Israel faces reset moment
January 29th, 2013
10:47 AM ET

Israel faces reset moment

By Jane Harman, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jane Harman is director, president and chief executive officer of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She was a nine-term congresswoman from California and the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee from 2002 to 2006. The views expressed are her own.

Israel’s surprising election result gives its wing-clipped prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, an opportunity to shift to the center. This option was available to him four years ago when he outmaneuvered Tzipi Livni to form a majority in the Knesset. But he chose instead to move to the right.

Now comes a reset moment. Israel’s economy is fragile, with housing prices soaring and the middle class squeezed. A majority of the mostly secular Jewish population also resents special deals cut with the ultra-Orthodox to shield them from compulsory service in the military and to provide them with benefits not available to others.

The candidates that focused on those issues – the centrist Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and the pro-settlement Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett – received the enthusiastic support of the public. Indeed, the mandate was clear: share the burden.

But it’s not just the economy, stupid. This is in fact a double reset opportunity. Although the Israeli-Palestinian peace process wasn’t the focal point of this campaign (only 18 percent of voters cited negotiations with the Palestinians as the most important issue), most Israelis do still favor a two-state solution. Indeed, a poll last month found that 67 percent of Israelis would support an agreement based on the 1967 borders, including a divided Jerusalem between the two states, with only 21 percent opposed. Even 57 percent of supporters of the Likud and Jewish Home parties said they would support such a deal.

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Unfortunately, many Israelis no longer believe peace is achievable – at least in the immediate future. But help may be on the way if Israel’s new coalition includes parties open to a deal.

That help comes in two forms. First, the expected confirmation of Senator John Kerry as secretary of state provides an experienced hand with deep personal connections in the Middle East. He has known Netanyahu for 25 years, and their relationship is solid.  He also knows and regularly visits Israel’s Arab neighbors. A trip to the region by him shortly after his confirmation could rekindle the focus on negotiations. It could also set up an overdue follow-on trip by President Obama to Israel and her neighbors.

A second source of help is the reported efforts by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy to reconcile Hamas and Fatah. Notwithstanding muscular street demonstrations by the Hamas leadership in Gaza recently, Hamas is weakened by the loss of its safe haven in Syria. Egypt wants to reassert leadership in the region and got serious respect for brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza late last year. Bringing a unified Palestinian delegation to the peace table would be a major achievement – and a blunt prod to Israel, which worries that Egypt could abandon their peace treaty.

Without a two state solution, both sides lose. Israel loses its legitimacy as a Jewish democracy once the youth bulge in the Palestinian population within its borders becomes a majority.  And Palestinians – who have made bad leadership choices but have also been pawns in a local and regional power game – lose out, once again, on the opportunity for peace and prosperity.

As Woodrow Wilson once said, “There are many voices of counsel, but few voices of vision.” As Bibi puts together his new coalition, he would be wise to remember that advice and create a team with the foresight to make sure Israel isn’t one day the biggest loser.

Will Bibi seize the mantle of peacemaker that eluded his predecessors like Rabin, Sharon, and Barak? Only he knows.

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soundoff (162 Responses)
  1. haris jihadi

    oh yea so you said that if you lose a war thats that. First of all when jerusalem became muslim land it wasnt through war with the jews, it was war with the christians. the jews claim its their land almost 1400 years after the muslims took over? why dont you have a problem with the christians who persecuted your people for hundreds of years. When muslims are NOT alound to hurts jews.

    February 8, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Reply
  2. pnm9pnm

    B.N. it,s good to see u r moveing well tord an new palestien stat good job keep working on it ya right,.pnm,.

    February 14, 2013 at 8:54 pm | Reply
  3. denis

    Israel never had any legitimacy , israel does not exist.

    February 16, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Reply
  4. please transelate and pass to the FBI, CIA AND those who care

    وردنا خبرا مؤكدا مفاده ما يلي :
    المجرم واثق البطاط يتواجد حاليا في مدينة الشعله – في بيت يقع في نهاية شارع (60) بداية منطقة الدوانم مع مجموعه من المجرمين من المليشيات التابعه لفيلق القدس الايراني وينطلق من مدينة الشعله لتنفيذ عمليات الاغتيال في مناطق الغزاليه والسيديه والعامريه وبدعم لوجستي من مكتب القائد العام للقوات المسلحه

    تعليقنا //
    اين مذكرة القاء القبض بحق هذا الارهابي يا مالكي وهو لايبعد عن مقرك في المنطقه الخضراء اكثر من 15 كيلومتر ومليشياتك وجيشك الاجرامي يحاصر احياء الاعظميه والعامريه والسيديه لكي يتحرك هذا المجرم وعصابات فيلق القدس لقتل الابرياء وتصفية المطالبين بحقوقهم المشروعه

