Left-wing Israeli protestors gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday demanding that the end of this summer’s Gaza war lead to the start of fresh peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Unfortunately, Israel’s Palestinian “peace partners” were singing a different tune.
The still-not-fully-concluded Gaza war was characterized by broad unity across the Israeli public. From the left-to-the-right of the Israeli political spectrum, nearly everyone recognized the justness of combatting Gaza’s terrorist infrastructure. But the opposing sides of the Israeli polity differ greatly on what lessons must be learned from the conflagration.
Many on the Right insist that the Gaza war is yet another demonstration of why Israel cannot repeat the mistake of the 2005 Gaza disengagement by facilitating the creation of an independent Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria (the so-called “West Bank”).
On the Left, voices are calling for the Netanyahu government to take advantage of the present national unity and the strong blow dealt to Hamas to reengage Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in meaningful and direct peace negotiations.
Those voices were out in some force in Tel Aviv over the weekend.
The more radical speakers addressing the crowds filling Rabin Square tried to blame the Gaza war on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his failure to “make peace” by accepting Arab demands in previous US-brokered talks. “When there is no peace war comes,” read a sign carried by many in attendance.
More reasonable critics, like opposition leader Isaac Hertzog (Labor), do not lay the recent violence on Netanyahu, but insist he will be held accountable if the war doesn’t lead to fresh negotiations.
As usual, neither Herzog nor the rabid antagonists taking the podium in Tel Aviv on Saturday paid any attention to what the Palestinians themselves are saying.
A video posted to YouTube two weeks earlier by a branch of Abbas’ own ruling Fatah faction reaffirmed the movement’s decision to return to “open war” against the “Zionist enemy.”
Just last week, the official Fatah page on Facebook boasted that the movement has over the course of decades killed far more Jews than Hamas, which is now enjoying surging popularity in the West Bank for its determined violent struggle against Israel.
Abbas, long portrayed as a “moderate” and genuine peace partner, has failed to condemn or otherwise distance himself from these statements.
In fact, Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, via its official mouthpiece PA TV, has signaled its complicity in Fatah’s new, more violent tone. A hit music clip calling on Gazans and all Palestinians to sacrifice themselves for the ultimate prize of fully destroying Israel has been broadcast numerous times in PA TV in recent weeks.