Friday, March 20, 2015

Bad News? Or Good News in Disguise?

After these elections
There will be
No peace-minded government.

After these elections
There can be
A strong
Peace-minded opposition
Of Jews and Arabs

The struggle
Has just begun

So goes a Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) advertisement that appeared in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on March 20, 2015, just after the results of the election were announced. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party had been declared the winner in an exceptionally close race with the Zionist Union, a centrist coalition led by Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog.

In a last-ditch attempt to gain the support of far-right voters, Netanyahu had made a fateful promise: As long as he serves as prime minister of Israel there will be no independent Palestinian nation. 

Perhaps even more troubling, Netanyahu had racialized the political process by warning Jews that Israeli Arabs were turning out “in droves” to cast ballots. 

His strategy seems to have worked. Right-wing, ultra-nationalist voters propelled the Likud party to an overwhelming victory.

Are these election results bad news or good news for a just peace in Israel/Palestine? On the one hand, Netanyahu’s promise to block a two-state solution scuttles any attempt at a U.S.-brokered peace process, and openly declares what Palestinians had suspected all along: Israel has no interest in easing the suffering of Palestinians in any meaningful way, much less ending the Occupation. 

But some Palestinians see this bad news as not so bad after all. The open declaration that they no longer have a negotiating partner could strengthen their case for full statehood and recognition in the United Nations. Already, Palestinians have j oined UNESCO and the International Criminal Court, and they are studying the possibility of signing a host of international treaties, increasing the credibility of their bid for a nation of their own.

In addition, the fact that a solution will not be found through the standard political process may open the way for a "strong, peace-minded opposition of Jews and Arabs" to work together with their international allies more closely and effectively. Nonviolent tactics such as the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign are now in an even stronger position to challenge Israeli political and economic interests that benefit from maintaining the status quo. The Obama administration, already furious at Netanyahu's attempts to derail U.S. talks with Iran, might be persuaded to stop vetoing Palestinian efforts to engage the United Nations. 

And for Quakers with their growing commitment to boycott and divestment, more creative action may now be worth exploring. As Gush Shalom says, "The struggle has just begun.