What’s wrong with Meretz?

Posted: July 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: elections, The Left | Tags: , , , , , | 27 Comments »

meretzLast week, I was invited to a bloggers meeting with the heads of Meretz. The invitation stated that all three Meretz’s MK will be there, but only Haim “Jumas” Oron, the current head of the party, showed up, accompanied by former MK Moshe (Mossi) Raz (former chairman of Peace Now) and Yifat Solel of Meretz leadership.

The event itself turned out to be a sort of a roundtable. Haim Oron opened and said that Meretz is looking for ways to be more effective after the blow it suffered in the last elections. Meretz got an all-times low of three seats out of the Knesset’s 120. Now the party is looking for new members, and hopes to form new alliances with other political movements. More then getting their message through, said Oron, they wanted to listen.

I have been to several such leftist events in the past year, with political leaders and activists asking themselves what can be done now. The Meretz meeting was one of the more frustrating events I attended.

One blogger started by asking Meretz’s leaders whether the anti-left trends in Israel have to do with the economical and ideological trends in Europe. Then came the tired debate on the left and the poor, also know as “we work for them in the Knesset, and they vote for Bibi.” Some people complained that Meretz doesn’t have a woman in the Knesset, nor a Sephardic Jew or a religious one.

It’s almost twenty years that the Israeli Left is having this sort of discussions.

When my turn to talk came, I said that I feel that all these issues don’t matter now. Something has changed in Israel in the last year. An organized attack on civil liberties is taking place. It is aimed against the radical left and the Arabs, but this is only the beginning, and racism is on the rise. This is an explosive combination. It seems to me that Israel is on a very dangerous crossroad, perhaps even past it. And Meretz is acting as if it’s business as usual.

A few of the political bloggers present at the meeting joined me. Itamar Shaltiel and Yossi Gurvitz said that Meretz cannot limit its work to the Knesset. The real game today is in the public arena, and Meretz is not taking part in it. We argued that Meretz should lead the protests in Jerusalem Jaffa and other places. I said that it’s not enough to vote against the Nakba law, and that they should publicly challenge such bills. Extreme right activists march in Arab towns and neighborhoods. Meretz Knesset Members can use their immunity and lead the protesters in Sheikh Jarrah into the disputed part of the neighborhood, to which the police only allows the settlers.

Former Haaretz Editor David Landau recently wrote that if the “boycott law” is passed, we should boycott the Knesset. He invited the state to prosecute him for these words. This sort of tactic, of challenging anti-democratic legislation, is very common in civil rights campaigns. But for some reason, this thinking is alien to the Zionist Left in Israel. Meretz officials do come to the demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah, but they never lead it. They vote against the Nakba law or the boycott low, but they would not defy them.

The problem is that voting is not that important right now. There is an overwhelming majority for these kinds of bills in the current Knesset. If an anti-democratic bill is not passed, it’s only because the government doesn’t want it to pass, usually out of concern for its image. Even if Meretz had six or seven seats instead of just three, it would not have change much. Not with eighty members of Knesset on the other side.

Haim Oron was very honest with us in his reply. “You are asking me to be a radical, and I’m not one,” he said. “I haven’t given up hope on the Knesset and on the Jewish public. My goal is to reach the twenty-something seats that used to vote for center-left parties. I haven’t given up on them.”

The debate went on, but both sides just repeated what was said. I did feel that Mossi Raz and Yifat Solel were closer to my way of thinking, but Meretz MKs are simply unreachable – two didn’t show up to the meeting and the third, which happens to head the party, simply views things differently. More then anything, it seems that Meretz is like a relic from a different age, holding on to ideas and tactics of the mid 90′s, drawing lines between them and the non-Zionist left and looking for support in the Israeli center, which has long gone to the right (at least Meretz is not moving with it, like Labor and Kadima do).

I don’t know if a different approach would get Meretz more votes. They might do nothing and still win some leftwing voters back from Kadima, or they might be wiped out completely if Channel 2 anchorman Yair Lapid decides to run to the Knesset and takes Meretz’s strongholds at Tel Aviv’s northern suburbs (the latter seems more likely). But this is not that important. What really matters is that right now, Meretz has no affect on the political reality in Israel.

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Official blog of the Meretz campaign, with other accounts on last week’s bloggers meeting (Hebrew).


