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Elections: Good for Netanyahu, bad for Israel

A coalition crisis could mean elections in a matter of months. If Netanyahu wins, even a post-election indictment will not stop the slide into a darker future for Israel.

He wants them, he wants them not, he wants them, he wants them not. Over the last two weeks, the sport of Netanyahu psychoanalysis in the Israeli press over the possibility of snap elections has taken on a feverish tone.

He doesn’t want them because he loves holding onto power. Because he wants to prove that of all Israeli leaders he alone is capable of sitting out a term and proving himself King Bibi, the longest-serving prime minister in the country’s history. Should he resolve the current coalition crisis — on the issue of drafting the ultra-Orthodox into the IDF — in addition to being the only statesman who speaks American, or speaks Trump, or speaks AIPAC, he will also brand himself the only responsible adult at home.

On the other hand, he does want elections. Through the irritating fog of corruption investigations, he can’t keep his eyes off those tantalizing surveys. Most have Likud winning by a healthy margin of three to five seats over the second-ranked party, Yesh Atid. Until recently, none showed Likud going beyond the 30 seats it won in the 2015 elections – until a survey published by Israel Hayom last Friday. Never mind that Israel Hayom is to Bibi what Brietbart is to Trump. When a survey dangles 34 seats before your eyes, suddenly there’s a coalition crisis around every corner.

Why stop at Bibi? What about the coalition partners: do they want elections? What about the opposition? On Sunday, Naftali Bennett, head of the far-right Jewish Home party which is part of the governing coalition, took a stiff line against Netanyahu, working all the morning shows to tell the public that elections are a ruse, unnecessary for Israel and purely “personal” – just Netanayhu’s attempt to boost himself. Most surveys actually show Bennett’s party doing pretty well, going beyond the current eight seats. One even has him at 14. But perhaps Bennett doesn’t trust surveys – after all, he was running around 12 seats in most of them leading up to the 2015 elections, but ended up with just eight.

At the moment of writing, the question of early elections seems to rest in the hands of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who...

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At AIPAC, Israel's problems went unmentioned

Although AIPAC activists regularly acknowledge that, of course, Israel is not perfect, it felt like the people there were cheering and stomping for a different country.

AIPAC’s annual policy conference ended on Tuesday to thunderous applause for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. For three days, the conference was a seamless marriage of the highest level technology and meticulous organization. Organizers successfully shuttled 18,000 people, according to the staff, from hotels in Washington, DC to three sprawling buildings of the convention center and helped them circulate within the labyrinthine structure. An “agenda builder” phone app was used to register for events. The number and impeccable training of the perennially cheerful staff reminded me of the dazzling Olympic opening ceremony I attended in Sydney in 2000.

If there were glitches, I didn’t see them. When anti-occupation demonstrators marched to the main entrance to the Convention Center on Sunday, conference-goers were swiftly rerouted to the nearby Marriot hotel, where they connected to the convention center through a plush-carpeted corridor. Inside, the ecosystem swallowed up any further distractions. In one cavernous room called the “AIPAC Village,” a wall-sized electronic mural displayed an idyllic, brightly colored village scene that looked suspiciously like the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City.

The “Village” contained a thicket of app kiosks, booths showcasing Israeli innovation and social welfare organizations, a cafeteria, and TED-like stage platforms for speaker sessions. Lest anyone harbor lingering discomfort from the political protest outside, the entire affair was defended not only by DC police for blocks around, but by an actual Iron Dome installation towering over delighted onlookers at the center of the village.

Something for everybody

It was easy to feel disintegrated; it was a conference about everything. The app subject search included 15 different topics related to Israel and the US. Under just one of them, “Israel and the World,” 23 different breakout sessions were offered over two days. With dozens of events happening simultaneously, two attendees could have completely different experiences.

One could attend sessions with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett from the far-right  Jewish Home party which is part of the governing coalition, or one of the numerous events addressing core AIPAC themes: fighting BDS and anti-Semitism (often used synonymously), how the Christian-Jewish alliance has succeeded in passing anti-BDS legislation in the US, and AIPAC’s legislative agenda in general. Iran and Israel’s foreign relations featured prominently.

It...

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A Netanyahu indictment won't save Israeli democracy

In Netanyahu’s Israel, checks and balances are irrelevant or corrupt, accountability is conspiracy, and a watchdog media is a national saboteur. Tough times are ahead.

