The Real Problem is Not the Politicians

Secretary of State John Kerry’s quixotic push to restart negotiations between Israel and the PA has yielded a flurry fo  articles about the two-state solution in recent weeks. Much of the writing seems to think that the primary problem to overcome is the current Israeli government.

To be sure, the current government is a great obstacle to achieving any sort of post-conflict resolution. Over one-third of the Kenesset now belongs to the pro-settlement-colony caucus, or at least it did before Netanyahu banned Likud MKs from participating. This includes large chunks of all of the largest parties in the government coalition, including several “centrist” MKs who profess to support a two-state solution in theory.

In addition, Likud-party Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Danon has recently been shooting his mouth off – which only means saying in public what everyone knows in private – about how this government will never, under any circumstances, approve of a two-state solution. Nor is it entirely clear that Prime Minister Netanyahu disagrees. The solution, according to countless liberal Zionist commentators in the U.S. and Israel alike, is to get new politicians in there to pursue a two-state solution. Tzipi Livni is the choice de jure for these folk, despite the fact that her own history of negotiations makes it doubtful that she is any more serious. But regardless, the idea  is to change the political class and return to the Oslo framework.

There are several problems with the common wisdom that it is the politicians standing in the way of justice, which we’ll explore in posts starting later this week. But for now, we have to get this one big misconception out of the way. The Israeli politicians in question accurately reflect the public opinion of Israeli Jews. A recent survey (Heb, good English summary here) from a settlement-colony University shows that 54% of Israelis do not consider settlement-colonies to be illegal (23% disagree), 52% of Israeli Jews consider settlements to be a part fo Zionism (26% disagree), 46% consider them a security feature protecting the rest of Israel (28% disagree).

In short: the politicians decrying the two-state solution and advocating for either the status quo or for a formalized apartheid system are not outside the mainstream of Jewish-Israeli public opinion. In other words, any sort of end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will require rather large shifts in the Jewish Israeli public sphere. Such shifts are possible, but they are incredibly difficult. And whether we are talking of a one-state or the viability of a two-state solution, this needs to be our starting point if we want to address reality.

The problem is not the politicians; they are broadly representative of the population who is allowed to vote. Unfortunately, the people who can vote is not the same thing as the people they rule over.


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