Israel’s dangerous drift to chauvinism may make a solution ever harder to find.
Israel cannot at the same time have all of the “Land of Israel,” a predominantly Jewish state and full democracy. Most Israelis (and many Palestinians) cannot conceive of a one-state model with equal rights for all Arabs and Jews. In reality, a one-state model means that some or all of the Palestinians would be disenfranchised. So, in the end, two states still looks like the least bad option to most Israelis and Palestinians.
IN A COUNTRY of larger-than-life leaders—founding fathers, warriors and peacemakers — it is easy to forget how long Binyamin Netanyahu has been around for. Having served as prime minister for 11 years—three years in the 1990s and eight years in his current stint — he is Israel’s second-longest holder of that office after David Ben-Gurion. He is on first-name terms with the world’s leaders. But what has he achieved?
On the big questions of war and peace, not much. He has won no big battles and secured no big peace agreements. Instead he has managed the conflict and avoided big disasters, which is no small feat. He has waged two wars against Hamas in Gaza, fending off calls for a full reinvasion. In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority co-operates on security. Hizbullah, the Lebanese Shia militia, is too busy in Syria to risk a second front with Israel, and its paymaster, Iran, is some years away from being able to make a nuclear bomb.
Above all, Mr Netanyahu stayed out of the war in Syria, restricting himself to bombing suspected Hizbullah arms convoys, retaliating against any fire from Syria and offering medical treatment to wounded civilians and fighters. Not for Mr Netanyahu the misadventures of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982.
On the peace side of the ledger, Mr Netanyahu was the first Likud prime minister to give up land to the Palestinians, pulling out of most of Hebron in 1997. He accepted the principle of a Palestinian state in 2009, albeit a demilitarized one (a “state minus,” he now calls it). In practice he has made no progress on peace, even under a moderate Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas. The international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, modelled on the boycott movements against apartheid, is noisier but remains small for now.