27 Comments on “What’s wrong with Meretz?”

  1. 1 arieh zimmerman said at 10:24 am on July 25th, 2010:

    As you will see, below, from the my blog, not very often visited, I am in full agreement with your views.

    I have been invited by Hillel Schenker to attend the next meeting, on July 28, of the Peace NGOs Forum. My hope is that I will be allowed to push forward the idea that the left must act swiftly and courageously to stop the fascist drift of the Knesset. If you can also be there, perhaps we will be able to find others to advance the views you have advanced in “What’s Wrong With Meretz”.

    Jul. 19th, 2010
    An open letter to those who can make a change.

    If worst comes to worst, and Israeli governments continue their long slide into paranoia and fascism, it will be in part because the left wing, including Meretz, peace seeking NGOs, and other left leaning organizations did not do in time what they must have known had to be done.

    Egos must now be put aside, and local and individual tactics must give way to a dominant strategy completely spanning the activities, plans and projects of the whole of the Israeli left-wing peace movement, Zionist and non-Zionist. Peace, a coordinated, fair, and mutually agreeable peace with Palestine is the ultimate and overriding goal.

    As much as J Street has been criticized, it has succeeded in entering in the area of American Jewish life where AIPAC ruled uncontested before. It is growing at a good rate and has in excess of 300,000 members already. Why cannot we emulate them?

    The left is not dead in Israel, but it is scattered to the winds, emasculated, and politically powerless. It is truly long past time for considering the coordination and rationalization of the separate elements of the disorganized and orphaned left-wing organizations for which peace is of greater value than an extra few thousand acres of dirt. We desperately need an umbrella organization that can coordinate rational and successful political action. Why the hell haven’t we got one yet?

    I have appended, in no special order, a partial and limited list of correspondents, reporters and writers who in my humble opinion, could raise a public demand for cooperation in such a fashion that it could not be denied, and this of course, in addition to the contribution to sanity they make almost daily in the media. The list is incomplete, taken more or less from the top of my head; I apologize to those who deserve to be considered among these opinion makers but whom I have inadvertently left out.

    David Grosman, Yossi Sarid, Tom Segev, Doron Rosenblum, Ze’ev Sternhel, Benny Ziffer, Gideon Levy, Amos Harel, Amira Hess, Michael Hendelzalts, Aluf Benn, Meron Benvenisti, Bradly Burston, Ron Cohen, Ilana Hammerman, Erich Yellin, Nomika Zion, Uri Avenery, Shulamit Aloni, Haim Oron, Akiva Orr, Hillel Schenker.

    I offer this appeal, personally, and in the name of any who may agree with the content of this blog, to the above writers to consider the present state of the nation and how a unified left wing might affect changes, the effect of which all of us would applaud.

    Sincerely,

    Arieh Zimmerman

    Kibutz Zikim
    ———————————————–
    Posted at 02:12 am | Link | Leave a comment | Add to Memories | Share this!
    Jul. 17th, 2010

    Flag waving and breast beating no solution to our mutual problems
    The facts are these: the Jews are going nowhere, they are in Israel to stay ; the Palestinians living within the post-1967 borders have no less right to be here than the Jews, their fair share of tax receipts should be guaranteed, anything less than first class citizenship is unacceptable; the Palestinians on the West Bank are exploited and brutalized by the Israeli government and the Hill-Top mad men; citizens of Gaza are crushed between the inhumane treatment of the Israeli government and the cynical exploitation of common citizens by Hamas and the get rich quick black marketeers.

    The Natanyahu/Lieberman axis is in lockstep with Hamas; one benefits the other by almost every move they make.The Israeli government and the Hamas extremists have together managed to exasperate the already inflated paranoia of the Israeli political center so that nothing good can be expected from the great majority of Israeli politicians.

    The only way forward, the ONLY way forward, is to forget the flag waving and breast beating, and to coordinate plans, policies, and actions between all people of good will and common sense. All that is left, sadly, is the combined grass roots coordination between Israelis searching for peace and Palestinians searching for justice and a free and independent Palestinian State. Much, much more pressure needs to be exerted from the bottom before the stupidity of our mutual leaders will be corrected.

