No Partner for Peace in Israel

Rejection of the Palestinian partner is a deception aimed to delude the public into thinking the Israeli government’s hands are clean.

“Don’t delude yourselves. We don’t have a partner on the Palestinian side for a two-state solution.” That was how Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon summarized his take on the peace negotiations and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a group of business leaders taking part in an initiative to promote a peace agreement. There was nothing new in Ya’alon’s declaration. It was in keeping with statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing colleagues, for whom any Palestinian who does not adopt their policies precisely as given is clearly anti-peace.

There is “no partner” because of incitement by the Palestinians, say those who engage in incitement against the Palestinian Authority. “No partner” because the Palestinian Authority has been unable to prevent the so-called atmosphere attacks, say the people who have failed to apprehend the “price tag” gangs. And “no partner” say those who are slated this week to publish tenders for the construction of 1,400 homes over the Green Line, in response to the release of some 20 Palestinian prisoners.

In their view, the only appropriate partner is one who will accept continued Israeli control of the Jordan Valley, who does not call for a boycott of Israeli factories in the settlements and is willing to recognize Israel as the “Jewish national state” despite the fact that some 20 percent of its citizens are Arabs. The problem is that such a partner is almost impossible to find, not only among the Palestinians. Even Israel’s friends have given up on defending its positions, and some are already supporting sanctions against Israel.

Ya’alon elected to convince business people of his doctrine, the very people who understand full well the connection between the occupation and the economic threat, and from there the existential threat. People who know that the storm that will follow from the paralysis in the talks will harm their factories and workers. From their perspective, the continuation of the occupation — as they warned Netanyahu in a meeting six months ago — is not only an ethical, historical or messianic issue, it is a clear danger: The Land of Israel could well lead the State of Israel to catastrophe.

Rejection of the Palestinian partner is a deception aimed to delude the public into thinking the Israeli government’s hands are clean. It is amazing how Israeli politicians who are steadfast in their mantra of “no partner” fail to comprehend a basic fact about negotiations between adversaries: Partners do not grow on trees, they are created through hard work; that building process is their job.

When a senior minister in a government that is conducting peace talks calls them a futile trick that we must recognize and put aside, it is not an exaggeration to say that it is the Israeli side that is not a partner for peace.