Analysis from Israel

Here’s a poll you will not see covered in your daily paper, because it throws the real cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into uncomfortably stark relief: Asked whether they agreed with President Barack Obama’s statement that “there should be two states: Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people and Israel as the homeland for the Jewish people,” only 34  percent said yes; 61 percent disagreed. Moreover, a whopping 66 percent said the Palestinians’ goal should not be a permanent two-state solution, but a two-state solution as an interim stage en route to the ultimate goal of a single Palestinian state in all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea – a goal that amply explains their opposition to recognizing Israel as the Jewish homeland.

This was a serious poll, conducted by American pollster Stanley Greenberg and the Beit Sahour-based Palestinian Center for Public Opinion by means of face-to-face interviews in Arabic with 1,010 adults in the West Bank and Gaza. And the findings only get worse. As the Jerusalem Post reported:

Asked about the fate of Jerusalem, 92 percent said it should be the capital of Palestine, 1 percent said the capital of Israel, 3 percent the capital of both, and 4 percent a neutral international city.

Seventy-two percent backed denying the thousands of years of Jewish history in Jerusalem, 62 percent supported kidnapping IDF soldiers and holding them hostage, and 53 percent were in favor or teaching songs about hating Jews in Palestinian schools.

When given a quote from the Hamas Charter about the need for battalions from the Arab and Islamic world to defeat the Jews, 80 percent agreed. Seventy-three percent agreed with a quote from the charter (and a hadith, or tradition ascribed to the prophet Muhammad) about the need to kill Jews hiding behind stones and trees.

All these findings contradict the accepted wisdom that the root of the problem is Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza, so if Israel would just raze
the settlements, peace would break out tomorrow. Withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza won’t help if Palestinians don’t accept the existence of a Jewish
state in any borders and see the two-state solution as a mere stepping-stone toward the ultimate goal of Israel’s eradication – exactly as prescribed by the PLO’s famous Phased Plan of 1974, which called  for establishing a “Palestinian national authority” in any territory available and then using it as a base for “completing the liberation of all Palestinian territory.” It seems for most Palestinians, almost 20 years of peace talks haven’t changed this ultimate goal one whit.

This is the root of the conflict and has been ever since Britain first backed a “national home for the Jewish people” in the 1917 Balfour Declaration. It’s why no
Palestinian leader has ever been able to say “yes” to any Israeli offer – and never will be able to, no matter how much the offer is improved, unless this  changes. Until the international community recognizes this and starts working to change Palestinian public opinion, the “peace process” will continue to be mere wasted effort.

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Israel’s constitutional crisis has been postponed, not resolved

After years of leftists crying wolf about democracy being endangered, Israel finally experienced a real constitutional crisis last week. That crisis was temporarily frozen by the decision to form a unity government, but it will come roaring back once the coronavirus crisis has passed.

It began with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein’s refusal to let the newly elected Knesset vote to replace him as speaker and culminated in two interventions by the High Court of Justice. I’m one of very few people on my side of the political spectrum who considers the court’s initial intervention justifiable. But its second was an unprecedented usurpation of the prerogatives of another branch of government, in flagrant violation of legislation that the court itself deems constitutional.

Edelstein’s refusal, despite its terrible optics, stemmed from a genuine constitutional concern, and was consequently backed even by Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon, who had opposed Edelstein many times before and would do so again later in this saga. The problem was that neither political bloc could form a government on its own, yet the proposed new speaker came from the faction of Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party that adamantly opposed a unity government. Thus whether a unity government was formed or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s caretaker government continued, the new speaker would be in the opposition.

But as Yinon told the court, speakers have always come from the governing coalition because an opposition speaker can effectively stymie all government work. And once elected, he would be virtually impossible to oust, since 90 of the Knesset’s 120 members must vote to do so. An opposition speaker would thus “hurt democracy,” warned Yinon. “We’re planting a bug in the system, and this, too, undermines our constitutional fabric.” That’s why Edelstein wanted to wait, as Knesset bylaws permit, until a government was formed and could choose its own speaker.

Yet despite this genuine and serious concern, the fact remains that a newly elected majority was being barred from exercising its power. Moreover, it had no parliamentary way of solving the problem because only the speaker can convene parliament and schedule a vote. Thus if you believe majorities should be allowed to govern, the court was right to intervene by ordering Edelstein to hold the vote.

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