Elie Barnavi is an Israeli historian and political scientist based in Brussels. He is the former Israeli ambassader to Paris and the author of several books. With the Israeli election hours away Barnavi, a former member of Peace Now, shines a light on the current political situation inside Israel… where he believes that only the United States can save Israel from what he feels is the mediocrity of Israel’s political classes.
“Elie Barnavi, welcome to euronews when Israel votes does it look to the wider world or does it follow a domestic agenda?” “Firstly, I think Israel is the only democracy where the international agenda is very important, where as in Europe people vote on issues closer to home, especially now in the current economic climate.” “In other words its a right wing electorate because of what’s happened in Gaza, or is the right wing tendency already deep in Israel?” No, the shift to the right has a long history that reflects a frustration with the peace process and all the broken promises. However, it is not this opinion that would come to the fore in the event of realistic and generous peace process. But no one is offering anything, hence the move to the right. “So, its a failure of leadership?” “There are two problems.We have a body politic that is mediocre, similar to the west, the best, generally don’t go into politics, you find the best in High Tech, university, or the army. The political class is of a low level, mediocre. And then of course we have a system of proportional representation, which adds to the mediocrity of it all.” “But what if they find a solution to the problem in Gaza and come up with a workable peace process.” “We just don’t have a choice, we must leave the territories. but when we do we kick out tens of thousands of settlers I do not see anyone capable of it in Israel, not Netanyahu, nor Tzipi Livni or Barak. Indeed, that is why for me personally the winner of this election is not very important, perhaps it is better if Netanyahu wins, that way at least we all know where we stand. We must end the farce of the peace process. the way it is it will not lead to peace…but illusion. “What kind of solution would you like?” “It cannot be the exclusive concern of the Israelis and the Palestinians..but it must involve the international community, the United States holds the key. The only way out is via the new admistration in Âmerica along with Europe the quartet must say “OK enough is enough, these are the parameters where we work and we expect results,” that is feasible because no Israeli government-no matter who leads it-can withstand real American pressure and committment.” “That will be a return to a protectorate, something imposed from outside by a power or powers?” “ Yes, that’s very good, very good it’s not the first time George Bush senior took Shamir, Shamir to Madrid. If the Americans really want something they will get it as long as they don’t wait for the end of a presidential term to get down to work. I believe Obama is the chance. Its important to understand that it dosen’t matter what you call it a protectorate, its not important.” “What pressure can the US bring to bear on both sides.?” “Instruments exist, it was a model of negotiation, not negotiation, solution. Since 2002, following the Saudi announcement…for the first time in decades a major Arab state said it would not only make peace with Israel but normalise relations with it, provided they leave the territories and a viable Palestinian state is created. The Saudi proposal was endorsed by the Arab League. That was a missed opportunity, its a pity.” “ The Saudi proposal was a form of recognition from many Arab countries, primarily Saudi Arabia? “No, implicit and explicit. There is the emergence of Iran. The creation of a radical Shi’ite arc that scared the moderate Sunni states and we can see them panicing.” We can see a revolutionary configuration, with the Sunni Arabs shrinking, losing their influence in favour of non-Arab powers; Iran, Israel and Turkey. They are aware of it and are trying to keep the Iranians at bay. And the campaign against Hamas, the war on Gaza, must be seen in this context. And Israel…if it had the leadership it needs, should take advantage of the situation to make peace with the Sunni world.” “Yes, but to make peace Israel must abandon the settlements. Is Israel prepared to do this?” “ Yes, the answer is yes and it was proven at the time the settlements were dismantled in Gaza. What challenges did the extremist settlers put up. Israeli society cares for them, but there was nothing, nothing. All the opinion polls show an overwhelming majority of Israelis are in favour of a solution and the price is the abandonment of Judea and Samaria.” Completle withdrawal , they are ready for anything even the division of Jerusalem.