A senior German political correspondent who arrived in Israel to cover the elections posed a question to me:
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“While the world outside Israel seems to be most interested in the possibility of a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians and a two-state solution, this topic does not seem to be a hot issue in the electoral campaign and the debate between the political parties. Why is it so?”
Most political analysts would agree that the reason the two-state solution and an Israel-Palestinian peace agreement are not the central campaign issues is that the vast majority of Israelis don’t believe such an agreement is in the cards in the foreseeable future.
They know Mahmoud Abbas does not represent all the Palestinians and is incapable of reaching an agreement with Israel on their behalf. And they know that an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria would bring Hamas, and possibly Islamic State, into the area, with consequent danger to Israel’s population centers.
That seems to be the Labor Party’s position as well. Labor is not pushing the two-state solution in the election campaign, knowing full well that most Israelis consider it no more than a pipedream.
That’s not fully appreciated or understood in much of the world outside Israel, by those enamored by the specious slogan of “two states for two peoples,” which originated in Israel and over the years has been embraced by many people worldwide.
But the Middle East has changed substantially in recent years, and what to many seemed like a just and realistic alternative seems for now unrealistic.
What for years has been the central point of disagreement between Likud and Labor, how to deal with the Palestinian problem, has receded into the background, possibly to reappear on some indefinite date.
As a matter of fact, except for minor nuances, there seem to be no cardinal differences between them on security matters. Both consider the Iranian nuclear project a great danger to Israel, and both consider the agreement taking shape in the negotiations between the U.S. and Iran to be bad for Israel.
The question of whether Benjamin Netanyahu should have accepted the invitation by the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives to address a joint session of Congress is hardly of major importance.
Those who are acquainted with U.S.-Israeli relations know that they will, in any case, continue to be excellent. If proof is needed, the U.S.’s recent sale of additional F35 aircraft to Israel is convincing enough.
The lack of disagreement between Labor and Likud on security matters is of recent vintage, but that was not always the case.
Consider the ill-fated Oslo accords with Yasser Arafat, promoted by the Labor leadership. Then there was the betrayal of Israel’s ally, the South Lebanon Army, and the unilateral withdrawal from the security zone there. This brought in its wake an emboldened Hezbollah, the second intifada, with its wave of terror in Israel’s cities, and a gradually increasing rocket and missile threat to all of Israel’s civilian population.
And in addition there was the willingness to cede the Golan Heights to Syria and Judea and Samaria to Arafat.
These events are not issues in the present election campaign, but they have left the impression with many voters that Labor is soft on security.
Naming the merger between the Labor Party and Tzipi Livni's Hatnauh the “Zionist Union” is a transparent attempt to correct this image.
That leaves the cost of housing, the cost of living and Netanyahu’s household affairs as the major issues of this year’s election campaign, leaving the two-state solution far behind.