Arab-Jewish Coexistence Is One of Israel’s Greatest Achievements. Political Extremists Could Undo It

Oct. 26 2022

In advance of any Israeli election, there is usually a reshuffling of political parties, as alliances are formed or broken and candidates consider how to use the electoral threshold to their advantage. Among the most significant in the lead up to the November 1 elections is the merger between the Religious Zionism party and the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, led by the controversial Itamar Ben-Gvir, whose support in Israel has grown in the aftermath of the 2021 conflict between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews. The merger of these parties promises to increase the parliamentary clout of the former party, while allowing the latter’s candidates to obtain the minimum number of votes necessary for representation in the Knesset. Yossi Klein Halevi is concerned about the effect that Ben-Gvir could have on Israeli politics:

For all the tensions, most Arabs and Jews have learned the habit of practical coexistence. This is one of Israeli society’s most impressive if largely unacknowledged achievements. Despite the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Arabs and Jews interact, often easily and sometimes intimately, in parks and shopping malls and hospitals, as neighbors. Ben-Gvir and his allies regard such interaction as intolerable.

Though Ben-Gvir claims to have abandoned the extremism of his Kahanist youth, he continues to revere as his spiritual leader the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who created a racist theology that places hatred and vengeance at the core of Judaism. Until a few years ago, a photograph of Baruch Goldstein, the mass-murderer of Hebron, hung in Ben-Gvir’s living room; he removed it only when its presence began to cause him political damage. Ben Gvir’s long-term goal of expelling Arabs from Israel remains unchanged: last week he urged the creation of a government “emigration office” to encourage Arabs to leave.

Ben-Gvir and his allies regard this interaction as intolerable. Ben-Gvir, who was rejected from army service because of a conviction for terrorist activity and who, buffoon-like, draws his pistol when even slightly provoked (as he did during a verbal altercation with an Arab over a parking spot), is presenting himself as the answer to Israel’s security needs. But what he’s really offering is a vision of the Lebanonization of Israeli society, where the central authority has collapsed and been replaced by rival militias. Instead of the IDF, we will be protected by Jewish street gangs, like the hilltop youth who attack random Palestinians and even IDF soldiers.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israel-Arab relations, Israeli Arabs, Israeli Election 2022, Israeli politics

President Biden Should Learn the Lessons of Past U.S. Attempts to Solve the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Sept. 21 2023

In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Joe Biden addressed a host of international issues, mentioning, inter alia, the “positive and practical impacts” resulting from “Israel’s greater normalization and economic connection with its neighbors.” He then added that the U.S. will “continue to work tirelessly to support a just and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians—two states for two peoples.” Zach Kessel experiences some déjà vu:

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and review how past U.S.-brokered talks between Jerusalem and [Palestinian leaders] have gone down, starting with 1991’s Madrid Conference, organized by then-President George H.W. Bush. . . . Though the talks, which continued through the next year, didn’t get anywhere concrete, many U.S. officials and observers across the world were heartened by the fact that Madrid was the first time representatives of both sides had met face to face. And then Palestinian militants carried out the first suicide bombing in the history of the conflict.

Then, in 1993, Bill Clinton tried his hand with the Oslo Accords:

In the period of time directly after the Oslo Accords . . . suicide bombings on buses and in crowded public spaces became par for the course. Clinton invited then-Palestinian Authority chairman Yasir Arafat and then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak to Camp David in 2000, hoping finally to put the conflict to rest. Arafat, who quite clearly aimed to extract as many concessions as possible from the Israelis without ever intending to agree to any deal—without even putting a counteroffer on the table—scuttled any possibility of peace. Of course, that’s not the most consequential event for the conflict that occurred in 2000. Soon after the Camp David Summit fell apart, the second intifada began.

Since Clinton, each U.S. president has entered office hoping to put together the puzzle that is an outcome acceptable to both sides, and each has failed. . . . Every time a deal has seemed to have legs, something happens—usually terrorist violence—and potential bargains are scrapped. What, then, makes Biden think this time will be any different?

Read more at National Review

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Joe Biden, Palestinian terror, Peace Process