After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was dealt a severe political lynching in this month’s national election that ousted many of his supporters, he is now walking a tightrope in his search for new partners. But some of his likely new colleagues, who have just surfaced — some gloriously — do not seem very keen on sticking their necks out for the mercurial Netanyahu, whose days in the premiership are believed to be numbered.
What is disturbing about the new Israeli ‘stars’ are their views about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, an issue that was hardly discussed in their recent election campaigns. Take for example Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid, seen as Israel’s new leading star who reportedly sees himself as Netanyahu’s successor. Lapid, for example, does not want to divide occupied Jerusalem where Palestinians hope to have their capital in the eastern sector, or pull out of Israeli colonies where some 500,000 have illegally settled in the Palestinian West Bank. But his main concern is Israel’s ultra-orthodox community whose members are not subjected to compulsory military service.
On the other hand, J.J. Goldberg, a prominent American journalist, highlighted Yaakov Perry as the “man to watch” in Lapid’s team. He reported that as “a banker since leaving the Shin Bet [secret service] in 1994, [Perry] has emerged in recent years as one of the most energetic and creative actors in the peace camp”.
Peter Beinart, editor of OpenZion.com at The Daily Beast website, and author of The Crisis of Zionism, writes that US President Barack Obama “should feel at least a little hope” considering the results of the Israeli elections, mainly because “Netanyahu is [now] weaker ... and if Obama wants, he’ll be well-positioned to hasten Netanyahu’s demise, and push Israel towards elections that just might produce a Lapid-led government more open to a viable Palestinian state.” Beinart, acknowledged that this is “still a relative long-shot, but given the stakes, It’s worth a try”.
But how much longer will this take? The Middle East is nowadays boiling and as Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned the World Economic Forum in Davos last Friday that “the time to take action … is now”. He added that “the two-state solution will only last as long as Obama’s term … because if it doesn’t happen by then I don’t think it will happen”.
What is shocking is the failure of the Israeli leadership to realise that internally the situation could not have been better. Shin Bet, the Israeli secret service, has just reported that for the first time since 1973, an entire year has passed without an Israeli casualty from an attack in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. But the other side of the coin is mind-blowing.
Here is an excerpt from a news report published on January 20 under the title, ‘Palestinians ghettos were always the plan,’ by Amira Hass in Haaretz, the Israeli daily, on life under Israeli occupation, in this respect identified as Area C part of the occupied West Bank: “The true story behind Area C is that there aren’t 400,000 Palestinians living there today; the villages have not expanded in accordance with their natural population growth; the number of residents has not grown; the herders can no longer graze their flocks freely; many of the inhabitants lack access to water, electricity, schools and medical clinics; Israel has not been taken to the International Criminal Court at the Hague for destroying cisterns; there are no paved roads in and between villages.
“Many of the people have been living in tents and caves for 30 to 40 years — against their will and contrary to their hopes — and the Palestinian towns cannot expand properly and remove old industrial zones a reasonable distance from residential neighbourhoods.”
Hass continued: “Area C, then, is shorthand for all the prohibitions that Israel imposes on Palestinian dignity of life, and it has existed before its invention. Live fire zones, military manoeuvre zones, security belts, fences, state lands, survey land (where the state is in the process of declaring them as state lands i.e. only for Jews), re-surveyed lands and post-surveyed lands and nature reserves. All these were aimed at concentrating them within narrow and meagre Pales of Settlement (copyrights reserved for Imperial Russia and its confinement of the Jews). Unlike us, Arabs do not need space, land, resources, water, industrial zones, landscapes or recreational trips. The Palestinian enclaves are the other side of Area C. Area C, then, is a metaphor for the Israeli ghetto mentality flipped.”
As is obvious John Kerry, who has promised to give the Middle East top priority, must now feel that his arms are full soon after being confirmed last Tuesday as secretary of state. Let’s hope he can plunge into action immediately before it is too late.
George S.Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.