  2. 2 arieh zimmerman said at 10:37 am on July 25th, 2010:

    One more from the blog:

    Jul. 25th, 2010
    Silence on the Left A response to HaAretz Editorial: A Bad Knesset for Israel

    The HaAretz editorial, and others like it should act as a clarion call to the fragmented left to reorganize, reevaluate and reconsider what the hell we have been doing since 2002. Where have we been hiding? It is now long past time to face, and oppose the fascist tendencies growing all too quickly in our nation. We cannot do it given the fragmented and emasculated condition of the political left in its current state. A broad base alliance of the left, from moderate to true believers, and a political party representing the total spectrum of its potential electorate must rise immediately before the next elections ensure the continuation of the right-wing exclusion of rational government for the next four years, if not forever. Whether the answer is a reconstituted Meretz and Hadash, or a new party named something else is of secondary importance. There are millions of Israelis left without voice in the political wilderness in which the ghosts of social and ethical decency have been lonely and unmourned since Yitzhak Rabin joined their company.

  3. 3 noam said at 1:51 am on July 26th, 2010:

    Arieh: I agree. on this issue, the old distinctions and party lines within the Left should be left aside. I think that some people begin to understand that, but not all of them.

  4. 4 Noam W. said at 1:50 pm on July 26th, 2010:

    I understand the frustration, and am too, frustrated by what is going on in the Knesset – but I am not sure how radicalizing Meretz will help.

    In this sense – the street and the parliament are two different arenas. They are interconnected, sure, but there is also a lot of separation between the two.

    So the question to ask here, I think, is whether Meretz participating, as a party, in the protests will aid either Meretz electorally, or the protests’ efficacy. I am not sure the answer to either of these questions is positive.

    Of course, if you think the parliamentary arena should be completely abandoned that is a different story. It has very very deep implications though, and as bad as things are I am not sure we are there quite yet.

  5. 5 noam said at 8:41 am on July 27th, 2010:

    Noam W – I don’t expect Meretz to be more radical. I want it to be more active outside the Parliament. they shouldn’t do anything they don’t believe in.

    the truth is I suspect the partnership between the Kibutzim and the urban Left is over. this is true for both Meretz and Labor. the two sides have different agendas, and perhaps the sooner they split, the better.

  6. 6 Noam W said at 8:55 am on July 27th, 2010:

    Noam… Funny – I would rather Meretz become more radical, I don’t know if it needs to be more active outside…

    The Kibbutzim have left the left two election cycles ago… we can definitely agree there.

  7. 7 Kibbutznik said at 1:07 am on August 2nd, 2010:

    I was a Meretz voter for many years , did not like their stance on Operation Caste Lead .
    Moved to Hadash last elections and unless Meretz changes I will stay with Hadash .

  8. 8 Thomas Mitchell, PhD said at 11:01 am on August 6th, 2010:

    Whenever there are these types of discussions I look to history to provide, if not an answer, at least a suggestion of where to go for an answer. And I look for that history not only in Israel itself but in other democracies that are in Israel’s situation that of an ethnic democracy involved in a native-settler conflict. Therefore I look to Northern Ireland, 19th century America, and to a lesser extent South Africa as well as Israel itself to provide clues.

    The problems with Meretz–there are several–are complicated. First, the Israeli public is convinced that the Arabs don’t want peace and they don’t want to be duped. Second, Meretz has a reputation as a group of “yefei nefesh” (do gooders) who are both idealistic and impractical. Third, Labor is also collapsing due to the selfishness of some of its leaders and its over-reliance on former alufim (generals and admirals) and lack of a broad pool of potential leaders. Kadima is terribly divided. The most relevant situations here are antebellum America during the antislavery struggle of the 1840s and 1850s and Northern Ireland. In America it was not the radical abolitionists like editor William Lloyd Garrison and his followers known by historians as the Garrisonians who had much of an impact on the public, nor the self-righteous religious abolitionists in the Liberty Party, but rather the radical politicians who defected from the mainstream Whig and Democratic parties to form the Free Soil Party and then the Republicans who were responsible for freeing the slaves. These politicians shied away from making religious arguments when dealing with general audiences and instead made arguments based on self interest. They argued that slavery was a threat to free labor in the Western territories as a free man couldn’t compete with slave labor. A comparable argument in Israel’s case is the demographic argument and the cost of the settlements. Radicals will argue that these arguments are racist. Racism is in the eye of the beholder. Zionism was established to create a Jewish state–the occupation threatens that. If Arabs or leftist radicals accuse Meretz of being racist for using such arguments it will only increase Meretz’s standing in the eyes of the Israeli public. Meretz is operating in the environment of Israeli public opinion, particularly Jewish Israeli public opinion.

