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Meretz's peace plan: A challenge to liberal timidity

The party’s new proposal effectively says the unsayable: that on the occupation, Israel is wrong and the Arabs are right.

There are so many people out there, in Israel and overseas, who know that this country has gone wrong and that Netanyahu and the right are leading it to hell. Yet they end up giving their tacit support to the worsening status quo because they don’t have the courage to follow their thoughts to their logical conclusion: that Israel is at fault for the occupation, and that the occupation is at fault for the conflict with the Palestinians. Not Israel and the Palestinians both – Israel alone. Not Netanyahu and Abbas both, if we’re talking about right now – just Netanyahu.

You see it over and over again from Israeli and foreign liberals – they rag the hell out of Netanyahu and the settlements, but then they make sure to add, “But that’s not to say that the Palestinians are blameless, they’ve made plenty of mistakes, Abbas has been much too stubborn …”

And in the end, for all their genuine dismay over the direction this country’s taken, they’re afraid to oppose it head-on, because that would put them in the “Arab camp” against Israel, and they can’t allow themselves to be there – even if the Arab camp happens to be right and Israel wrong.

The Obama administration tried breaking this habit at first, insisting that Israel freeze settlements and accept the 1967 borders with land swaps as the basis for negotiations – in other words, recognize that the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza Strip rightly belong to the Palestinians. But Obama and Co. had that notion beaten out of them by Netanyahu and the Israel lobby. By now, not only has the administration given up its demands – leaving Abbas out there by himself – it has adopted Netanyahu’s insistence on negotiations “without preconditions.” This, after the offers made to the Palestinians by Barak and Olmert, means going back to square one (actually, square minus-one because Netanyahu, unlike Barak and Olmert, says Israel must retain all of “united Jerusalem”). “Negotiations without preconditions” is an attempt by Netanyahu to negotiate in utterly bad faith, indefinitely, while getting the world off Israel’s back so he can build more settlements. His model here is Shamir at the Madrid talks, where he was in charge of hasbara.

Yet in the face of all this deception, and even though liberals don’t trust Netanyahu at all, I can’t think of one who has said, “No, there must be preconditions, Abbas is right to demand a settlement freeze and the ’67 borders with land swaps.” That would be “one-sided,” that would be “taking the Arab side against Israel.” Indeed it would, but then the occupation, again, is a one-sided affair.

And so we go nowhere. The “loyal opposition,” here and abroad, will urge Israel not to make the situation worse – they will oppose massive settlement expansion – but they will settle, excuse the pun, for a policy of slow growth, or even just slower growth. So in effect the liberals – the Israeli “center-left,” the Democrats, the Tony Blair types – act as a Likud-Beiteinu Lite: they won’t stand in the way of the occupation, they just would like it to spread somewhat less aggressively. This is what Netanyahu, the settlers and their friends call a green light.

That’s the situation, for years now. And that’s what makes the Meretz peace plan, which the party presented in its election campaign this week, an oasis in the desert.

The proposal doesn’t screw around. It calls for Israel’s immediate recognition of Palestine, followed by a settlement freeze, release of prisoners, lifting of roadblacks, and negotiations based on the Arab peace plan with the sponsorship of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – a “Regional Quartet” to accompany the old Quartet of the U.S., EU, UN and Russia. It also calls for scrapping the Oslo Accord – which ex-peace negotiator Dov Weisglass has held up as Israel’s instrument for turning the West Bank into “the only prison in the world where the prisoners have to provide for themselves” – and replacing it with an agreed-upon program for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to negotiate on a “fair, equal, government-to government basis.”

Party leader Zahava Gal-On was due to lead a Meretz delegation to Ramallah today to discuss the plan with Abbas.

All of this is so far beyond Israeli or pro-Israeli liberalism. I don’t know if the plan and Gal-On’s presentation of it to Abbas are going to attract Israeli voters or scare them away, but that’s a secondary issue – the important thing is that an Israeli liberal, loyal oppositionist body has dared to say the unsayable: in the matter of the occupation, Israel has had it wrong and the Arabs – Abbas and the Arab League, with their 2002 peace initiative – have had it right.

