Bibi’s Victory—All Bad?
Graham E. Fuller (grahamefuller.com)
I would have been more depressed about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s unexpected victory in Tuesday’s elections in Israel if I had not already long since grown cynical about the so-called “Peace Process.” Grown disillusioned by the fact that even the Israeli left never really looked like it was going to walk the long mile to a genuine and just settlement with the Palestinians in their own state within 1967 borders, give or take.
Unfortunately the farcical peace process that Washington has been conducting for decades clearly was never going anywhere. And slowly most observers came to understand that it was going nowhere. It was only parts of the Washington bureaucracy, that owned and jealously guarded the process, that maybe believed that it was going somewhere.
Worse than going nowhere, the situation was retrogressing, moving backwards to the ever greater detriment of the Palestinians and the ever greater loss of land that belonged to them. But that only seemed to be Israel’s gain in the interim.
Many observers including myself had long since concluded that Israel (at least under the right of center parties) never truly wanted a peace settlement at all. Their politicians were patently playing for time and scarfing up ever greater land and territory with each passing year—all the while talking up a good game of peaceprocessmanship with Washington. And as no one seriously stood up to Israel anywhere in the West, the prospects for a putative future Palestinian state grew ever smaller and less credible.
The good thing about Likud is what you see is what you get. At last Bibi has now dropped the mask and said what we knew all along—there will be no Palestinian state. Period.
What Bibi has yet to acknowledge publicly is the deeper and more cynical corollary of that calculation by the far Israeli right—that all Israel needs to do is play the peace process game, hang on to the territories, make life ever more intolerable for the Palestinians, and punctuate it with periodic mini-wars, until the Palestinians decide to give up their land and go elsewhere. Then Israel gets the whole enchilada.
If you know the Middle East, you know that moment will never arrive.
But a left-of-center victory in Israel it would have put a new smiley face on Israel; the world would likely have been cajoled along another five to ten years, only to discover that, gee, the political constellation of forces in Israel actually just doesn’t make any further progress possible. The Palestinians just never miss a chance to miss a chance. Too bad about that.
Now there are no doubts left about Likud’s intentions. No veils.
Vladimir Lenin once greeted the desperate times in Tsarist Russia during World War I with the words, “the worse, the better.” That cynical remark nonetheless contains elements of sad political reality. A perhaps more acceptable way of saying that is, “let the situation ripen” until conditions reveal a moment of truth, permit a sharp break with continuity, and open the prospects for a fresh thinking.
That observation is not irrelevant to many other situations in many other countries—including the intractable present state of politics and society in the US today. More years of Likud in power are going to hasten Israel’s rendezvous with destiny. The Israeli Left has long said that the status quo under Likud—keeping the Palestinians in thrall and rejecting a two-state solution—will ultimately destroy Israel as a democratic state. That’s as may be.
But nothing will happen until a majority of Israelis see how truly dangerous and counterproductive a game Israel has been playing in recent decades. Until they themselves grasp the cost of accelerating isolation and disrepute the once respected Israeli state has fallen into. Until they proceed to vote out the Greater Israel crowd. Until they move to make a just peace with the Palestinians and permit them a state.
Even then, negotiations will not be simple; indeed, they grow more complex with each new illegal Israeli settlement thrown up. But only until the level of pain rises sufficiently high will this bleeding wound of nearly seventy years permit the possibility of healing. Such a settlement would also represent a first significant step towards trying to heal the political dysfunctionality of the whole Middle East—the blame for which nearly everybody gets to share in.
Maybe that’s why Bibi’s victory isn’t all bad.