Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90

An opposition conference at the Knesset is setting out a new peace plan for our troubled times. Is all we are sayin’, just give peace a chance?

This is a segment from The “The P Word?” Edition.


And now it’s time for our first discussion.

So Allison, is it just me, or is there something surreal, embracing, also maybe encouraging and up-bucking about talking peace plans in the Knesset these days? – Yeah, you want it to be real and feel relevant, but on the other hand, it sort of has that kind of pipe dream sense in your gut, and you feel cynical about it.

But listen, if you don’t try, you’ll never succeed, so why not give it a shot?

And so there was in the Knesset this past week a special conference called The Day After, Security and a Diplomatic Horizon as a Guarantee of the Future of the State of Israel.

We could say it sounds better in Hebrew, but it kind of doesn’t.

That conference was sponsored by three opposition MKs, Rabbi Gilad Kariv and Naama Lezimi of the Labor Party and Yoav Segalovic from Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party.

In his introduction, Gilad Kariv said that the most important question for the future of the state of Israel, for the future of the Zionist project is the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This was true before the 7th of October.

It is certainly true since the 7th of October.

But Kariv said Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government have nothing to say about the conflict or how to solve it.

“The time has come,” Kariv and his opposition partners said, “to talk about this most important question, “and that was the purpose of the conference.”

At the heart of the Day After gathering in the Knesset was a new plan created by the Diplomatic and Security Unit of the leftist Berl Katznelson Fund and a leftist think tank called the Mitveim Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, which says of itself that it is an organization which, quote, “promotes a pro-peace, multi-regional, “internationalist, modern and inclusive approach “to Israel’s foreign policy.”

The 16-page plan, which came free with several of the weekend newspapers this past Friday, is called the Israeli Initiative, and it was the plan’s principal author, Omer Tsanani, a reserve lieutenant colonel in IDF intelligence who heads the think tank’s Program for Promoting Israeli-Palestinian Peace who presented the plan at the Knesset.

Tsanani told the MKs that Israel has three fundamental interests, security, democracy, and remaining the homeland of the Jewish people, and that meeting these interests demands a deep change in policy concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Security demands a strong army,” Tsanani said, “but it also requires that we agree “upon borders with the Palestinians “in order to diminish to a minimum “the motivation on the part of Palestinians to attack us.

“Palestinians are here to stay, “and even if they are weak, “if they feel as though their own ambitions “and identities remain unfulfilled, “quote, ‘they will come to kill us one way or another,'” end quote.

Tsanani admitted that it is hard to imagine a peace agreement with the Palestinians, but that’s how it was with the Egyptians in the 1970s, and we’ve lived at peace with the Egyptians now for two generations.

The same thing is possible now, he argues, with the Palestinians.

The short-term elements of the Israeli initiative plan go like this.

Having a regional conference right away bringing the Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians, and other Abraham Accord-curious countries together.

At the conference, a roadmap to peace will be unveiled.

Also, creating regional mechanisms to resolve disputes, solve problems, and foster negotiations.

Also, begin a massive reconstruction of Gaza project.

Also, reconstituting on a stronger basis the Palestinian Authority.

Also, within two or three years, working for international recognition of a demilitarized state of Palestine.

Also, initiating regional mega-projects.

Also, new Palestinian elections.

Also, alongside all this, regional negotiations based on the Arab League initiative updated from its 2002 and 2007 versions.

And finally, establishing the demilitarized state of Palestine.

None of the Israeli initiative people, including Omer Tsinani himself, believe this will be easy to achieve, and the document we got with the papers devotes a good deal of space to the challenges of successfully implementing the ambitious program, beginning with the fact that it will only be possible after the Palestinian government changes and the Israeli government changes, and continuing to the fact that, always but all the more so after October 7th, Israelis and Palestinians don’t trust each other at all.

And ending with the fact that there are radicals on both sides who will blow things and people up to prevent peace from happening.

And they’ve proven in the past that they’re pretty good at strangling peace to death in its infancy.

Still yet, Tsinani told the legislators, “Done right, this plan can work “even in these awful times of terrible death counts.”

Watching the Knesset conference and reading the Israeli initiative plan, it is easy to see that part of its purpose and maybe its appeal is that it gives the center left a policy plan that it could take to the voters in the next election.

Right now, lots of people complain that Netanyahu and his government have presented no plan whatsoever for the day after the war in Gaza, but no one has managed to offer a clear alternative to the government’s decision to just, hey, wing it until the end of the war and probably afterwards too.