I hope this becomes a signal to liberal politicians, diplomats, pundits, think tankers and others to come out of the closet – to stop seeking balance where there is none, to stop being afraid of what Israel’s thought police will call them, to forget about how their opinions “position” them on the political spectrum, and to love nuance less and moral clarity more.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote, somewhat warily, in favor of voting for Hatnuah on practical grounds, arguing that the opposition needed a sizeable mainstream voice that Meretz couldn’t provide, but which Hatnuah’s Tzipi Livni, Amram Mitzna and Amir Peretz might. That was my view “pending developments.” Since then, Livni appears much more clearly to want into Netanyahu’s next government, while Meretz has now offered an extremely valuable example of how the Israeli opposition should act – boldly. So I’ve changed my mind, and am now, without qualifications, in favor of voting for Meretz.

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    1. Richard Witty

      Thank God that Meretz simply spoke their truth, so that it is part of the discussion, even if they don’t get seats.

      So long as elections continue they will get to and hopefully will argue their case (re: Palestine, cooperative economy, culture, even religious approach.)

      Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn9

      I must be missing something. What precisely is new here regarding the position of Meretz on the conflict?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Gali

      ” and am now, without qualifications, in favor of voting for Meretz. ”

      Good Larry .
      So am I … but then I always have , since the days of Shulamit Aloni .

      Reply to Comment
    4. Indeed it is encouraging that Meretz has finally come to the conclusion Daam adopted as its raison d’etre when it was founded in 1995: the call to annul the Oslo accords as being an Israeli fraud. Unfortunately at the time the Palestinian leadership went along and Israeli leftists – like Meretz and Hadash – were too shortsighted to see the forecast. Since then 19 years passed, another Intifada and a tragic split between the West Bank and Gaza. People with vision and responsibility should have seen this in advance. Not after the “Destruction of Malta”. I attach a short passage from the Daam platform.

      Daam calls for an end to the occupation, the creation of an independent Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders, and the dismantling of the settlements.

      The Oslo Accords thwarted the possibility of reaching a solution based on two states. A feasible peace agreement must include an end to the occupation, the dismantling of the settlements and the establishment of a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. The economic crisis in the West Bank and the powerlessness of the Palestinian Authority (PA) will, sooner or later, lead to a third popular intifada targeted at the corrupt symbols of the PA. Israel will not be able to ensure political or economic stability without a real solution to the Palestinian question.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Eli

      But this is just wrong. Whatever mistakes Israel has made, Zionism is fundamentally sound. We are from here, we belong here, and this is where we have every right to have our state. Yes, *our* socialist, cooperative, religiously pluralistic *Jewish* state.

      And the conflict, historically speaking, did not start in mid-June, 1967 with the beginning of the Occupation. Period. It started in 1948 when the Arabs declared war on us for having the temerity to declare independence from their empire. They have never forgiven us for that basic rebellion against their “rightful” superiority over us.

      My God, where is your brain, Derfner?

      Reply to Comment
      • It really doesn’t matter when the conflict started, 60-odd years ago or three thousand years ago, this is the kind of thinking that has made progress toward peace impossible. What Israel *can do now* is to repair 1967, and then Palestinians would certainly be able to rethink 1948, if not the Battle of Jericho. And (it seems to me from outside) Zionism is really *not* sound—to use your criteria, the socialist, cooperative, pluralist character of the state is disappearing, it is doomed by the war machine. Derfner is right, you must break with these exhausted arguments, and if Meretz as a party is ready to do so that’s very good news.

        Reply to Comment
    6. The Trespasser

      Meretz are commies.

      Commies are inherent liars by the very definition – communism is based on quite a few false assumptions.

      Every single state commies have touched either failed or on the way to it, let alone China which is communist only by it’s name.

      Yet until today there are people who still support them.

      For G-d sake, why?

      Reply to Comment
      • Another trenchant critique, Trespasser.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Trenchancy does not make it any less truth, to my deepest regret.

          Reply to Comment
      • Piotr Berman

        Homework for Trespasser: what are the false assumption of Communism and how are they reflected in Meretz program?

        Example how it can be done: (a) The only true assumptions are based on Torah, (b) Communists do not cite Torah, (c) Meretz does not cite Torah.

        This would make Likud also Communist, even when they invoke Torah they hardly make specific citations, but still lives some political parties that can be considered non-Communist. But I am curious what Trespasser really thinks on that.

        Reply to Comment
        • Piotr Berman

          Sorry for misspellings.

          Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          >what are the false assumption of Communism

          There are many.
          Ex. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

          One with higher needs but lower abilities is entitled to get more and work less that one with lower needs but higher abilities.

          False? No, pure idiocy.

          >and how are they reflected in Meretz program?

          Ex. Meretz are for planned economy, where those with low abilities and high needs would tell those with high abilities and low need what to do.

          Look at http://meretzplatform.org.il/
          It’s down however. Bloody commies are not even able to setup a webserver, you want them to run the country?

          Reply to Comment
    7. XYZ

      I am constantly amazed at the total pigheadedness of the ‘progressives’
      I quote from above:
      the occupation is at fault for the conflict with the Palestinians

      Assuming that “the occupation” refers to the events of 1967 then I must ask “WHY WERE THERE OUTBREAKS OF ARAB VIOLENCE AND WARS IN 1920, 1921, 1929, 1936, 1947, 1956 and 1967 if the ‘Arab-Israeli conflict’ started after the Six-Day War'”.
      Mr Derfner, I challenge you to find me a single Arab who says the the Arab-Israeli conflict started AFTER the Six-Day War. One will do.

      Reply to Comment
      • Obviously I didn’t mean that the occupation is at fault for the conflict with the Palestinians from before the occupation started – I meant it is now.

        Reply to Comment
        • XYZ

          And it continues…are you claiming the Palestinians are dropping their grievances from before 1967? Why the heck are they demanding the “right of return” of the refugees from the 1948 war? Why should the Six-Day War have suddenly made them forget the past? All you are doing is projecting YOUR desires and YOUR wishes on them. YOU want them to forget the past, but they haven’t. Read HAMAS’ charter and propaganda

          Reply to Comment
    8. Larry, I do believe I came out of the closet some time ago, in my own name, on data bases.

      I think you correct that perpetual reference to history to define guilt simply allows settler creep to continue. The wrongs of the moment must be the focus.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Gali

      ” Meretz are commies.”

      Meretz are NOT ” commies”
      BTW thats an old trick that Hitler used to shut up any opposition to the rise of his facist party within 1930’s Germany .
      Who will you be voting for ?

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser


        Meretz ARE commies.
        Marxists if you please.

        It is undeniable to anyone acquainted with Carl Marx’s works.

        However a great most of Israeli public is not – the scope of interest seldom goes beyond 10th channel and other incompetent sources, which allows these commies to pretend that they are liberals or whatever you call them.

        Rule of thumb: if someone is claiming that economy must be planned – it’s a commie.

        >BTW thats an old trick that Hitler used to shut up any opposition to the rise of his facist party within 1930′s Germany.

        Since I’m not signing any kinds of agreements with commies, not tearing countries apart with them and not training my army officers at their army bases I think you analogy is a bit irrelevant.

        Do you really think that there is any difference between communists and fascists?
        Ask people of Poland.

        >Who will you be voting for ?

        I won’t be.

        No one is offering anything practical/worthy.

        Reply to Comment
    10. Gali

      ” Read HAMAS’ charter and propaganda ”

      Read Moshe Feiglin’s XYZ.
      Ones Muslim fundamentalism the other is Jewish fundamentalism .
      Not all Palestinians are Hamas and not all Israelis are religious fanatics .

      Reply to Comment
    11. XYZ

      There is no end to “progressive” propaganda techniques….you take Feiglin, whose views are a minority within the minority “Jewish Leadership” faction minority within the Likud and compare them with HAMAS who won a free election to rule the Palestinian Authority. I should also point out that rising star Naftali Bennett of the “right-wing” Bayit Yehudi-National Religous Party rejects Feiglin’s views on democracy.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        As Orwell had put it – a doublethink.

        Something which would cause cognitive dissonance to a non-commie.

        Comparing a minority within a minority (after all Likud is supported by mere 30-35%) to a overwhelming majority like Hamas is a good example of such way of thought.

        Reply to Comment
    12. Gali

      The term “progressive” is alien to me XYZ .
      I am not American , I am Israeli Left and always have been .
      Minority within the Likud 🙂
      yeah right .
      So you know who I will be voting for , so who will you be voting for XYZ ???????

      Reply to Comment
      • XYZ

        Bayit Yehudi-AKA Jewish Home-National Religious Party.