There has been no shortage of people who were thrilled by the announcement Tuesday night that Israeli police recommend indicting Benjamin Netanyahu in two corruption cases. A Haaretz headline crowed that “Netanyahu’s countdown has begun.” Opposition figures such as Labor chairman Avi Gabbay said, “the Netanyahu era has ended.”

But in Netanyahu’s defiant speech moments following the publication of the police recommendations, he insisted that his government would last its full term — through November 2019.

Netanyahu’s total dismissal of the idea of resigning — which he hardly seemed to consider long enough to reject it — is only one of the deep offenses to democracy that investigations have come to represent. What should be an enviable display of independent law enforcement agencies holding public representatives accountable, is turning into a showcase — and possibly a harbinger — of the erosion of democratic norms in Israel.

The immediate response of Netanyahu and his cronies throughout the investigation process is the outstanding example. In the lead-up to and immediate following the police recommendation to indict, their messaging went into overdrive, with eerily carbon-copy themes. David Amsalem, the current head of the coalition who replaced David Bitan, himself now under a corruption investigation, responded with a screed calling the police investigation “illegitimate in a democracy,” accusing the police of a political coup, and calling their investigation “chutzpah” – a severe accusation in Hebrew. Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, quoted in Ynet, said: “Tonight has exposed a deplorable move to enact a coup, against the wishes of the voter. It is disgraceful that the main witness against Netanyahu is [politician] Yair Lapid, who has been trying to replace him for years.”

The notion that the investigation is little more than political persecution has been repeated so steadily by Likud figures that the Israeli media began hunting for a “message box,” to determine if there was a campaign-like decision about the message. As a political consultant in my day job, I’ll speculate an obvious yes.

Further, the investigation has become a confusing fiasco of accusations and counter accusations. In the week before the announcement, Police Chief Roni Alsheikh – hand-picked by Netanyahu himself – implied that the police’s anti-corruption unit had come under pressure from private investigators...

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The violent repercussions of Trump's declaration

Trump’s speech sparked a new blood feud that claims the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians, unleashing forces destined to kill even more.

Israel was reeling this week after a shooting attack Tuesday evening that killed a 35-year old father of six near the West Bank outpost where he lived, called Havat Gilad. Although Rabbi Raziel Shevach lived in a community not even recognized under Israeli law, he was also a civilian: at the time of the shooting, he was not in a situation of active combat, and as far as is known, he was unarmed. His life in that territory was a highly political act, but his death is a crime with no justification.

And yet there is no escape from the political context of his death, both the causes and the consequences.

The attack that killed Raziel Shevach is part of a wave of violence that is the direct result of U.S. President Trump’s declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. While neither Trump’s move nor anything else justifies killing civilians for political aims, the likelihood of escalation was so clear that even Trump had to call for calm in the very speech he knew would break it.

But since the declaration changed nothing for the U.S. or for Israel, what exactly was the point other than bloodshed? And if Trump doesn’t share the sorrow over the Palestinians who died over the last month, is the death of a Jewish Israeli father of six what he had in mind?

Despite the routinized Hamas mantra that the attack was about defending Jerusalem, it seems more like the next response in the month-long blood feud: revenge for 12 unarmed Palestinians, including two on Thursday alone, who have been killed since the speech. Most were killed during protests, which for Israelis proves that they were violent upstarts courting their own death. It is an image honed over decades of viewing Palestinians as rabble to be controlled by a military regime, rather than as individual human beings with the right to protest having been made to live as prisoners.

What is a demonstrator? As a child, I pored over the famous image of a protestor killed at the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations at Kent State University, fascinated by the iconic power of the photo to horrify America for what it had done. When a 16-year old Palestinian demonstrator, Nadeem Nawara, was killed in...

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How Trump energizes deniers of Palestinian independence

Taking their cues from the American president, right-wingers like Bret Stephens argue that the Palestinians don’t deserve a state. Here’s why they’re wrong.

President Trump could have made a tremendous statement last week had he recognized the claims of both Israel and the Palestinians to a capital in Jerusalem. Instead, he reinforced Israel’s already disproportionate advantage in the conflict. Right-wing hawks then took it further, seizing on his statement to revive the dusty arguments rejecting of Palestinian statehood altogether.

