ANY REASONABLE observer can see Israel is not in a good shape.Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu it has taken all the wrong turns. Five long years of his persistent misrule have driven us to the brink. It is high time to take a turn for the better.The elections scheduled for March 17 provide a real opportunity.
Another term under a nationalist government like the two since March 2009 could destroy the Jewish state as we know it, and shatter the Zionist aspiration to provide a secure and decent life for the Jewish nation in its ancestral land.The most urgent order of business is to end the self-defeating occupation. And the sooner the better.Largely because of the occupation, our peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan have been worn thin and are now almost exclusively based on military intelligence channels. There is no normalcy to speak of when it comes to the Egyptian and Jordanian peoples.Lebanon has long since become a hostile country. Although the collapse of the Syrian and Iraqi nation states opens up new opportunities for Israel with regard to the Gulf States, this too is contingent on a breakthrough on the Palestinian front.Without one, no Arab or Muslim intellectual, artist, columnist or public opinion leader will consider showing any positive inter - est in Israel. Finally, because of the ongoing occupation, the two bedrocks of our support, the US and the European Union, are also increasingly distancing themselves from us.Is all this really the fault of others? Is it merely anti-Semitism and an inherent lack of sympathy for the Jewish state that lies behind our unprecedented isolation? Why is it that Zionism, our national movement of self-emancipation, is so widely reviled? Part of the problem is that since 1977, Israel has been governed almost exclusively by the nationalist right. For the most part, with the notable exception of the peace treaty with Egypt, these have been intransigent governments doing their best to block progress toward peace. This has been particularly the case under Netanyahu from 1996 to 1999 and for the past five years. He has led us to a dead end. Our safety is at risk, our future is bleak.Does it have to be that way? I profoundly believe that it does not.Israel is entitled to a sober and savvy leadership, committed to a peace-seeking foreign and defense policy that enhances national security rather than putting it at risk. Israel needs a rational government that can lead it to a far better place.The current nationalist government clearly cannot. It does not even acknowledge that the West Bank and East Jerusalem are occupied territories, and rejects the notion of partition of the land between two peoples with equal claims. Netanyahu does not miss an opportunity to reiterate his deeply held conviction that only the Jews have title to the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, and that the Palestinians are merely a large community residing on Jewish land with no rightful claim to ingenuousness.This fundamental assumption lies at the heart of the proposed Basic Law: Israel – the nation state of the Jewish People.However, in the international corridors of power, this kind of thinking is almost universally dismissed. Consequently, if a nationalist coalition is again returned to office, we will face a dangerous collision between Israel and the rest of the world.On the other hand, if a center-left government takes over, we will have an opportunity to stop the de-facto annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A viable agreement on a fair partition of the land and the establishment of the State of Palestine alongside Israel will dramatically alter international opinion on Israel. Embassies of most UN member states will move to West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem respectively. Our national security will finally tilt toward a healthy balance between military preparedness and diplomacy.For that to happen, Israeli citizens need to come out in droves to vote for a center-left pro-peace government that will give us all a chance for a better life.Ilan Baruch, a former Israeli ambassador to South Africa, is the policy adviser to Meretz Chairperson Zahava Galon.