Israel Does Have a Partner At the Negotiating Table

Following warnings from former Israeli security chiefs and Palestinian Authority President Abu Mazen's declarations of partnership, Nati Sharoni writes that Israel should focus on the Palestinian issue rather than on Iran and demand answers from Prime Minister Netanyahu regarding his political vision and the future of Zionism.

al-monitor Workers install a Benetton billboard advertisement showing a composite image of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) kissing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Tel Aviv November 28, 2011. Photo by REUTERS/Baz Ratner.

İşlenmiş konular

peres., peace talks, peace, palestinians, israel, diskin

Eyl 13, 2013

This is the first time that former chiefs of Israeli security Meir Dagan of the Mossad and Yuval Diskin of the General Security Services (GSS or Shin Bet) have issued such a scathing warning about flawed analyses of major security risks. This is also the first time that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have been accused of "messianic impulses" and of portraying a false picture of the situation. The responses of high-placed Likud ministers appear to be irrelevant and miss the point — they accuse the former chiefs of ostensible personal, vindictive motives for their attacks because they didn't receive the appointments they wanted or because their positions were not extended by another year. Yet we know that the character of defective regimes is such that when there are no real answers to substantive criticism on important issues, the reaction is to shoot any messenger who vocally raises the problem.

These two chiefs were appointed by a prime minister and defense minister who praised the achievements of their appointees, and the State of Israel was blessed with their resultant functioning and the many achievements of the security apparatuses. Yet now, when they attack the present policy, the response is to belittle them using arguments that do not even partially address the serious accusations leveled against the prime minister and defense minister. It takes a lot of courage on the part of civilians to unleash public criticism, as did the former Mossad and GSS chiefs. It is important to understand that there is nothing easier and more convenient than for the former chiefs to rest silently on the laurels of their previous positions, while maintaining respectable appearances and avoiding conflict on the civilian front. It is important that we, the citizens of Israel, appreciate their courage and listen to what they have to say, whether we agree with them or not.

The most important topic raised by the former GSS chief was lost in the ocean of rejoinders related to the Iranian threat. This topic is Diskin's clear statement that Abu Mazen is a real partner to a peace agreement and that the State of Israel is simply not interested in him. When we connect this insight to the words of President Shimon Peres about Abu Mazen, the point is clear: the citizens of Israel must cast off their apathy and indifference to ask the prime minister: Where is the hope we expect him to plant in our hearts? Where is the balance and equilibrium in the picture he paints of our future? He must search for what unites us, and not only threaten us with frightening scenarios such as the Iranian threat that is always mentioned in the same breath as the Holocaust.

The prime minister must present his political doctrine to the nation. If he has reconsidered the statements he made in his address at the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, in which he committed himself to the vision of two states for two nations, then he must say so. He should not maneuver to take over the territories in the West Bank, thus blurring possible future borders and promoting one state for two nations, a bi-national state. He must immediately explain to the nation in the State of Israel the implications of two nations living in one state, the future of Zionism in such a scenario and the possible results of the loss of a Jewish majority in the country and from a Knesset that does not necessarily contain a Jewish majority. He must also explain the alternative one-state scenario: a state with two categories of civilians and laws that only apply to its Jewish citizens — in short, the loss of democracy.

We have to stop hiding behind the slogan "we have no partner [in the peace process]." Listen to the words of Yuval Diskin and President Peres. Abu Mazen is a partner, maybe the best we ever had. The prime minister must return to the negotiating table in good faith, gather his political fortitude and talk to us, simply and directly.

The author is a retired Major-General (reserves) and president of the Council for Peace and Security Management.

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