Hassan Barari
The Jordan Times (Opinion)
November 25, 2010 - 1:00am

Not one Israeli premier ever thought of moving the peace process forward without taking into account the internal political scene. The history of the Arab-Israeli peace process is full of examples of missed opportunities thanks to the political complications within Israel. The Israeli premier places greatest priority on political survival.

Undoubtedly, the Israeli peace camp, which gathered momentum in the aftermath of the 1982 war in Lebanon, was very active during Yitzhak Rabin’s second government. Yet, with the ascendance of rejectionist forces on both sides, the peace camp in Israel and its Arab counterpart suffered a massive setback.

Many observers argue that the absence of the Israeli camp is obvious; some even say that its demise is complete. When Palestinian activists signed the Geneva Document with some Israeli peace activists, the document was never properly debated in Israel.

Moreover, Premier Ariel Sharon pushed it aside once and for all and indeed adopted a violent approach to the Palestinians.

Rabin’s son came up with a new Israel Peace Initiative (IPI), as a late response to the Arab Peace Initiative (API), in which he adopted some of the Arabs’ position regarding the need for Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders. This new initiative came as an expression of a new reading and as a judgement against the current policies of the Israeli right. It is certainly important. In fact, Rabin’s son, Yoval, is courageous in drafting and publicising the initiative. Yet, one needs to consider the general p?litical scene to understand the prospect of this initiative making headlines.

First, power forces in the Israeli society are informed of Israel’s shift in to the right. This complicates Rabin’s task. It is unlikely that he will succeed in making any difference unless the Israeli society moves back to where it was during the first half of the 1990s.

After the years of the second Intifada, there seems to be no sign that the Israeli society is moving back to the centre. The political forces in Israel have vested interests in keeping the society as it is now and therefore Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cronies are doing whatever it takes to scare the Israeli public of the future.

Many in our part of the world think that a genuine change in Israel’s position on the peace process needs a shock. Short of a fundamental jolt, the Israeli society is not expected to change much, given the ascendance and victory of the rejectionists.

Proof of that is that the US succeeded neither in putting pressure on Israel nor in coming up with a peace proposal. For this reason, many people in the Middle East argue that in light of the absence of an American role, the Israeli society cannot move forward without paying dearly for supporting the policy of occupation.

The question is how to raise the cost of occupation in a state where the cost of withdrawal is much higher than the price of continuing occupation? This is where Arabs need to strategise in the years to come. Rabin’s initiative, though positive, is not enough.


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