    In Northern Ireland the liberal Alliance Party used its standing with the Northern Ireland Office to institute progressive measures such as changing the franchise system from first-past-the-post to the PR-STV franchise which was a combination of proportional representation and multimember constituencies. In the Israeli context the equivalent of the NIO is the State Dept. in Washington. Meretz should advise both Washington and Brussels on measures that would be conducive to ensuring negotiations. But this should be done quietly. The other thing that should be done is to loudly condemn Palestinian terrorism and support solutions with the moderates while leaving room for Hamas to join talks later if it makes changes. Right now Meretz should be pushing more for talks on the Syrian front, as Damascus has the ability to make decisions and make peace if it desires to do so, something that Ramallah at present lacks.

  9. 9 noam said at 11:29 am on August 6th, 2010:

    Thomas: for the steps you suggest, we don’t need Meretz, just to fix Labor or Kadima. in Fact, what you think Meretz needs to do is the same things the Likud is doing under Netanyahu: condemning the Palestinians and calling for direct negotiations.

    Meretz is a party that traditionally opposed the occupation and led the fight for civil rights, both for Jews and non Jews. this cannot be done based on a “Jews only” arguments and calls for ethnic segregation, even if you think the Jewish public might find those appealing. As I said, for these we don’t need Meretz. we could all vote for Livni and be done with it.

  10. 10 Werner Cohn said at 5:44 pm on August 7th, 2010:

    That posting and its various commentators are, well, formidable, as the French would say, fantastic. Here is the small Jewish state surrounded by a hostile Islamic land mass, attacked literally every day by rockets from the North and South, threatened and bullied and villified by Islamists and others, facing an Arab street that, by and large, is determined to annihilate it, and here are the grouplets of Jewish “leftists” from both Israel and abroad who see no evil except that which comes from Jews. And then here is their complaint: the Jewish public won’t vote for them ! Can you imagine, those Jews won’t endorse their own destruction. Obviously this Jewish public must be reactionary and right-wing, McCarthyite and worse.

  11. 11 noam said at 5:35 am on August 8th, 2010:

    Werner: If you think the Palestinians are to blame for everything , you would find this debate pointless. As you can imagine, most commentators here don’t share this perspective.

  12. 12 Thomas Mitchell said at 1:01 pm on August 10th, 2010:

    Noam,
    I don’t think that Meretz should necessarily be an exclusively Jewish party, but it should recognize the reality that the debate taking place is taking place within a Jewish and Zionist context. I think one of the important roles of Meretz is to address the civil rights of Arabs within Israel. But the truth is that Jews tend to vote for Jewish parties and Arabs for Arab parties within Israel.

    In 1987, the “progressive” whites affiliated with the United Democratic Front in South Africa decided to boycott white elections. As a result the Progressive Federal Party lost a number of seats where the student vote of English-speaking students was important. The ANC saw that this did not make much sense in terms of its strategic goals and encouraged whites to vote in elections for parties that were opposed to apartheid. In 1989 the newly formed Democratic Party, formed from the PFP and two smaller new anti-apartheid Afrikaner parties, did very well in the election. This showing helped to encourage President F.W. de Klerk to reset the clock by 30 years and unbann the liberation movements and the Communist Party. He released Mandela from prison and began negotiations on a new political dispensation. Thinking purely in extraparliamentary terms is a very shortsighted approach. If you want a two-state solution don’t dismantle the party that pioneered the concept.

  13. 13 noam said at 12:59 am on August 11th, 2010:

    Thomas: everything I wrote does not reflect on Meretz as a party for Jewish voters. what I think you miss is that not only that the two state solution is a bad platform to Meretz, it even makes the party lose voters, since the public obviously prefers the Likud or Kadima’s version of the idea. I don’t mean that Meretz should oppose it, only that it cannot use it as its main ideological platform.

    The deterioration in civil rights issues in Israel and the racist trends is not an “Arab” issue, but rather something that concerns the entire Jewish public as well.

    furthermore, the last thing I think Meretz should do is put pressure on the Palestinians to negotiate with Bibi. this would be not only a tactical mistake politically, but also a move that would only help Israel maintain the occupation for much longer.

