Israel

Israel, Pangs Of Doubt For The Procrastinator Nation

From Golda Meir to Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli leaders have too often put off decisions on key questions for the country's future. The cost of "conflict management" is no longer sustainable.

At the July 29 funeral of Israeli Sergeant Daniel Kedmi, killed in the recent war in Gaza.
At the July 29 funeral of Israeli Sergeant Daniel Kedmi, killed in the recent war in Gaza.
Yoel Esteron

-OpEd-

TEL AVIV — Have we won? Is it an annoying tie? Enough with this never-ending bickering. We just want to forget about the damn summer and move on. But where does Israel go from here?

The question of whether we won will be answered not by what happened over the summer but by what we do next. The Israeli Defense Forces are probably preparing for the next rounds of fighting in the south and the north. But hopefully Israel is more than the sum of all the threats it faces.

We are experts in national procrastination. If there were procrastination Olympics, Israel would be a top medal winner. And this isn't new. Since 1967, Israeli governments have recited the "time works for us" mantra. Golda Meir was a procrastinator until she resigned in 1974 after the Yom Kippur War ended. Yitzhak Shamir was a procrastinator who was strict about not being drawn into negotiations, God forbid.

But Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be the biggest procrastinator of all. The world expert on fighting terrorism has become a procrastination champion — Benjamin Hesitantyahu.

We have seen Mr. Hesitantyahu in all his glory during the war, but even before that, he spent his tenure specializing in so-called "conflict management." Now, after standing on the Protective Edge and making a small step forward, he again wants only quiet.

Slamming the government, while delightful, is just too easy. This government is our mirror. We must all reject procrastination and make some important, dramatic, fateful decisions. The most crucial national decision is also the most important socio-economic one: Do we want to reach peace with the Palestinians — not a ceasefire, not an arrangement but a true agreement? Two states for two peoples.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon says it's not feasible in the foreseeable future. He is one of those mocking so-called "solutionism." Other ministers do their best to thwart any chance of a two-state solution. These are legitimate opinions, worthy of a debate and resolution.

Time to decide

We've gone too many years without decisions. Maybe we grew to believe we could live our comfortable lives in the "villa in the jungle," as Ehud Barak called it before running away to look after his own interests.

This war was a painful reminder that repressed problems tend to raise their heads on inconvenient occasions. We have to decide: Do we continue clashing with Hamas and other terrorists, or do we try and reach conciliation with moderate Palestinians? The third alternative — managing the conflict on the back burner — doesn't really work. We saw during the summer how something on the back burner can become a big fire.

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Secretary of State Kerry dines with Mr "Hesitantyahu." (photo- U.S. State Deptartment)

ISIS and others like them have added fuel to the regional fire. The most disappointing U.S. president in a long time said several days ago that the U.S. had no strategy for ISIS, though he has since said he is developing one with allies. America can probably afford Barack Obama. The ocean lets it live without a strategy. But there is no ocean separating Israel and Syria.

We have to decide whether it's better to postpone, or to expedite, negotiations with moderate Palestinians amid the growing threat from ISIS and like-minded terrorists. My logic says a peace treaty with the Palestinians headed by Mahmoud Abbas must be quickly advanced to allow cooperation with moderate forces in the Arab world.

Perhaps I'm wrong. If you are of different opinion, that's OK. Just look the truth straight in the eye and say, "We don't want two states for two people. We prefer fighting with Hamas over and over again. We are willing to sacrifice our economy, to shrink our civil agenda, to cut social budgets, to lower the quality of education and health care, to delay infrastructure and transport, and to give up on culture."

This is the bitter truth — those threats are too costly for us. The state budget is not big enough for everyone. If there is one thing we have learned this summer, it is that we cannot continue to practice the procrastination approach known as conflict management. We have to decide what we want.


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