The Failings of Israel's Mainstream
The election of Shaul Mofaz, former Israeli minister of defense, as head of Israel's Kadima party is not surprising news, at least for Palestinians. Polls continue to show right-wing trends in Israeli public opinion, and despite differences between Mofaz and the Israeli mainstream, there remains a rift between his politics and the international consensus over the basic requirements of a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Even when political differences exist among the various Israeli politicians or political parties, one can't help but observe that most of them share the same arrogance when relating to Palestinians. It seems that because Israel won several wars against Arab states, and defeated most Arab armies, Israelis tend to confuse the Palestinian people with Arab militaries and governments.
What Israeli politicians need to know is that, while governments, states and armies can be defeated and might even surrender, people cannot. Such is especially true when those people are fighting for basic, inalienable and non-negotiable rights such as freedom, independence and self-determination.
Many Israeli analysts and political experts are imagining a scenario where Mofaz would join the coming Israeli government, likely to be headed by the still-strong Likud. In other words, Labor party leader Ehud Barak would be replaced by Mofaz. And why not? Barak also has different positions than the Likud and its head Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and yet they have complemented each other, haven't they?
The best way to inspect Mofaz's politics is to look at the political plan that he published in May 2011. That plan suggests that the Palestinian Authority pass the test of security responsibility (which it has done), and recognize Israel (which it has done), and recognize the three Quartet conditions (which it has done), and take full responsibility for Gaza (which Israel itself gifted to Hamas by ignoring both the Palestine Liberation Organization leadership and the bilateral peace process, replacing them with unilateralism and the ideas of Ariel Sharon). If Palestinians meet all these benchmarks, Mofaz suggests transferring to them an additional 10 percent of the occupied territories and asking the international community to recognize a Palestinian state with temporary borders.
Mofaz ignores only one "small" problem, which he should know is a make-or-break issue for Palestinians: Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories, including in occupied East Jerusalem.
As such, although this plan puts distance between him and the current right-wing government, Mofaz has found no Palestinian partner. The reason is not that Mofaz, especially last May, was marginal in Israeli politics, but rather that his proposal falls short of Palestinian requirements. Indeed, Palestinians, who have compromised all their rights save the basics they are guaranteed in international law, will unfavorably compare the Mofaz plan with the ill-fated roadmap, for example, which calls for a cessation of all settlement activity.
This demand is not a bargaining tool, but a logical requirement. Bilateral talks have proven meaningless over the last two decades not because they did not make progress, but because they could not prevent the progress of a process that negated them. How can we negotiate the future of a land that is daily and rapidly being forcefully taken by one party to the negotiations?
The Israeli mainstream, which includes Mofaz, feels no urgency for a peaceful solution. As long as its illegal control of the occupied territories goes unchallenged, Israel will continue to behave as if it owns this land. And as long as Israel's military is strong enough to smash the face of a peaceful Danish protester without accountability, as happened last week in Jericho, mainstream Israeli proposals will continue to reflect mainstream Israeli arrogance.
If Mofaz wants truly to make a difference, he must come up with an alternative approach. He has to start from the basic assumption that the borders of Israel are the borders of 1967 and that the Palestinian state will follow these same borders. Consequently, all illegal Israeli activities outside those borders should stop. On this basis, meaningful negotiations can recommence, and Israeli security concerns can be viewed as legitimate. Otherwise, it will be a matter of time until the conflict moves to another paradigm, this one different from that proposing two states.