Simple logic strongly suggests that the new government formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not bring peace, certainly not on its own initiative. Netanyahu renounced the two-state solution during his election campaign, does not consider Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a partner, and sees the United States administration as the enemy. All this is enough to suppress any hope for a diplomatic turnaround.
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But apparently Abbas is still interested in giving the diplomatic process a chance, and in a speech he gave to mark Nakba Day reiterated his terms for renewing negotiations – a halt to construction in the territories, the freeing of prisoners jailed before the Oslo Accords and continuous negotiations for a year, at the end of which a timetable will be set for ending the occupation in 2017.
One might raise an eyebrow at Abbas’ seeming naiveté or apparent disconnection from reality. One could also remind him that in an interview U.S. President Barack Obama gave to the Al Arabiya network he stated that peace between Israel and the Palestinians isn’t possible in the coming year. (Incidentally, it’s permitted to wonder about and even object to Obama’s declaration, since who but the U.S. could pressure the Israeli government into changing its policies?) But it is precisely within this reality, which at the moment looks unchangeable, that a dangerous dynamic lies.
Europe, particularly France, is unwilling to put up with this deadlock. The United Nations General Assembly that will convene in September is more ready than ever to make tough decisions that will support the Palestinians’ demand for recognition of their independence. More and more organizations are joining the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Several European countries have announced that they recognize the Palestinian state or that they are prepared to do so. In the West Bank itself there is a growing feeling of despair over ever reaching a diplomatic solution, and one cannot count on the quiet there being maintained forever.
These thick clouds threaten the State of Israel and each of its citizens. When the government doesn’t recognize the danger inherent in a diplomatic stalemate, the opposition must raise its voice. This opposition must be combative and not make do with responses or slogans. It must adopt Abbas’ conditions as the opening negotiating position and declare that he is a worthy partner. It must operate domestically and internationally to recruit leaders and states into a multinational coalition that will push for diplomatic negotiations and present a realistic plan that will convince the public, both in Israel and abroad, that there is an alternative to the iron wall that the Netanyahu government has erected.