The think tank thinkers at the Meet Veam Institutes and the leftist and centrist MKs who gave them a platform at the Knesset think that this plan could be that clear alternative.

So, Bradley, my dear, do you think it’s a clear alternative?

Do you find it persuasive, inspiring, and/or plausible and feasible?

And should this be what the non-Netanyahu camp adopts as its plan for the future? – Okay, so the direct answers are yes, yes, yes, and yes.

But the fuller answer in the short term and the medium term is no way.

It’s actually a fine plan.

The plan is not the problem.

The problem is us.

After October 7th, there’s too much trauma here, much too much rage to consider a path to peace, which would require both sides to make deep compromises, soul sacrifices, and an enormous level of sustained creativity.

But it’s not just that.

You could argue that October 7th was made possible because the real enemy of the present Netanyahu government is not Hamas.

The real tooth and nail permanent enemy of this Netanyahu government was, is, and will continue to be any form of a two-state solution.

That’s the obsession with the West Bank.

That’s the obsession with settlement growth.

That’s the obsession with dismantling and destroying the flawed but real elements of democracy in Israel in favor of permanent occupation.

And they’re still at it under the cover of the smoke of war.

In the much longer term, and I’m afraid it will be after the lifetimes of anyone listening to this podcast, this new outline has a lot going for it.

But right now, and possibly for a long time to come, Palestine in Gaza, and to some extent the West Bank, is led by unbending fanatics, supremacists, and maximalists alongside corrupt holders to power.

And so, as Israelis, are we.

It’s not only armies at war right now, it’s dreams at war.

There’s not enough room in this small holy land for so many strong and incompatible visions of the future.

There’s certainly not enough room in Israel.

We have senior elected officials who want to see the ancient Jewish temple rebuilt, a Jewish monarchy restored, our Palestinian neighbors routed, and rousted, and disappeared.

So where does that leave the rest of us, the majority of Israelis?

Right now, there’s a very strong sense in Israel that everything is falling apart.

Ever since October 7th, ordinary Israelis in dire need have complained that they have never, ever heard from even one government official.

And this is in a government with dozens and dozens of ministries and ministers.

At this point, for the needy, peace is not the goal.

Survival is the goal.

We’re talking about evacuees left homeless, small business people who have been forced to close since the war, loved ones of hostages and the wounded, farmers whose crops are failing, just to name a few.

Thanks largely to Benjamin Netanyahu, we live in a failed state.

But we can’t have an election.

Our government, our prime minister won’t let us because he and they know just how unelectable they are.

So Allison, as to your questions, this two-state outline has genuine merit, and we should keep these ideas alive because their time may come, and young people may realize that their parents were idiots, but it will not be soon, and certainly not soon enough. – I think that I feel a little bit toward what you just said, which was very powerful and amazing, Bradley.

I think I feel the same way as you felt towards Allison’s original questions, which are, yeah, you’re right about most everything or maybe precisely everything, but in a bigger way, I think that you’re, I disagree with you, I think that you’re wrong.

First of all, the question about a peace plan like this is what does it do not, does it in fact bring peace?

Because one of the things about this plan, which I find completely unexceptional, but still somehow annoying, is that, first, is that it’s a little bit obvious, it’s a little bit well-known, it’s a little bit all the things that we’ve known before, which is not a criticism, because I would not, I do not expect someone to come up with some fancy new idea and for all of us to butt our foreheads with the palm of our hands and say, “Oh, that’s the solution,” and move happily forward.

Any solution has to look like this, because basically what this says is we’re going to declare from the start that we all aim to have two states living side by side, and then we’re going to start meeting in as broad a forum as possible while meeting in as narrow a forum as possible as well of Palestinians and Israelis alone, doing both those things to try to forge out the details and figure out how the plan calls for a, over and over again, it mentions that the Palestinian state must be demilitarized, which sounds unlikely to me, but in any case, to move forward, it’s very common sense, and so any plan ought to look something like this plan, and I feel with you the gap between where we are now and the possibility of this plan actually being implemented, but the purpose of the plan is not to actually do the plan.

The purpose of the plan is to have the left once again talk this language, to have the left say exactly the opposite of what you just said, Bradley, which is now is a time to start talking about this, and we are ready to do this, and we are willing at a time when it seems very, very likely that voters will vote Netanyahu out of office no matter who says what in opposition to him, just out of rage and criticism and frustration with Netanyahu.

