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Referendum law: don’t give the Knesset so much credit

Let’s calm down, shall we? Saying that Knesset legislation has given a coup de grâce to the two state solution (TSS) is a gross misunderstanding of the Israeli political system. It’s almost like a kid telling his father he won’t be able to do his homework tonight because he lost his pencil. Yeah, Daddy’s gonna find you another pencil kiddo, don’t worry about it.

If anything kills the withering TSS, which could indeed happen very soon, it will be much greater forces than puny legislation passed by the most right-wing government in Israel’s history. And it would be simple naiveté to even think if an historic agreement was eventually reached between Israeli and Palestinians, endorsed by the U.S. and the rest of the world, that it would be hindered by such a law.

If the Knesset has proven anything over the years, it’s that it’s spineless. Laws are changed,  cancelled, overturned or shot down by the Supreme Court (the Deri law is one example [Heb]). Any of these options could happen to the ridiculous referendum law passed yesterday. I can even see the Knesset approving an agreement with the Palestinians with a clause that rules out any future referendum on it. And that’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure the cunning MKs can find a way to get around it, if needed. Let’s just say that there are countries who have a bit more respect for the laws they pass themselves.

And speaking of spinelessness, don’t forget our revered leader PM Netanyahu who has been bended backwards and sideways over and over again on much lesser issues, like taxes on vegetables.

So don’t give that much credit to the Knesset, and certainly not to its lawmakers. The only ones who will eventually kill TSS are the local leaders of Israel and Palestine, but even more so: the international leaders who have consistently failed to impose the solution to begin with.

The TSS is indeed coming to an end, and if the unilateral declaration of independence by Palestine in August 2011 turns out to be a flop due to America’s weakness, then indeed the one-state solution may have to be considered more seriously – even though it will mean more bloodshed and a much longer delay in granting Palestinians their due civil rights (haven’t they waited enough already?), not to mention scores of other issues that will make TSS negotiations over the refugee status or Jerusalem seem like a walk in the park.

But until that happens, let’s stop the gloating over a death pronounced too early and keep working for Palestinian statehood. And if you think now may be the time to start supporting a one-state solution – fine. But don’t let the fickle Knesset be the one to push you over.

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    1. Frank Elliot Kahn

      I agree in principal with what you wrote with one glaring exception. The most right wing governments in Israel were Ben Gurion’s and the 1967 National unity Coalition (closely followed by Begin’s Lebanon War coalition and Ohlmert’s Lebanon and Gaza War coalitions). These governments presided over the ethnic cleansing of Palestine with some 800,000 Palestinians being driven from their homes in 1947-48 followed by another estimated 250,000 in 1967. While the current government presides over the completion of the Apartheid Wall and expansion of the Occupation, it is far from the worst except perhaps in rhetoric which was always the hallmark of Netanyahu whether inciting to the murder of Rabin or the delegitimization of non violent Palestinian and Israeli protest.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben Israel

      Even if the Left comes back to power, (i.e. a Kadima=Labor coalition is set up) there won’t be a TSS. DId Olmert achieve it when he was in? No, but he did give us two bloody wars. This is because no Israeli gov’t can give the Palestinians all they are demanding…primarily implementation of the Palestinian “Rigth of Return” which they will NOT give up. It is NOT a “negotiating card”. Take them at their word.

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    3. Y.

      I beg to differ.

      First, lets remember that for the most likely referendums there’s the built-in lead of Israeli Arab support (around 20% of the citizenry). This means it only takes slightly more than a third of the Israeli Jews to approve an agreement via referendum (yea, not everyone votes, but it’s a reasonable simplification). If the amount of Jewish support is so low that it can’t possibly pass this, than what chance does an agreement have anyway?

      Second, I think you overestimate the ease of bypassing the law, especially where the Golan is concerned (the original impetus for the law was a deal in the Golan). Polls indicate a very large opposition to Golan pullout _after_ an agreement approved by the Knesset. e.g. one poll finds that 48% percent of the public would oppose any order to evacuate the Golan[1], and 35% percent stated “a medium to large chance of participating in illegal activities”[2] to prevent said pullout from actualizing. Given this, if a government approves an agreement with Syria and then does a maneuver to cancel this law, I am not sure it will (literally) survive.

