These days, it's tough to find a used car with a bumper sticker that reads "Peace is better than a Greater Israel." Nowadays, everyone seems to favor the latest formula: two states for two peoples. A few people on the right-hand margins are sticking to the belief that there's no difference between Yitzhar and Herzliya, but turbulent debates about the "heritage of the fathers" have given way to a consensus over "dividing the land." Instead of talking about the country's "narrow hips," we are erecting a fence that approximates the route of the Green Line. Even the old "no partner" mantra has been replaced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "repeated call" to the Palestinians to sit at the negotiating table. So if it's all so good, why is it so bad?
At first glance, 2009 seems poised to go down in history as one of the Zionist left's most successful years. Who would have believed that a Netanyahu-led government would adopt the premier's stance on the Palestinians' right to establish a state of their own and would freeze settlement construction? Furthermore, the person responsible for preventing renewal of final-status talks is not Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman from the settlement of Nokdim - but Mahmoud Abbas from the Palestine Liberation Organization.
You don't believe that Bibi is not to blame for the stalling of the peace process? Just ask Minister Isaac Herzog. True, the prime minister stomped all over Herzog and his fellow Laborites during the fight to turn isolated settlements into national priority zones, but everyone knows that Herzog wouldn't stay for a minute in a government that wasn't willing to advance peace.
When the Zionist left supported the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, it believed it was helping Likudnik Ariel Sharon put the last nail in the Greater Israel coffin. At the same time, the evacuation of 8,000 settlers from Gush Katif and other Gaza settlements became a central impetus for the right. What better evidence could there be, they ask, that the problem isn't Israel's total devotion to the territories? Qassam rockets hitting Sderot are "unequivocal proof," according to Likud leaders and many political commentators, that when Israel evacuates territory, Hamas takes over. And don't forget to add "unfortunately."
If Sharon's unilateral disengagement wasn't enough to spur a reality check among the remnants of the old left, Likud recruited another "deserter" to its campaign. In a speech last week at the annual Institute for National Security Studies conference, Minister Dan Meridor spoke about the unprecedented concessions that Ehud Olmert offered Abbas in November 2008. Meridor quoted from an Australian newspaper exactly what percentage of the West Bank was included in the map of Palestine drawn by a prime minister who had already submitted his resignation. A member of the forum of seven, an advisory council comprising senior cabinet ministers, Meridor described Olmert's generous offer regarding Jerusalem, and made sure to mention his former friend's willingness to absorb several thousand Palestinian refugees. But all this bounty was still not enough to satisfy Abbas, concluded the most moderate Likud minister, with a sigh of victory - marking another victory for the "new left."
Meridor is right: Olmert indeed went a long way in reaching out to the Palestinians. But who knows as well as Meridor - a statesman who, as a member of the Israeli delegation to Camp David in 2000, knows the PLO's positions from up close - that the distance wasn't far enough? The PLO made its concession 21 years ago, when it accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242 during its declaration of independence in Algiers. Without receiving anything from Israel in return, the Palestinian National Security Council declared a state on territory captured in the Six-Day War - 22 percent of Mandatory Palestine, half the land the UN partition plan had allocated to the Palestinians.
In the eyes of the world in general, not to mention the Arab world, this 22 percent is not up for negotiation. Neither is the fact that a Palestinian state requires territorial contiguity. Until we reach an agreement with the Palestinians on the basis of the 1967 borders, phrases like "settlement blocs" and the "Jewish neighborhoods" of East Jerusalem are nothing but the language of the eternal negotiations we are conducting with ourselves.
Until Meridor and his friends from the "new left" understand this, it would be better if they remained part of the old right, and kept talking about the "heritage of the fathers." Maybe that would be enough to bring back the bumper sticker "Peace is better than Greater Israel."
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