Islamic State Is No Excuse to Ignore Palestinians

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is wrong if he believes the world’s fear of the Islamic State will bury the need for negotiating an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Haaretz Editorial
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he delivers a speech at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, August 27, 2014.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he delivers a speech at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, August 27, 2014.Credit: AFP
Haaretz Editorial

The special debate the prime minister held on Wednesday about the Islamic State was seemingly timely. Middle Eastern and Western states are concerned over the murderous organization that has conquered considerable territory in Syria and Iraq and threatens to continue its conquests. There is no doubt that Israel too must examine the implications of this new threat. At the same time, there’s no need to panic or spread alarm, two things that Benjamin Netanyahu has enhanced in recent years to an art form.

Intelligence officials have made it clear that the Islamic State organization has not established an infrastructure in Israel or the territories and that at the most, there’s support to an unknown extent for its ideas in these parts. The cabinet decided to enact harsh legislation against anyone found to be a member of the organization or who “expresses identification with it,” a senior official told Haaretz.

This decision requires strict distinction between its two parts. Experience shows that this government is making every effort to restrict freedom of expression, especially among Israel’s Arabs. It is not groundless to assume that the rightist ministers would pounce on this opportunity as well and suggest the broadest possible interpretation for “identification with the ideas of the Islamic State.”

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni did well to enlighten the ministers that the solution to the threat lies in entering into peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and in signing a peace agreement with it. This approach is opposed to the position espoused by Netanyahu’s and most coalition members, who are doing all they can to ignore the Palestinian problem and the ways to solve it.

The cabinet hasn’t seen fit yet to respond to Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy chairman of Hamas’ political bureau, who said there’s nothing wrong with negotiations with Israel. Instead the cabinet is continuing in its efforts to compare Hamas to the Islamic State, thus making it harder for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to advance the peace process.

The prime minister has declared his desire for Israel to become part of the international and Arab coalition, which strives to combat the radical organization. Netanyahu is wrong if he believes the world’s fear of IS will bury the need to negotiate an agreement with the Palestinians. Solving the conflict is the burning issue on Israel’s table. We must not let Netanyahu run away from it.

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