Conservative New York Times columnist Bret Stephens provides Exhibit A, with his decree that Palestinians have not proved sufficiently worthy of a state. To make his case, Stephens relies on several baffling points.

He claims that Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city “aligns the United States with the country toward which we are constantly professing friendship.” According to Stephens, the U.S. has somehow “stinted” Israel by withholding such recognition. Apparently propping up Israel with massive political, financial and military aid from 1948 to the present is worthless, compared to the sin of failing to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This despite the fact that just one paragraph earlier, Stephens claims that “most Israelis couldn’t care less where the embassy is ultimately located.” He does not explain why Israelis might have felt “stinted”, if they are indifferent to the matter.

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Then Stephens displays actual denialism, explaining why Palestinian independence must be suppressed, conditioned or otherwise thwarted.

Peace and a Palestinian state will come when Palestinians aspire to create a Middle Eastern Costa Rica — pacifist, progressive, neighborly and democratic — rather than another Yemen: by turns autocratic, anarchic, fanatical and tragic.

For the international community, that means helping Palestinians take steps to dismantle their current kleptotheocracy, rather than fueling a culture of perpetual grievance against Israel. Mahmoud Abbas is now approaching the 13th anniversary of his elected four-year term. Someone should point this out.

The contradiction is right there in his sentence: Yemen is going badly, but the Yemenis have their own state. The history of modern statehood is strewn with non-democracies and dysfunction. Referring to the wave of decolonization in the 1960s, the scholar...

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Tens of thousands protest Israel's 'Crime Minister': Will it matter?

Nobody expected Saturday’s demonstration to be so enormous, but everyone was angry. Creative expressions of frustration were everywhere and demonstrators vowed to continue the protests — but what impact will they have? 

What started as a ripple on Israeli social media networks over the weekend burst out into a full-blown, massive demonstration against the government on Saturday night, in the heart of Tel Aviv, under the title of “the walk of shame.” Israeli news outlets estimated that tens of thousands turned out spontaneously to vent their anger against government corruption.

Police closed off sections of Rothschild Boulevard and surrounding streets for part of the evening as crowds packed into the area around Independence Museum, where statehood was declared in 1948. People streamed in from Tel Aviv and other parts of the country. After speeches on topics ranging from equality for Ethiopian Israelis to police violence, to the ongoing occupation, and the connection between corruption and the erosion of democracy, demonstrators marched in a thick procession to Habima Square. Their chants focused almost exclusively on corruption, calling for Netanyahu to either “go home” or “go to Ma’asiyahu” — a prison where politicians have served sentences. They hoisted signs reading “Crime Minister,” and “Hatikva – 1,000, 2,000, 3,000,” a pun on the name of the country’s national anthem, “The Hope,” and the “hope” that the police investigations into Netanyahu’s alleged corruption will bring him down.

The trigger for the demonstration was the “Recommendations Law,” a bill designed to prevent the police from providing summaries of its investigations or recommendations about indictment to the Attorney General. It would also ban the publication or leaking of police findings. The wording of the bill is tailored carefully to apply to the investigations against Netanyahu.  Despite widespread criticism, the bill passed a first reading in the Knesset on Monday, with an amendment that would allow the Attorney General to consult with the police on Netanyahu’s cases, but would still criminalize “unlawful” publication of police findings — with a jail sentence. The sponsors are fast tracking the bill; it is expected to face a second and third vote next week and could, if passed, go into effect almost immediately.

On Saturday night the anger was palpable. “They crossed a red line,” said Miriam Ziskind, a woman in her 70s who had come with friends from Beersheva. She was accompanied by Simcha Latman, an obstetrics nurse,...

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Legal bullying in the service of the prime minister

The Knesset is fast-tracking legislation to hobble and hide corruption investigations against Netanyahu. The bill would further erode Israeli democracy, training citizens to accept that they do not have the right to know the facts about their leaders.

The Knesset raced toward adopting a law this week intended to constrain Israeli police from making recommendations about indictments based on its investigations, and to keep the findings of those investigations from the public. The law would apply retroactively to the current investigations involving the Prime Minister.

The bill represents another blow to democratic practice in Israel, along with laws in recent years that target Arabs, left-wing political expression, and civil society. Yet in some ways, the anodyne-sounding “Recommendations Law,” represents a new low for democracy in Israel.

