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A movement to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Tuesday, 19 July 2016


The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been steadily deteriorating, making the prospect of reaching an agreement on the basis of a two-state solution ever more intractable. What is sorely lacking is effective opposition parties that could present an alternative to Netanyahu's policy toward the Palestinians, and a national popular movement demanding change before the continued entrenchment of Israel in the West Bank becomes irreversible.

The leadership of the opposition has lost their political compass, promoting no ideas as to how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, it has been focusing on how to maneuver around one another to serve their narrow personal interests rather than that of the state.

The failure of the opposition to coalesce under a dynamic leadership and create a national movement to stop Netanyahu and demand peace now will put Israel's future in jeopardy. Otherwise, none of these leaders will escape the harsh judgment of history for their dismal failure.

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In recent years, Israel's political scene has been increasingly shifting to the right, the latest manifestation of which is the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman (the leader of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party) as defense minister, which does not bode well for dealing with the Palestinian conflict.

This shift is transforming the country from its founding as a secular democracy with a Jewish majority into a fanatic conservatism with religious undertones, which are becoming ever more pervasive.

For the Netanyahu government, the occupation of the West Bank is only a problem to be managed rather than the most consequential conflict that could obliterate Israel's Jewish character and its democratic institutions, while shattering the dream of the vast majority of Jews to live in peace and security in a state they have been dreaming of for centuries.

One of the most troubling developments is the slow transformation of the Israeli military from an independent, unbiased, and revered institution – and the melting pot of Israeli society – into an institution religiously influenced and increasingly leaning toward the right-of-center.

A growing number of top officers are deeply religious and committed to the preservation of the settlements, and if or when the time comes to evacuate many of the settlements scattered throughout the West Bank, future Israeli governments may no longer be able to count on the military to enforce an evacuation order.

Leave it to Lieberman to complete the task and make the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) not only a force to protect the legitimate national security of the country, but an instrument to sustain the occupation and protect the settlers in the name of national security.

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The current relatively reduced hostilities and economic prosperity enjoyed by much of the Israeli population has made them ever more passive in the face of the simmering conflict, as the government continues to propagate the notion that it can manage the conflict indefinitely.

This lack of public awakening is extraordinarily troubling, for as long as there is no sense of urgency to resolve the conflict, the prospect of a solution is moving from bad to worse; as long as the political opposition remains silent, they are directly contributing to the destruction of Israel's very foundation.

Unfortunately, the one time Israelis did take to the streets en masse (in 2011) was primarily about economic conditions, with no reference to the conflict with the Palestinians. Those protesters did not connect the fact that their own economic difficulties are, to a great extent, a direct result of the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent to maintain the occupation and legalize new and expand existing settlements, with no groundswell of public protest in response.

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About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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