Hassan Barari
The Jordan Times (Opinion)
April 26, 2011 - 12:00am

It is hard to avoid the feeling that the current Israeli government is neither interested in nor capable of making peace with the Palestinians, let alone the rest of the Arabs. If anything, all steps taken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government are designed to sidestep any genuine peace effort.

The Israeli press is reporting that Netanyahu is toying with the idea of unilaterally withdrawing from some parts of the West Bank. While withdrawal is desirable, it is designed to preempt any possible international pressure on Israel. The Palestinian leadership is adamant about having the United Nations adopt a resolution to establish an independent Palestinian state. The Palestinians are seeking the support of the UN General Assembly, rather than of the Security Council, to avoid an American veto. This is a source of concern for politicians in Tel Aviv.

Much troubling is the fact that Netanyahu feels he is constrained by his coalition with the right-wing partners. An acceptance of any peace initiative might well put an end to this coalition, thus bringing down his government. The last thing Netanyahu wants to see is early elections, with no guarantees that he can win the public vote. In other words, Netanyahu is driven by one factor: political survival. Given this situation, he does not have what it takes to lead Israel to peace with its neighbours, and therefore, Israel cannot be seen as a possible peace partner.

The bottom line here is that the internal dynamics of Israeli politics cannot produce a peace coalition. No single prime minister could have pushed the peace process genuinely without running the risk of losing politically, and sometimes physically, as was the case with Yitzhak Rabin.

For peace to have a chance, change in the Israeli political setup is a prerequisite. The Israeli domestic scene has further been complicated in the last decades especially by the ascendance of right-wing parties that represent a constituency with a vested interest in perpetuating settlements.

While divided and fragmented, the domestic political scene can be impacted by external factors in a way that changes the priorities and attitude of Israeli voters. Then a different dynamic may be possible, with positive consequence for the peace process.

Over the last few weeks, one has been able to spot some momentum in Israel, particularly in the demonstrations by tens of intellectuals and artists who call for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state as the only way to liberate both Palestinians and Israelis.

This trend should be encouraged. Yet, short of having external pressure on the Israeli society, the few intellectuals’ demonstrations can have little impact.

The irony is that while Israelis recognise the fact that the Jewishness of the state can only be safeguarded with separation from the Palestinians, few are willing to translate this into political action. Yet, in Israel, the price of occupation is still much higher than that of withdrawal.


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