Just like Golda Meir's government before the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the State of Israel's government under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is immersed in a dangerous strategic illusion. The illusion is that the lull in the territories will persist and that the international community is not interested in the Palestinians' fate anymore and has turned its attention to more burning issues. Therefore, the government believes, the diplomatic stalemate can be dragged on and Israel may even be able to annex Judea and Samaria and leave Gaza for the Palestinians - and all this without threatening Israel's existence or its Jewish and democratic character and without paying a heavy price in the future. And just like the pre-Yom Kippur War model, the 2012 version won't last either. This illusion will cost us dearly unless we awaken from it soon.
Moreover, credible information indicates that there is an available alternative to the stalemate in the negotiations with the Palestinians and that the possibility of establishing two states for two peoples still exists. Clear signals have been conveyed through secret channels to the leaders in Jerusalem regarding a real possibility of renewing the talks with Mahmoud Abbas in the near future and even agreeing on the principles of a permanent peace deal. Now the Israeli government must display a little good will and flexibility. Washington can also contribute greatly to jumpstarting such a process after the presidential elections in the US.
But for this process to be resumed Netanyahu and other senior coalition members must acknowledge the fact that they are deeply immersed in a strategic illusion that is based on a false concept that consists of the following elements:
- The claim that a peace agreement based on a compromise between Jews and Palestinians cannot be achieved in light of the wave of revolutions and the growing Islamization in the Arab world.
- The assumption that Abbas is worthless and is incapable of making the bold decisions that are needed in order to achieve a permanent or even an interim agreement. All Abbas wants is to extort more Israeli "transgressions" in order to delegitimize the very existence of the Jewish state and isolate it in the international arena.
- The claim that the West Bank Palestinians will not dare launch a third intifada after the suffering they experienced during the first two uprisings, which did not yield any results. At most they will oust Abbas and Fayyad and find an authentic leader with whom Israel may be able to negotiate with. And in Gaza? The residents and Hamas are still licking the wounds from Operation Cast Lead and will remain fearful of another Israeli military campaign in the coastal enclave.
- The economic situation in the West Bank has never been better, and if Israel continues to advance the economic peace with the Palestinians and continues to improve daily life in the territories by easing restrictions on movement and work permits – then the Palestinians will have no reason to enter into a lengthy, bloody conflict.
- It is impossible to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as long as two separate Palestinian entities exist that are hostile to one another and have different interests - one in the West Bank and one in Gaza, with Hamas threatening to seize power in the West Bank in the event that the two entities will reconcile and unite politically.
- As long as the Iranian nuclear threat is not removed there is no chance that the Palestinians will agree to a historic compromise. In addition, it would be too risky for Israel to make territorial concessions that would move the Palestinian rockets closer to Israeli population centers.
- The Palestinian fertility rate in the West Bank is decreasing while the birth rate among Israel's Jews is on the rise. In addition, a significant number of Palestinians are leaving the West Bank each year while immigration to Israel continues. Therefore, there is no danger that the Jews will become a minority in their own country even if Israel annexes Judea and Samaria. So, the warnings regarding a bi-national state (in which Jews are the minority) and the possibility of Israel turning into an apartheid state are baseless.
There is a certain amount of truth to the Israeli government's claims against renewing the peace negotiations with the Palestinians. For example, it is obvious that at this point in time Abbas has no real incentive to make the bold decisions that are needed in order to formulate a permanent agreement based on comprise. Such decisions would not only stir controversy in the Palestinian street but would also put his life in danger. This is why he prefers to conduct a diplomatic war of attrition against Israel and try to mobilize international public opinion in support of pressuring Israel to withdraw from the territories and stop settlement construction. In other words, he wants the world to give the Palestinians what they want without having to pay any price for it.
However, it must be remembered that Abbas wants to remain in power and keep the Palestinian Authority under Fatah's control. He also has an interest in preserving what the Palestinians gained in Oslo, preventing Hamas from seizing power in the territories and remaining the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Therefore, especially now, when the PA is beginning to feel the global economic crisis and there are signs that the so-called "Arab Spring" has arrived in Ramallah and is threatening his rule – Abbas has a clear interest in moving forward with the negotiations. The problem is that he does not trust Netanyahu and is afraid he will fall prey to the rage of the masses in the event that he makes even the smallest concession without receiving anything in return from the Israeli premier.
Part 2 of analysis will be published Monday