Da’am Central Committee, February 2020
The party’s decision to run again for elections this third time stems from the fact that the political plan we are proposing, based on the principle of “one state – green economy”, becomes a more realistic program with each passing day. The “two-state” solution, on the table since the 1970s and later translated, with the assistance of the PLO and Arafat, into the failed and tarnished project of the Oslo Accords, came to its inevitable end in the Deal of the Century. With its very own hands, the Palestinian Authority assisted in creating the fragmented Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, under de facto Israeli control. The Deal of the Century is an annexation plan of the West Bank to Israel, and a final end to the idea of an independent Palestinian state.
Following the December 2018 dissolution of the twentieth Knesset, we decided to run for elections, presenting to the Israeli public for the first time the “one state” program. Together with the idea of “one state”, we adopted the concept of a green economy, known in the United States and now in Europe as a “Green New Deal.”
The political solution we propose rests on a plan for a green economy, in which cooperation and unification of resources between Israelis and Palestinians will occur. We took this decision despite full knowledge that there exists no political power in Israel today, whether Jewish or Arab, that conceptually or practically comes close to this program. Even amongst non-Zionist leftists who regard Da’am’s platform as a beautiful idea, the prevailing view is that it is unrealistic, so it is better to strengthen the Zionist leftist bloc or the Joint Arab List to defeat the right.
However, the decision to run for elections came precisely from recognition of the reality being formed before our very eyes: Israeli political and economic sovereignty over the occupied territories, i.e. the existence of one state functioning through two different regimes: apartheid in the West Bank and a democratic regime within the 1967 borders. This “arrangement”, which was accepted by both the Palestinian Authority and, more recently, tacitly by Hamas, removed the Palestinian problem from political discourse. It is no coincidence that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was shelved in the last elections, in which the entire discourse focused on the superficial question “yes to Bibi” or “anyone but Bibi.”
The interest that Da’am takes in the Arab Spring is another issue absent from Israeli public debate, and was foundational in our decision to run for elections. Throughout the entire Arab region, from Lebanon to Sudan, through Iraq and even in Iran itself, we are witness to protest movements of young people challenging their oppressive and corrupt regimes. The slogans, methods of struggle and demands raised by the protest movements in Lebanon and Iraq, which are essentially calls against corruption and the old order, further reflect frustration existing among young people in the West Bank and Gaza. The Arab Spring’s ideas and methods of struggle cross borders and nationalities, rendering it inevitable that the day will come when Palestinian youth also adopt them. Palestinian young people suffer not only from the Israeli occupation, but also from the leaderships of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Our goal is to illuminate the option of a one state solution for both voters in Israel, Arabs and Jews, and for future Palestinian youth movements, which will arise following the complete loss of confidence in the Palestinian Authority and the two-state solution.
Whether Trump and Netanyahu intended it or not, the document presented in the White House as a historic event brought the discussion of a political solution back to center stage. The PA’s agreement to the ambiguity of the Oslo Accords, alongside its security cooperation with the occupation authorities, have allowed Israel to create facts on the ground and remove any practical possibility to establish two states. The Deal of the Century legitimizes the application of Israeli law on the settlements and the annexation of at least 30 percent of the West Bank to Israel, including the Jordan Valley. The document defines Israel as having military sovereignty over 100 percent of the area, neutering any plan for the existence of an independent Palestinian economy and society.
The Israeli arena is now divided between supporters of the program and its opponents. The left, which understands the Palestinians will be unable to accept it, argues that the program eliminates the two-state solution and the character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The Israeli left’s concern is that, with the plan’s implementation, Israel will become a bi-national state, thereby putting an end to its ideology and the Zionist program.
Political maneuvering and a new Zionist consensus
The announcement of the Deal of the Century at the present time was a political exercise by Trump, who provided Netanyahu with a “gift” to help save the latter’s political future and win the upcoming elections. Its implications, however, are extremely dangerous. Although revealing the Deal of the Century at the present time was purely declarative – after all, it did not gain Palestinian agreement or Arab and international consensus – the reaction within Israel, especially by Benny Gantz and the Blue and White Party, created a new political situation. The Deal of the Century principles formed a new Israeli consensus. This consensus encompasses the vast majority of Zionist parties, with the exception of Labor and Meretz, whose Knesset representation is ten out of 120 seats (Editor’s note – in the March elections they have shrunk to 7).
