There will be no peace with the Palestinians. Not this year, not this decade, perhaps not this generation. Even if Ehud Olmert becomes prime minister again, there will be no peace with the Palestinians. Even if Tzipi Livni resumes the negotiations with Ahmed Qureia, there will be no peace with the Palestinians. Even if Yossi Beilin goes to Geneva and shuts himself up with Mahmoud Abbas on the lakeshore, there will be no peace with the Palestinians.
In the coming years the Palestinians will not compromise on the right of return. They will not recognize the Jewish national state. They will not turn their back on Hamas. Even before the Arab Spring there was not much chance for a long-lasting peace with the Palestinians. But because of the Arab Spring even that flimsy chance has been lost.
The democratization in the Arab world is wonderful, but it has killed the peace. In the coming years no moderate Palestinian leader will have the required legitimacy to make the historic '48 deal with Israel in exchange for '67. In the coming years no moderate Palestinian leader who will be able to face the refugees and persuade them to give up their homes and villages. No Palestinian Anwar Sadat will rise in the foreseeable future and there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace.
So the really important question is different - will there be peace with the world?
Ehud Barak has many defects. But by going to Camp David in 2000 Barak made certain the world would stand beside Israel in the second intifada. Ehud Olmert also has some defects. But by going to Annapolis in 2008 Olmert made certain the world would stand beside Israel in Operation Cast Lead.
Both Barak and Olmert proved to the world in acts that the conflict is not about the settlements but about survival. Both Barak and Olmert proved to the world Israel is not an occupying power but a democratic Jewish state that wants to end the occupation.
Both these unpopular men served Israel not by acting to achieve peace with the Palestinians, but by achieving peace with the world. Thanks to them, when Israel had to exercise force it had the right and the ability to do so. Thus Israel defeated Yasser Arafat and deterred Hamas. Thus Israel gained years of quiet, prosperity and growing strength.
But there's another question, no less important - will there be peace with ourselves?
Camp David 2000 made the Zionist left stand behind Operation Defensive Shield in the spring of 2002. Annapolis 2008 kept the Zionist left from castigating Operation Cast Lead at the beginning of 2009. Barak and Olmert's far-reaching moves failed vis-a-vis the Palestinians, but succeeded vis-a-vis the Israelis. They healed a torn, divided people. They restored an overall sense of vindication. They created an inner Israeli peace.
The willingness in the last decade to divide the country has united the nation. It created a certain ideological harmony that enabled us to stand together in the face of difficult external challenges. It united society and strengthened the state. Camp David and Annapolis did not given us peace with our neighbors, but they brought us peace with ourselves.
There is a high risk of war breaking out in the autumn. We all hope it will be merely a diplomatic war. But it is important to prepare for the possibility that sooner or later the diplomatic struggle will take on a popular or military dimension. It will be harder than in Operation Cast Lead. It could be as hard as in the first or second intifada. But the situation will be worse because this time we will be going to battle without international backing and without Israeli unity. Without peace with the world and without peace with ourselves.
Unlike Barak and Olmert, Benjamin Netanyahu has not prepared the ground for the expected campaign. He has not taken the diplomatic move required to ensure victory. It is not peace with the Palestinians that Netanyahu is losing. Netanyahu is losing the Israelis' next war.
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