Israel’s government has had a sort of wink and nod policy toward peace negotiations for the past few years, stalling in the face of any concrete offers then blaming the Palestinians for a lack of progress.
But the current Israeli government isn’t just facing a public/private disconnect on the peace process – now officials are openly divided on the notion, and willing to fight about it publicly.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, supposedly the Israeli negotiator, claims support for the two-state solution is her policy, and that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That statement, echoed meaninglessly by countless Israeli officials over the past decade, was angrily rebuffed by Jewish Home, whose leader Economic Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett rejects Palestine in and of itself, and wants to annex the West Bank and Gaza, claiming it is God’s will.
Jewish Home condemned Livni and got into an open debate with her about the position in the parliament, with Livni conceding the point that God gave Israel the occupied territories, while warning that keeping them outright would threaten the Jewish majority.
This is the age old “demographics problem” for Israel, which has occupied a large Arab population whose land it desperately wants, but who as citizens would become a voting force to be reckoned with. Israel struggles enough to maintain a “Jewish, democratic identity” as it is, with a relatively small and in many ways openly persecuted Israeli Arab minority. Such a pretense would be impossible if millions of Palestinians went from victims of occupation to outright citizens.
This fact is not lost on the anti-peace crowd, and is the source of the ideas to make Arabs commit to loyalty oaths to the eternal “Jewish nature” of Israel, as a way to effectively disenfranchise them (more than they already are). The center-left has always seen these schemes as unworkable, but without the popular support to make a two-state solution happen, they seem to be content to just give lip-service to peace. If they can’t even get away with doing that anymore, the government may be headed for an ugly breakup.