Minority Rule in Israel

My Atlantic colleague Jeffrey Goldberg has offered this observation on the issue of whether Israelis want peace with the Palestinians:

Polls show that a majority of Israelis support a two-state solution and territorial compromise. The Israelis I know, left and right, would much rather not send another generation of sons and daughters to army service.

I completely agree with Goldberg.  Most Israelis I know want peace and some version of a two-state solution. 

I helped establish the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation directed by former Israel government trade negotiator Daniel Levy, who was one of the whirling dervishes of the Geneva Initiative, as well as Amjad Atallah, who is now Bureau Chief of the Americas of Al Jazeera, because I not only thought that a two state deal was vital but believed in the many polls done then showing that both Israelis and Palestinians in their respective majorities favored a peace deal.

Goldberg wrote the item above as a counterpoint to something I had written suggesting I was saying that Israelis didn't want peace. He reposts from my piece on Obama and the Palestinian statehood bid:

What Obama doesn't get is that a substantial portion of Israel's population loves not having a deal and never wants one.  They are OK with a peace process to nowhere -- but that is not acceptable for the less-endowed, less-powerful Palestinian side.  Hamas is in the rejectionist corner as well, seeing its fortunes rise as earnest efforts at peace go nowhere.

Jeffrey 'rounded up' what I actually wrote.  Not a big deal -- but it does give me an opportunity to raise the issue of ineffective majorities and effective minorities in the Israel-Palestine divide.

I clearly qualify my comment above on the number of Israelis not desiring piece as "substantial portion" rather than using "majority".  In Jeffrey Goldberg's own writing about Benjamin Netanyahu, about the influential two-state rejectionist Pamela Geller, about many in the equation about Israel-Palestine issue who ultimately don't trust any Palestinian leadership structure enough to do a deal.

I am not going to argue that a majority of Israelis don't want peace.  Of course, they do, and this is something that we should applaud -- but that has been true for a very long time -- and the fact is that majority perspectives don't seem to matter when it comes to Israel-Palestine deal-making.

What matters are the minorities, particularly the violent ones -- Hamas in Palestine, and the settlers who keep pushing out the frontiers of what they consider to be Greater Israel in the Occupied territories.

Both of these minority groups are rejecting the two state peace track -- and any successful outcome will depend upon resilience, upon strong support of those who want peace against the minorities willing to do do anything to capsize a track -- even the initiation of the process -- towards a fair, final deal.

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Steve Clemons is Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live. He writes frequently about politics and foreign affairs. More

Clemons is a senior fellow and the founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C., where he previously served as executive vice president. He writes and speaks frequently about the D.C. political scene, foreign policy, and national security issues, as well as domestic and global economic-policy challenges.

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