Hassan Barari
The Jordan Times (Opinion)
January 14, 2013 - 1:00am


Mazal Mualem, chief political analyst for the Israeli daily Maariv, noticed that peace is missing from the election campaign ads in Israel. In her words, “on the first day of broadcasts, the trend is clear: No one talks about peace any longer. On the contrary, it seems that the word drives away voters. In effect, out of an hour and a quarter of broadcasts, the word ‘peace’ is barely heard once. This rare occurrence took place in one of the campaigns of the Hatenua (Movement) party headed by Tzipi Livni, and even then it was halfhearted”.

The Israeli indifference to genuine peace that is based on the land-for-peace formula is hardly new, particularly for the last 10 years. While the Palestinian politics are plagued by internal fragmentations, the Israeli society has shifted further to the right. Not surprisingly, the Israeli society is not yet ready for peace that sufficiently addresses the burning final-status issues.

And yet, the Israeli apathy towards peace can be problematic in months to come when the new Israeli government will face some international pressure to realise peace with the Palestinians.

The European Union is currently working on a plan designed to jumpstart negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The new plan details the components of peace, such as the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The plan is expected to be presented in two months and will set a timetable for a discussion on the key issues over the course of the current year.

The new Israeli government is most likely going to be right wing. Meaning, the prospects for the government to respond positively to such a proposal are dim.

Equally important, the European Union does not have influence on Israeli governments, thanks to the special relations between Tel Aviv and Washington.

That said, the situation may be different this time. US President Barack Obama’s nomination of John Kerry and Chuck Hagel as secretary of state and defence, respectively, may very well be a statement of his real intentions with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian issue in his second term.

The only Israeli politician who paid attention to this new dimension is Livni. She said: “In March the world will present us with a peace plan — either it will be forced upon us or we come up with our own plan…. If we form an Israeli plan we could renew the alliance with the region’s moderates and will be able to better deal with the extremist front. It is therefore important to have a government which promotes a real peace process.”

Livni’s statement is a function of two illusions. First, there are no moderates left in the region to play a game of postponement and conflict management.

There is a new reality in the Middle East, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Those Arab leaders who are ready to play a game of buying time with Israel have gone by now and those who still are, may risk their status for a similar game and are getting weaker. Second, no matter what Livni says, the chances to form a new centrist government are modest.

It remains to be seen however how the EU is going to handle an intransigent government in Israel after the upcoming elections.

The absence of the notion of peace from election campaign ads implies that the Israeli public has lost faith in the process altogether. Elections should not be expected to be a referendum on peace.


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