Israel is ignoring the Palestinian conflict in its election campaign

Opinion: Right-wing politicians, despite history advising them otherwise, are leading the country towards a binational future without a Jewish majority or democracy, while those on the center-left are too afraid to speak out as they seek a broad coalition
Tzipi Livni|
Even in this round of election campaigns ahead of national vote on November 1, we have hardly heard about the most important topic for the future of Israel and its existence as a Jewish state – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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  • The conflict has not disappeared, but it has either lost the interest of Israelis , or is seen as too provocative to discuss for those who fear being branded as "leftists," now a derogatory term that could distance voters.
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    תיעוד מפעילות הכוחות
    תיעוד מפעילות הכוחות
    A soldier stands guard during an IDF raid on the West Bank to apprehend terror suspects
    (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
    In general, throughout the last few decades, those who supported a peace processes and disengagement from the Palestinians, have been told to "sober up".
    The right-wing politicians regard negotiations with Palestinians as a total disaster or even a failure, and the extreme amongst them even call terror victims: “victims of peace.”
    But the reality is just the opposite. During the Gaza War in 2009, for example, while I served as deputy prime minister and Foreign Minister, my political opponent at the time, Benjamin Netanyahu accused me of pushing "weak policies," and that I prevented the military from "completing their mission."
    In his election campaign, Netanyahu pledged to allow the IDF to go forth and destroy the Hamas terror group and its control of the Gaza Strip.
    Later, after he was elected as Prime Minister – largely due to comments like these – I was serving as the Justice Minister in his cabinet and watched as he promoted the policies he had previously condemned during another round of fighting in 2014.
    The vacuum he left as spokesperson for further military action, was quickly filled by others in the right-wing who flooded TV studios to push their narrative.
    Those same politicians, when they assumed positions in security portfolios, also expressed different views, adopting the same positions the prime minister had himself advanced.
    It turns out that the motto of “let the IDF win,” which promises peace for decades if only the state officials would allow the troops to operate as they see fit, is nothing more than a campaign slogan.
    So how did this happen? It’s no miracle that the prime minster changes his mind the second he enters office, and is suddenly willing to turn his back on his supporters on the right?
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    Ariel Sharon and Menachem Begin
    Ariel Sharon and Menachem Begin
    Ariel Sharon and Menachem Begin
    (Photo: Yaakov Sa'ar, GPO)
    With the senior position comes responsibility, and understanding that every political and security decision has significance for the country and its future.
    That was exactly what happened to Menachem Begin when he signed the peace agreement with Egypt in 1979, which included returning territory and displacing settlements.
    When then prime minister Ariel Sharon decided to withdraw from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and vacate settlements there, he told me he was acting out of concern for the future of the Jewish people.
    I hope the same concern was on the minds of Likud ministers, and Netanyahu first of all, when they approved Sharon's disengagement plan and voted for the immediate withdrawal of IDF troops from the Strip.
    Netanyahu himself signed the Wye River Memorandum, which included withdraw of the IDF from West Bank cities, and the transfer of land to the Palestinians. I was in the room when in 2014, he agreed to negotiate an agreement based on the pre 1967 lines.
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    Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu
    Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu
    Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO)
    Even the partition wall separating Israel from the West Bank, which has had unquestionable importance for the security of Israelis, was opposed by some on the right, who regarded it as a de-facto border, which will end up, in their minds, dividing the country.
    Dramatic moves like these are not the only thing that point at the right-wing's tendency to sober up when the moment of truth comes along.
    Despite its claim that the Oslo Accords were an historic fiasco, the right never abolished the agreement nor did it cancel the existence of the Palestinian Authority, which the accords brought to life.
    Instead, the politicians on the right, discovered that the PA actually frees Israel from funding millions of Palestinians’ education, health, police forces, and welfare. The security collaboration between Israel and the PA, makes it possible to reduce the exposure of IDF soldiers to danger posed by daily policing in refugee camps and the streets of Palestinian villages and towns.
    Now, after exclaiming for years that land must not be given to Palestinian control, those same politicians even those who support annexation, say they are referring only to area C, under the Oslo Accords, and not areas A and B where most Palestinians live.