Netanyahu tried to set a political trap for Gantz by inviting him to participate in the historic declaration at the White House. Netanyahu’s goal was to manipulate Gantz into an impossible situation, in which any answer would be a win for him. Gantz’s agreement, which means giving political support to Netanyahu, depicts his Blue and White party as acting out of petty motives when it seeks to prevent Netanyahu’s immunity during such “historic” moments. Gantz’s refusal, on the other hand, would put himself and his party in a bad situation vis-a-vis the White House and Trump as a future leader.
While Gantz managed to avoid falling into Netanyahu’s trap by arranging a separate meeting with the president in the White House, he failed to downplay the dimensions of the Trump campaign organized by Netanyahu with the army of settlers, Sheldon Adelson, and evangelical emissaries in the background. As we said, Gantz views the US deal as a positive statement of intent, despite stating his reservations about its immediate implementation, and emphasising the need to discuss its details after the election while negotiating implementation with the Palestinian side. As mentioned, accepting the principles of the Deal of the Century in everything related to Jerusalem, borders and settlements – expresses a new Israeli consensus.
The Deal of the Century and the new consensus on annexation of all Israeli settlements (except for illegal outposts) replaces the previous consensus that addressed only annexation of the settlement blocs, which constitute 7 percent of the West Bank. As we know, the Palestinian side rejected the plan for settlement bloc annexation as it would prevent establishment of a sovereign state with territorial contiguity. Today, when settlers and extreme right-wingers are at the center of political decision-making in Israel, including as ministers for defense, education, transportation and law, the settlements have become an integral part of Israel. There is no political force today that calls for the evacuation of settlements and believes that a separation agreement can be reached between the Palestinians and Israelis. The new consensus turns the settlements, a violation of international law, into legal entities, leaving no room but for the establishment of a mini-Palestinian state on what remains of the land, without territorial contiguity, without an army, without borders and without true sovereignty. This sanctifies the existing situation, which now has a new name – the Deal of the Century or more accurately: apartheid.
The Deal of the Century and the Palestinian Authority
The immediate question is what the PA should do in response to the Deal of the Century? The clear and direct answer: notify of its resignation and return the keys to Israel. What makes more sense than imposing on Israel full responsibility for the besieged Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza, who have lost any hope of achieving their human and civil rights? Unfortunately, there is no way this will happen. The Palestinian Authority has become a body whose sole purpose is to serve itself, and all means are acceptable. The absurdity is that while the Deal of the Century eliminates any possibility of establishing a Palestinian state, it gambles that the PA will continue to exist. If there was real concern that announcement of the deal would lead to the fall of the PA, the US government would not have approved it. The Israeli and American governments are confident that the PA, as well as Hamas in Gaza, will not relinquish their rule, even at the cost of legitimizing settlements and giving up a sovereign state.
The Palestinian Authority does not intend to return the keys to Israel for several reasons. The PA (1) is aware of the need it fills for Israel and the United States, despite the economic penalties of the White House and Israel; (2) is waiting for an end to the Netanyahu era, and to fulfillment of the promise by Benny Gantz and Blue and White, according to which the American plan will not be implemented without Palestinian agreement. (3) is waiting to see what happens in the 2020 US elections, in the hope that Trump will not be elected and sanity will return to the White House.
Even if there is no change in the West Bank’s current situation in the near future, and Israeli sovereignty is not formally and legally implemented, there exists no basis for the hope that the wheel can be turned back and public discourse restored to the idea of two states. Twenty-seven years after the Oslo Accords, the Israeli position that opposes an independent Palestinian state while supporting continued settlement, remains in control. Even the significant step of a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip turned out to be a boomerang against the Palestinians, as in its wake came the Hamas coup against Abu Mazen’s Authority. The split between the West Bank and Gaza has been going on for 13 years with no unity in sight, and what’s more Israel is not at all interested in its reunification.
