Israel's new government could bring shift in policy on Arab Spring and Palestinians
Following Israel’s parliamentary elections, the gains of Yair Lapid’s moderate party over Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party could provide the opportunity for a needed change in Israel’s stance on the Arab Spring and its conflict with the Palestinians.
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Second, Israel must look beyond its perception of the Islamists' “blind hatred” of Israel. It must recognize that, even with the rise of new Islamist parties, it is practical politics and public opinion – rather than ideology – that will play the bigger role in determining Israel’s relations with other regional players.Skip to next paragraph
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In turn, this shift should also lead Israel’s new government to realize that the last government’s policies on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process constitute a huge stumbling block for Israel in improving its regional standing with both new governments and societies. As the region changes quickly and profoundly, it is especially urgent that Israel tackle this elephant in the room.
Israel’s regional standing is deeply tied, now more than ever, to its policies with respect to the Palestinians. Now is not the time for passivity or obstinacy, but rather it is time to take a bold stand. Israel should renew serious negotiations to move the Israeli-Palestinian conflict forward, urgently address the issues of settlements in the West Bank, reconsider its refusal to deal with Hamas, and it should not hinder efforts at Palestinian inter-reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
In the wake of the last round of military confrontations between Hamas and Israel in Gaza, the ceasefire set up a vague yet important course of action to gradually “open” Gaza. This path should be followed.
The preliminary results of the elections in Israel show it may still be difficult for the new coalition, especially as Netanyahu will likely remain at its head, to have the stability or political will to fully follow this course of action. However, with the right-wing block weakened to a razor-thin majority (with pro-settler parties earning fewer seats in parliament than predicted), there is a glimmer of hope that this conversation will at least be resurrected.
With the help of renewed international and specifically US attention, the new Israeli government will be better positioned to invest in making real progress on the Israeli-Palestinian political process. The hope is admittedly dim, but it is nevertheless there.
Benedetta Berti is a fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, a lecturer at Tel Aviv University, a member of the Atlantic Council’s Young Atlanticist working group, and coauthor of the book, “Hamas and Hezbollah: A Comparative Study” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012). Follow her on Twitter at @benedettabertiw.