Whether or not they have platforms, most of the political parties have basic inclinations with regard to foreign affairs and security issues which categorize them as either Right, Left or Center.
While the right-wing parties are inclined to accuse the Left of being naive and/or subservient to foreign interests, to the extent of endangering Israel’s security (for example, the Likud’s propaganda film showing the Left pointing the way to Jerusalem for Islamic State forces), the Left is inclined to accuse the Right of being rash, jingoistic and totally oblivious to the vital role diplomacy plays in Israel’s security, to the extent of leading Israel into dangerous isolation. However, neither side can or does ignore the basic realities.
Both sides know that Israel has existential problems emanating from Iran – as a potential nuclear power, and as the main lifeline of various Muslim terrorist organizations operating along its borders – and from all radical Islamic groups, Shi’ite and Sunni alike, the world round.
Keep up to date on the latest opinion pieces on our new Opinion & Blogs Facebook page
Both sides are aware of the fact that Israel’s main allies are in North America and Europe, with whom it shares a Judeo-Christian moral ethos, culture and historical experience (for better or worse), and basic democratic principles.
Both sides are aware of the fact there are heavy risks involved in the two-state solution, and alternatively in trying to perpetuate the status quo.
Finally, both sides realize that moral fortitude has something to do with physical fortitude, though they do not agree what exactly is meant by “moral fortitude.”
In the final reckoning, each side sees these facts through its ideological prism, and offers policies to deal with them accordingly.
David Ben-Gurion had enough foresight to insist on the disbandment of the sectarian fighting forces – the Palmah, the Irgun and Lehi – upon the establishment of the state, so that both Right and Left are today served by a single military force – the IDF. Though each side is inclined to select a chief of staff who is believed to be closest to it ideologically, in the final reckoning the IDF is the people’s army, which to a large extent reflects the make-up of the people.
How the IDF and its capabilities are used may differ, though the suggestion that the Right is more inclined than the Left to use force has no historic foundation. The Right in Israel is not trigger happy, and the Left is not pacifistic. The question is what precedes or accompanies the use of force.
It is a basic fact that whether it is involved in a military operation, or in diplomatic confrontations, Israel needs the support of at least one major international power, to keep it properly armed, and to apply vetoes at the UN when necessary. In recent decades the only power that offers Israel such support is the United States, and it is the US president, state department and the Pentagon which are the only addresses for such assistance.
If Israel and the US disagree, what can Israel do about It? Netanyahu and Right say: all means are kosher to get the Israeli position across, including intervening in internal American politics, against the administration. The Left and Center say that caution is the keyword, and that intervention in American politics can be counterproductive – as is the case today over the issue of how to prevent Iran from gaining a military nuclear capability.
In the past few years Netanyahu has conveyed Israel’s position regarding the Iranian danger time and again and very eloquently, not only to the American administration, but to all the other world leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin included.
So the goal should not be to repeat in Congress what everyone already knows, in an act of defiance against President Barack Obama, but to convey the message that it is not only Netanyahu and the Likud who believe the Americans are wrong in this case, but all the Zionist parties.
If Netanyahu had only Israel’s security in mind, and not the upcoming elections, he would approach Labor leader Isaac Herzog, and the leaders of the other major parties, and propose that they make a joint appeal to world leaders on the Iranian issue.
How powerful such a united front would be! In the final reckoning the Iranian threat is not an election issue. How to confront it is.
Of course, there are limits to what one can achieve by diplomatic means. For example, while diplomatic means were largely responsible for the UN resolution in 1947 in favor of partition and the establishment of the State of Israel, the UN would never have been asked to deal with the issue had the Hagana, Irgun and Lehi not worn out the British forces in Palestine in the years that preceded the UN resolution.
Whether or not diplomatic means will work also depends on what the diplomacy is trying to defend.
No diplomatic means will convince the European and American governments (not to speak of the rest of the world, except for the Evangelists, who have their own agenda), that Israel’s continued settlement activities in the West Bank are justified, and that the Palestinians do not have the right to full self determination, as the Right advocates.
The Bayit Yehudi and Yahad parties are the only ones that officially object to any Israeli withdrawal from any territories in Judea and Samaria, and totally reject the establishment of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River. To avoid Israel’s turning into a bi-national state, or ceasing to be a state that is both Jewish and democratic, the Center and Left support a territorial compromise within a two-state solution, as long as Israel’s security is adequately provided for. Interestingly enough, there is one right-wing party – Yisrael Beytenu – which favors the two-state solution, but within parameters that will ensure the maximal homogeneity of each of the states (“Ariel for Israel – Umm el-Fahm for Palestine”).
Over the issue of negotiations with the Palestinians, all the Jewish parties that do not oppose negotiations on principle agree that at the moment a settlement is apparently not feasible. However, the two sides are divided on whether under the circumstances Israel should still do everything in its power to seek diplomatic venues and regional coalitions, as advocated by the Zionist Union, or whether it should take advantage of the stalemate to maximize further settlement activities in Judea and Samaria, even though this is certain to raise more obstacles to any future negotiations, and might well lead to European economic sanctions not only against the settlements, but against Israel itself.
Finally, a word on “moral fortitude.” For the Right, especially the religious Right, moral fortitude involves sticking to the principles of the Jewish law in its Orthodox interpretation, and following a chauvinistic rather than a humanistic variety of Zionism.
For the Left, moral fortitude involves the upholding of the human rights of everyone – Jews, minorities, refugees, women, gays and even convicted criminals – and doing everything to avoid the commitment, even accidentally, of war crimes by the IDF. The justification behind this position – besides morality and humanism for their own sakes – is that the moment the struggle for human rights and against war crimes is mocked and depicted as a sign of subservience to foreign anti-Semitic masters for lucre (as the Committee of the Samaria Settler Council did in its despicable anti-Leftist video) Israel is in danger of turning into a non-democratic state.
The writer is a retired Knesset employee.