Now is the time to go forward with a plan like this and have Benny Gantz say, yes, my goal ultimately is to have two states as well and for 70 Knesset seats to be voted in favor of the side of the political map that now has a plan that says full-throatedly that this is what we’re looking for, and so that’s what its value is now is to force the Benny Gantz’s and the Ayurveda’s of the world to stop being vague about this and to go forward with a plan or at least the left, the Yair Golan and what was merits and labor and those people, at least have them go forward.

And in that, I think there really is some value because this being vague about the future simply because it is true that right now it is almost impossible to sanely imagine that there could be peace in two years or five years or even 10 years.

To go forward without embracing still some kind of solution, a two-state solution, I would hope, but some kind of solution just seems like it’s politically disastrous.

And so that’s why I like this plan.

Allison, what do you think? – No, I like the plan and I wish we could go full steam ahead but we can’t, again, ’cause there’s the minor matter of not having a Palestinian government that could go forward and not having an Israeli government that could go forward.

And you can feel the frustration of the Biden administration and the White House ’cause they see such an opportunity right now and you can throw in whatever hostage deal, hostage release, to throw in some incentives for Israel to move forward.

So it’s like a plan for right now that’s impossible to implement right now.

And so the question is, by the time you roll around to implementing it, is it going to be a relevant plan or will have facts on the ground change so much that it won’t matter?

And yes, I agree that the left/center left should have something to point to, to rally around, to stand for something, while the right is just kind of saying like, “Yeah, we’ll figure it out.”

And no, we won’t, we’re supposed to just trust that we’re not gonna get dragged into what the Ben-Gurion and Smoltz clearly want, which is reoccupation of the Gaza Strip.

But what I worry about in embracing and adopting this specific plan, as the opposition, whatever, Gantz, Lapid, et cetera, is that it’s going to be a target for the right to poke holes in and to shoot arrows at.

And so they’re going to have the advantage, I mean, it’s terrible to say, they’re gonna have the advantage of having something to attack while not presenting on their side, again, staying murky, staying vague, staying flexible, and in order to put their finger to the wind and decide where the public sentiment is blowing.

So locking into a specific plan like that, I mean, obviously has its advantages, but I think it also has big dangers too in a political sense. – Well, and Bradley, I wanna hear from you again, but Allison, what you just said puts into focus the fact that Bradley, your description of the problem as one of, or as the situation being one of Netanyahu, but really all the right wing basically being full in, deeply committed to maintaining Israel’s control over the occupied territories now and forever and annexing them either de facto or de jure, that your statement that that’s really what’s behind all this, I think is exactly right.

And the only way to make that, to reframe the political debate, actually to take the political debate back to that frame, which some years ago we used to talk about, the only way to do that is to have something like a plan like this that is embraced by the left.

And then it’s like, okay, voters, now is the time to vote.

Do you want these people who are war forever?

And we will forever be facing people on our borders who could come over and do October 7th again.

And we will forever be every so often killing tens of thousands of them, including people who we know are innocent.

Is that what you want or do you want this alternative? – Yeah, I think it’s really important to remember way back when in the Oslo days in the ’90s, before everything fell apart, that the proponents of the Oslo peace process kept saying it was irreversible.

And what I take from that is not that they were wrong, but that nothing is irreversible.

The fact is we assume at this point that history works in only one direction and it’s all downhill and there’s no way around it.

The fact is I’ve been waiting all my Israeli life for an asteroid to hit that would wake everybody up.

And the trouble with asteroids is you don’t know what the effect of the asteroid is going to be.

And I think we have no idea at this close range what the effect of October 7th is going to be on the Israeli public.

When I said before that we are in shock and we’re in trauma, we haven’t hit the stage in our psyche that allows us to look and see what happened and say, “Wait a minute, all of these people “that brought us to this terrible day were wrong.”

And it’s gonna take a long time for people to kind of come to that feeling. – But even if they think they’re wrong, how are they wrong?

People are gonna interpret that wrongness in completely opposite ways, depending on their political viewpoint. – Well, that’s true, but I have a feeling really that we became habituated to think that the only way you could deal with anything is to make it more right-wing.

And I think that at some point, that is the reason why it’s worth talking about these kinds of peace plans and keep them percolating somewhere on a low flame, because at some point, people are gonna look for an alternative.

They’re gonna say, “Wait a minute, this has not worked. Let’s try something else.”

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