Opinion |

Occupation Isn’t Some Pesky Fly to Be Ignored With No Repercussions

anat saragusti
Anat Saragusti
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A West Bank checkpoint near Nablus
A West Bank checkpoint near NablusCredit: Daniel Bar-On
anat saragusti
Anat Saragusti

The reports on news shows and in newspaper headlines about security incidents are multiplying. A shooting incident here, stone throwing there, a clash, an initiated military action, locating terrorists, preventing attacks, wounded soldiers and Israeli citizens, dead Palestinians. Last Wednesday an Israel Defense Forces officer was killed in an exchange of fire during a confrontation in Jenin.

A week of big decisions for Israeli politicians: LISTEN to Election Overdose

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Senior officers meet covertly or openly with the heads of the Palestinian security services, in an almost desperate attempt to convince them to stop the attackers before they cross the nonexistent border into the State of Israel, or into areas where Israelis live. Other generals appear in prestigious venues and warn of a deterioration on the way to an outbreak on the ground. Former generals appear in the TV studios and provide forecasts, courses of action or ordinary military commentary in a confident bass voice punctuated with exclamation marks.

The holidays are already on the horizon and the tension is increasing.

But for the politicians, party leaders, pollsters, surveys and the major media outlets, these things are taking place in a parallel universe, which presumably is unrelated to the election.

The coming election, like the preceding one and the ones before, is not dealing with the most urgent, most important question, the issue that most affects the character of the country, its values and the quality of life of those living in Israel: the question of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Likud, which presumes it will lead the country after the election, is not proposing a plan. In effect, more or less since the time of Menachem Begin, Likud has not produced a plan of action for ending the conflict. Even the annexation plan has been removed from the agenda.

The ultra-Orthodox parties traditionally do not deal with questions of policy. Supposedly. Because their cooperation with Likud for years on end, as though they were bound together with super-glue, means they are also responsible for failing to seek a solution to the conflict and the absence of a plan for doing so.

The party of the generals, Benny Gantz-Gadi Eisenkot has made a decision – strategic? tactical? – not to deal with the conflict. The merger with supporters of annexation/avoiders of a solution, Gideon Sa’ar and Zeev Elkin, were more important to them.

Even Yair Lapid has meticulously avoided dealing with this hot issue called the conflict with the Palestinians. The prime minister will not be caught promoting any concrete plan of action, although ideologically he presumably belongs to the same imaginary left-wing camp, at a time when left and right still represent the division between security concepts of annexation versus different security concepts, of peace and a two-state solution.

The leaders of the Labor Party have avoided any intensive preoccupation with the Palestinian issue like fire, since the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Yes, all the leaders of the Labor Party since then have declared everywhere that they are in favor of a solution blah-blah-blah, but none of them has taken any practical step in that direction.

Although Meretz is the only Zionist party that clearly espouses ending the occupation, in fact it has not insisted on the issue as a condition for anything: not for entering a coalition, not for various and sundry important votes, and not even for their attempted merger with the Labor Party. Two Meretz MKs are dealing with the occupation more intensively – Mossi Raz and Gaby Lasky – but as mentioned, it is not a condition for anything.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the only ones placing the issue of ending the conflict and finding a solution as a top priority are members of what used to be the Joint List.

Almost bizarrely, it seems that the MKs who represent primarily Israel’s Arab community are actually the only ones who understand what MKs and elected officials who represent Israel’s Jewish community don’t want to internalize: that without an end to the occupation/conflict, Israel cannot be a safe place, that the conflict is not a pesky fly that can be shooed away with a wave of the hand, and then continue with business as usual.

But what happened? The moment that they posit this issue as a condition, they are immediately branded as supporters of terrorism, embracers of terrorists, and are excluded not only from joining a coalition, but even from supporting it from the outside.

That really is the case. As though just calling for an end to the occupation and a solution to the conflict in itself disqualifies them from entering the room. It’s a shame that the leaders of the Jewish community fail to understand what the Arab MKs understand. It’s a shame that supporters of the “anyone but Bibi” camp don’t understand that even if Benjamin Netanyahu is convicted in court and leaves political life, the conflict will still be here, it won’t disappear, and its existence will continue to threaten the security of the soldiers, the security of the settlers, the security of all Israelis and the security of the country.

And it’s a shame that the “only Bibi” camp doesn’t understand that if no long-term solution is found, even if the trial is canceled, and even if Netanyahu lives here forever and the attorney general is ousted, no economy can flourish, the security budget will continue to devour our taxes, and the health care system will continue to dry up, as will the school system.

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