    Those same vocal opponents of the accords, use the existence of the PA to dispute claims of apartheid on the West Bank, pointing to the rights of Palestinians there, to vote for their own institutions. Without that governing body, millions would demand to be given the right to vote for representatives in the Knesset.
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    פלסטינים במעברים
    פלסטינים במעברים
    Palestinians at a crossing from the West Bank into Israel
    (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
    Only those on the very extreme call for Israel to once more occupy Gaza and turn back the effects of what they call the expulsion from the settlements there.
    After the recent three-day offensive against the Islamic Jihad terror group, no mainstream politician has called for the military to push on and continue to fight.
    If only the Israel public would have heard these truths at the time, the need to compromise would be in consensus today. Most of the public, even those on the right oppose a binational state, and would be satisfied with disengagement from the Palestinians, that would come with security measures. Israelis expect that IDF protect us from terrorism, but do not want our soldiers to occupy all of Gaza once more.
    Now, instead of understanding the reality, the right is moving more to the extremes. The abhorrent comments made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Germany last month, claiming Israel had committed 50 Holocausts against his people, were condemned by all. But right-wing politicians quickly used the Palestinian leader's statements to slam their opponents on the left who had met Abbas while fulfilling their responsibility for the security of the state.
    Not one leader said honestly, that an agreement that would separate the two people's is the way to prevent a one-state solution that would endanger a Jewish majority.
    That is the absurd nature of Israel: Those who want an eventual separation from the Palestinians, so as to keep Israel a Jewish and democratic state, is inundated with hate and contempt, while those who promote annexation of the West Bank, will bring about a binational entity plagued by endless terror.
    After spearheading two rounds of talks with the Palestinians in 2014 and 2018, I cannot sell an illusion that peace is possible at this time and their refusal to accept a negotiated solution does not bode well for the future. The terror stemming from the Hamas after it took control of the Gaza Strip, is also unacceptable.
    These are problems Israel is facing and must address with creative ideas, so that a better and more secure reality can be built.
    Even if realistically, Israel must now "manage the conflict," any leader would admit that there must be a long-term perspective guiding that management. But in Israel's political discourse, the future of the conflict is being ignored, as well as the steps needed to be taken. Or in other words, there must be a strategy from which tactical steps are decided.
    Those who believes in the vision of a Jewish, democratic, and safe state in Israel, understands that in order to see this through we must maintain a Jewish majority, and for that we need to disengage from the Palestinians.
    Our partners on the other side, although critical to any agreement, must not pervert our vision. We will be doomed if we allow Palestinian weakness or refusal to compromise, to do so.
    Unfortunately, this seems to be exactly what is happening. The Palestinians’ behavior causes despair among the center-left , while on the religious nationalist right, their positions are used to justify an agenda of annexation, which can only further distance any hope for a future agreement.
    Any hope that a newly elected prime minister will see what some of his or her predecessors had seen, and apply policies that would benefit the future of the country, are unrealistic. The effort to avoid disputes within the political camps and the need for a broad unity coalition in order to sustain a government, is being used to promote the opposite.
    Those on the right who push for nationalism, Jewish superiority and hate, are gaining strength. while the attack on Israel's institutions of law increase and will ensure democracy is weakened further.
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    דגל דגלים ישראל פלסטין הרשות הפלסטינית
    דגל דגלים ישראל פלסטין הרשות הפלסטינית
    Israeli and Palestinian flags
    (Lance Tramadol)
    Even the language has been usurped to serve that end. Settlements are now communities, illegal outposts are communities of young families, and those who criticize them, are opposed to the nation as a whole.
    Laws are already being changed and historic reality erased as demonstrated when the Education Ministry refused to allow the use of maps that show the Green Line - the borders of the eve of the 1967 Six Day War. By erasing the line and presenting the illusion of a single territorial bloc, Israel denies history, and the legal reality between the Jordan River and the sea.
    This is not only a question of ignorance of the young Israelis, School graduates will grow up thinking all that belongs to them and who then will be able to object?
    This is how the narrative is set and it will certainly lead to our demise as a Jewish Democratic state. Instead Israel faces a future of being undemocratic, and without a Jewish majority, which will end the vision of the founders, as it was expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
    This process must stop now, before it is too late. Let us at least begin to honestly discuss the future.
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