  14. 14 Tom Mitchell said at 9:13 am on August 12th, 2010:

    Noam,
    Maybe we are more in agreement than you think. I believe that Meretz’s decline is in large part to an over-focus on the Palestinian issue at a time when Israelis, with some justification, believed that the Palestinians were not interested in a compromise peace but only a surrender to the Palestinian position. I think that Meretz should focus on other issues as well such as religious coercion. And when it focuses on peace it should emphasis the Syrian track over the Palestinian track. But historically Meretz’s niche market as a party has been on the twin issues of peace and religious coercion. I think it should probably concentrate on the latter issue for the time being.

  15. 15 noam said at 6:06 am on August 13th, 2010:

    Tom,

    I’m sorry, but I don’t agree. I think the relations with the Arabs are everything in Israeli politics. it shapes every trend in the political system. there is no point in talking about state and religion relations without dealing first with the Palestinians, because the coalition between religious and conservative parties is built on common views and interest on the Palestinian issue. that’s why everybody have been talking on religious coercion and nothing has been happening for more then 20 years. the same goes for most social issues. so when I mean Meretz should talk about democracy, I mean the current persecution of Israeli-Palestinians and Leftwing organizations because of the Palestinian issue, and nothing else.

    but there is more to it then the political calculation. the occupation is the greatest evil in this country, and its certainly the worst thing any country claiming to be a democracy is doing right now. How can a progressive party speak of anything else? Yes, there are environmental issues and Gay rights and so on, but we are keeping an entire people, millions of human beings, with no rights for almost half a century! so the only Zionist party that is actually ready to talk about the immorality of the entire situation should now ask for peace with Syria? it’s like demanding a human right group in the segregated South, 60 yrs ago, to talk about freedom of press or women’s rights. yes, these are important issues, but there is something we should solve first.

    by saying Meretz shouldn’t talk about negotiations and the diplomatic process, i meant that (a) this is something other parties are doing and (b) that the message should be “end the occupation immediately” rather then “force the Palestinians to negotiate with Netanyahu”, like you are suggesting.

  16. 16 Tom Mitchell said at 8:50 am on August 14th, 2010:

    Noam,
    First of all, I don’t see a negotiated solution in the short-term, the next five years. If one looks at the history of Israeli agreements with the Arabs, as well as the resolutions of similar conflicts such as Algeria, Northern Ireland and South Africa, there are two types of settler or colonial leaders who can deliver a deal with the native population. One, is pragmatic military figures who were former senior officers and war heroes such as Dayan, Allon, Weizman, Yadin, and Sharon or De Gaulle in France. There is no shortage of former military officers who are politicians–I call them military politicians or Arab fighters. The problem is finding those who are pragmatic enough and willing to compromise. The other type are conservative nationalist leaders who have become pragmatic due to a realization of a unique opportunity. Examples of these are F.W. de Klerk in South Africa, David Trimble in Northern Ireland, and Begin. Because of the existing balance-of-power it is better that Israel try to negotiate a deal with Syria. Netanyahu could probably sell a deal with Syria to the right wing or certainly to a coalition composed of Kadima, Labor, Meretz, and the Likud. Plus, Asad can make such a deal. The Palestinian leadership cannot make a deal that involves any real compromises such as the “right of return.” Therefore the Palestinian track is blocked on both ends.

    If Meretz continues to advocate a deal with the Palestinians as you advocate it will quickly become another Gush Shalom, which would do no one any good–one Gush Shalom is enough.

  17. 17 Tom Mitchell said at 8:58 am on August 14th, 2010:

    Noam,
    First of all, I don’t see a negotiated solution in the short-term, the next five years. If one looks at the history of Israeli agreements with the Arabs, as well as the resolutions of similar conflicts such as Algeria, Northern Ireland and South Africa, there are two types of settler or colonial leaders who can deliver a deal with the native population. One, is pragmatic military figures who were former senior officers and war heroes such as Dayan, Allon, Weizman, Yadin, and Sharon or De Gaulle in France. There is no shortage of former military officers who are politicians–I call them military politicians or Arab fighters. The problem is finding those who are pragmatic enough and willing to compromise. The other type are conservative nationalist leaders who have become pragmatic due to a realization of a unique opportunity. Examples of these are F.W. de Klerk in South Africa, David Trimble in Northern Ireland, and Begin. Because of the existing balance-of-power it is better that Israel try to negotiate a deal with Syria. Netanyahu could probably sell a deal with Syria to the right wing or certainly to a coalition composed of Kadima, Labor, Meretz, and the Likud. Plus, Asad can make such a deal. The Palestinian leadership cannot make a deal that involves any real compromises such as the “right of return.” Therefore the Palestinian track is blocked on both ends.

