In marmur

By Rabbi Dow Marmur.

A victory of the Herzog-Livni alliance in Israel’s elections next March would lead to serious negotiations that could result in the establishment of a Palestinian state. Both Livni and Herzog aren’t only committed in principle to a two-state solution – i.e., a Palestinian state – but they have in the past worked towards that end. No doubt they’ll pursue it more vigorously when at the helm.

On the other hand, a victory for Netanyahu’s team or – which is a growing possibility – a team to the right of him, would lead to the very opposite.

Why then are the Palestinians implicitly helping the right-wing in Israel to get   re-elected? For that’s the likely outcome of their encouragement of the boycott movement (BDS) and their pursuit of aggressive diplomacy in the United Nations, Europe and elsewhere. The moves to get the world to punish Israel by making vacuous pronouncements about a Palestinian state as a posture will limited consequences is grist to the mill for right-wingers like Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman. Even Netanyahu uses the current situation to make the Israeli public support him.

Is it just Palestinian ineptitude? The proverbial Palestinian ability never to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity? Or is there something more sinister afoot?

I’m tempted to answer the last question in the affirmative. In view of the Hamas takeover of Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal, and considering the enmity between the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas, despite the periodic gestures of reconciliation and cooperation, it’s not impossible that Abbas and his team prefer the status quo to risking ceding the West Bank to Hamas after a peace deal with Israel.

Abbas must know that his current antics on the international arena are hardening the arteries of Israeli voters and thus killing the prospect of a two-state solution. Though Lieberman seems to be marginally more circumspect in his pronouncements, Bennett is quite blunt in his opposition to granting statehood to the Palestinians.

[Lieberman is, of course, determined to use European hostility to his electoral advantage. As Israel’s foreign minister he has just refused to see his Swedish counterpart on a visit to the region. Some are seeing this as a pre-election spin.]

The fact that Jordan, ostensibly Israel’s friend in the Arab world, is fronting the Palestinian efforts in the United Nations may mean that it, too, prefers the status quo to a Palestinian state run by Hamas on its borders. Egyptian silence can also be seen in this light: the last thing Egypt would want is a strengthened Hamas.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is, seems to be acting in response to this and even prepared to say so in public. That’s why he’s now urging a delay in the United Nations debate until after the Israeli elections.

But the damage may have already been done: the Israeli public has been alerted and, therefore, more motivated to re-elect Netanyahu and vote for the right-wing in order to make sure that, whatever the United Nations and the others come up with won’t make Israel yield an inch. The various hostile moves in the world will only strengthen Israel’s resolve to do nothing and wait.

Should Netanyahu and his political allies win the next election they may have good reason to thank Palestinian diplomacy for it.

Jerusalem 20.12.14 (Motza’ei Shabbat)

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