Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

  • Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution
  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Arab Spring Hits Israel

The Arab Spring has hit its first non-Arab society--Israel. For a month now there have been tent camps in Tel Aviv of protesters demonstrating against Israel's housing shortage. Because much of new housing construction by the government has been beyond the green line (the 1949 armistice line) in the West Bank and Gaza, there has been a housing shortage in Israel. Then add to this the fact that many wealthy Jews from abroad maintain second homes or apartments in Israel that they use only for a few weeks or months out of the summer, and there is a serious problem for ordinary Israelis. So far the demonstrations, which reached a peak of 300,000 in Tel Aviv last Saturday and have spread to major cities throughout the country and include Arabs in Haifa, have ignored the "Arab question." They are thus deemed to be non-political. In modern Hebrew the term politics is often interchangeable with "high politics" meaning issues of war and peace, diplomacy, etc.

Here is an analysis by American Jewish political scientist Michael Walzer on the movement. There is a definite connection between the settlement enterprise in the territories and the lack of housing within Israel. But if the movement's leadership and that of the parties of the left are smart they will avoid going beyond the immediate demands. Meretz has drastically shrunk since 2000 because it was focused solely on the Arab question in general and the Palestinian question/peace process in particular. There is a big opportunity for center-left parties to rebuild their base by expanding their issue focus. By developing a critique of the laissez-faire capitalism that Benjamin Netanyahu has imported from America, and attacking the special privileges that have been granted to settlers and ultra-Orthodox groups (housing subsidies, draft exemptions) they can build up a following among ordinary Israelis. They can then latter use that to convert these new supporters into supporters of the peace process over time. But they must not rush. This is like a courtship with a psychologically-damaged woman--it must be taken slowly. If it is rushed there will be no marriage and no birth to a successful peace.  

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