  18. 18 Tom Mitchell said at 9:00 am on August 14th, 2010:

    2nd part to above comment:
    If Meretz continues to focus obsessively on the Palestinian issue, especially in the extraparliamentary fashion that you seem to advocate it will soon be reduced to being another Gush Shalom. That will not do anyone any good–one Gush Shalom already fills the niche.

  19. 19 noam said at 2:20 pm on August 14th, 2010:

    tom:

    (a) if only a general or a conservative can make an agreement, than why bother speaking about Meretz? let’s all vote for Barak, Liberman or Bibi.

    (b) You will never get a better Palestinian leadership for the two state solution. you are wrong on the right of return: Palestinian already agreed that it would be implemented in the Palestinian state. Salem Fayad even said it on an interview on Haaretz recently.

    (c) I feel you are mixing moral and tactical considerations. I don’t think we should turn to negotiate with Syria, because the urgent moral issue is the Palestinian one. I can’t accept the “let’s wait five years approach”, just like you couldn’t say to an anti-Apartheid activist in SA “deal with environmental issues for 5 years and then we will see”. the Syrian track is not urgent, because its a Geo-political issue, not a human rights crisis.

    (d) on a more pragmatic level, in the current rate of settlement growth, in five years we will only have the one-state solution to talk about. If you believe in a two state solution, you are going to miss your train.

    (e) not to mention the fact that in Five years we could have a republican president. and then what?

    (f) finally, I disagree with the way you read the political map. right now it seems that there is no political base that would support a “lefty” platform, and therefore, as you suggest, Meretz should move to the right. But Meretz was actually much stronger when it was more lefty (in the 90′s), and it seems that under the current, more moderate leadership, it lost voters. furthermore, in the next elections Meretz will probably have Yair Lapid and possibly Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldaie on its right, maybe in a new party or even as part of Kadima (not to mention that Labor might be under a new leader). If Meretz won’t be associated with its own issue, it stands no chance of surviving. Lapid, Livni and Huldaie poll better on all social issues with Meretz’s constituency, and the Syrian track is associated with Barak and even Ashkenazy (which will probably go into politics as well). Meretz have not advantage and no room to maneuver in the places you want it.

    I was trying to point to is the only issue I think Meretz has an edge in. there is a strong undercurrent in the Left right now: people are anxious and even fearful from the undemocratic and racist trends, and the rise of a xenophobic and conservative discourse which almost all Zionist parties share. Meretz could challenge this discourse with a few public acts. it can be associated with this issue, and it won’t even be too hard. I don’t know how well it will work for the party in the polls, but it will be the right thing to do.

  20. 20 Tom Mitchell said at 4:44 pm on August 15th, 2010:

    Noam,
    1) Meretz is a missionary party. Its main function was to sell the two-state solution to parties that were in a position to deliver on it. It has fulfilled this with first Labor and then Kadima. It can now merge with other like-minded parties to ensure that the solution can be implemented. This is what the Free Soil Party did by dissolving and merging with free state Whigs to form the Republican Party in 1854, only six years after the Free Soil Party was formed. The idea will be to form a party of two-state advocates powerful enough to force the Likud to implement the idea.
    2) Salam Fayyad can say many things. He is not the head of Fatah. Arafat also said many things that he did not implement. He tended to say whatever he thought his audience wanted to hear. Abbas is like King Hussein between 1967 and 1988–he could never commit himself to what Israel wanted as he thought that it would compromise the stability of his regime. The same goes for Abbas.
    3) This finite horizon is a myth of the leftists. There are two versions of the one-state solution–one in which the Jews are dominant and the other in which the Arabs are dominant. Neither is acceptable to the other side. When the butcher’s bill is high enough the settlers will be removed or left to the mercies of the Palestinians.
    4) I’m in the problem-solving business not in the moral business. If you want to be moral become a rabbi (preferably not of the Orthodox variety). Politics is about gaining power and using that power to solve problems.

