Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Ira Sharkansky
Letter from Israel 

Where's the peace process?

 


Waiting for someone in authority to say Kadish.

It isn’t prominent in any of the major party platforms.

To be sure, one must be wary of making any conclusions about what candidates say and write in the midst of a political campaign. If they are not lying outright, the chances are that they are not telling all the truth.

In a context such as Israel, where a coalition government is inevitable, the importance of campaign promises is even dicier. No matter what politicians really think and intend, the unpredictable politics of a coalition may make it impossible for them to realize their most deeply felt intentions.

We’ve known for a long time that politicians are not likely to feel deeply about what they say and write.

This is not cynicism, but realism. Politics is a tough business. One must somehow find a way to satisfy contending and irreconcilable expectations.

Our uncertainties about what is said or highlighted in a campaign also apply to what is not said, or given limited emphasis.

With all those appropriate reservations.

Candidates of Jewish Home are most outspoken in rejecting the idea of a Palestinian state.

Avigdor Lieberman is talking again about trading Arabs for Jews, along with the land they are living on. He hasn’t specified what he’d do about the citizenship of those Arabs traded away, or if the Supreme Court would allow it to happen. He is also campaigning to dissolve the Palestine National Authority, or replace its leadership; and persuading the prominent sources of money for the International Criminal Court to stop paying. 

Meanwhile, one member of his Knesset delegation after the other has announced that he or she will not run in this campaign, and his corruption-wracked party, Yisrael Beiteinu, has declined to the point where it may not reach the minimum for putting anyone in the Knesset.

Likud and Kahlon are talking past the issue of a peace process, making it clear that there is no partner in the the Palestinian leadership. Likud is more concerned about protecting Jews from Muslims. Kahlon is playing on his reputation for reducing the cost of cell phones, and promising reductions in the prices of food and housing.

Elsewhere it is possible to hear what may be small sounds of support for the peace process, but they are indirect, and packaged as part of a louder attack on Benyamin Netanyahu. He didn’t convince the world that Israel was trying. His competitors would do better. It’s not clear what, if anything, they would offer the Palestinians. The greater concern is to convince others that they would appear to be more honest, straightforward and convincing than Bibi..

Tsipi Livni is speaking as the Israeli most experienced in seeking peace, but is talking mostly about Zionist unity and the faults of Benyamin Netanyahu. Insofar as she is blaming Abbas and his colleagues for the failure of her recent efforts, and—along with Herzog—criticizing their campaigns in the UN and International Criminal Court, it is not at all clear if a Labor led government would make a serious effort at talking with the Palestinians.

Most candidates on the Labor list are more concerned about social justice, without saying much about the economics associated with it.

Likewise Yair Lapid. His focus is more clearly the middle class than anything below, and his primary campaign pitch has been that it’s all Bibi’s fault. Lapid has also joined the chorus criticizing the Palestinians for going to the International Criminal Court.

Even the Americans seem tired with the Palestinians. They have been at half volume in opposing a return of the Palestinians to the UN Security Council, and at even high volume in opposing the actions of the Palestinians in going to the International Criminal Court, and criticizing the Court itself for opening inquiries into the Palestinians claims against Israel.

Neither the U.S. nor Israel have signed on to membership in the Court. Both are distrustful. Americans, as ever, will not concede sovereignty to a foreign body. Israelis are rightfully concerned that the Court is aligned with the majority of the UN General Assembly, and not likely to give a fair hearing to Israel’s claims in its defense, should it bother to cooperate with the Court.

Meretz is supporting a peace process, but it’s hard to discern if that is more or less important than its concern for social justice.

The ultra-Orthodox parties are—as always—willing to go with whatever coalition will give them money and go lightly on recruiting their Yeshiva bochers to the IDF. Ariyeh Deri is basing his comeback on an emotional appeal that the lower income voters of Sephardi background are being screwed by everyone else.

Whose fault that the peace process is in deep coma, or actually dead?

One can parse the story to blame Americans as well as Palestinians. The Americans for not understanding the history and pushing a losing proposition to the top of the agenda, and the Palestinians for doing what they have always done in rejecting what others offer. They have now abandoned a process of negotiation for the sake of getting what they want from the UN or the International Criminal Court.

Continuing his idea a day, Mahmoud Abbas has proposed canceling the procedures begun in the International Criminal Court on condition that Israel begin a settlement freeze. With that came a threat to stop security cooperation if Israel did not resume the transfer of import taxes collected for the Palestinians.

Europeans, and especially the French, are targets of pity or anger. Pity for having to deal with all those Muslims, a portion of whom are serious threats to civilization. And anger for downplaying the Jewish story associated with the Islamic threat. Asking Natanyahu not to come, and then putting him in the second line behind the President of Mali was a blunder in terms of dealing with the Jewish issue. Ha’aretz responded with predictable criticism of Bibi’s behavior, while Forward was more inclined to see comedy in Bibi’s pushing himself forward...  

What comes next?

Expectations are that the International Criminal Court will find greater reason to condemn Israel for defending itself than to condemn Palestinians for attacking civilians. The Court is also expected to put whatever weight it has on the side of the condemning the illegality of Israeli settlements over the lines of 1967, or perhaps over the lines of 1947. 

It may take a while for the Court to act, enough for several rounds of Palestinian demonstrations for one or another reason.  

Ideally there would be more of the same that we saw before the Americans got excited about their peace process. That is, thousands of West Bankers coming to Israel and the West Bank settlements daily in order to work, individuals coming through the checkpoints in order to receive medical care not available closer to their homes, family visits, weekly trips to Jerusalem for prayers, and movement through Israeli checkpoints on the way to Jordan. 

We should also expect individual acts of violence, but recognize that they have been less costly than traffic accidents.

Can it go on forever?

That’s too long to contemplate. Currently it’s one day at a time.

Ira Sharkansky is a professor (Emeritus) of the Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

 

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