They say silence speaks louder than words. These elections were arguably the first in a couple of generations where no single major party spoke prominently about the peace process. In fact, the deafening silence surrounding the issue was apparent to only foreign observers.
The hope of Camp David in 2000, and the cautious optimism of Annapolis in 2008, have long receded into the background, disappeared by a public that has not witnessed an Israeli and Palestinian leader so much as shake hands in over a decade.
If one considers that the short-lived Annapolis peace talks were an aberration, for the last almost 20 years the Israeli public has witnessed and experienced: the bloody Second Intifada, where for some, merely stepping out of one’s house was considered a danger; the failed Disengagement; incessant rockets on major population centers; and the numerous “Intifadas” that have come since, like the so-called stabbing and vehicular intifadas.
Even the pressure placed by then-president Barack Obama on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – during the early years of the latter’s decade-long tenure – to enunciate support for a two-state solution, freeze the settlements, put all issues on the table and agree to no preconditions, did not see the Palestinian leadership even enter the negotiating room.
In its stead, the Israeli public witnessed regular rejectionism and incitement from the Palestinian leadership, whether increasing Holocaust denial, violent antisemitic discourse, and claims that Zionism is akin to racism.
A peace partner has never seemed further away.
The simple but constant noise coming from the Palestinian side over the previous decade was not peace and compromise, but unstinting rejectionism.
That the leaders of Israeli political parties from the Left, center and Right barely mentioned the Palestinians throughout the campaign demonstrated clearly how little appeal the issue has with the public. Today, Israeli political parties are far more sophisticated than in the past, and their unceasing in-house polling told them this was not what animated a significant percentage of the public.
Few are buying the idea of resurrecting the peace process that sparked so much anticipation almost 26 years ago.
At the Israel Victory Project, we are pushing the proposition that the “Peace Process” has failed, and that it should be replaced with an Israel victory. That means placing enough military, economic and diplomatic pressure on the Palestinian leadership to convince them that they should give up their war aims, they have lost, and the conflict is ended. Only then can negotiations produce a true and lasting peace.
WHILE THE first part of our program is widely accepted, thanks to the reality that Israelis see with their own eyes, few Israeli political leaders are yet actively pressing for the second part.
In fact, as coalition negotiations get underway, only one party leader has even placed a solid proposal for ending the conflict along these lines, at least with Hamas in Gaza, on the table. Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman has set his conditions for entering a Netanyahu-led Government, and one is the defeat of and surrender by Hamas.
If this is accepted by the coalition in its guidelines then it will represent an unprecedented shift.
Our annual polling on the issue of Israel victory shows that the overwhelming majority of the Israeli public wants its politicians to adopt our platform for ending the conflict. Politically, an Israel victory process is not the easiest to sell because politicians, by nature, desire stability and are risk-averse, especially in a politically dynamic system such as ours.
However, to take a long-term strategic view in our region necessitates adopting the platform of Israel victory for an end to the conflict and enduring peace.
The regular skirmishes with Hamas and the continued bloodletting by Fatah and other terrorist factions in the West Bank cannot and should not be ignored.
Every loss of life should impress on us that the bloodshed should end, and history has taught us well and consistently that conflicts and wars only are concluded when one side gives up. We sadly know from the Palestinian rhetoric what an Israeli defeat would look like, so the only option is Israeli victory and Palestinian defeat.
Such a conclusion would enormously benefit the Palestinian people because it would free them of the investment in time, money and other vital resources by their leaders in trying to defeat Israel. They could instead invest internally in social services, boosting their economy and building a democratic and representative polity.
In a few months, the peace process might be back on the agenda with the expected release of President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” peace plan. However, if it continues on the well-worn path of Oslo and other failed agreements that have littered the Israeli landscape for 26 years, it will surely falter.
Perhaps then, Israeli leaders will look for a new paradigm that has a sound, logical and historically sound basis for ending the conflict, and our plan will be ready for full adoption.
Daniel Seaman is director of the Middle East Forum’s Israel office.
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