“There is no political split in Israel, they are all right of centre”, Israeli scholar tells Ottawa U group

cips panel

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.

CIPS logo

The UofO panel was sponsored by the the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs which promotes “close friendship” with Israel. There was no Palestinian voice on the panel.

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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Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue. If you support our educational mission, why not join? Or make a donation? Or learn more about what we do?  Contact us at: membership.ctip@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

9 comments

    1. Hey Stuart, thanks for your comment.
      I agree it is depressing to see any society turning so far to the right.

      However, I also am encouraged to think that the western world will feel less and less like supporting the idea of a Jewish State. I agree with strong protection for Jews (and other minorities), in Canada and anywhere. But the idea of protecting Jews by taking over already inhabited lands and expelling the residents is not a good one. In the end, I don’t think it can work.

  1. Peter, You call Koplaw’s words “shocking”. Were you really shocked by them? What he says about Israeli opinion has been obvious for years. Most Israelis and many Jews outside of Israeli have been taught to believe a myth. That myth is that all of Palestine is theirs. As a consequence they believe that if they allow a small number of non-Jews to live there, they are being generous but they must never allow their “generosity” to get to the point that their control of Palestine is lost. Only when they have been disabused of their false belief, will a just solution be possible.

    1. Hey David, thanks for this comment. I think most of the people in the audience were … well at least surprised. But those who follow things in Israel closely will not have found this to be “news”. best

  2. Anyone who genuinely still believes in two state solution, either doesn’t have enough knowledge of the facts on the ground or hallucinating. There are about 240 settlements spread all over the West Bank, populated the most vile extremists religious fanatics, who will kill Israeli soldier or police who will attempt to evict even some of them. There are centres in the settlements which soldiers are afraid and will not go in to investigate any violence or murder done to Palestinians.(no need to say that no serious attempt will be done, using strong force).

    Every successive Israeli government created this situation intentionally, with that in mind.
    Golan Heights is gone for ever and Gaza will remain the same, due to it being very useful tool for Israel by invoking the name “HAMAS”, which is used to brain wash the world that all Palestinians are terrorists, thus continuing their agenda in West Bank.

    Keep in mind that this situation is ongoing for 50 years and not the slightest genuine attempt was done by any world government to stop it.

    The ones who know that two state solution is not possible but still talk about it, are disingenuous. People use it because it sound good. Government use it deceitfully to show that they are “doing something about it”.

    So what is the outcome. The way it looks to me, the situation will continue the same for years to come with encouragement of Palestinians to emigrate to other countries, as they started doing it in Gaza by actually helping them. If at anytime the tide will turn against Israel, than Israel will give some kind of autonomy to the fragmented West Bank, allowing them to have elections and form some kind of a quasi state, which won’t have much meaning. Also will ease the restriction on Gaza and let them have some autonomy. At this stage they’ll show the world that they are willing to “sacrifice so much” for peace and ask them to help the Palestinians with some funds.

    At this point the world will be so “grateful” to Israel, leaving the Palestinians with no choice.

    1. Hey Jake,
      Thanks for weighing in. I’m sorry you feel so pessimistic. I do not share that pessimism. I don’t believe that the idea of a “Jewish State” can continue forever. The idea that there is a “status quo” is mistaken. Things keep on changing, little by little.
      I don’t think it is sustainable. It will break sometime. What will be the precipitating event? An outbreak of cholera in Gaza? Death of Abbas? American Jews break definitively with a state they are ashamed of? A new Palestinian leadership emerges? Perhaps even increasing US – China tensions which mean the USA is busy in Asia and can no longer afford to protect Israel? I sure don’t know. But I am pretty sure that something will happen.

      1. I wish I could share your optimism. In the US, Jews hardly matter anymore. Trump’s constituency comprises a huge population of evangelicals as well as gun enthusiasts and just plain nuts. While the Democrats are not angels, most Republicans would sell their mothers for political gain. Could we call them the Black Shirts or Brown.

        I was born four years before my sister who arrived 1st Sept. 1939. My great and great great grand parents were from the Rhine Land, both France and Germany. I grew up reading much about Hitler and from what I see south of our border, the whole scenario is playing out under a guy who”s roots are probably similar to mine and my wife,s. His name was Drumpf. My Mother in law was a Stumpf.

        As for north of the border, ignorance coupled with political funding ensures blind support for Israel, even at the expense of that coveted Security Council seat.

        I’m not suggesting paranoia but we live in perilous times. If your fellow man doesn’t get you, the climate will.

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