It sponsors have “fast-tracked” the process; the bill won a critical first vote in the Knesset plenary on Monday with 46 in favor and 37 opposed; if it wins a second and third reading, the law could go into effect within two weeks.

The first version of the bill prevented the police from providing any summary of evidence, which is the basis for the attorney general to recommend indictment, imposing criminal liability on those who publish or leak such a summary. The restrictions apply specifically to investigations that are being “overseen by a prosecutor” – notably, those currently involving Benjamin Netanyahu.

These aspects elicited severe criticism of a “personal” bill; Yair Lapid called it “the Netanyahu law,” while Haaretz has referred to it as the “police-silencing law” in news stories. Following an outcry by opposition figures and civil society organizations, an updated version allows the attorney general to request “consultations” with the police regarding investigations already underway – once again, Netanyahu’s files – in which the police can presumably provide summaries of the evidence. But it still prohibits “unlawful” leaks (by police, investigators or prosecutors) on pain of jail time.

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Amir Fuchs of the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) noted in an email to +972 Magazine that the attorney general might still be allowed to publish investigation summaries at his discretion in the version that passed Monday’s vote.

But the intention is...

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Pandering to the Right is a losing strategy for Labor

Israel’s Labor Party must decide what it stands for before the next round of elections. Without a true vision for the country, there’s really no reason it should win.

Avi Gabbay, the new head of Israel’s Labor Party, appears to be plotting a master strategy for winning elections, with laser-razor precision.

A largely unknown candidate, he is certainly aware that his first headlines will set voters’ image of him for years. His statements from the last few weeks leave little doubt about the first thing he wants them to know: I am no leftist.

First, he said Israel can have peace without dismantling settlements like Eli and Ofra—hard-core messianic settlements known for their ideology as much as their geography, deep inside the West Bank. Then he insisted he would not enter a coalition with the Joint List, the merger of three Arab parties. And this week, he lamented that the Left has been too committed to its liberal ways, at the expense of its Jewish heritage, reinforcing the notion, rather unique to Israeli Jewry, that the two are mutually exclusive.

It’s clear what he is trying to say, but it isn’t clear why Gabbay, the great blue-and-white hope of the Israeli Left, has taken the oldest and most brittle page from the dusty book of failed Labor strategy: convince right-wing voters to support Labor and shun the Left to win elections.

Far from a display of cunning strategic innovation, the move has been tried many times and failed just as many. Labor’s previous leader, Isaac Herzog, was the latest victim. In the 2015 campaign, certain advisors told him to beef up his security image, cutting an ad highlighting his military service in Israel’s intelligence and surveillance unit, and putting up billboards with giant, close-up photos of him squinting into the sunset. The colors and the crows’ feet were photoshopped; voters were derisive. In my day job as a pollster, I worked on that campaign. I always thought it was a mistake to try and out-security the Right.

Previous leaders fared no better. In 2013, Shelly Yachimovich dealt with the stigma of leftism by ignoring the conflict—she didn’t win. In 2006, Amir Peretz tried to prove his security mettle by accepting the post of defense minister, which nearly ended his career. In between, the great security symbol Ehud Barak briefly returned to lead the party, and in 2009...

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Men, becoming Harvey Weinstein is not your destiny

No, men are not biologically programmed to terrorize women any more than women are programmed to invent accusations. Learned traits, in fact, can be unlearned.

Revelations about Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein and others before him have sparked a curious backlash against the demand to treat women respectably in the workplace. It’s curious because the new norms haven’t even kicked in yet, as Weinstein proves. One of the prominent backlash arguments is that men now fear all professional interactions with women, lest they be arbitrarily accused of sexual misdemeanors.

I’m writing to spread the good news: men are not biologically programmed to terrorize women any more than women are programmed to invent accusations. I know this from personal experience.

* * *

He wasn’t just my first mentor – he was a lifeline. I put on a brave face when he hired me, but he probably had no idea how much the job meant to me. I was in my mid-20s and until then had suffered from a professional identity crisis that was actually a general existential crisis. Where I came from, what you do is who you are, and I had no idea. I knew my skills and passions, and I was willing to work very hard – but couldn’t for the life of me fit the jagged pieces together.

