Analysis from Israel

The run-up to Friday’s 20th anniversary of the Oslo Accords is a good time to consider not only what went wrong with the “peace process” they launched, but what a viable process would look like. You needn’t look far for answers to either question. As I noted last week, the past month alone has brought numerous examples of the problem that doomed the Oslo process from its inception: the Palestinian leadership’s utter lack of interest in making peace. As for what a viable process might look like, a good example is the new Palestinian city now arising near Ramallah.

The city of Rawabi is entirely the initiative of a private businessman: As the New York Times reported last month, the Palestinian Authority promised financial help but never delivered. And it offers a remarkable contrast to the official PA on two crucial counts. First, it’s actually seeking to improve Palestinian lives–in this case, by providing comfortable middle-class housing and quality municipal services. That’s something the PA has refused to do throughout the 19 years of its existence, despite being the world’s top recipient of international aid per capita. Second, the city’s very name (which means “hills” in Arabic) was deliberately chosen to eschew anti-Israel incitement: Its developers held a competition to name it, the Times reported, but rejected the numerous proposals that glorified anti-Israel terror, like “Arafat City” or “Jihad City.” The PA, in contrast, engages in such incitement on a daily basis.

Ordinary Palestinians feel they’ve gotten nothing from the peace process, and they’re right. That, however, is because the PA deliberately chose to give them nothing. It never used its massive infusions of aid to build, say, better housing for Palestinian refugees living in squalid West Bank camps; on the contrary, it publicly vowed that even if a Palestinian state someday arises, the refugees won’t be given citizenship. Nor did it use foreign aid to upgrade its hospitals: Patients who need state-of-the-art treatment are still routinely sent to Israel. It refuses to cooperate with Israel on mundane issues like sewage treatment that would improve Palestinian lives, and allows anti-normalization thugs from the ruling Fatah party to drive away Israeli businesses that would provide Palestinians with jobs. In short, rather than trying to help its people, the PA has done everything possible to keep them in a state of perpetual misery.

As for anti-Israel incitement, even a cursory glance at the archives of Palestinian Media Watch reveals how rampant it is. To give just a few recent examples: Fatah’s Facebook page yearns for famous female terrorists to return and teach current Palestinian women about the need for “sacrifice and blood”; organizations from dance troupes to youth groups are named after terrorists, who are held up as role models; PA officials and the PA-controlled media routinely hurl libelous accusations at Israel, such as that it’s deliberately addicting Palestinians to drugs or trying to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque; they also urge children to engage in anti-Israel violence and promise that Israel will someday cease to exist.

If a Palestinian leadership ever arises that prefers helping its people to perpetuating their misery and teaches its children coexistence rather than anti-Israel hatred, peace might be possible. But until then, any “peace process” will at best be a farce–and at worst a bloody tragedy like Oslo was.

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Israel’s unity government may prove a constitutional time bomb

That Israel will soon have a government is good news; almost any government would be better than the political dysfunction that has produced three elections in the past year. But aside from its existence, there’s little to like about this “unity” government.

The biggest problem isn’t that many important issues will perforce go unaddressed, though that’s inevitable given the compromises required when neither bloc can govern on its own. Nor is it the risk that the government will be dysfunctional even on “consensual” issues like rescuing the economy from the coronavirus crisis, though this risk is real, since both sides’ leaders will have veto power over every government decision.

Rather, it’s the cavalier way that Israel’s Basic Laws are being amended to serve the particular needs of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his new partner, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz.

Though Israel’s Supreme Court wrongly claims the Basic Laws are a constitution, they were never intended as such by the parliaments that passed them. Indeed, some were approved by a mere quarter of the Knesset or less.

But they were intended as the building blocks of a future constitution should Israel ever adopt one. That’s why this handful of laws, alone of all the laws on Israel’s books, are deemed “Basic Laws,” and why each addresses a fundamental constitutional issue (the executive branch, the legislature, the judiciary, human rights, Israel’s Jewish character, etc.).

In other words, though they aren’t a constitution, they do serve as the foundation of Israel’s system of government. And tinkering with the architecture of any democratic system of government can have unintended consequences, as Israel has discovered before to its detriment.

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