After too many months spent almost exclusively dealing with the prospect of a nuclear Iran, Israelis have gotten a reminder about another threat: a threat to the very existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state that enjoys a strong international standing.
The Channel 2 interview with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, which aired Friday night, depicted a brave and pragmatic Palestinian leader who supports resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict peacefully. Abbas declared his dedication to the principle of two states within the 1967 borders, and although he didn't relinquish the principle of the right of return, he did state that he is willing to make do with visiting Safed, the city of his birth, as a tourist.
In Jerusalem, the Prime Minister's Office responded to Abbas' words of peace with continued disregard of the PA leader's central message: that Benjamin Netanyahu is persistently refusing to present his position on the issue of borders. The prime minister has rejected Abbas' demand that settlement expansion be frozen during negotiations, just as Israel committed to doing in the road map agreement. Netanyahu's response is not surprising. It is in keeping with the policy of diverting attention from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by creating facts on the ground that will make it that much harder to reach territorial compromise.
It is disappointing that the political parties fighting for a spot in the center of the Israeli political map have responded so coolly to the encouraging messages relayed by the Palestinian leader. Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich continued to look over her right shoulder. She emphasized her opposition to the 1967 borders and didn't take the opportunity to support Abbas, expose Netanyahu's misrepresentation of the conflict, or present a clear political platform. Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid reserved the right to remain silent. Meretz was the only left-wing Zionist party to welcome Abbas' comments, as did President Shimon Peres, who praised his courage.
The debate over the Palestinians' request that the United Nations upgrade the Palestinian Authority's status from permanent observer to that of non-member observer state demonstrates the price of political deadlock and the perpetuation of the occupation. It is the duty of the parties running in the upcoming Israeli national election to place this issue at the top of their agendas, rather than sufficing with making meaningless calls for renewing negotiations. Otherwise, they will bear responsibility for the disastrous consequences of losing Israel's Palestinian partner.
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