He was (and is) nearly 30 years older. He had catapulted to the top of his game – an international star, at the the top of a niche field. I landed the dream job – being mentored by the best to do work I knew I would love, for high stakes, with important clients. I even got international travel.

One night barely half a year in, we finished work late, around 11pm – in Greece. He wanted to go for dinner; we found a good restaurant, he ordered the best bottle of wine. He asked me what I thought of the work that night, how I liked my job in general. We talked politics, which is what we both love and do. With a loose tongue and the excitement of being away, I spoke freely, tested out my emerging analytic personality. I probably sounded completely immature but he encouraged me to talk, think, and think critically. It got late. We went back to our hotels — and went to sleep.

This was my mentor: he cited my work diligently in one...

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The road from apartheid: Lessons, warnings and hope from South Africa

Democracy didn’t solve apartheid’s problems – it sparked a process of addressing them that could not start beforehand. South Africa should remind Israeli and Palestinian leaders that the road to transformation is long and imperfect – and it must start now.

With the possibility that four-term Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could one day fall due to corruption investigations, and succession speculation around aging Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, might a new generation of leadership finally boost the ossified peace process?

It’s hard to be optimistic. Israeli leaders have become too comfortable for too long doing nothing, while the Palestinian leadership seems intent on cannibalizing itself, with the help of the occupation. But future leaders may want to take a look at South Africa, as I did on a recent trip, for some comparative insights about why inaction is a terrible idea.

The first obvious comparison between the two regions made famous in 2006 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s book, Peace, not Apartheid, was important at the time. The shock value (for some) helped place Israel’s occupation on a similar level of severity as the infamous regime. However, over a decade later, the debate over whether occupation should be considered apartheid has grown stale. The word has become a team insignia rather than a signifier, and the toxic argument obscures other valuable insights from South Africa about how a conflict can wane, end, and eventually  transform.

In South Africa today, one implicit question seems to run like a river beneath most conversations: is it working? Did ending apartheid bring a better life for the oppressed, while protecting the erstwhile oppressors and their descendants?

Apartheid’s bitter residue still stains the country. Although the policy ended over two decades ago, Peter Sullivan, former chief editor of The Star, South Africa’s premier daily newspaper, stated pointedly to me, “When did it really end?”

Apartheid’s legacy crops up in conversation about nearly all social issues. Young people live with post-conflict experiments designed to equalize educational and professional opportunities. Art exhibits address contemporary struggles of racial identity. The country seems to hover between the vibrancy of a new society building itself – similar to the spirit that drew me to Israel in my 20s – and a descent into grave ills of corruption and crime.

Thus the second main comparison is less about Israel-Palestine, but relates to other post-conflict societies where I have worked: when...

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As two-state solution appears less likely, support for it keeps dropping

A new poll of Palestinians and Israelis finds that with symbolic incentives, a majority on both sides can be convinced to support a two-state solution. But time is only eroding support for two states across the Green Line.

For years, a majority of both Israelis and Palestinians supported a two-state solution in principle. After years of atrophy, large swaths of both societies now believe such a resolution to be impossible. That doubt strongly corresponds to sliding support for two states.

If that trend injures the prospects for peace, the next finding of a recent survey of Israeli and Palestinian attitudes towards the conflict — which I conducted together with Palestinian researcher Dr. Khalil Shikaki — adds insult to injury: a slim majority on both sides still support the two-state solution despite everything.

And yet, the poll found that with realistic policy incentives, the attitudes of many who oppose an agreement are flexible and can be changed. Combined with those who already support two states on both sides, a majority is attainable. If Israeli and Palestinian leaders were to forge an agreement, sign it and throw all of their political behind selling it to their constituents, the public on both sides would very likely come along. But not for long.

The analysis here is based on our poll of 1,200 Palestinians and 900 Israelis, conducted in June and early July, through the PCPSR and the Tami Steinmetz Center at Tel Aviv University. The samples are representative of the total population of each side (Jews and Arabs in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank among Palestinians). The full results, full questionnaire, and all other survey details, can be found here.

Glass half-full

Fifty-three percent of Israelis and 52 percent of Palestinians support the concept of a two-state solution in theory. After all the detailed items of a two-state solution (based on details we know from previous rounds of negotiations) are read to the respondents, support is lower, and similar on both sides: 43 percent among Palestinians, 41 percent among Israelis. However, only a portion of those opposed are hard and inflexible — a large portion would change their minds in exchange for various policy incentives.