  21. 21 noam said at 10:07 pm on August 15th, 2010:

    What makes you think that Meretz’s main mission is to “to sell the two-state solution to parties that were in a position to deliver on it”, and then merge with them? I am not a Meretz supporter, but I don’t think you will find one Meretz official who would the things you are saying.

    also, if this was Meretz’s goal, and since everybody already adopted the two state solution, it’s time to shut down the business, no?

    2. regarding moral issues & practical ones: there are many ways to solve a political problem, and the choice between them is the moral one. that’s why moral argument are the at heart of the political thought. let’s say we find that the most practical solution for the Palestinian problem is deportation, or “transfer”, as Israelis refer to it. would you still support it? your effort to define a realm in which we disconnect ourselves from the dangers of moral judgment and deal with practical ideas simply cannot work.

  22. 22 Tom Mitchell said at 8:31 am on August 16th, 2010:

    Noam,
    I derived this mission by comparative analysis. Meretz is a liberal party in an illiberal society–the only way to make the society liberal (in the sense of a liberal democracy) is to end the conflict. For the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that means the two-state solution. That means not only getting other parties to pay lip service to the tss but to take actions that will advance its implementation. It may make more sense to advance that goal by merger than by maintaining a separate existence, provided that a suitable platform for merger could be agreed upon. Both the Labor Party and Meretz, not to mention the Likud, were initially greater than the sum of their parts. Once the tts has been implemented, former Meretz members might want to find a new mission.

    The Democratic Party in South Africa was willing to merge with the National Party once it had shed its support for apartheid in order to better protect liberal principles against the ANC.

    Regarding transfer, this is a hypothetical question–and I usually don’t entertain those. Transfer is not practical because of the damage it would cause to Israel internationally and the precedent that it would serve for dealing with Israel in the future.

  23. 23 Tom Mitchell said at 5:46 pm on August 21st, 2010:

    Noam,
    You should read Mitchell Plitnick’s column Thurs. on the MeretzUSA blog to see why I’m so pessimistic about a solution in the short term. And I don’t think its going to change for the next two years and maybe not during Obama’s second term, if he wins one. I’ve been following the “peace process” since Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy in the mid-1970s. I’ve also written extensively on the peace process in Northern Ireland, so I know whats conditions were necessary there for peace to succeed–and that’s the closest comparable situation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  24. 24 noam said at 11:48 pm on August 22nd, 2010:

    I don’t have high hopes in the current round of talks as well, but I think that if you ask Mitchell Plitnick about the reasons for the upcoming failure, he will agree that the problem is currently Israel, not the Palestinians. the Israeli government, as well as its public, simply doesn’t want to have a reasonable deal, so there is not much to talk about.

  25. 25 Tom Mitchell said at 10:34 pm on August 23rd, 2010:

    Noam,
    Actually Mr. Plitnick agreed with my assessment: the Palestinian track is blocked at both ends and that is unlikely to change anytime soon. So I guess you have a problem with both Mitchells.

  26. 26 noam said at 2:37 am on August 24th, 2010:

    yes, the fact that the track is “blocked” is something we can both agree on, I only think that it is Israel that’s blocking…

    check this out
    http://www.promisedlandblog.com/?p=3376

  27. 27 Tom Mitchell said at 6:47 am on August 30th, 2010:

    Here are the concluding paragraphs from a piece by Bitter Lemons editor Yossi Alpher, a former senior analyst for the Mossad, in the Jerusalem Post. Alpher also blames both sides for the impasse on the Palestinian track.

    By YOSSI ALPHER
    08/29/2010 22:27

    FINALLY, IN view of the growing concern over Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions in Washington, Jerusalem and many Arab capitals, one can only wonder at the administration’s failure to place greater emphasis on negotiations between Israel and Damascus as well. This is the only diplomatic way of weakening Iran’s penetration into the Levant. It’s also extremely important as the US draws down its forces from Iraq, which borders Syria.

    While an Israel-Syria negotiating breakthrough is far from certain, the chances are much better than between Israel and Ramallah, and the immediate regional payoff at least as great. President Bashar Assad is an extremely problematic partner (for both the US and Israel) and Netanyahu is far from enthusiastic. Washington’s silence on this issue is troublesome.