Hey New Israeli Government, Drop ‘Unfeasible’ From the Lexicon

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the Knesset on Wednesday.
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

Twice last week a new phrase made it into the public lexicon: “political feasibility.” The first time was when the government informed the High Court of Justice that “at this time” it is politically unfeasible to promote a surrogacy law for same-sex couples. The second time, at a meeting of the European Union foreign ministers, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid noted that “it’s no secret that I support a two-state solution.”

Unfortunately, right now that solution is “unfeasible,” as if certain matters were surrounded by an electric fence and a yellow-and-black sign with a skull and crossbones. The message: “Politically unfeasible zone ahead, danger of government implosion, enter at your own risk.”

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The positive aspect of denying feasibility here is that it contains no lies or fraud. This government won’t be one of values, courageous policies or new thinking, and that’s not news. We knew this when the coalition puzzle was put together with hammer blows. The absurdity is that a lack of political feasibility is being accepted as a given when the very establishment of this government showed the baselessness of the theory of political feasibility.

True, the new government won’t begin talking to the Palestinians about a solution next week, and it’s still a government whose foreign minister is afraid to say that he supports a two-state solution. Even hard-liner Avigdor Lieberman, now the finance minister, has said in the past he supports a two-state solution including land swaps.

This government will be in no hurry to embrace Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and Ismail Haniyeh, but it still has agreed to expand the fishing zone off Gaza and let more imports in. It’s also seeking ways to transfer the Qatari aid money. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas isn’t a formal partner, but Abbas has already promised President Isaac Herzog that he will be in touch with him regularly. That’s not a political solution, but it’s a great innovation compared to the block of ice that Benjamin Netanyahu dropped on Abbas.

Also, it’s important to note Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah and Lapid’s meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. “What we need to do now is ensure that no steps are taken that will prevent the possibility of peace in the future, and we need to improve the lives of the Palestinians. Whatever is humanitarian, I will be for it,” Lapid said in explaining his credo at the EU foreign ministers’ conference.

“Improving the lives of the Palestinians” and “whatever is humanitarian” are hollow phrases, so they stoke no controversy. We’re all for humanitarianism, just as we’re all for global peace and security.

But when Lapid talks about avoiding steps “that will prevent the possibility of peace in the future,” he’s basically crossing the electric fence into the no-feasibility zone. “Steps that prevent peace” include building settlements, legalizing illegal outposts, increasing the population in Jewish enclaves in the West Bank, and of course, annexation. Avoiding all this is a preliminary step toward negotiations on a two-state solution.

Is this politically feasible? It’s not idle talk when Bennett says he believes that a Palestinian state is a disaster and he won’t let one be created. But a year ago he declared that “important matters like annexation and a Palestinian state can be set aside.” Gideon Sa’ar, now justice minister, said two years ago: “Between the sea and the Jordan there is no room for another state” – and urged Netanyahu to extend Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank. But has anyone heard him talking about annexation lately?

It turns out that political feasibility or infeasibility isn’t a permanent situation but rather a process. If with same-sex couples the infeasibility disappeared thanks to the High Court, with the peace process the government will have to build feasibility on its own. And the first thing it must do is drop the term “unfeasible” from the lexicon.

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