Monday, December 27, 2010

Too Little Too Late

The AP reports on the proposal of two RW members of Likud, Michael Eitan and Dan Meridor, which calls for a limited withdrawal from parts of the West Bank that the government knows will be part of a future Palestinian state. The AP thinks this is newsworthy in part because these are two right-wing members and allies of Netanyahu, and the largest RW party. Typically such proposals come from Labor or Kadima.

Which is what is so depressing about this. Pretty much any honest non-fantasy-land inhabitant of the world who looks at Israel and the Occupied Territories today can see the existential demographic problem that faces the Jewish state, and can recognize that this is not the sort of problem that will get better with time or neglect. Every government, right or left, has recognized the necessity for a Palestinian state of some kind. And still nothing happens, because it is harder and harder to get the Israeli people on board for any immediate action.

It is important to recognize the tremendous strides that have been made in winning over Israeli politicians to the idea that there must be a seprate Palestinian state. What was once just the platform of the Left now claims adherents of center and right-wing parties. Last year, Netanyahu, the last major holdout, also advanced his concept of Palestinian autonomy/statehood. A solid majority of Israelis believe it is the only way to solve it. Every year, new adherents discover the problem and push for action, such as MKs Meridor and Eitan. And yet, time is running out and we remain practically just as far from instituting the obvious solution.

The problem is that we have convinced the politicians, but not the citizens of Israel of the desperate need for action. Netanyahu still cannot make serious advances with the Palestinians because his coalition will be destroyed by the intransigent far-right parties that cannot ever agree to withdrawal. Netanyahu knows that if new elections are forced, it's very possible that a new right wing will take power. Netanyahu and Likud, once fortresses of the right, will join Sharon and Kadima, along with Barak and Labor, in the new center-left. It is this paradox that creates an increasingly "larger Left" every Knesset (in terms of parties that embrace the two-state solution), and yet still maintains an even larger Right (in terms of MKs seeking to derail said solution). The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The elites, the politicians, are two-staters, but not the people they represent. The people continue to elect politicians who seek to thwart the two-state solution as a vehicle for peace, yet once the politicians get into actual positions of authority and responsibility they realize that their hands are tied and that the only way forward is compromise. This compromise enrages the people, who elect new, hopefully intransigent leaders, only to be betrayed again. And the cycle continues, ad infinitum. But we don't have that kind of time. It is morbidly ironic that what might very well destroy the world's only Jewish democracy is democracy itself. It is almost enough to tempt one to long for a brief strongman period, just to get Israel past this hurdle. Almost.

No comments: