The wave of violence raging across the West Bank, Jerusalem and Israeli towns inside the Green Line has put to rest the illusion of “no-cost management of the conflict” — a notion that has flourished during Benjamin Netanyahu’s long years as prime minister. The right wing’s belief that the Palestinians will yield and agree to live under occupation, in the shadow of ever-expanding settlements, has been shattered by the knife attacks and car rammings.
The government's solutions for addressing the new reality attests to its despair and confusion. Instead of seeking a diplomatic resolution that will give the young Palestinian generation hope for improving its lot and reducing the motivation to harm Israelis, Netanyahu and his ministers choose ideas reminiscent of tribal wars, not a country with pretensions of being Western. This includes holding on to corpses of Palestinian assailants or suspected ones, whether killed by security forces or civilians.
After two children stabbed a security guard in Jerusalem, a new response emerged that conforms to the philosophy of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked: reducing the age of criminal accountability and jailing children from age 12 (even if the actual imprisonment is deferred for two years) - just as in Eritrea and Morocco.
These initiatives will lead to one result: the erosion of Israel’s democratic foundations and a crumbling of civil and human rights. These measures won't resolve the conflict with the Palestinians or deter them from their struggle for freedom and liberation from the occupation.
The price of maintaining the occupation is tying down more military forces to protect the settlers. The price is also rising in the international arena, as illustrated by the European Union’s decision to mark products from the settlements and exclude them from free trade agreements between Europe and Israel.
In such an atmosphere it's vital to return to debating alternatives to force and human-rights violations, such as seeking peace with the Palestinians. Instead of collecting corpses and jailing children, Israel should resume negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in order to reach a two-state solution, while freezing construction in the settlements and agreeing to confidence-building measures on the ground.
During his visit to Washington, Netanyahu repeated his commitment to a two-state solution but added that its realization was impractical (“the problem of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are irresolvable”). He did mention unilateral steps, but he did not elaborate. This position reflects the prime minister’s avoidance of attempts to negotiate and seek a compromise, ensuring the fulfillment of his vision of eternal conflict.
Haaretz's second Israel Conference on Peace on Thursday is designed to resume discussions on the diplomatic path and highlight the sharp divisions between supporters and opponents of a deal. The Israeli conversation shouldn't focus on punitive measures and oppression while ignoring the vital need for building a new and egalitarian relationship with our Palestinian neighbors. No time is more critical for this discussion than now.
This article was amended on November 17 to include the fact that prison sentences imposed on 12-year-old children will, according to the justice minister's proposal, be deferred for two years.
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