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No Peace Camp Will Emerge in the Near Future


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No Peace Camp Will Emerge in the Near Future

Thursday, 20 May, 2021 - 10:30

From the first day of the round of fighting in Gaza, it became apparent that Hamas had made significant gains. It prevented Israel from celebrating Jerusalem Day and fired successive rounds of missiles to Tel Aviv and several cities far from the frontlines, using novel tactics that confounded the Iron Dome, thereby solidifying its position as an undisputed partner in representing the Palestinians in the face of the shaky leadership in Ramallah.

This assessment is reinforced by the fact that Hamas, which is accused of being a terrorist organization and is aligned with the axis of resistance, served Benjamin Netanyahu's interest, whose prime ministerial term has ended, as he hopelessly tries to return to power after having failed to form a government during the period afforded to him by the mandate that he had been granted by President Reuven Rivlin after the last legislative elections in March. Netanyahu’s political career is not over. His Likud party still enjoys broad support, which allowed it to win 30 seats in the current Knesset. The argument that extremists in both camps, Palestinian and Israeli, exchange favors needs to be reconsidered.

Those who hold this opinion, arguing that both sides of the ongoing conflict in Gaza provide justifications for an extremist approach, ignore the fact that neither the Palestinian nor the Israeli arenas are currently prepared to accept a peace initiative, wherever it may come from. The initiative that had been put forward by the former US President’s advisor Jared Kushner did not fail to see the light exclusively because of the shallowness of the vision for the future of the region and the Palestinian state presented by the “deal of the century,” but more so because there is no peace camp worthy of the name, neither in Israel nor among the Palestinians. No more than 13 MKs, shared between Labor and Meretz, represent what had been known as the Israeli peace camp, and we should keep in mind, here, that Labor’s commitment to peace has receded significantly since the assassination of its leader and former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. His successor, Shimon Peres, wasted his opportunity with delays and procrastination under the pretext of working to stop Hamas’ suicide attacks. Finally, the 2000 Yasser Arafat - Ehud Barak negotiations broke down and were followed by the outbreak of the second intifada.

Extreme rightwing rhetoric and policies did begin to prevail with Rabin’s assassination in 1995. Indeed, it can be traced back to Menachem Begin’s ascension to premiership in 1977. This development reflected a series of internal Israeli developments, like the increased influence and strengthened the role of the Mizrahi Jews from Arab countries at the expense of the Ashkenazi Jews, as well as the shift toward a reduction in the public sector’s role in the economy. Internationally, the balance of power was tipping in the United States’ favor, and the Soviets’ support for the Arabs was waning…The arrival of large waves of Jewish immigrants from the republics of the former Soviet Union in the late eighties and early nineties exacerbated the rightward shift, as they formed a weighty political force that, under Avigdor Lieberman’s leadership, was able to reserve a share of representation in the Knesset for itself and take part in governments several times.

Two right-wing bents, one ethnic and another religious, representing Mizrahi Jews and those coming from the Soviet republics, came together as the weight of Ashkenazi Jews’ bloc, which had governed Israel until the mid-seventies, began to recede. Though most of them were Jews from East Europe, like their compatriots who came after Mikhail Gorbachev had allowed Jews to emigrate, most of the early arrivals had been aligned with what was called the “Zionist left,” which sought to develop a form of socialism for Jews on Palestinian territory. The rest of the story is well known. Parties like Shas burst onto the fore of the political scene, imposing their Keenest representatives before being joined by other religious parties concerned first and foremost with the interests of their followers, having agreed among themselves to entirely ignore the Palestinian question that Israeli governments had propagated was over with the end of the second intifada.

Moreover, coalition governments are nothing new in Israel, which saw, to give one example, the formation of a Labor-led (center left) government that included the religious Shas party and the leftist Meretz party. What is new is that the political scene is splintering for reasons that range from demographic changes to the nature of the single district proportional representation electoral law. This has made the formation of a homogeneous government extremely difficult, as demonstrated by the previous coalition that collapsed after several members of Blue and White left the party, freeing Netanyahu from his commitment to rotating the top job with the head of Blue and White, Benny Gantz. One must highlight the role played by Benjamin Netanyahu personally, his lust for power, and his little maneuvers and surprises, which are often demonstrated in betrayals of friends.

Regardless of the signs and underlying causes of Israel’s political crises, they have begun to reflect on the state’s policies and its ability to manage pressing crises like the surge of anger among Palestinians of 48 coinciding with protests in the West Bank and the battle in Gaza.

No future government will be cohesive enough to push for a real peace project, neither with the Palestinians or anyone else, since the majority of the Israeli electorate is not convinced in the utility of presenting any concessions, no matter how menial, to the Palestinians, to say nothing about the significant and dangerous steps required to reach a final solution, which the Israelis don’t even want to think about.

Thus, we will wait a long time before the peace process comes to life in light of the deep internal schisms on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides, which will need radical political reorganization from which a new “peace camp” could emerge if there is an Israeli, regional and international interest in ending the conflict. Discussing this right now is totally futile.

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