Spot the Difference Between the Zionist Camp and the Right

With an alliance like the supposedly dovish duo of Herzog and Livni, you should prepare for a continuation of the occupation.

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Herzog (L) and Livni (R) at a joint press conference, December 10, 2014.
Herzog (L) and Livni (R) at a joint press conference, December 10, 2014.Credit: Moti Milrod
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

In a brilliant linguistic coinage, former Prime Minister Moshe Sharett used to refer to the U.S. State Department by an acronym formed from the first letters of its Hebrew name, which spelled out a word (mahmad) that can mean either “darling” or “pet” – the department as the representative of the pet superpower. Or, to be more precise, a poodle for the Israelis and a predator for the Palestinians.

But in the UN Security Council last week, the U.S. poodle had no need to bare its teeth against the Palestinians. It made do with a chilling growl that silenced poor, wretched countries, and thus the proposal to recognize the Palestinian state failed to pass. Israel celebrated the Palestinian failure; all that was missing was a play on the popular song “We came to banish darkness” – “We came to banish peace.”

According to media leaks, among those who convinced the pet secretary, John Kerry, to oppose the Palestinian proposal were two Israeli statespeople, Shimon Peres and Tzipi Livni, who feared that its passage would strengthen Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the run-up to the March election.

Therefore, dear Palestinians, please remain silent: the “Zionist Camp” plans to take over the government. They’ve put the issue of the occupation into the deep freeze, stowed the settlements in the attic, and swept the borders under the carpet. Quiet, we’re holding elections!

Yet the intelligent Israeli peace-seeker can’t help wondering. Let’s assume the Zionist Camp is indeed elected to run the country. Who will guarantee that its leaders, Livni and Labor chairman Isaac Herzog, will agree to establish the Palestinian state?

At the minute, it’s not clear what they want; they are afraid to reveal their positions. Only recently they informed us that they will strengthen Israel’s relations with the United States. As if relations with the obedient pet superpower needed maintenance work.

Meanwhile, the weekend brought an exciting surprise. While Meretz forcefully denounced the government’s freeze on transferring half a billion shekels ($128 million) of Palestinian tax money to the Palestinian Authority, the Herzog-Livni campaign put out a statement saying that Netanyahu, who “is weak against Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] in the international arena, is taking steps that on their own won’t really help Israel Defense Forces soldiers at The Hague or stop the Palestinians internationally.”

Is there a volunteer in the audience willing to explain to the leaders of the Zionist Camp that they are supposed to constitute the dovish alternative?

Essentially, this has been the Labor Party’s way throughout its history. During the 1982 siege of Beirut, then-leader Yitzhak Rabin urged Defense Minister Ariel Sharon to tighten the siege. In 1996, then-leader Peres had only just donned his military windbreaker as prime minister when he launched Operation Grapes of Wrath in Lebanon. What does our country’s climate do to our charming doves?

If it were about to rain, Arabs say, we would see clouds on the horizon. But at the minute, aside from the clouds of January, there is nothing: No recognition of a Palestinian state; no drawing of borders; no freeze on settlement construction. Godot has already arrived, but we’re still waiting for tidings from the Labor Party.

And therefore, with great regret, we must say that the Zionist Camp is essentially no different from the right. Both of them act like speculators in the market, whose only goal is to gouge as many Palestinian rights as possible. But as is well known, an unjust peace is a recipe for the next war.

It’s a great pity that this election campaign is focusing on relatively marginal issues instead of the issue of the Palestinian state. This could have been an opportunity for Herzog and Livni to differentiate themselves from Netanyahu and his ilk.

In general, Herzog has been a big disappointment, and not just recently. During last summer’s war in Gaza, he functioned as Netanyahu’s PR agent. And amid the wave of European parliaments calling for the recognition of Palestine last fall, the Labor chairman advised these countries not to grant such recognition. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the public, which according to all the polls is fed up with Netanyahu, doesn’t see any alternative.

And why should we be surprised, when the writing was already on the wall? Of all the two-word phrases with which the Hebrew language is blessed, this distinguished duo couldn’t find any better phrase than “Zionist Camp” by which to call their joint Knesset slate. And thus, they excluded an entire community that can’t be part of this privileged camp, because to their Palestinian brothers who live under the occupation, Zionism symbolizes expulsions, checkpoints, closures and settlements.

With a camp like this, prepare for a continuation of the occupation. All those who support peace should know that the battle has just begun.

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