        Reply to Comment
    13. Thanks, Larry, for another brave article.
      The initiative of Meretz should at least open up some space for those who are afraid to speak their minds. “stop seeking balance where there is none” may have been obvious to outsiders, but it was not to those who have been fed scary fairy tales from birth.
      As Gideon Levy said in an interview 2 years ago: “My modest mission is to prevent a situation in which many Israelis will be able to say, ‘We didn’t know.’”

      Reply to Comment
    14. I think Tzipi Livni have a master plan on how to save the situation,you can understand a group better if you are a bore weevil and then help make changes possible.After Bibi leaves office say two years from now Tzipi will become the next Prime Minister and then there will be negotiations with the PA

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >I think Tzipi Livni have a master plan on how to save the situation.

        She wants everyone to believe in it, but in fact she does not. Nobody does.

        There is one singular irresolvable issue – the Right of Return (into pre-1948 territories)

        Israel won’t ever grant it.

        Palestinians won’t ever forfeit it.


        There is absolutely nothing to negotiate about – one of sides have to give ground prior to negotiations.
        It haven’t happened during last 60 years and there is no reason why would it change in foreseeable future.

        Reply to Comment
    15. directrob

      The Arab peace plan is acceptable to most Palestinians. It is in fact there preferred solution. However, they have to have a plan if that fails (a bi-national or secular Palestine) and if all fails a plan B (return the keys).

      Mya and Larry are both right.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Acceptable to Palestinians it might be, yet since the plan leaves the RoR issue open it worth even less than the paper it is printed on.

        Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Mya and Larry can’t both be right. If Mya is right then Larry’s belief that the end of the ‘occupation’ will bring peace is wrong. If Larry is right then Mya’s belief that the occupation is irrelevant because the biggest issue for Palestinians is retrieving the entirety of what they believe is Palestine is wrong.

        Reply to Comment
    16. Yaron

      What I am missing is, what the Meretz peace plan is exactly about. What I do remember is that at the core of the Arab peace plan was the return of the refugees (to Israel). Everyone knows that will be unacceptable in its raw form (if in any form).
      And what about the link between Meretz and Livni? In what light are we supposed to see her flirting with Netanyahu in the light of Meretz (and her own!) promises to get back to the way to peace?

      Reply to Comment
    17. Egbert Talens

      Not one second too soon, this Meretz initiative. In spite of áll the misgivings that accompany it, people better hold their breath and instead pray for a positive result. To make this ‘snowball’ have the effect of an avalanch of sound-thinking Israelis, who are able to admit that the political-zionist project ís a failure, íf democracy is thought to make part of it. Quod non! But far from easy, to make this turn. Somehow like squaring the circle…

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Any Israeli that thinks the political-Zionist project is a failure has never stepped outside of his own apartment.

        Reply to Comment
    18. Gali

      Another old trick Trespasse, answer a question with another , and ignore the initial question.
      So …”
      Who will you be voting for and why Trespasse ? ”
      I’ve been around your kind a long time Trespasse , I know all your tricks inside out .

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        ROFL (Rolling On the Floor Laughing)

        The “greater than” symbol – “>” is used to show that string of text which it starts is a direct quote of previous message.

        So, here I am answering again:

        I won’t be.

        No one is offering anything practical/worthy.

        p.s. I’m afraid that you are technically incapable of learning (let alone performing) all my tricks.

        Reply to Comment
    19. Daniel Gavron

      The Tresspasser and XYZ make some interesting points, although I am unable to agree with them. What I don’t understand is why they are hiding behind psudonyms. Are they so unconvinced by their own arguments that they are afraid to identify themselves. I know that the talk-back industdry is wedded to this cowardly conduct, but I wish it wasn’t. Maybe +972 can be a pioneer and only publish comments by people who have the courage to identify themselves? I simply don’t accept the validity of an anonymous comment. For all I know, The Tresspasser and XYZ might be the same person–or ideed anybody. Please, come out from behind your anonymity, tel us fearlessly and honestly who you are!

      Reply to Comment
      • XYZ

        Thank you for the comment. I don’t know if simply identifying myself as George or some other name would make much difference. The reason I use the pen-name I do is because I frequently encounter great hostility from “Progressive” bloggers and commentors and they often pursue their opponents around the cyber world. I found one who was quoting things I posted 4 years ago. Thus, I look for a fresh start at a new site.

        Reply to Comment
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