Israelis want peace, but only if it’s free

Posted: May 23rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Polls, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

Even with this extreme rightwing government at power, the conventional wisdom is that “Israelis want peace”. Most of the polling shows more than 50 percent of the public supporting the two state solution, and even parting Jerusalem is no longer taboo with Jews. The mystery is how with such a dovish public, Israel is still building settlements and using every trick in the book to postpone what seems like an inevitable evacuation.

Gadi Baltiansky, Director General of the Geneva Initiative in Israel, offers an explanation in an article on Foreign Policy:

Consider the following: about two-thirds of Israelis support the evacuation of most settlements as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Yet at the same time, only 30 percent believe that this is the opinion held by the majority (…)

Thus, a majority that supports the evacuation of most settlements as part of a peace agreement sees itself as a minority, while, perversely, a small but vocal minority that is against the evacuation acts as if it represents the general will. The majority’s mistake derives not only from its silence and preoccupation with other things, but from the reluctance of its leaders to offer a convincing sense of urgency to the issue at hand. The minority’s strength is in turn derived from the voluminous way it expresses itself, its focus on one issue only, and of course, from the trepidation displayed by the leaders of the majority.

One might add that Israeli leaders – as well as most journalists – are simply lying to the public, leading it to believe that we can reach an agreement while keeping settlements which are deep into the Palestinian territory, such as Ariel and Maale Edomim; that we can have a peace settlement without parting the holy basin in Jerusalem; or that we can make Hamas disappear (and when all of these fail to materialize, they blame Arab rejectionism). Akiva Eldar just had an interesting piece in Haaretz on the damage of baseless believes on both sides.

But the failure of leadership is only half the story. The real problem is the fact that Israelis are unwilling to pay the price that the implication of the two state solutions involves. As I’ve written before, the status quo is simply too comfortable for us, and there is no real incentive to go through the difficult internal confrontation – not to mention obvious security threats – that a withdrawal from the West bank might bring.

This is why I only partly agree with Baltiansky’s conclusion – that a foreign leader who wants to make progress should communicate itself to Israelis. Communication is important, but it will be all but useless without applying real pressure on Israeli leaders, such pressure that will make it clear that the current situation cannot go on.


Israeli media: Netanyahu to announce partial settlemets freeze, diplomatic plan

Posted: November 23rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

netanyahu_bibiRecent reports in the Israeli media suggest Benjamin Netanyahu is about to present a diplomatic initiative, probably accompanied by a partial, time limited, settlement freeze. It is unclear whether this plan is coordinated with the US administration and the European Union.

UPDATE: 30 minutes after I posted this item, Haaretz’s headline declared Netanyahu about to bring limited settlement freeze before cabinet.

PM Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak seem to be thinking that the diplomatic standstill is beginning to cause them damage, both on domestic and on international level. Barak is standing the real risk of a split in Labor, if the government won’t come up with some sort of an initiative soon, while Netanyahu is worried from other plans being put before the public by rival politicians. But the real threat for both Barak and Netanyahu is the two contradictory ideas the Palestinians are discussing: a unilateral declaration of independence and the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority.

According to Yossi Beilin, Netanyahu will soon announce a settlement freeze which will not include existing projects, the so-called “settlements blocks” and East Jerusalem. Then he will invite the Palestinians to renew the negotiations. UPDATE: Alex Fishman reports in Yedioth that the IDF is already preparing for construction freeze.

Maariv’s Ben Caspit reveled last week that Barak and President Peres are working on a way to make the two sides come to the table. According to this new idea, both Israel and the Palestinians will receive official letters from the US administration addressing their main concerns. Israel will get a paper acknowledging the Jewish nature of the state and a promise that the Palestinian state will be de-militarized; the Palestinians will be promised that the negotiations will be limited in time and that the territory they will get at the end will equal in its size to the West bank and Gaza.

According to Netanyahu’s idea, by the end of a certain time frame, the Palestinians will be able to declare independence on temporary borders (roughly the territory they hold now), and a time table for a permanent deal will be set.

Haaretz reports that Uzi Arad, the head of the Israeli National Security Council and the top advisor for Benjamin Netanyahu, said today that the government hopes to resume negotiations with the Palestinians “within the next few weeks”, and that a move forward with the Palestinians is more important right now than the Syrian front (Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazy is said to be pushing for an agreement with Syria, and there are many indications that the Syrians are more than ready to reach a deal. On the other hand, no Israeli leader is willing to commit to a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights). Read the rest of this entry »