Saturday, July 19, 1997

Two Capitals in One United Jerusalem

Anyone faintly interested in an Israeli-Palestinian peace understands that this goal can be attained only if peace means, inter alia, sovereign Palestinian presence in Jerusalem. After Peace Now and the broad-based women’s peace movement, Bat Shalom had come out in support for the Two Capitals demand, it seemed rather strange that MERETZ was still hiding behind some vague formula on the Jerusalem issue. An initiative to update the MERETZ program, sponsored by MK’s Naomi Hazan, Dedi Zucker and other leading activists was beaten back, after party leader, MK Yossi Sarid attacked it. The vote was provisional (21 to 13) and a final decision is to be taken at a coming meeting of the MERETZ Council. Sarid’s argument against the suggested change was that it was a diversion from the urgent main task of ridding Israel of the Netanyahu government and he went so far as to claim that the proposed resolution would sabotage the peace process. Sarid did not explain why the new resolution would weaken the battle against Netanyahu…
Most of the knowledge that we have about Ehud Barak, the newly elected chair of the Labor Party, is hardly encouraging. However, Barak certainly took a step in the right direction two days after Sarid blocked the Two Capital resolution in MERETZ. Barak was roundly booed at a celebration marking 30 years of settlement on the Golan. After Netanyahu told the assembled crowd of Golan settlers just what they wanted to hear: We will win peace through strength, Ehud Barak repeated Rabin’s formula that the “depth of the withdrawal will be proportionate to the extent of the peace.” Barak who was loudly jeered since the formula raises the possibility of a full withdrawal for full-scale peace, told the assembly: “I suggest that you listen carefully. I did not come to spread illusions of a deluxe peace without compromises and moral dilemmas. There is no such thing.”(Ha’aretz, July 18, 197).
Were Barak to subscribe to Sarid’s logic, he might have continued to evade a clear statement against Netanyahu’s policy on the Golan, especially as the Golan is basically a Labor party constituency. The answer has been written large on the wall of Israeli politics ever since Rabin’s murder, if not before that: Labor had a credibility gap because it wanted the public to believe that peace was possible without real concessions by Israel. When it was time to talk business to the public and explain why peace was possible and how it could be attained, the Labor party started to hem and haw in order to convince voters that they would make less concessions than the Likud. This sad strategy of trying to fool the public instead of disclosing clear, honest and open leadership was one of the keys to Labor’s dismal failure at the polls in May 1996.
Now we will see if Barak follows Sarid’s lead and runs for cover, or if Sarid follows Barak’s lead and lifts his opposition to a long over due political change in the MERETZ program, which is necessary to dispel “illusions about a deluxe peace without compromises.”