Thursday, December 25, 2014

Israeli elections: Time for substantive debate – not “do something” slogans

...“Do something” should not be an acceptable slogan for a serious candidate. Voters deserve to know not only what candidates propose to do but also be provided with serious analysis and debate of their proposals.

Dr. Aaron Lerner..
IMRA Weekly Commentary..
24 December '14..

Herzog. Livni and now Liberman and Kahlon have all adopted a common slogan in their campaign against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu: we have to “do something”.

But what’s the “something”?

And just how well does that “something” stand up to public scrutiny?

This week Livni had a photo op at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, proclaiming that it would always be under Israeli control.

Netanyahu retorted that if the final status arrangements that Livni appears to support were implemented that safe access to the Western Wall might require an armored carrier.

Is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s assessment reasonable?

His remark certainly provided Livni the opportunity to address the efficacy of the various options for dividing the city into a patchwork of sovereignties with schemes involving third party observers and even third party security forces.

But instead of rising to the challenge Livni snapped back that Netanyahu was dredging up slogans from past election campaigns.

Now wait a moment: the slogans from previous election campaigns were that opponents of Netanyahu want to divide Jerusalem.

Were the slogans incorrect?

Of course not.

That’s exactly what Herzog and Livni – and now apparently Liberman and Kahlon – want to do!

And since they want to divide Jerusalem, then they damn well owe it to the Israeli voters to explain why they are so confident that the situation on the ground couldn’t possibly deteriorate to the point that, as Netanyahu put it, safe access to the Western Wall might required an armored carrier.

But just how important is the efficacy of their programs?

Here’s the realpolitik argument: the efficacy of Israeli proposals are irrelevant because the Palestinians can be relied upon to always reject them.

Israel, therefore, should make ever more generous proposals – not because they will actually help to close a deal with the Palestinians but because feeding the world’s insatiable desire for Israeli concessions can placate Europe and the Obama White House.

Or so the argument goes.

An argument that, among other things, ignores the possible significance of the shift in emphasis from a Palestinian-Israeli deal to a regional solution.

This is because the “regional solution” approach can make possible the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state in which regional and other third parties ostensibly fill the gaps preventing the conclusion of a deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman has been writing and talking about this for decades.

He openly has stated that Palestinian compliance – in particular Palestinian compliance regarding critical security matters - can be rendered irrelevant by having third party security forces deployed inside the Palestinian state.

Again: Avigdor Liberman would support the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state if the Jordanian and Egyptian armies were willing to deploy respectively in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

And while my sense is that Jordan, Egypt, the Saudis and pretty much every other potential participant in a third party security force don’t want to get involved in such an enterprise, there is a very serious potential danger that Israeli rhetoric about a “regional solution” snowballs into an initiative that essentially compels some third parties to contribute the forces for implementation.

This is, therefore anything but a secondary or tertiary issue for these elections.

“Do something” should not be an acceptable slogan for a serious candidate.

Voters deserve to know not only what candidates propose to do but also be provided with serious analysis and debate of their proposals.


Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)

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