Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Land for Peace (or Less)

A reader yesterday posted an apparently incredulous question:
Yaacov, could you please explain what you mean when you say Barak won in 1999 because "the voters recognized that the difference between Labor and Likud wasn't really that great anymore."

Would it have been conceivable in your view that the withdrawal from Lebanon and Camp David-Taba would have happened also under a Likud government???
Short, quick answer: Yes, of course that's what I'm saying.

Long, fully explained answer: I wrote extensively about this dynamic in Right to Exist, and won't try to better myself here.

Short answer with facts: So far, the only Israeli governments that ever dismantled settlements were Begin's Likud government in 1982, and Sharon's Likud one in 2005. Golda's Labor government handed over territories without settlements in 1973-4, Rabin did the same in 1974-5, and then handed territories to the PA in 1994-5, but so did Netanyahu in 1996-9. Begin, Shamir, Peres and Barak all moved out of sections of Southern Lebanon in 1982-2000. Ah, and Ben Gurion relinquished control of various Arab territories in 1949 and 1956. Is there a pattern here? Yes: that elected Israeli politicians always try to do what the electorate prefers, and the electorate generally prefers peace over territories - assuming peace is being offered. (It is just conceivable that Jerusalem is an exception to this rule, but I'm not sure).

Exceptions? Shamir in the early 1990s - and he then lost the next election, in 1992.

Quick prognosis for 2009-2011: If the Obama-(Hillary) Clinton team ever manage to cobble together a reasonable looking peace package (highly unlikely, but it's nice to hope), whatever Israeli prime minister happens to be in the office that morning will accept it. Yes, including the most likely one, Netanyahu, of course. How do I know? Because he'll want to be re-elected in 2013, not thrown out of office in 2011; and also because last time he was in office he did everything (Bill) Clinton told him to do - the problem was that he did it with bad grace. As the Yiddish saying goes, he ate the smelly fish and he was thrown out of town.

How come this surprises you, I hear you asking? How come it isn't reported this way, but rather the other way around, that the evil Likudniks will trash any chance for peace? Because of an unholy alliance of reporters on the issue: The Israeli Left needs to tell and believe that only they are capable of bringing peace, otherwise what's left for them to do? The Guardian and its ilk love to tell whatever anti Israeli narrative they can invent, factual or counter-factual, so of course they'll be full of crowing reports next week about how Israel has now ended the peace process (a story we've often heard in the past). And the rest of the media? As I never tire of saying, they rarely know what they're talking about anyway; in this case, most of their Israeli sources come from the Left, so they happily collude in telling how Netanyahu will never make peace.

If the Palestinians want peace, Netanyahu won't stop them from getting it.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response -- I see I will have to find the time to read your book, I meant to do it for ages, but the virtual reading eats up all my time!!!

kai said...

Yaacov, but did you forget that last time in office Bibi was a liar and a cheater all around?

I don't mind that he's right wing but everything else.