One continually hears calls from the international community and from various sections of the Jewish world urging Israel to reach a settlement with the Palestinians without further delay, because “the window of opportunity for a two-state solution is closing fast”.
Nearly two decades have passed since I affixed a sticker to my bag bearing the words “An entire generation seeks peace”. But those days are gone. Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a religious fanatic. Israel was assailed by two intifadas despite the repeated efforts of her leaders to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians. We fought two wars in Lebanon against the Hezbollah and a further two against Hamas, even though thousands of Jewish families had been uprooted from every centimetre of the Gaza Strip in the pursuit of peace.
It seems that the Palestinians are less interested in establishing a state of their own than we were. Following the Peel Commission report of 1947, Ben Gurion wrote: “We are being given an opportunity which we never dared to dream of in our wildest imagination. This is more than a state, government and sovereignty—this is a national consolidation in a free homeland. … if because of our weakness, neglect or negligence, the thing is not done, then we will have lost a chance which we never had before, and may never have again.”
The borders of the Jewish State as proposed by Peel were far from ideal, but those who are desperate take whatever they can get. Unfortunately, the Palestinians, who are more interested in delegitimizing Israel and seeking her destruction than in achieving statehood, continue to make demands to which no Israeli government in its right mind could possibly agree.
It is one of the tragedies of history that the stubbornness of the Palestinians and their unwillingness to return to the negotiating table has left its mark on an Israeli society that is increasingly moving to the right.
Opinion polls conducted in connection with the elections due on 22 January 2013 suggest that a right-wing block consisting of Likkud, Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi will hold no less than 40% of the seats in the next Knesset. Moderate voices on the Likkud list such as Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan have been pushed aside by hardliners such as Moshe Feiglin.
On current projections only Netanyahu will be capable of forming Israel’s next government and he will be dependent upon right-wing parties for his coalition.
The government’s controversial decision last week, much to the consternation of the U.S. Administration and the European Union, to commence construction in the E1 district between Jerusalem and Ma’alei Adumim no doubt reflects in part Likkud’s growing concern at the increasing strength of right-wing parties at its expense.
It is, therefore, too late to speak of a window of opportunity. The refusal of the Palestinians to negotiate has boomeranged. Mahmoud Abbas had his chance, but he blew it.
I shall continue to vote Meretz, but know that even former left-wing parties such as Labor are moving to the centre and any hopes of “peace in our time” must at least for the time being be consigned to the realm of wishful thinking.