For example, if the agreement stipulated that Palestinians would recognize Israel as a Jewish state, with Jewish history and religious attachment, 43 percent of those who first opposed the detailed agreement would change their minds, and...

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Is it 'unethical' to oppose the occupation in academia?

A new ‘code of ethics’ commissioned by Israel’s education minister seems to target left-wing politics in universities.

The Israeli Education Ministry, headed by far-right politician Naftali Bennett, recently commissioned an ethical code for political conduct in higher education in Israel. The resulting document (Hebrew) is a highly invasive set of political thought controls portrayed as high, dry ethical norms.

Following years of campaigns against left-wing academics, most famously by hyper-nationalist group Im Tirtzu, the new ethical code declares that its aim is to “protect students” from the political activity and views of academic faculty.

Penned by the same man who wrote the IDF’s controversial code of ethics, philosopher Asa Kasher, the code details “the limits of academic freedom,” touching on faculty and student political activity, and all other aspects of academic pursuits.

For example, on student political activity: “Freedom of expression” or “creative freedom” do not justify political activity if it harms the “dignity or political expression” of another group.

Translated in the current Israeli context, this unambiguously refers to the idea that boycotts in protest of Israel’s occupation policies could be interpreted as offensive to the dignity of students – and therefore can be prevented on campus. It could refer just as well to the commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba at Israeli universities, or questioning Zionism. It is hard to imagine the author considered right-wing activism, IDF support, or Im Tirtzu thought-bullies when drawing up that item.

The document also spends extensive space advocating “diversity” within disciplines. A chapter titled “cultivating diversity” states that an academic department — or conference or journal — that selects only a “narrow range” of “subjects or streams” (of thinking), must explicitly publicize that fact. For the uninitiated, this means: if too many faculty members are deemed left wing, they are to put up a sign. The concept closely resembles Israel’s NGO law, which seeks to shame left-wing NGOs through public markings on all their material.

At the same time, the code warns academics to teach and research only within their disciplines, through chapters with communist-sounding names: “preserving the distinctness of disciplines and their boundaries.” Another section admonishes lecturers to teach strictly according to the syllabus, which is “like a contract.” It rambles on with wordy chapters about every aspect of academia, from faculty hiring, to conferences, clinics and seminar courses, and a chapter on “other academic activity” for...

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Fifty years of opposition

Each decade of the occupation has brought changing fortunes to prospects for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and varying levels of opposition to Israel’s military rule. After half a century, could there finally be a proposal that stands a chance?

Fifty-fever marking the anniversary since the 1967 war has swept both the Israeli Left and the Right. The Right is dreaming up ever more creative ways to celebrate Israel’s triumph — the culture minister recently wore a dress screen-printed with scenes from Jerusalem to the Cannes Film Festival — while the Israeli Left is grasping for ways to remind a largely-apathetic public about the ills of occupation.

Still, the often-overlooked fact is that 50 years of Israeli occupation is also a half-century of opposition. It is true that the core goal of ending occupation has failed and there is no political resolution in sight. But the history of opposition holds elements of success. In fact the often-derided “peace industry” has produced not just dialogues and demonstrations but has helped legitimize ideas in Israel that form the core principles for resolving the conflict.

In the beginning, there were doubts

The start of opposition to Israel’s policy in the territories captured in 1967 go back to the war itself. Its consequences have never been a consensus in Israel.

Shortly after the war, the scientist cum conscience-philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz railed against prolonged military rule over the Palestinians. He argued that Israel would lose its Jewish majority and Israelis would turn into security-obsessed occupiers, while destroying Palestinian society.

But even during the war, on its fifth day, a parliamentarian named Uri Avnery called openly on the prime minister to give the captured land to the Palestinians so that the latter could establish an independent state. In August 1967, the writer Amos Oz wrote an open letter calling to end the occupation.

This same phase saw the birth of the settlements. But in 1970, a nascent movement of IDF pre-recruits protesting their service in “the territories” emerged – some would later refuse. In 1978 a letter signed by several hundred officers protested government policy “perpetuating its rule over a million Arabs,” which they argued “could harm the Jewish-democratic character of the state.” The letter became a touchstone moment in the formation of Peace Now.

Today these words sound standard. But at the time, they were shocking. In...

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