Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Eisenhower's Prophecy

Though details remain sparse, an interesting new group is appearing in the Israeli "peace" landscape.

A group called "blue and white peace" (no link to any website available) is reportedly being started by what both the Jpost and YNet refer to as a group of Israeli leftists with the goal not of supporting Netanyahu, but of reminding him that the public is behind him in efforts to make peace.

Many of the people involved have solid credentials either from the Israeli security services (including the IDF) or the political/diplomatic world or in working towards peace or some combination of the above. Their goal is to use their credentials to rally public support behind the plan outlined by Netanyahu in his earlier foreign policy speech and around the idea of the creation of a Palestinian state.

Some of the people involved in "Blue and White Peace" are already involved in groups like this one (site in Hebrew only) called the "People's Voice", which in a nutshell tries to get Israelis to sign on to a petition advocating a demilitarized Palestinian state with the right of return of Palestinian refugees to that state and some sort of sharing arrangement for Jerusalem.

The idea behind "People's Voice" and "Blue and White Peace" is to show Netanyahu that the public is behind him, to show that his efforts are not the result of yielding to pressure for an outside source, but home-grown, and to convince him that he has the political capital to make the difficult decisions.

The challenges faced by Netanyahu are well illustrated in this somewhat unrelated article where an IDF general explains the paralysis the Israeli parliamentary system can cause. The point is, that Netanyahu may choose to act, or not act based on fears that his government could be brought down by a political misstep not supported by the public. This new group being created is intended to show him, forcefully, that the public is behind him.

Perhaps even more valuable, however, would be efforts to convince other parties in the Knesset that to stand in the way of Netanyahu in his efforts to make peace would have disastrous electoral consequences for them. A strong show of support for peace by the Israeli public, and not just by people who may be "expected" to stand for a two state solution (Labour, for example) but also those who may normally vote Likud or for other right leaning parties is what's needed to create the political will to move forward.

Given relatively recent polling of Israelis and the findings that nearly 60% of them support a two state solution, perhaps "Blue and White Peace" will not have that much work cut out for them, but the goal is noble and reminiscent of the words of former US president Eisenhower: "...I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it."

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