Shaul Arieli
Haaretz (Opinion)
November 1, 2012 - 12:00am

When the election is over, the next Israeli government might have to begin talks with the Palestinians. The talks might begin with one scenario or another, but their conclusion, at least as far as Israel is concerned, will depend on the prime minister's worldview, especially on his perception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Even if most political parties have long since buried their heads in the sand and ignored the conflict, especially now that the election nears, a pessimistic scenario could suddenly get them moving - whether before or after the vote. Many reasons are possible for this: growing tension on the Temple Mount amid the messianic right's attempts to change the status quo of hundreds of years, a social protest by West Bank Palestinians that begins against the Palestinian Authority and ends up against Israel, an extremist "price tag" event and even construction in the settlements if the government goes ahead with its plan to approve parts of former Justice Edmond Levy's report on the territories.

An unlikely nonviolent scenario could become realistic with the reelection of U.S. President Barack Obama if he proposes a new initiative. Also, the approval of the Palestinians' request to win nonmember status at the United Nations could make PA President Mahmoud Abbas negotiate without the conditions he has been posing.

Two decades of negotiations have taught us that any attempt to build solutions by adopting the sides' narratives leads to failure because of the wide gap between them. The opposing legal interpretations beginning with the British Mandate and ending with the UN resolutions, particularly 194 and 242, point to gaps that are too hard to bridge. We learned from the Annapolis talks that a sober reading of the situation and interests forces the sides to make do with half of what they dreamed of.

No one on the Israeli side dared demand an Israeli presence in Gaza after the disengagement, and no one on the Palestinian side made the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees to Israel a condition. On the other hand, an Israeli presence in the settlement blocs and East Jerusalem's Jewish neighborhoods led the sides to agree to a land swap that would let the settlers remain under Israeli sovereignty.

Hamas' control of the Gaza Strip and the complexity of any solution would demand a great deal of time from the sides, which would have to apply the solution faithfully, while the agreement's opponents would probably try to undermine it, as happened after the Oslo Accords. If he is reelected, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have to go to the negotiating table, though it has become clear during his current term that he isn't pragmatic. Unlike almost all his predecessors, Netanyahu has an ideology that divides the world into black and white. Justice and wisdom are with one side - his.

In his latest speech at the United Nations, he divided the world into the enlightened and the people of the light, and the primitive and the people of the dark - and that's where he puts the Palestinians. Netanyahu defines critics of Israel as anti-Semitic, while supporters are the Righteous Among the Nations. Israel's future, according to him, constantly veers between Holocaust and redemption. In his view, "a PLO state to be planted 15 kilometers from Tel Aviv is an existential threat."

His joint ticket with Avigdor Lieberman, who considers Abbas an obstacle to peace, will augment his beliefs and eventually make Israel "a people that dwells alone." Netanyahu blatantly took action against an incumbent U.S. president, while in the eyes of European leaders he's someone who does not tell the truth. And he didn't prevent harm to our ties with Egypt and Jordan. Neither he nor his alleged heir Lieberman, whom the international community despises, is the right person to handle what awaits Israel.


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