National Newswatch
National Opinion Centre
Injustice knows no borders.  It’s therefore no surprise that progressive parties tend to emulate each other. In both Canada and Israel, the NDP and my Labor party – Ha’Avoda – share a core mission: an economy that works for all with a strong social safety net. We are pushing back against racism and ultra-nationalism to build a more tolerant and inclusive society.

When it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict, our parties also stand together with other left-wing parties around the globe. We want a two-state solution, with the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, to protect the rights, dignity, and security of the two peoples living in this land. It was my party that initiated the peace process 25 years ago and flies the flag for peace in Israel today.

Our support for Palestinian statehood is unbreakable, born of our conviction that two-states is the only just solution to this conflict.

What is problematic is the Palestinian appeal to international institutions – such as the Palestinian Authority’s call for unilateral recognition.  This appeal is intended to replace, not complement, negotiations. It seeks to bypass Israel and achieve Palestinian statehood in the international arena, a strategy evident in Mahmoud Abbas’s 2014 decision to sign requests to join 15 international bodies, thus signifying the beginning of the end of the last round of final status talks.

Leaving every major point of dispute unresolved, this process can neither bring peace nor complement negotiations. Unilateral recognition undermines the process of reconciliation. It tells the Palestinians they need not discuss the hard issues and finer details of borders, security, and refugees – because they will be granted statehood by international proclamation. Recognition cannot assist negotiations because the former is intended to usurp the latter. This is a recipe not for peace but for perpetual conflict.

And, lest we forget that it takes two to tango, Western progressives must not buy into the simplistic notion that peace is Israel’s gift to bestow upon the Palestinians. As we saw in Gaza, Israel’s withdrawal was no guarantee of conflict resolution. Palestinians must make peace with Israel as much as the converse. Here again, recognition achieves nothing: it will not cause Hamas to halt its missile attacks; it will not encourage the PA to cease payments to terrorists to incentivise murders of Israeli civilians; it will not convince Mahmoud Abbas to cease his antisemitic screeds and Holocaust revisionism. Unilateral recognition offers a free diplomatic gift whilst demanding no Palestinian concessions essential to peace.

In Israeli politics, moves against Israel in the international arena hinder the left too, encouraging the right’s ‘us against them’ mentality, where Likud claims only belligerence and militarism can keep us safe. It undercuts the left’s attempts to promote diplomacy and reconciliation and provides easy distractions from the corruption investigations swirling around Prime Minister Netanyahu, which have caused many Israelis to protest in the streets.

Progressives abroad turning against Israel hinders the fight for progressive causes within Israel. Given the obstinacy and direction of Israel’s Likud-led government, unilateral recognition may seem tempting. But, to change the direction of Israel’s government, Israelis must put the left in power. If our international partners want to help us, they should avoid playing into Likud’s hands. It is international solidarity, not hostility, that will strengthen Israel’s left.

If the case against recognition is one of process, the one against boycotts and sanctions is one of principle. We Israelis understand what BDS truly is: the revival of anachronistic Palestinian nationalism that seeks a Palestinian state ‘from the river to the sea’ – this from BDS founder Omar Barghouti, who proclaims the ‘death’ of the two-state solution and calls for the “euthanasia” of Israel. This is not a movement compatible with peace, progressive values, or a two-state solution, and all Israelis – from across the political spectrum – oppose this movement vociferously.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be on the agenda at the NDP conference in Ottawa this week, which I hope will be an opportunity for progressives on both sides of the Atlantic to unite behind a vision of two states for two peoples, eschewing violence, and committed to a negotiated resolution to the conflict. Canada’s left must abandon neither the principles that have united our two parties nor the diplomatic principles that have brought us to the brink of peace before. The campaign for peace is better fought together.

Michal Biran has twice been elected to the Israeli Knesset as a Labour MK and was the first female president of the Israeli young Labour movement.

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on National Newswatch are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.
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