Israelis are not that weird

Peace lovers everywhere are depressed about all those Israelis who voted for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Some of these peace lovers are in near hysterics because, well, they\'re so sure of themselves.
March 19, 2015

Peace lovers everywhere are depressed about all those Israelis who voted for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Some of these peace lovers are in near hysterics because, well, they're so sure of themselves. They're sure that a vote for Bibi was a vote against peace, and that a vote for Herzog was a vote for hope.

How could so many Israelis vote against hope?

Here’s what I'm sure about: Israelis aren’t weird. Most Israelis would love nothing more than to give the Palestinians their own state if it meant real peace, but they've concluded that, right now, a Palestinian state means war, not peace.

How weird is that?

Let’s listen to a longtime Israeli expert on what a Palestinian state might mean:

“Israel will have problems in preserving day-to-day security, which may drive the country into war, or undermine the morale of its citizens. In time of war, the frontiers of the Palestinian state will constitute an excellent staging point for mobile forces to mount attacks on infrastructure installations vital for Israel's existence, to impede the freedom of action of the Israeli air-force in the skies over Israel, and to cause bloodshed among the population in areas adjacent to the frontier-line.”

That was peace lover Shimon Peres being extra candid in his 1987 book, “Tomorrow is Now.” And that was before the region started imploding with ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and a threatening nuclear Iran competing for who can be the most violent, and before Israel left Gaza and was rewarded with 10,000 rockets.

“Most Israelis would wave goodbye to the West Bank … but they don’t want the Gaza scenario to repeat itself,” another peace champion, Amos Oz, said to the New York Times last summer during the Gaza War.

How weird is that?

I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t it criminal that an Israeli Prime Minister would scream to the world that there won’t be a Palestinian state under his watch? Yes, it is. When the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin admitted to the world in his final Knesset address in 1995 that the Palestinian entity he had in mind would be “less than a state,” I guess that was criminal.

The irony is that in his pre-election statement that drove many people nuts, Bibi didn’t even go that far. As Jewish Journal political editor Shmuel Rosner explains, “Netanyahu did not say that he opposes the two-state solution—he said that under current circumstances he doesn’t see a Palestinian state established in his coming term as prime minister. And he is probably right in his assessment.”

How weird is that?

You know why so many Israelis voted for Bibi and against the false hopes of peace? Because they don’t trust the world to make peace for them, and they especially don’t trust President Barack Obama.

Obama’s decision from the very beginning of his presidency to maximize the pressure on Israel while leaving the Palestinians virtually off the hook was exactly the wrong approach to earn the trust of Israelis. That’s because the pathetic story of the failed 20-year peace process is a story of Israel making one concession after another with the Palestinians refusing to compromise and launching intifadas and terror rockets.

Even if you’re an Israeli voter who hates Bibi and thinks he made many mistakes, why should you trust Obama’s approach of pressuring only the Israelis? It’s not that complicated: When it comes to their security, Israelis look at the hard reality of their enemies– and Bibi got a lot of those voters.

As Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times, “The insane, worthless Gaza war that Hamas initiated last summer that brought rockets to the edge of Israel’s main international airport and the Palestinians’ spurning of two-state offers of previous Israeli prime ministers (Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert) built Netanyahu’s base as much as he did.”

How weird is that?

It’s true that Bibi’s great failure has been allowing the great portion of the blame for the absence of peace to fall on Israel’s shoulders. That’s a tactical failure, and it’s an enormous one. It’s also true that Bibi’s status quo mentality is lame and short-sighted. At the very least, he ought to call the Palestinians’ bluff and relieve some of the relentless and disproportionate pressure on Israel.

But all those peace-loving Israel supporters who are unleashing their wrath at Bibi right now should take some of the responsibility for that failure. Instead of being so sure of themselves and talking down to Israeli voters, they ought to ‘fess up that their 20-year strategy of pressuring mostly Israel to make concessions for peace has been a disaster. 

One, it has reinforced Palestinian intransigence and killed any hope for peace. Two, it has nourished the global lie that the failure is all Israel’s fault. And three, it has alienated a significant group of Israeli voters.

How weird is that?

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

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