It's ironic, but Netanyahu, Smotrich, and Ben-Gvir will be the founders of Palestine - opinion

A viable Palestinian state is essential, not only as a response to the Palestinian aspiration for self-determination but as the only possible option to stabilize the region.

 Itamar Ben Gvir, Binyamin Netanyahu, Bezalel Smotrich  (photo credit: ARYEH ABRAMS, YONATAN ZINDEL/FLASH 90, Yonatan Zindel/Flash90)
Itamar Ben Gvir, Binyamin Netanyahu, Bezalel Smotrich
(photo credit: ARYEH ABRAMS, YONATAN ZINDEL/FLASH 90, Yonatan Zindel/Flash90)

It is difficult to point to moments of sincerity in the ranks of the current Israeli political leadership, which for the most part wraps itself in slogans with the expectation that these will hide the dark truths of our lives. 

However, two weeks ago, we witnessed a rare moment of sincerity on the part of Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich who, in an exceptional act of disclosure, told his audience – the heads of the Jewish local councils in the West Bank – that “the danger of a Palestinian state becoming a reality is more tangible than it has been for years.” 

What was absent from Smotrich’s words was some sort of soul-searching in light of the fact that it was precisely this government, known as “the right-wing government to its fullest,” in which he is a senior partner, that has brought us to the threshold of the very Palestinian state against which he issued his warning.

The struggle for peace

As someone who believes wholeheartedly that a Palestinian state must be a top priority goal of any Zionist government, I always heard statements such as: “Only the Right is capable of bringing peace,” and at least in one case it seemed to be correct, when Menachem Begin, a prime minister from the Likud, signed the peace treaty with Egypt. I thought that this notion only pertained to responsible right-wing leaders, as Begin and Sharon were in their later years. But now, it is the ultra-right-wing coalition that is advancing the vision of a Palestinian state against their will.

It seems that the radical slogan, “the situation must get really bad before it gets better,” has been proven correct in this case, ironically. Thus, the absolutely worst government that we have ever had – “right-wing to its fullest” – on whose watch the October 7 disaster occurred – many would even say: as a direct result of their neglect – has brought about the recognition, throughout the entire world, that there is no alternative to the establishment of a Palestinian state.  

 Itamar Ben Gvir (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
Itamar Ben Gvir (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

There is no other way to replace the Hamas in Gaza, to achieve normalization for Israel in the region, and to bring about regional and international stability.

Smotrich is correct: The Netanyahu government has brought itself to an impasse, both in terms of security and foreign relations, with the only possible exit being the advancement of the establishment of a Palestinian state.  

Netanyahu, Smotrich, and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir have succeeded where Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and Ehud Barak failed in showing the world how essential a viable Palestinian state is, not only as a response to the Palestinian aspiration for self-determination but more so: as the only possible option, to stabilize the region in terms of security and diplomacy. They showed very clearly, that a Palestinian state is not only a Palestinian goal but also a major Israeli interest.  

While Netanyahu ignores the possibility of a Palestinian state, it has become the only way out of the no-purpose war in which he has involved us. 

In the face of the government’s failure to act in the diplomatic sphere, there are only two choices for Israel, for the countries in the region, and for the entire free world: complete Israeli conquest of Gaza, including full control over civilian and military matters, with the disastrous security and economic ramifications that this entails, or transferring the control over Gaza to what Defense Minister Yoav Gallant defines as “a non-hostile Palestinian regime.” In other words, an improved Palestinian Authority (PA,) that will necessarily become the Palestinian state.  

The PA will not rush in to take control over Gaza, overflowing as it is with challenges, if it does not receive a solid commitment to promote a Palestinian state. Therefore, sooner or later, Israel will also understand that it has no way out of the problem, other than to create a partnership with the Palestinian state under formation.

Smotrich and his partners in the right-wing government will have become – obviously against their will – the founders of the Palestinian nation as well. The more they have denied its existence, the more they strengthened it, turning it into the only viable solution to a problem that has been haunting us for the past 57 years of Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza.

THIS IS the problem that exploded in our faces with the murderous rampage on October 7, and which those politicians continue to exacerbate. The option of military and civilian Israeli control in Gaza does not really exist, because the price it would demand, in lives lost and destroyed, in economic crisis, and in unprecedented political isolation, along with the increase of regional threats – is too great a burden for the Israeli state and society – so great that it would tear apart the society and put the very existence of the State in danger.

Therefore, the government of Israel must, without delay, advance a regional arrangement that will include the release of all the hostages, the entrance of a revitalized PA into Gaza; the rebuilding of Gaza; normalization with Saudi Arabia; and the approval of a road map for the establishment of a Palestinian state. 

This arrangement would be a win-win situation for all, except for Hamas, Iran, and our own extremists, who are endangering the stability of the Middle East and the political, economic, and security interests of the free world. 

We will still need to deal with security arrangements, disarmament, and so on, but for the sake of the security of our State and its citizens, for the sake of the hostages, for the sake of ensuring the continued existence of the State of Israel as a democratic homeland of the Jewish people, it is our duty to march on towards the establishment of a Palestinian state.  

Changes in leadership in the PA are essential, just as they are essential in Israel. If we find the way to extricate the region from the political and security stalemate that threatens to destroy us, we will assist in speeding these changes along. 

The writer is J Street-Israel’s executive director. He has served as an Israeli diplomat in Washington and Boston and as a political adviser to the president of Israel.