Michael Koplow, (centre) of the Israel Policy Forum, had some shocking words about Israel for a group of students and professors at the University of Ottawa on October 24th. Other panelists included Professors Costanza Musu (l) and Peter Jones (r). The event was organized by the UofO’s Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS) and was sponsored by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). Read more.
Dr. Michael Koplow, of the Israel Policy Forum was quick to dispel any illusions among Canadians that a new Israeli government under General Benny Ganz, would be any less right wing than the former government had been under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“There is NO political division in Israel, (…) the right wing has won completely,” Koplow told a group of about 40 students and academics. He went on to explain that all the parties in Israel are now to the “right of centre” (presumably using our North American standards for “right” and “left”).
Koplow was analysing the results of Israel’s September 17th election, the second in less than six months. The public event was organized by the University of Ottawa with sponsorship of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), a pro-Israel lobby group. UofO professors Costanza Musu and Peter Jones were also members of the panel.
Both elections resulted in a virtual tie between the two leading parties – “The Likud” led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the “Blue and White” party, led by Netanyahu’s former head of military, General Benny Ganz.
Both parties have very similar views on foreign policy issues like Iran and Syria, indicated Koplow. Both take a very hostile attitude toward the Palestinians (Ganz actually campaigned on being even harsher towards Gaza than Netanyahu had been).
The only significant difference between “Blue and White” and “Likud”, argued Koplow, is the issue of whether Netanyahu, now under indictment for corruption, should continue to be Prime Minister. By Israeli law, Netanyahu remains immune from being convicted as long as he remains in the Prime Minister’s office. Koplow predicted that the two parties would find a way to move Netanyahu to the sidelines and govern together.
The views of North American Jews differ increasingly from those of Israelis
Dr. Koplow’s presentation did reveal a sharp contrast between liberal thinking in North America (and in particular liberal Jewish thinking) and the emerging right wing consensus in the Israeli public.
In North America, the notion of a two state solution enjoys widespread support. For example, the New York-based Israel Policy Forum’s principles include allowing the Palestinians to have a ministate of their own, under Israeli supervision. “The goal of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, consistent with Israel’s security needs, is essential to ensure Israel’s long-term future as a Jewish and democratic state”, according to the IPF website.
However, inside Israel, it’s a different story. Of 107 Jewish MK’s elected in this new parliament, only a handful support a 2 state solution – the others want some kind of Israeli annexation of the West Bank, noted Dr. Koplow. (Annexation is of course opposed by the 13 members of the mostly arab “Joint List”, but their votes don’t really count much when it comes to governing Israel.) The notion of a real, independent “state’ for Palestinians has hardly any support among the Jewish citizens of Israel.
Of 107 Jewish MK’s elected in this new parliament, only a handful support a 2 state solution – the others want some kind of annexation of the West Bank.
Dr. Michael Koplow, Director of Policy, Israel Policy Forum
Liberal Zionist Jews in North America worry that an increasingly right wing and even racist Israel, will eventually lose the support of the west, and potentially threaten the entire Zionist project itself.
Little debate among panelists
The CIPS event was disappointingly one-sided. It lacked any serious debate or discussion about alternatives to a failing two state solution. Both Canadian panelists are well known for their promotion of the two state solution. Both fell in line with Dr. Kaplow dismissing out of hand the idea of one democratic state with equal rights for all. All three assumed the ONLY answer is one in which Israel would keep over 3/4 of the original Palestinian mandate, separated by a border from a tiny Palestinian quasi-state over which Israel would maintain military dominance.
“The one state solution is neither advisable nor viable”, asserted Professor Costanza Musu, without adducing any evidence to support her position. “The two societies are mirror images of each other”, she continued, seeming to imply equal opposing forces, ignoring the fact that Israel is hugely more powerful and controls almost every aspect of Palestinian life.
Dr. Peter Jones began his comments by explaining how he has made a successful career in “track two diplomacy”, among other things promoting the two state solution to Palestinians by bringing together Israeli and Palestinian security experts.
He went on to assert that “there is widespread agreement that a 2 SS is the only way – there is no other option”. Perhaps there is “widespread agreement” in the circles in which Dr. Jones circulates, but the election results indicate that few Israelis actually share this supposed consensus. CTIP’s discussions with various Palestinian NGO’s lead us to believe that Palestinian society is, at best, divided on whether the 2SS is advisable or even possible. There is little sign of the ‘widespread agreement’ Dr. Jones mentions.
Both professors may have good reasons for thinking the ONLY answer is the creation of two tiny states based on ethnicity, but none of the panelists made that case, or even tried to do so. It seems to be in sharp contrast to the values Canada loudly proclaims to the world. The accepted Canadian approach to ethnic/linguistic tensions (e.g. Quebec, Indigenous, etc.) is NOT separation, but equality, democracy and tolerance.
Nor did any of the panelists offer any path for getting to their proposed two state solution, while obstacles are becoming more pronounced and political trends in Israel are heading in the opposite direction.
Given abundant indications that Israel has no intention of allowing the Palestinians to have a state of their own, Canadian academics would make a more helpful contribution by exploring other ways to protect Israeli Jews without turning millions of Palestinians into permanent landless, stateless refugees.
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