Unfortunately, one cannot escape this issue. Its existence, the way it is managed and the way it can be solved will have a decisive impact on the State of Israel's situation.
What is the argument about?
The Zionist Camp, Yesh Atid and Meretz basically support the "Clinton plan," which was presented 14 years ago and simply says that the solution to the conflict is based on the existence of two states, with a border based on the 1967 lines with slight changes. According to this plan, more than 100,000 Israelis will have to be evacuated from their homes, there will be no Israeli control of the Jordan Valley, and Jerusalem will be divided.
The Bayit Yehudi party officially opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state and is in favor of granting autonomy to the West Bank residents, a stance which is essentially similar to the Likud's stance during the Menachem Begin era.
And what is the Likud saying? Well, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon are saying yes to a Palestinian state, but presenting two significant reservations: First, not now; and second, Israel has territorial and security-related demands which deviate by far from what was suggested in the Clinton plan.
What is the right way?
The Likud's stance is more realistic and responsible, but that's the only positive thing about it. The Likud, which at the moment is basically in favor of managing the conflict rather than an immediate attempt to solve it, is making many mistakes in the way it is doing it.
For example, the entire world sees the settlement enterprise as illegal, and the continued construction in the settlements reveals that Israel is lying when it talks about "two states" and is in fact creating a situation in which this solution will be unfeasible. On the other hand, it's clear to everyone that a complete freeze is impossible.
So what's the solution? The Americans suggested the following formula a decade ago: Preparing an agreed upon Israeli-American map in which a circle will be marked around the constructed area in each community – including in isolated communities – and Israel will be free to build as much as it wants inside this limited area but not beyond it.
The American logic is clear: They are not troubled by the actual construction, but by the fact that its eating into more lands, and the suggested formula is meant to create balance between these two issues. The fact that Israel is opposed to such an arrangement allows Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Europeans to argue that the settlement construction is the thing torpedoing the peace process.
A second example is the construction in Jerusalem. Building Jewish neighborhoods in the capital, including beyond the Green Line, may be vital, but at the same time the government is encouraging the construction of Jewish homes and institutions in the heart of crowded Arab neighborhoods. The interest in these moves is unclear, but they are only creating anger against Israel, especially in Washington.
A third example is halting the transfer of funds to the Palestinian Authority. Apart from increasing the world's anger at Israel, such an act achieves nothing. Add to that the hesitant handling of the Temple Mount issue, the offensive Israeli comments against American and European officials, and now the initiative to speak in Washington despite the White House's objection, and the result is that the government prefers – rightfully so, for now – to manage the conflict instead of solving it. The problem is that it is managing it very poorly.
Major-General (res.) Giora Eiland is a former head of Israel's National Security Council.