By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Meir Dagan – Israel’s former spy chief and now one of the prime minister’s most relentless adversaries – probably went too far when he told the 40 000 or so demonstrators in Tel Aviv last Saturday night who called for government change that Netanyahu is a greater menace to Israel than Iran. A charitable interpretation would suggest that using Iran as an excuse for not seeking an end to the occupation, or at least managing it better, constitutes in the long run a greater risk even than a nuclear Iran.
The occupation is bad, very bad, for Israel’s soul. The arguments are well known and needn’t be rehearsed again other than to remind ourselves that the erosion of morality and integrity that the occupation brings with it threatens Israel from within and that this is much more serious than any danger from without.
On the other hand, Netanyahu’s argument – and he’s by no means the only one to say so – that as Iran is already on Israel’s northern border through its proxy Hezbollah and in Gaza via its stooge Hamas, a Palestinian state would soon be taken over by Hamas or another agent of Iran and thus Tel Aviv would come within its line of fire.
Even those who oppose the ideology of the settlers, who claim Jewish inalienable rights to what they call Judea and Samaria apart from the Iranian threat, may be less than enthusiastic about a Palestinian state for reasons of Israel’s security.
That’s why the issue hasn’t been much on the pre-election agenda until now when his known adversaries in and around the tabloid Yediot Achronot are trying to embarrass Netanyahu by making available a (draft?) document that suggests that not many years ago he was willing to agree to most of what the Palestinians wanted.
The Netanyahu camp denies the validity of the document but doesn’t quite renege on his earlier commitment to a two-state solution lest that would sit badly with some voters and with many of Israel’s allies. The line is now that, after the rise of different mutations of jihadism in recent years, whatever was intended earlier is no longer relevant.
That’s perhaps also why the Zionist Union doesn’t have that much to say about the matter, even though Tzipi Livni has a record of negotiating with the Palestinians and is said to be committed to a deal. And her co-leader Isaac Herzog’s reassurance that, once he’s prime minister he’ll restore Israel’s god name among the nations, may also hint at renewed negotiations under his watch.
However, irrespective of what politicians say or don’t say in the hope of getting the votes of the undecided, most Israelis seem to accept that a two-state solution may be the hope of many but isn’t on the cards of negotiators. This isn’t only due to right-wing ideology in Israel, but because of the inability of the Palestinians to deliver a state that won’t be a puppet of Iran or ISIS or something similar.
But there’s no reason why the conflict couldn’t be managed much better by both sides. The Palestinians’ going to the United Nations and to the International Criminal Court may embarrass Israel, but it won’t bring them closer to having a state of their own. So far all that they’ve achieved is incurring punitive measures by Israel that are causing untold hardships to their people. Israel would do well to reconsider these forthwith.
Thus, irrespective of long-term prospects, more prudent management of non-peace may bring all a little closer to real peace. Would Netanyahu deliver? Can Herzog?
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By Rabbi Dow Marmur.