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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/8/20

Israel's 'Peace Camp' Flirts With Oblivion

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For Israel's so-called peace camp, the past 12 months of general elections a third ballot is due on 2 March have felt more like a prolonged game of Russian roulette, with ever-diminishing odds of survival.

Each time the electoral gun barrel has been spun, the two parliamentary parties associated with liberal Zionism, Labor and Meretz, have braced for their imminent political demise.

And now with Israel's ultra-nationalist right celebrating the release of Donald Trump's so-called "vision" for peace, hoping it will further rally the Israeli public to its side, the left fears electoral extinction even more.

Faced with this threat, Labor and Meretz along with a third, even smaller center-right faction, Gesher announced in January that they were merging into a united list in time for the March vote.

Amir Peretz, head of Labor, was frank that the parties were being forced into an alliance.

"There's no choice, even if we're doing it against our will," he told party officials.

In September's ballot, separate Labor and Meretz parties barely scraped past the electoral threshold.

The once-dominant Labor party, whose early leaders founded Israel, won just five seats its lowest-ever polling in the 120-sear parliament.

The more left-leaning Zionist party Meretz secured just three seats. It was saved only by its own union with two smaller, supposedly centrist parties.

Always fragile

Even at the height of the Oslo process in the late 1990s, the Israeli "peace camp" was a fragile, insubstantial construct. There was little meaningful debate among Israeli Jews at the time about what concessions would be required to make peace, and indeed what a Palestinian state might look like.

Recent elections that have made Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu the longest serving Israeli prime minister and the general excitement over the Trump "peace" plan, have indicated that the constituency among Israeli Jews for a peace process even of the most mealy-mouthed variety has all but vanished.

Since Trump became US president, the chief opposition to Netanyahu has shifted from Labor to the Blue and White party, led by Benny Gantz, a former head of the Israeli military who was responsible for destroying Gaza in 2014.

His party was born a year ago, in time for last April's vote and in last year's two general elections, Gantz and Netanyahu's parties have effectively tied.

Commentators, especially in North America and Europe, have lumped Blue and White in with Labour and Meretz as the Israeli "center-left." But Gantz's party has never presented itself that way.

It is firmly on the right, attracting voters tired either of Netanyahu's much discussed corruption woes he faces imminent trial on three separate counts of fraud and bribery or of his constant pandering to the most religious sections of Israeli society, such as followers of the Orthodox rabbinate and the settler movement.

Gantz and his party have appealed to voters who hanker after a return to a more traditional, secular right-wing Zionism that Likud once represented under figures such as Ariel Sharon, Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)

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