic, political social and technological processes. In the global village, the "butterfly effect" is easily set in motion. Events, and certainly violent conflicts, no longer remain "inter-tribal conflicts," as they did in the past. Every conflict of this kind causes shockwaves in different parts of the world. In this way, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict long ago became an issue that does not interest us alone.

The Arab world is fractured by deep hostilities. On one side is the Shi'ite coalition (under the leadership of Iran and Hezbollah), the Sunni bloc, originating with the Muslim Brotherhood (the Egyptian opposition and Hamas among the Palestinians) and the radical groups (ISIS and its affiliates). On the other side are the pragmatic Arab states.

The pragmatic Arab world has woken up and finds itself captive to and threatened by terrorist groups that it funded and supported in the past, and that still are funded and supported materially and ideologically by others. The Golem has risen against its creator, threatening its stability and existence.

There are no longer any actual factors causing a conflict between the Arab states and Israel, and with two of them there is even a peace agreement. Additionally, there is no longer a super power enflaming the situation to advance its own interests as the Soviet Union did in the past. The Palestinian issue also ceased to interest the Arab nations long ago, and has even become a burden for them. However, they cannot completely separate themselves from the Palestinian issue, mainly due to inter-Arab politics, as well as declarations and promises to their people that have been made over the years.

The oil weapon has also been neutralized. The petro-dollars that have, until now, allowed the Arab states to build their regional and international power have lost their strength. The oil-producing Arab states invested billions to gain control in internal politics, as well as in academic institutions in Europe and the US. They also funded groups who worked to promote the boycott against Israel and anti-Israel propaganda. This money spring has dried up and what's left will be turned toward ensuring the survival of these states.

You can't have your cake and eat it too

The threat of radical Islam ceased to be a regional problem long ago. It is viral ideology that does not need to enlist operatives in order to expand its control. It is adopted wherever there is a Muslim minority, and the enlightened world will have to unite with the moderate Arab states and Israel to combat the phenomenon.

The conclusion is that there is a partner. Our partner is a giant bloc of Arab and Muslim states, surrounded by a wide swathe of states from the enlightened world. The Palestinian Authority is also within this giant bloc. This is a partner with much more power, with the ability to make decisions and to force them on an insubordinate minority (the Palestinian Authority, for example).

The problem is that you can't have your cake and eat it too. We cannot take advantage of the strategic changes in the region without making compromises. The concepts of not giving up land under any circumstances or "Greater Israel," are concepts that are motivated by emotion. However, achieving peace and creating conditions to allow the Jewish people to continue to develop in their state are more important and require compromise. We must hope that a leader will arise that will know how to lead the people to such a compromise and to take advantage of the new facts on the ground to strengthen Israel and continue its achievements.

Israel must abandon the bickering with the Palestinians that has failed to lead to any achievements, and present itself to its true partner, with a diplomatic initiative and organized plan to reach a diplomatic agreement, with goals, demands and compromises. We must combine vision with opportunity and act with determination. We must act.