Image Credit: Niño Jose Heredia/Gulf News

The so-called Israeli “left” is at it again. Last month, the leader of Israel’s opposition, Isaac Herzog, unveiled his “peace plan” in Israel’s Knesset and on the pages of the New York Times. Herzog’s plan reiterates the need for the two-state solution and the separation of Israelis and Palestinians and calls for an “end to conflict”. For the unacquainted, this plan is seemingly harmless and quite reasonable. But beneath its vagueness lies the now commonplace attitude that Israel has towards Palestinians: that Palestinians are not equals but merely a problem that needs to be resolved. If Herzog does not know it already — let it be said clearly: it is doomed to fail.

At its core, Herzog’s plan is no different than other proposals put forth by Israelis and Americans, notably Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton and adapted by none other than the late Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon who turned Gaza into a large prison following Israel’s withdrawal from there ten years ago. It calls for the annexation of Israel’s colony blocs, the continued construction of the illegal separation wall, and the cutting off of Occupied Jerusalem’s Palestinian towns from the heart of the city. And herein lies the problem: while claiming to support the idea of “two states”, Herzog and his predecessors merely seek to legitimate Israeli colony activity.

In other words, rather than completely withdrawing from the West Bank, Israel and its colonisers get rewarded for their illegal behaviour by redrawing boundaries to make room for illegal colonists who have spent five decades terrorising Palestinians, stealing their land, imposing checkpoints and movement restrictions and demolishing Palestinian homes to make way for even more Israeli-only colonies. It does not stop there: Herzog also seeks perpetual Israeli presence on Palestinian land, particularly around the borders, control over Palestinian airspace and natural resources and a ban on Palestinian refugees returning to their homeland, lest they water down the “Jewish state”. In other words, Herzog seeks to repackage Israel’s military occupation, ignore international law and be applauded for it.

And so the question must be asked — why is Herzog proposing this now? The answer lies in the fact that Herzog and the so-called Israeli “left” are failing in Israel and grappling to make themselves relevant again.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election victory and his continued popularity are indicators of this. More than 80 per cent of the current Knesset members do not believe in equality for Palestinians, while more than half of the Knesset members do not believe that Palestinians should be entitled to any rights. Herzog, purported to represent the left wing, is part of this ilk. This is not a left wing that believes in equality or one that calls for the return of Palestinian refugees. Rather, this is a left wing that believes that Palestinians are not entitled to live in freedom and dignity and that, above all else, Israeli Jews have superior claims to Palestinian land. This is an Israeli left that seeks to deny or justify the ethnic cleansing of Palestine; that justifies or accommodates Israel’s theft of Palestinian land, that supports Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes and that remains silent in the face of torture. In other words, when it comes to Palestinians, Israel’s left wing is no different than Israel’s right wing.

Sign of weakness

But what Herzog fails to realise is that the rise in the right wing is not a sign of Israel’s strength — it is a sign of Israel’s weakness. Netanyahu thrives off demonstrating that he is “tough” with Palestinians and that he is working to combat the growing tide of the the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS Movement). And yet, despite Netanyahu’s “tough” moves, the BDS Movement is picking up speed and growing in strength and Palestinians remain as resilient and resistant as ever.

In the past months alone, major international companies such as G4S and Veolia have pulled out of Israel, while other companies are pulling out of the occupied territories in response to BDS efforts. Just as Palestinians refuse to accept Israeli military occupation, Palestinians will refuse to bow to Israeli diktats disguised as “peace plans”.

Herzog is better off turning his sights to figuring out how to convince Israelis that the time has come for Israel to completely end its military rule over Palestinians and their land rather than trying to convince us, Palestinians, that we should be grateful for the few crumbs he throws our way.

Diana Buttu is a Ramallah-based analyst, former adviser to Palestine Liberation Organisation chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian negotiators and policy adviser to Al Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network.


Diana Buttu is a Ramallah-based analyst, former adviser to Palestine Liberation Organisation chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian negotiators and policy adviser to Al Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network.