Sunday, December 25, 2011

Knesset Cowardice For Christmas

At a conference of Israeli ambassadors today, Foreign Minister Lieberman said that Israel should manage rather than solve its conflict with the Palestinians.  The Foreign Minister then simultaneously rejected territorial concession while accusing the Palestinians of foot-dragging on negotiations.  He reiterated his animosity towards Europe as well.

For his part, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that if Hamas joins the Palestinian Authority, Israel will not negotiate with the Palestinians.  Netanyahu said he was willing to meet with Palestinian PM Abbas.  However, the move appears to be yet another move by the Netanyahu administration to avoid meaningful progress on Israel's long-term security.

This kind of reticence and foot-dragging by Israel's administration reflects its populist approach to politics.  Rather than actually addressing the reasonable concerns Israelis have about their security, the government is just parroting these concerns without doing anything about them.  This strategy has been sustainable thus far because it generates popular support and job security for its ministers.

But creating job security for ministers is not leadership.  Rather than simply reiterate the concerns of the public, governments are also expected to present solutions to those concerns.  Saying "we understand your fear" does not keep Israelis safe.  It also does not mitigate the threat posed by Hamas, nor by the Arab Spring, nor by European impatience with Israel.  

Peace is not a utopian objective for Israel, but rather a strategic security interest.  No one has more to gain from peace than Israel, but today's actions are more focused on making excuses than making these gains.  The government may argue that expectations on it to proactively seek peace are unfair.  But unfair conditions on Israel's government are par for the course.  In 1948, when Israel was attacked simultaneously by six countries, that was also unfair.  Yet Israel did what was necessary to ensure its security interests.  It must do the same today.  

These days, Israel's security threats are non-conventional.  When people turn to the government for solutions, they get empathy.  Empathy is incredibly important, especially in a country with the level of national trauma that Israelis have experienced.  But empathy and a "Lu Yehi" mentality is not enough to stop Hamas, or a Palestinian statehood bid, or BDS, or rocket attacks.  Only policy solutions can make Israel safer.  And the only way to get those solutions is by having a government that leads its citizens rather than leaving today's problems for tomorrow. 

The Netanyahu government's failure to engage meaningfully on these security challenges is not conditions-based.  It is fear-based.  The government is taking the easy way out by avoiding the hard work of security-building.  Ultimately, it will be regular Israelis who pay the price. 

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