Da’am presents a radical solution to the Deal of the Century
The current election campaign is characterized by extreme polarization between the right-wing camp, led by Netanyahu, and the left-wing center camp, led by Gantz. The right-wing camp includes the Likud, the New Right and the ultra-orthodox and religious parties. The second camp includes Blue and White, the Labor-Gesher-Meretz party list and the Joint Arab List. The problem is that because Blue and White considers itself to be no less a part of the national camp than the Likud, it is not attacking the right-wing political plan, instead directing all its fire at Netanyahu personally. The strategic goal of Blue and White is to defeat Netanyahu and obtain a parliamentary majority, and then to establish a unity government which will include both camps. Gantz’s agreement with the principles of the Deal of the Century essentially conceals the political divide between him and the Likud, in order to attract right-wing Likud voters. Therefore, those who support the slogan “anyone but Bibi” should take into account that their support would help Gantz establish a unity government following the elections.
The Labor-Gesher-Meretz list, for which the two-state program was part of its essence (mainly Meretz), unreservedly supports Gantz, thus indicating a major political retreat. Meretz’s adherence to the two-state plan, which became particularly unrealistic following declaration of the Deal of the Century, weakens Meretz’s role as a significant leftist political force. The Israeli left is paralysed, bruised and helpless, and supports Gantz as someone who may bring down Netanyahu. Moreover, the left’s support for national separation between Israelis and Palestinians is intended to maintain Israel’s purity as a Jewish (and democratic) state, more than to solve the problem of the Palestinians. In reality, however, the opposite is happening – the imposed economic regime in the West Bank and the widespread expansion of settlements renders Israelis and Palestinians inextricably linked, while effectively eliminating any possibility of creating a new social and political order based on equality and partnership, and perpetuating a regime of ethnic discrimination.
The Joint Arab List, too, is deadlocked. After previously recommending Gantz as prime minister in order to overthrow Netanyahu, it was disgracefully ignored by Gantz, while Blue and White refuses to rely on its support in any way to form the coalition. The primary goal declared by the Joint List for the upcoming elections is to increase the percentage of voting within Arab society in order to reach 14 (as opposed to the current 13) Knesset representatives. The question asked, of course, is for what?
The Joint List continues to stick to the position that the main thing is to overthrow Netanyahu, even after Gantz made it clear that he supports the Deal of the Century principles (even if not their immediate implementation), while the Joint List opposes them. We must, therefore, expect the Joint List to recommend Gantz after the next elections, and to do so without receiving any political benefit. The Joint List appears as a force lacking in principled positions on important questions. It has none regarding the Arab Spring and the revolutions in Lebanon and Iraq; and none in relation to the democratic movement in Iran, which opposes the regime of religious priests. As a self-declared Arab-sectoral party, the Joint List neutralises itself from having any influence in the Israeli political arena. In order to prevent divisions amongst its various components, it deliberately avoids any internal debate. For example, issues such as the status of women, freedom of speech, individual rights – all encounter a wall of silence.
Da’am does not belong to any of the camps. Through the election campaign, we strive to build a third, non-sectoral and non-sectarian camp. A camp that will provide a secular and democratic alternative. A camp to connect Israelis and Palestinians on the basis of opposition to Israel’s apartheid regime in the occupied territories and to the PA’s corrupt autonomy. After it became clear that the main beneficiaries of the Trump deal were settlers and the far-right, and yet both Netanyahu and Gantz accepted it, conditions were created to introduce a new and radical solution.
Our participation in the current election campaign differs from that in previous ones. Legitimization of the expected annexation of Israeli settlements, with US support and a cross-party consensus in Israel, made the idea of one state realistic.
For most of the Palestinian people living in poverty and lacking in rights, the ideal solution is to create one state instead of the corrupt autonomy regime. Such a solution requires removing the checkpoints and crossings between Israel and the occupied territories, and drafting a constitution that takes into account all citizens, Israelis and Palestinians alike. In light of the fact that the gates for a diplomatic solution based on separation have been shuttered, Israeli society will also have to deal with a matter of primary political and economic significance in the near future – whether it is prepared to accept an apartheid regime and to manage the occupation of millions of Palestinians.
We urge anyone who is opposed to the occupation, oppression and apartheid to express their views and to join us in building a new camp. Not to create an ethnic separation, but to call for an Israeli- Palestinian partnership for a democratic and equitable future, based on one law for everyone and one green economy, that will serve everyone. We know this is a long-term process, which will also be integrated with democratic change in neighbouring countries, a change that is already beginning to emerge in the Arab Spring and the demands of protest movements in our region for democracy and economic progress.