Facing a crowd of Israeli ambassadors, and backed by a new survey stating that the majority of Israelis would support a deal with the Palestinians based on a return to the 1967 lines, President Peres reclaimed his ardent support for the two-state solution and called for a return to negotiations. Interestingly enough, most of the criticism he received was targeted at his so-called transgression of the boundaries of his mandate as a president, and not at the actual content of his words.
I’m not sure what the members of Knesset thought when they voted Peres in, but surely they did not expect him to be satisfied with visits to kindergartens or flowery inaugural ceremonies. Considering his age, Peres has demonstrated an impressive degree of activism on all fronts and has not followed his predecessors in office in circumventing matters of national security or avoiding conflicts of opinion with the government. On matters that he believed crucial for the future of Israel, Peres has not been afraid to voice his opinions, though usually behind closed doors and not publicly.
A relic of a generation fast disappearing, Peres clings on to his belief in the only viable future ensuring Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish democratic state, and is attempting to call for a policy shift before it is too late.
The right does not like to be reminded of what the future may hold – they would rather dwell in the past, and prolong the present. Ignoring the demographic equation that threatens the very nature of the Zionist dream realized by visionaries such as Peres, the solutions offered by the right now proudly include: annexation of all or some of the proposed Palestinian state, waiting until Palestinian middle-class per capita income reaches $10,000, and offering large sums of money to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank to willingly transfer to a country of their choice. These fantasies are marketed by probable future ministers or deputy ministers, and not by elements of the marginalized extreme rightist parties.
More than anything, these so-called solutions reflect the change taking place within the Likud party, and perhaps also within a large segment of the Israeli society as a whole – a linear and constant turn to the right. Burying their heads in the sand, the proponents of these solutions act as if in denial, ignoring the simple demographic statistics, Israel’s severe diplomatic isolation and a brewing third Palestinian uprising in the West Bank.
Identifying these trends, and perceiving a threat to national security, Peres reiterated his concerns to a particularly receptive crowd. Israeli ambassadors find themselves in an extremely difficult situation –advocating a government policy they do not comprehend, and in most cases, disagree with. Voicing their dilemma aloud the day after the Peres address and in front of a different forum, Israeli ambassadors were frowned upon by government officials for daring to question government policy. I do not envy the ambassadors to the U.S or U.N, explaining the decision to punish the Palestinians for their unilateral U.N move by declaring construction in an area even the Bible couldn’t find a name for.
The internal contest currently taking place within the right – to be heard and seen as being righter than right, has inadvertently unmasked the true face of the Likud, thus allowing Israeli voters a better understanding of the nature of this party, the direction in which it is headed, and perhaps also a glimpse of what the post-election future holds for Israel as a whole.