January 18, 2020

Israel's Election Won't Make or Break the Peace Process

“On the eve of the second Israeli election of 2019, there is no shortage of apocalyptic rhetoric about the potential consequences of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election. From the New York Times’ editorial column to The Forward’s opinion pages, we’re once again hearing the same stale rhetoric about how another Likud-led government will mark the decline and fall of Israeli democracy, the end of the Israel-Diaspora relationship, torpedo US support for the Jewish state and cause the final collapse of any hope for peace with the Palestinians.

That last point of view was best articulated by Washington Post editorial-page editor Jackson Diehl, who, like many liberal pundits, believes that Netanyahu’s promise to apply Israeli law to West Bank settlements and to hold onto the Jordan Valley forever ensures that peace will never be possible with the Palestinians.

Let’s leave aside the likelihood that Netanyahu statements are just campaign rhetoric that won’t be turned into action. Israeli law already applies to the settlements, and annexation, even of the Area C territory where Jewish communities are located, is still unlikely. As for the Jordan Valley, Netanyahu’s chief rival – the Blue and White Party’s Benny Gantz – has said that his position on the issue is no different than that of the prime minister. What most Americans – Jewish and non-Jewish alike – still fail to understand is the broad consensus among Israelis on security issues and the peace process. That consensus holds that the Palestinians have no real interest in peace and that in the absence of a peace partner, the kind of territorial concessions Israel’s liberal friends demand it make wouldn’t be so much unwise as insane.

That’s why all the talk about Israel’s latest election deciding the future of the peace process isn’t just wrong but ignores the fact that this question was actually determined in an election held 14 years ago, as well as in one that didn’t happen four years later.”

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