In the circles close to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, estimates are the American team, led by US Secretary of State John Kerry, is determined to succeed where his predecessors failed and bring about a breakthrough – even if in order to sign a peace agreement he is forced to drag both sides to the table by the ears, kicking and screaming. Rumor has it that in January 2014, Kerry will present a meticulously crafted framework for an agreement.
Almost everyone exposed to the work of the current American team one way or another shares the same opinion that its thoroughness and purposefulness indicate that this time it's different, and that the determination of the person leading it is much bigger than what we have seen in the past from different American mediators.
If it is indeed so, the Israeli Left is about to face a strategic dilemma of the highest level: If they want to help advance the move, then after years of investing huge efforts and resources in eroding Prime Minister Netanyahu's public image, they will have to join forces with him and support him openly – if he agrees or is forced to accept Kerry's outline.
In a sense, this is similar to the support given by at least some left-wing organizations to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon when he initiated and carried out the unilateral disengagement in 2005. But while even Sharon's sworn enemies acknowledged his leadership virtues and appreciated his judgment on security issues, the leftist camp's attitude towards Netanyahu is a different mixture which contains more than a drop of contempt and a full measure of distrust.
Standing by Netanyahu to advance the important issue of peace with the Palestinians will be, therefore, as far as the Left is concerned, like swallowing a giant frog, and it's unclear how it will slid down the throat.
And if that were not enough, helping Netanyahu in the near future with the agreement with the Palestinians is expected to pull the rug from under any attempt by the Left to deal him a serious blow in the next elections. After all, it cannot convince the public now about the prime minister's diplomatic wisdom as he prepares to sign an agreement, and then in two-three years try to expose him as a bad leader with flawed judgment and policy.
In other words, supporting Netanyahu today amounts to destroying the Left's electoral chance to grow significantly stronger in the next elections; a sort of voluntary political suicide, yet for a supreme cause.
The Left is essentially being asked to "sleep with the enemy," knowing that the latter will not treat it kindly in the future and will not give it credit for this support in any way. On the contrary, it's very possible that after an agreement is signed, Netanyahu will not settle for a "cold shoulder" like the one Prime Minister Rabin gave the peace camp as the Oslo process took off, whether because he was genuinely not fond of that camp or because he thought that in order for the process to gain momentum and supporters, it must avoid "being infected" with the negative image of that camp.
Netanyahu, as a person who has always felt like an outsider and felt persecuted by the "old elites" who "have forgotten what it means to be Jewish," will likely not hesitate using the prestige he gains if he takes credit for signing a historic agreement with the Palestinians, will hit the Left mercilessly on one cheek, and then – all the more forcefully – on the other cheek.
Given this situation, the Left must make a tough strategic decision: Should it favor the national consideration and commit suicide electorally, or favor the narrow political consideration, thereby reducing the chance of fulfilling the dream of peace.