    February 18, 2013 at 12:09 am | Reply

    the translation for you is that iraninas killers and thugs who killed many usa and many other Sunnis and cevilinas are indeed the QODOS militia that been paid by Iran and have per mition from NORI AL MALEKI prime minster of Iraq to kill any body who is against Iran ...the name of the killers at large who is wanted by the FBI and other aganencies is watheq AL bat tat SHIIA killer and who also training militia to send them to Syria to kill more cevilinas....he live in 60 street Baghdad IN THE TOWN OF SHOAL-LA IN BAGHDAD IN AREA CALLED AL DAWYEEM....,,,,,,,

    February 18, 2013 at 12:27 am | Reply


    February 25, 2013 at 8:59 pm | Reply
  7. why???

    why israel is so silent along with usa nato and un about iran and syria....hizboallah and all those terrorists in iraqi shiia and syrian shiia far they killed 82,000 cevilians, iran is going to make the A bomb so why r u waiting!!!???

    February 28, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Reply
  8. KEVIN

    75% of Israeli citizens have the exact opposite view then Netanyahu on how Israel should conduct itself with its neighbors and internationally. The problem is that this 75% is devided into many diff. parties thus not being able to obtain a one party success in an election. 75% of the Israeli population believe Netenyahu conducts himself as the "military savior" of Israel which 75% of the Israeli population know is only self-destructive for Israel to actuate peace with the palestinians and Iran and others.

    In other words, the rational and understandable and justifiable issues that Israel's niegbors have should not be directed at Israel and Jews, It should be directed at Netanyahu and his minority supporters

    March 3, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Reply
  9. KEVIN

    This is so fascinating I must expand. Most Everyone in the world (including the US) refer to a "Jewish lobby" in the US. Ironically most all of this "Jewish lobby" are NOT jews nor are they influenced by Jews, The members of this "Jewish lobby" are powerful non-jewish US political leaders who will do anything to retain a US foot hold of influence in the Middle East. They utililize the irrational ideology of prejudice and victimazation of Jews (which does not exist) to rationalize this geographic and political foot hold in the middle east. Most who practice this tactic are NOT Jews nor are they influenced by jews.

    March 3, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Reply
  10. Lao Yang

    Israel has really gone too far with its settlements. The power elite cannot be permitted to plunge us into another struggle based on false duality. The Jews are not the chosen people, and they are literally Nazis. Think on that, and you will understand the true meaning of cosmic justice.

    March 4, 2013 at 8:27 am | Reply
    • Sherri

      You are correct on the settlements. The only good thing I can say about Zionists is that thankfully, not all Jewish people condone it. The government of Israel is the leading apartheid country in the world. Their policies on Arabs and the land in the West Bank is criminal, as the UN keeps stating that Israel is breaking international laws. The time has come to stop supporting Israel's killing machine, the open air "prison" they run (Palestine and Gaza) and stop polarizing and destroying Palestinian's livelihoods and food (their farmlands are taken and destroyed and their fishing is limited by Israel).

      Almost 58 percent of Palestinians live in poverty, and about half of this group lives in extreme poverty. About 50 percent of Palestinians experience or risk experiencing food insecurity. Food insecurity is particularly severe in Gaza, where the majority of the population relies on humanitarian assistance to survive. The rate of chronic malnutrition in children under the age of five has increased, reaching almost 10 percent, and the mortality figures for children under the age of one and under the age of five have each increased by about 30 percent. Anaemia is common, with 55 percent of children under the age of three affected by the condition. Among pregnant women, the rate is 36 percent—46 percent for nursing mothers.

      March 6, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Reply
  11. cowered or what

    why UN, NATO, USA, FRANCE, UK, GERMANY AND ISRAEL are so silent 82,000 child and civelians are killed in syria on the hands of shiia thugs from iran, iraq and hizboallah along with the syrian shiia killers we must start with syria and get the road ready for iran and hizboallah to see the real peace we must get red of those shiia cult.

    March 4, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Reply

    lao yuntao you sir you dont know what you talking about god promised those lands and more to the children of jacob god gives it to whomever he wants

    March 7, 2013 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  13. Mark

    Another article about Israel written by a jewish lobbyist. Jane Harman was involved in a controversy related to an AIPAC spying scandal a few years ago.

    If you are going to have a writer publish a Jewish pro-Israeli opinion, you should also give a chance for a Palestinian opinion. That is of course if balance and objective opinion is one of CNN goals.

    March 10, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Reply
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