Thursday, April 30, 2009

Is Labour Crafty or is Charlie a Fool?

Ha'Aretz ran two stories today, each about a high ranking Labour party minister in the current Israeli coalition government.

The first article about Barak, the Minister of Defense reports that Barak thinks that Israel must and can make peace with the Palestinians in three years time. Barak posits that the leaders on each side were not too far apart in their positions. He also expresses optimism that on his first trip to the US, Prime Minister Netanyahu will tell Barak Obama that he supports a solution along the lines of two states for two nations. He cautions that if this solution is not finalized soon, the world could start losing interest in Israel and the Palestinians and end up promoting a single, bi-national state which would put an end to the worlds only Jewish state.

The second article about the Trade and Employment Minister Ben Eliezer also demonstrates optimism. After personal meetings with Netanyahu, Ben Eliezer is convinced that not only will Netanyahu pursue a two state solution with the Palestinians, but he'll also make strides towards peace with Syria. Ben Eliezer suggests that the current Prime Minister is a man reinvented, not like the previous Netanyahu, but a more relaxed, perhaps even more liberal minded man.

One hopes that Barak and Ben Eliezer are correct in their assessments and that this new government, whose policies have still not been fully formulated will adopt a position based on a two state solution, some arrangement on Jerusalem and on the "right to return" for Palestinians. A cynic, however, cannot overlook the possibility that these optimistic comments are merely a play at domestic politics.

Both men come from the Labour party, harshly criticized for joining up with the likes of Likud and Israel Beitaynu. In the absence of a clear government policy, this optimism may really be more about publicly stating their expectations and putting Netanyahu in a position where to say anything else could make him look foolish. Labour may be backing Netanyahu into a corner. If the predictions are accurate, then great, that's good news. If they are inaccurate, however, Labour can say 'this is not what we signed up for, not what you lead us to believe, goodbye.' Such a step would not kill the coalition, but would make it very shaky indeed.

So, these rosy predictions may not be founded on what these Labour politicians expect, but rather what they want. This may be less about fact and more about political manipulation. Be it a crafty ploy or an earnest belief, Barak and Ben Eliezer paint a nice picture of the future. It would be good to see them succeed.

1 comment:

Steve Lieblich said...

This sort of talk about "peace now" ...or even "soon" is, as you suggest, just wishful thionking, but regretfully far-removed from reality. Most Israelis, including very, very many from the so-called "left" have finally realised that.

Benny Morris, icon of the "peace now" movement who helped create the intellectual and cultural climate that spawned the Oslo peace process and much of the Israeli left, has grown ever more cynical about the prospects for a two-state solution and for peace. In his new book, One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict, Morris argues that the Palestinian national movement has never in fact reconciled itself to Israel's existence as a Jewish state. His shift from Oslo Accords optimist to embittered pessimist is emblematic of the disappointment and frustration that has ravaged the Israeli left since the second intifada. "Morris is a one-man microcosm of what many Israeli Jews of the Labor-Zionist strain have undergone in the past decade," says David B. Green, opinion editor at Ha'aretz's English edition. "They recognize that we're not on the verge of peace, that this conflict may not be resolvable, and that they were naive to think that was the case."

See "The Israeli Left Isn't Where it used to Be" at