Israeli government should be more proactive


While occasional stabbings keep trickling on in Israel and the West Bank, turning into a depressing routine, several news items caught my eyes this week. They give a clue to a potentially different reality. Which is better or worse than the currently reality depends on what you make of them:

▪ U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, during his last visit to Israel, admitted that he had “run out of ideas” as to how to jump-start the stalled peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. At the same time, the Israeli Cabinet discussed the prospect of the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, pondering the consequences for Israel.

▪ In the midst of the current turbulence, Israeli officials and IDF officers met with heads of Palestinian security agencies to discuss ways of easing the tension.

▪ Rumors were running high that the Jewish terrorists who had set a fire in the Palestinian village Duma, killing three family members, were about to be brought to justice.

▪ The director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry visited Abu Dhabi to arrange the opening of an Israeli renewable energy mission in the capital of the United Arab Emirates; at the same time, The Government of Jordan ran an ad in Haaretz newspaper, calling for Israeli companies to participate in the ambitious Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Project.

▪ Knesset member Amir Peretz, former minister of defense and now in the opposition, published his peace plan, which calls for Israel to keep the big settlements within Israel’s borders, while relocating only 80,000 Israeli settlers out of half a million.

Connecting the dots might suggest an interesting insight into the challenges, threats and opportunities Israel faces.

Attaching the “failed” stamp to the two-state solution is perhaps something the current Israeli government would welcome. Yet the same government discussed the repercussions of a collapse of the Palestinian Authority, which will put 2.5 million Palestinians under the direct rule of Israel. Apart from the moral and economic issues involved, thousands of Palestinian policemen and security agents who will lose their jobs overnight might turn their weapons against Israel. They did so 15 years ago in the second Intifada.

At the same time, the people on both sides in charge of security are reaching out to each other, trying to put the lid on the fire. In heated Israeli cabinet meetings, IDF officers, against calls for harsh measures, are recommending to alleviate the living conditions of the majority of Palestinians, who are not terrorists or troublemakers. Meanwhile, Palestinian security forces are arresting Hamas militants who call for a more-violent uprising.

One of the reasons for the current Palestinian rage is that while Palestinian terrorists are caught and sentenced to jail, Israeli terrorists are rarely brought to justice, and if they are, they walk away with lighter sentences. If in the coming days the Jewish Israeli terrorists who torched to death the Dawabsheh family in Duma are indeed brought to justice, then the message will not be lost on the angry Palestinians.

Finally, the Amir Peretz peace plan is a reminder that the current Israeli government has no plan whatsoever. The truth is that for peace you need a credible partner, and Mahmoud Abbas has rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated calls to come to the negotiating table with no preconditions. And in schools and in the media, anti-Israeli Palestinian incitement goes on.

However, a responsible government should tell its citizens what it intends to do even if the situation is rough. The Israeli government fails to do this, and no wonder that the public is upset: In public opinion polls, two out of every three Israelis think that the government fails in its handling of the security affairs.

It’s up to the Israeli government to decide which way it wishes to sway the course of events. Carrying on with the policy of “do nothing and wait” might bring about the demise of the Palestinian Authority, with grave consequences for Israel and the region. A bold Israeli initiative, on the other hand, either within the old Arab League Peace Plan or through unilateral steps, might trigger surprisingly positive results.

As a bonus, Israel might also gain some good media coverage, for a change.