Savir's Corner: Oppositions

The forces that pretended to promote peace were too weak and undecided, and surrendered with unsuppressed satisfaction – both Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas.

Netanyahu and Abbas (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu and Abbas
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The halt in the peace process is a triumph for the forces in Israel and Palestine who favor a binational state over peace. The trumpets in Yitzhar and Gaza played the music of hatred, xenophobia, paranoia, racism; big crowds with long beards and head scarves cheered with fanaticism in a joyous funeral for the current peace process, listening to the heart-breaking eulogies of Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. The forces that pretended to promote peace were too weak and undecided, and surrendered with unsuppressed satisfaction – both Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas.
And now that the dangerous peril of peace has been thwarted, the question is what does the future hold? What is the vision of Hamas or its plans for the creation of an independent Palestine recognized by the international community? What is Bennett’s vision for the future of Israel, how can he guarantee our identity as a Jewish democracy and our relations with the world? Those in oppositions to peace can destroy better than build. They have no solution for the future of their nations, and given the chance, they will lead us to mutual destruction.
They stand for extremist, radical nationalism that has no place in the modern world, and would send Israelis and Palestinians back to violent conflict in dangerous isolation from the world.
It is no coincidence that Hamas and Bayit Yehudi are part of the governing coalitions in their respective countries, coalitions that serve the political popularity and sustainability of their leaders rather than the well-being of their peoples.
Hamas is a disaster for Palestine. Its leadership is fundamentalist, religious, suppressing human rights in Gaza, with a totalitarian regime that denigrates women and minorities.
They espouse a jihadist and racist view of the conflict and are ready to sacrifice Palestinian youth in suicide attacks. The damage they have done to the Palestinian cause after Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza to the 1967 lines is immeasurable. The rocket attacks on the civilian population in the South have convinced many Israelis and many in the world that by “the occupied land” they mean all of Israel.
A Palestinian radical, religious Hamas state would have no support from the world, except for Iran and North Korea. Hamas fights Fatah on the nationalistic court, sending some Fatah factions into rejection of moderation and toward a focus on demagogic anti-Israel sloganeering, rather than into constructive compromise and nation-building.
Some Fatah followers in Gaza are still loyal to Muhammad Dahlan, the former Fatah warlord, who has aspirations to overthrow Mahmoud Abbas. Dahlan is a symbol of corruption to many Palestinians, yet backed by some in the emirates and Egypt, which is one of the reasons for Abbas’s recent turn to Hamas. The top Palestinian leadership is pragmatic and moderate, yet intimidated by the fanatic opposition just as Abbas was weakened by the failure of the negotiations with Israel. This marriage of convenience will probably lead nowhere, as each side – Fatah and Hamas – wants the demise of the other. It’s an exercise in survival of the weakest.
In Israel, Bennett is the most effective leader of the Right. He says openly what others think. He actually believes that Israel has to be in confrontation with all Arabs and Muslims and most of the international community over his vision of a binational state. He is driven by a fundamentalist, messianic belief in the settlements as a bridge to a Greater Israel. He pretends to solve the demographic challenge by subordinating the Palestinians in a binational apartheid state. He not only issues racist policy statements, but acts upon them together with Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel, building and planning 14,000 housing units in the West Bank during the recent negotiations with the Palestinians. It was a kiss of death to the process.
Also in Israel, more pragmatic forces in the coalition are intimidated by this radical nationalism, especially Bennett’s “brother” Finance Minister Yair Lapid. In his position, Lapid could have prevented the settlement expansion, but he preferred to glorify a so-called consensus of the Center and surrendered to the Bennetts. The price is paid by the middle class that elected Lapid, as without a peace process, the economic price will be high. The Jewish brotherhood is not less detrimental than the Muslim one.
Binyamin Netanyahu is the leader of this brotherhood, with Avigdor Liberman as first violinist. This may have tragic consequences.
Israel at 66 is one of the most dramatic renaissance success stories of modern times: the rebirth of the language, the flourishing Hebrew culture, the influx of exiles from almost 100 countries, a democratic system despite conflict, an impressive academia, a growing technology-based economy and the No. 2 start-up nation in the world.
This came about also because the world accepted our narrative – from the ashes of the Holocaust to “dramatic, democratic nation-building.”
Today the Israeli narrative in the world is “from victim to victimizer.” Israel is not autarchic but is dependent on good relations with the world; without a two-state solution, we will become isolated internationally by the world’s younger generation, which does not know the rebirth of Israel. The current policies and coalition are turning us into a pariah apartheid state, endangering our achievements.
Netanyahu should have acted differently by strengthening the hand of Abbas, by freezing settlements and by agreeing to a border based on the 1967 lines. He abandoned a weak Abbas to the hands of Hamas when he preferred Bennett to historic decisions on peace. He is his own best opposition.
Now the successful oppositions of Hamas and Bennett are in the driver’s seat.
The road they take is a slippery one, downhill toward violent confrontation and international isolation, endangering the dreams and interests of their nations.
In the middle ground is the United States – also there, the right-wing Republican opposition had a field day with the failure of the process. From the outset, the peace talks with the Palestinians were not the cup of tea of the Tea Party and its allies. Sen. John McCain does not miss an opportunity to brand Barack Obama and John Kerry as hostile to Israel. He, Sen. Ted Cruz and others are more Catholic than the pope, more blue and white than the chief rabbi. A real friend of Israel is someone who is truthful about its policy options; a friend of Israel is a friend of peace, who understands that peace in the Middle East is with the Arabs, not the Swiss.
This goes also for the American Jewish community – the vote at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations against J Street was a vote against a twostate solution. It is also part of internal domestic bickering in favor of AIPAC and its Pavlovian instinct to back Israel’s Right.
All these oppositions to the Obama-led peace process are detrimental to Israel and the region and fuel for fundamentalist conservative worldviews and petty politics.
The Right has the upper hand, to a large degree because of the weakness and apathy of the Center-Left. They all – the Haniyehs, Bennetts and McCains – have one thing going for them: the energy and commitment to fight for their mistaken worldview. They create the preponderance of noise on the airwaves, but are still a minority, a dangerous one.
Most Israelis, Palestinians and Americans are sick and tired of this conflict; they know that a two-state solution more or less along the 1967 lines is the only possible solution.
More than 60 percent, according to credible polls, support a historic compromise, although they have natural suspicion of conflict resolution. Most important, these opponents of peace, and mainly those who create coalitions with them, are in opposition to the interests of the people.
Young Israelis and Palestinians (60 percent are under the age of 30) aspire to a better life, good education, good employment and basic civil rights, and to offer the same to their children.
The vision of the fanatic naysayers stands against all these basic interests and rights. So do the policies of their bedfellows.
The writer is honorary president of the Peres Center for Peace and served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo Accords.
Barbara Hurwitz edited this column.