The Moratorium Is Broken—Netanyahu’s New Coalition

by Martin Peretz | September 27, 2010

It is not what Bibi Netanyahu wanted. Still, the breaking of the moratorium applies only to building projects approved before the work stoppage had begun. Maybe this is not much of a consolation. But it is true, and whatever progress has been made in the tortuous path of accommodation—there has been little—between Israel and the fissiparous Palestinians has been in the interstices and on the margin.

It is reassuring that the Palestinian leadership did not grab the opportunity to walk away from the political traffic to make another self-defeating statement of aggressive pity. It is the political and military weakness of the Palestinians that has forced them into wanting negotiations—at least those of them who do want negotiations.  In the meantime, we will have to watch in dismay as Mahmoud Abbas offers up his “wounded olive branch” (a weird metaphor) while hammering Israel with all kinds of imagined and unimagined sins. This is exactly what he did in his address to the General Assembly, a forum which—it is true—has heard much worse about Israel. But we are speaking, after all, of the highly vaunted “international community.”

I wrote in this morning’s Spine that if the political parties to Netanyahu’s right squeeze him to permit construction in settlements, which quite literally have no future, he will turn to Kadimah, his potential ally in the center/center left, and shift the parliamentary balance of his support.

At roughly the same time, Michael Eitan, an influential right-wing member of the prime minister’s Likud party, issued a call for Kadimah to be included in the government. It would not become a wall-to-wall coalition. But it would reflect and represent a wider consensus that already exists in the population behind a real two-state solution.

Now, the Palestinians may not ultimately agree to this. Their leadership has been choking on the term when it is clear that one of these two states is a Jewish state, in recognition of the historic ethnic, national, cultural and religious character of the people which carried this ideal and reality through history. For God’s sake, every state in the Middle East (except poor battered Lebanon) and every state in the Muslim world is an Islamic state.

It is ironic that a people still struggling against odds of their own and others’ making to constitute a distinctive national group should be so belligerent and obstinate in denying the historicity of the Jewish nation.

This is not an abstract quarrel. Only last week, Kamel Khatib, the deputy head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, said that it would not accept any solution made between the Palestinian Authority and Jerusalem that did not carve out a special status for the Muslims of Israel. This is a dagger aimed at the throat of Israel. If its logic is accepted it will not be long before land populated by Arabs in Israel—towns, villages, rural areas— will be offered or consigned to Palestine. This is not what I desire. But if a democratic Jewish state is so hard for the Palestinians to swallow maybe they and their turf should be governed by their own. And I wish them great good luck living under the rules of such a civil society.  Of course, there are very few Muslims with Israeli citizenship who would prefer that civil society.

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