We may be taking the road that could lead back to a political system based on two major parties. That would be a welcome development.
By Moshe Arens, HAARETZ
Of course Shaul Mofaz won, and Tzipi Livni lost. But there was much more to the Kadima primary race than that. It was the “two-state solution,” at the forefront of Israeli political discourse for a number of years, that lost. It was the offer of more concessions to the Palestinians, whose most prominent advocate was former Kadima chairwoman, MK Tzipi Livni, that went down in defeat. The concession offers made by then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and by then-Foreign Minister Livni to then-senior Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia were left in the dust in last week’s Kadima primary. That was the verdict implicitly delivered by Kadima party members, a verdict that echoed the feelings of many Israelis.
It is not that the majority of Israelis oppose the two-state solution. On a number of occasions they have indicated that they would accept it – gladly or reluctantly – if it were to bring peace. The problem is that they have been disappointed again and again, leaving them wondering whether there is anybody to make peace with.
The Oslo Accords had the support of the majority of the Israeli public but are now considered to have been an abject failure, Yasir Arafat’s Nobel Peace Prize having become an object of ridicule. Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s unilateral withdrawal from the south Lebanon security zone in 2000 had the support of most Israelis at the time. But when Hezbollah, in the wake of the withdrawal, assumed a dominant role in Lebanon and amassed tens of thousands of rockets, bringing on the Second Lebanon War, many Israelis began having second thoughts.
Barak offered Arafat the Temple Mount and much more, anticipating that if he were to reach an agreement he would have the support of the Israeli public in the upcoming election. But his egregious offers were rejected by Arafat, Barak was defeated in the election and the Palestinian response was an unprecedented wave of terror against Israeli civilians.
That development was not lost on the Israeli electorate. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement from Gush Katif and the uprooting of the Israeli citizens there from their homes was widely supported, but when it was followed by Hamas taking control of the Gaza Strip and the subsequent rain of rockets on southern Israel most came to consider it a grave mistake.
More and more Israelis, disappointed over and over again, have lost confidence in a policy based on the assumption that concessions would lead us to peace.
The advent of the Arab Spring, which is bringing Islamic fundamentalist rule to the Arab world, has only strengthened the skepticism of many Israelis regarding the presumed advantages of offering territorial concessions to our Arab neighbors. It seems that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.
The election that returned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to power three years ago was a clear indication of a growing disenchantment with the much-vaunted “peace process” among many Israelis. Livni’s defeat in the Kadima primary gave a stamp of approval to this trend, which has contributed to the surprising stability of the Netanyahu government. The current Knesset may yet set an Israeli longevity record. The strength of the political parties claiming that concessions will pave the path to peace is steadily dwindling.
The Israeli political system, based for many years on two major parties, has of late become a system based on one major party and an array of medium and small parties. Complaints that Israel’s system of government led to elections being held every two or three years, bringing with it unstable governments incapable of governing effectively, have been replaced by complaints that the Netanyahu government is too stable and is staying in power for too long. As was to be expected, a correction may be on the way.
Some of the parties in the opposition are beginning to realize that their endless insistence that Israel offer territorial concessions to the Arabs, and their unwavering support for the demands made by foreign governments on Israel, had opened an ever-increasing gap between them and the mainstream of Israeli public opinion and was eating away at their political support. Now socioeconomic issues are beginning to steal the limelight away from the “peace process.” We may be taking the road that could lead back to a political system based on two major parties. That would be a welcome development.