Critics warn that Israel is playing with fire by ignoring an issue so central to its future.
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat predicted disastrous consequences if Israelis didn’t give priority to resolving the conflict. ‘‘Ignoring facts doesn’t mean they don’t exist,’’ Erekat said. ‘‘They ignore the fact that there’s been an abnormal occupation going on since 1967. That is surely political blindness that has always led to disasters.’’
In the past, Palestinian frustration with impasses in peacemaking has boiled over into bloodshed — and in recent weeks violence has increased in the West Bank, while Israeli fears have risen over the possibility of a third Palestinian uprising.
Political commentator Sima Kadmon said in the Yedioth Aharonoth daily newspaper that the strategy was to brand the Labor Party as a social party while rejecting and ignoring diplomatic issues, but she said ‘‘Yachimovich has gone too far.’’
Entering that vacuum is Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister and top negotiator with the Palestinians. She formed her own party, The Movement, several weeks ago, and by stridently attacking Netanyahu on the Palestinian issue and calling for a new peace push she has taken support from Lapid and Yachimovich.
‘‘I came to fight for peace,’’ she said two weeks ago, in announcing her new party’s formation. ‘‘I won’t allow anyone to turn peace into a bad word.’’
A peacemaking agenda has also kept the small Meretz Party on the fringes of Israeli politics for years.
It may not matter much unless one of these parties starts taking votes from the right-wing bloc.
A poll in the Maariv daily this weekend showed Labor with 20 of the 120 Knesset seats, well behind Likud at 38; Livni and Lapid’s parties stood at 9 and 8 respectively; Meretz had three; Kadima, the former governing party that Livni once led and that briefly displaced Labor at the top of the center-left bloc, is seen as wiped out. And overall, the Likud-led rightist bloc had 67 seats, enough for re-election. The poll surveyed 501 people and had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.
Disillusionment with peacemaking is hardly new. Palestinian suicide attacks and drive-by shootings that followed interim peace accords of the 1990s created an uproar that peaked with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination at the hands of a Jewish extremist who opposed his peace moves. The disenchantment took root even further when Palestinians launched a new uprising against Israel in late 2000 after the two sides failed to reach a U.S.-brokered accord.
The concept of trading land for peace drew increasing skepticism here after Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000 and from the Gaza Strip in 2005 exposed the country to rocket attacks — and eventually led to wars — on both fronts. Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert, says he offered the Palestinians all of Gaza, the vast majority of the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem in 2008 — but the offer was not accepted and he was soon out of office; Palestinians dispute the details of this claim.
If anything, peacemaking seems to be preoccupying foreign powers more than it is troubling Israelis. Leaders from the United States and European Union regularly call for a resumption of peace talks.
Political scientist Zeev Sternhell said Israeli politicians are making a big mistake by acting as if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the country’s burning problem. His logic — increasingly dominant among Israelis on the center-left — was primarily demographic: If a Palestinian state isn’t set up soon, Israel will find itself ruling a Palestinian population that is larger than its Jewish one — and the existence of Palestinian autonomy zones set up in the 1990s will not be enough for a true separation.
‘‘If we don’t partition, we will have an apartheid state or a binational state,’’ Sternhell said. ‘‘That’s not what Zionism set out to do.’’