The truth – there is no Israeli partner – will set you free

Yair Lapid

Gideon Levy writes in Haaretz on 6 January 2022:

Chances are increasing that Yair Lapid will be remembered as a better foreign minister than Yisrael Katz. This week, Lapid actually spoke the truth: “When I am prime minister, we still won’t hold negotiations with the Palestinians.”

This item didn’t make big headlines, which isn’t surprising, since there is nothing new here – aside from the spectacle of a minister telling the truth, if only for a moment. Lapid deserves credit for revealing something that has long been known: There is no Israeli partner. No Israeli partner for ending the occupation, no Israeli partner for any solution, nor even an Israeli partner for negotiations. In truth, there never was, but now official Israel, for the first time in its history, is acknowledging as much. The explanation, as usual, comes from internal politics. “The coalition agreements prevent progress in this channel,” the prime-minister-in-waiting explained.

The hunger strikers will have to wait, as will the thousands of prisoners, the families torn asunder, the bereaved families, the unemployed, the refugees, the people who are denied dignity, denied land, denied a present and a future – they will all have to wait for the government that follows the next one. Then there will surely be coalition agreements that will make quick work of ending the occupation.

If an Israeli foreign minister had said something like this years ago, the sky would have fallen. No negotiations? None? The Americans would have issued condemnations, the Europeans would have been furious, the UN would have passed a resolution, Labor and Meretz would have threatened to quit the government. But now – no one bats an eyelid.

Lapid spared us all of that. He announced the end to the peace process ritual that has facilitated the many years of occupation. No one really thinks that Israel will get a more moderate government than this one in the coming years, and anyway the 50 years of moderate peace governments should have been enough to make us see that there is no one to talk to in Israel, no matter who is in power. Lapid is advancing one small but important step towards recognition of this fact. Now it needs to really sink in: There will be no solution, definitely not a two-state solution.

The possibility that the Palestinians will be doomed to another hundred years of apartheid cannot be dismissed. In fact, it is the most likely possibility. For who is going to extricate them from this apartheid, and how exactly can they extricate themselves from it? They’ve tried everything already. Now they at least understand, and the world too, that there is no chance of them having a partner, because Israel has coalition agreements.

The Americans won’t keep bugging us with their special envoys, the Europeans won’t keep issuing hollow statements of condemnation, nor will the UN, and the Quartet will die too. World leaders will no longer have to waste their time and honor on pointless talks about the Palestinian issue; for there’s no one to talk to about that in Israel. They can only talk about Iran, NSO and bilateral relations, right after placing a wreath at Yad Vashem and a note in the Western Wall, without paying lip service to peace.

Let’s hope that the Foreign Ministry’s forecast is accurate: Ministry experts predict that Israel will be blocked from participating in international sporting and cultural events. This is Lapid’s real contribution to the international discourse. Now that he’s taken diplomacy off the agenda because of the coalition agreements, the era of hot air on the Palestinian issue is over.

Seemingly, the time for action has now arrived. This remains an important open question: Will the Israeli foreign minister’s statement be convincing enough to the world so it will start acting? Will the truth that Lapid revealed, about Israel having no intention of advancing towards a solution, be perceived in Washington and Brussels as unshakable enough to make them draw the necessary conclusions? Or maybe that still won’t be enough for the world, and it will again seize on the latest knife-wielding assailant to stab a guard at a checkpoint to accuse the Palestinians of terrorism, and again call on both sides to return to the negotiating table.

Memo to the world: Listen to Lapid. There is no Israeli partner. Proceed accordingly.

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