      Now, it’s possible the Jewish public would change its mind by then, but any such change would have allowed a referendum to pass anyway given how low the de facto threshold is. Perhaps the better question therefor is why support among Jews is so low for any agreement 972 envisions, or, from another POV, why the agreements many envision are so bad for the Jews.

      [1]
      http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART1/737/910.html

      [2]
      http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/986309.html

      Reply to Comment
    4. Y – i agree that the better question is why the public (foolishly, of course) is against the peace “972 envisions”.
      But I don’t agree with your Golan comparisons. All those polls were done when no agreement is on the table. Public atmosphere changes when things get moving in the right direction. Polls are a very temporary thing, in my opinion.

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    5. Y.

      Yea, polls are temporary, yet all of the articles from the Left I’ve seen are full of ideas on how to override the referendum and none on how to win it – suggesting that most don’t believe they have any chance whatsoever of winning a referendum in any scenario. As I was saying, if the level of support is really so low, I don’t think any agreement on the normal lines has a chance to pass anyway.

      Btw, something that I neglected to point out is that the law has non-negligible support among the centrists in the Left parties (about half of Kadima wanted to support it, but Livni forced party discipline). So again I don’t think a repeal would be easy in practice. Oh well, it’s a theoretical discussion anyway – we won’t reach that point anytime soon.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Y – you could be right, might take a while.
      So, I was wondering, since you don’t approve of 972 and its stances, one state or two state solutions, what is your solution?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Y.

      Well, I summarized as much as I could, but it’s still overlong, sorry.

      The current process has two main (official) objectives:
      A) A secure Israeli state.
      B) A viable independent Palestinian state in the WB+G (exact borders aside).

      The problem with the process within this framework is that:
      1) The former is difficult.
      2) The latter is even more difficult than the above, arguably being impossible even with 100% of the WB+G, esp. given suggested solutions for Pal. refugees.
      3) Oh, and both requirements are de facto contradictory. It’s sorta possible to have a one-sided agreement only dealing with A), or a one-sided agreement trying to do B), but both are very difficult together.

      Ergo, I believe the distance in positions is not merely the result of ideology but of a real clash of interests. I don’t see any easy resolution to this – sure, foreign aid/pressure can hold an agreement for a while, but can’t deal with the fundamental problems.

      Now, the only other available ideas are:
      A) Attaching the territories to Israel (“one-state”)
      or
      B) to the neighbouring Arab countries.

      Ignoring other objections, a one-state solution cannot guarantee equality or even safety to the Jews due to the existence of large uncontrollable Arab states near it willing to interfere for one side (our neighbour Cyprus circa 1960-1974 is an excellent example of foreign interference ruining an already fragile binational solution).

      The other idea would be to merge Jordan and the PA (a la the “London agreement”), creating a state which should be viable. Gaza can be attached to Egypt or (and this is more of a problem) to the new state. While this relaxes the key interest conflict outlined earlier and could sorta work, it is politically unlikely – the Palestinians won’t accept this at least near-term.

      Ergo, I find myself with no actual “solution” apart from trying to support my country’s interests over those of its sworn enemy, as I don’t see a deal in the near future.

      Reply to Comment
    8. @ Y – Thank you for your honesty, and no – it wasn’t that long 🙂

      I can only hope that you understand, although you don’t agree with my politics, that I am also (in my mind) supporting my country’s interest. At the end of the day, I’m doing this for my two little girls, who I dream one day will not have to be drafted into the IDF.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Y.

      “that I am also (in my mind) supporting my country’s interest.”

      Allow me to suggest that the writing of most authors on 972 (which is usually more radical than the Turkish FM) is not very in line with any conception of Israel’s interests. Ultimately 972’s idea fixe is a conception of “Palestinian rights”, and if that leads to a big war (no longer an hypothetical), than oh well.

      “At the end of the day, I’m doing this for my two little girls, who I dream one day will not have to be drafted into the IDF”

      Unlikely. Even if we ever had a peace accord, actual security needs would increase. The only thing which can stop the draft is if Israel decides to switch to a “professional” army, and that’s an orthogonal issue.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Y – whether it’s in line with Israel’s interest is debatable. What I’m talking about is the motivation behind +972’s writers. Speaking for myself, what I meant to show is that I’m living here, I’m paying the price, taking the chance, I’m trying to change my destiny and do what I believe is best. My views could be very wrong and bring about the destruction of Israel – but then again, so could yours…

      Reply to Comment