Israel’s Political Hopefuls Understand What Won’t Work, But Don’t Know What Will

At a recent televised debate among candidates for re-election to the Knesset, the participants astutely identified the problems with their interlocutors’ positions. But when it came to the crucial issue of relations with the Palestinians, none was able to present a convincing solution. To Haviv Rettig Gur, who served as the one non-politician on the panel, the lack of ideas stems from “a broader national bewilderment”:

A majority of Israelis want to separate from the Palestinians. A majority—who overlap a great deal with the previous group—also believe an Israeli withdrawal is unlikely to deliver safety. And so, in a sense, everyone is right.

Hilik Bar [of the Zionist Camp party] insisted that Palestinian independence would increase, not decrease, the political window for an Israeli military response to any post-withdrawal attacks. Ayelet Shaked [of Jewish Home] calmly pointed out that the Gaza situation didn’t quite work out that way.

Shaked insisted the country could “manage the conflict,” leading Yaakov Peri [of Yesh Atid] to retort that instead the conflict was “managing” the country, holding an outsized role in setting the national agenda. . . .

At the end of the day, after a long string of failed peace talks, Israelis no longer believe in the policy narratives of the past. They do not believe peace is attainable in the near term, or that annexation might resolve the fundamental questions of the conflict. And neither, it seems, do the candidates in this election.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza withdrawal, Israeli politics, Knesset, Palestinians

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood