Nabil Amr
Palestinian writer and politician

Two Cycles with No Escape

Only a few days separate us from that decisive day for the Israeli political elite. If no surprises are seen, with one side attaining a decisive victory over the other, sixth elections will loom over the horizon. The results could perpetuate the same vicious cycle of the country’s politics going in circles in between endless elections.

While elections are often seen as the only democratic, civilized option, they have become a heavy burden on the state in Israel. Indeed, electoral competition has become the center of political life. It fosters newly emerging divisions and limits the government’s capacity to make serious decisions on all matters, especially the question of peace. No matter tied to this central issue can be agreed upon.

The government even decided not to put the border demarcation agreement with Lebanon to a vote in the Knesset, which is split down the middle on the matter. This is the case despite the fact that all previous agreements had been put to a vote, turning them into binding legislation.

The maritime border agreement made it over the line because of US support and the current government’s need for an economic achievement it can use to appeal to voters, as it can now argue that it has secured billions for the treasury. The other side claims that the agreement amounts to nothing more than a tactical gain- one that was made at the cost of strategic losses, with Israel losing “sovereign” territory and that it will lead to more significant losses once the land borders are demarcated.

Israel is caught in a vicious cycle with no escape in sight. It is divided over everything, and with every round of elections, these divisions will deepen and exert greater influence on political decisions. These decisions will not be decisive in determining the course that the Jewish state will take, especially regarding a settlement, regardless of its scale, with the Palestinians.

The increasingly vicious Israeli cycle has imposed itself on its twin, which we could call “the vicious Palestinian cycle.” Indeed, dragging Palestinian politics into Israeli political disputes has created wars that the two competing sides see as necessary for the enhancement of their status and rallying support.

It is in this context that the three-day war on Gaza broke out despite avenues for avoiding it, as it broke out after the Egyptian mediators had managed to diffuse the situation. Moreover, as soon as the war in Gaza ended, the war in the West Bank escalated and became bloody as the Gantz-Lapid alliance sought to signal to voters that this duo is best suited to lead the war against the Palestinians. In a short time span, they spilled more blood than their rivals had in previous wars.

At the political level, the spillover of domestic Israeli politics brought new Palestinian divisions, stacked atop the old ones, to the fore… divisions within the same body and faction. The Lion’s Den took shape as a result of the void that traditional factions had left and the Palestinian Authority’s waning influence, and its rise provides a clear illustration of the actual divisions among the Palestinians.
The split is between those who assume responsibility and take the initiative and those who do nothing, as traditional legitimacy is with those who do nothing, while those who do enjoy popular legitimacy. These two groups cannot be brought together into a single faction.

The deep link between the Israeli vicious cycle and the Palestinian one, with the former reinforcing the latter, does not stop at wars on the ground that lead to heavy human losses. Rather, it goes further, closing the door to any initiative that could open political horizons or even lay the groundwork for economic development.

Israel prefers to keep this door shut, to the great detriment of the Palestinians, especially since the world, which used to care about what happened to them and the injustices they are subjected to during the monstrous wars waged against them by the Israelis, does not care anymore. If a stance is taken, it is stated coldly, and an understanding of the Israeli position is demonstrated far more than the needs of the Palestinians, the most prominent of which has become an end to the bloodshed, are met.

Where will these two cycles take us? We can draw conclusions without waiting for the results of the Israeli elections, which will change nothing in Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians. The Israeli cycle will continue. The country’s politics will continue to go in circles, from one round of elections to the next. A government could be formed by a single vote, but it will not determine the policy vis a vis the Palestinians, regardless of its composition and the person chosen to lead it.

As for the Palestinian cycle, it could lead to unforeseen developments that are only beginning now. These developments will demonstrate the Palestinians are at war with Israel, not working with the framework of a peace initiative as they had been before.