Gershon Baskin

Israel needs a fully functioning opposition


Gershon Baskin. Photo: Otmar Steinbicker

No credible alternative for Israel’s leadership is out there – only a slightly improved version of the original, which has proven to be a failure for almost 20 years now, marching Israel directly into the pandora’s box of bi-nationalism.

A key aspect of any parliamentary democracy alongside a majority coalition government is a vibrant and fully functioning opposition presenting to the public feasible alternatives to the government’s positions.

The role of the opposition is not solely to oppose the government coalition in votes of no confidence and then make speeches against whatever the prime minister and his government propose, it is mainly to present viable and convincing alternatives to the public that has to decide who to vote for.

Israel’s opposition, headed by the Zionist Union and its chairman Isaac Herzog, seems to spend a lot more time trying to convince the Israeli public that he can be a better Netanyahu than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He would be more honest, more transparent, friendlier with the US, more supportive of a political process with the Arabs. He also promises to provide more security for Israel and Israelis.

Herzog is not very convincing, because Israel does not need a better Netanyahu, Israel needs an alternative to Netanyahu. Neither Herzog nor Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid have presented to the Israeli public a convincing platform with regard to how they would confront Israel’s challenges, the most important being the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Herzog and Lapid, the other possible opposition leader, like Netanyahu claim that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is not a partner. Herzog and Lapid’s “vision” for peace is no different than that of Netanyahu – more walls, fences, and separation between Israel and the Palestinians. Would Herzog and Lapid succeed where Netanyahu has failed? They need to present alternative policies that could actually make a change in the relations between the two peoples living in this land. I have not been able to discern a substantive policy difference.

No credible alternative for Israel’s leadership is out there – only a slightly improved version of the original, which has proven to be a failure for almost 20 years now, marching Israel directly into the pandora’s box of bi-nationalism.

When challenged to be more concrete and to demonstrate possible partnership with the Palestinians and their leader, Herzog’s response is: what can I do? I am only the head of the opposition – I have no power.

That is what he said to me when I challenged him to tell to the Israeli public that reaching agreements with the Palestinians is possible. Herzog and Abbas, through their trusted emissaries, reached agreements for the principles of peace on all of the core issues and on important matters of security about one month before the previous elections. The premise of those talks, that took place between Herzog and Abbas and then between their emissaries, was to demonstrate to the people on both sides that there were true partners for peace in Israel and in Palestine. Herzog has never demonstrated the political courage to stand behind what was agreed and to continue to press forward on building a partnership with Palestinian leaders.

I have repeatedly made the claim that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians support peace and believe that they themselves are peaceful, but have no peace partner on the other side. The entrenched belief in both Israel and Palestine that there is no partner on the other side is strengthened by the continued actions and statements of both sides. When Israelis and Palestinians are challenged with the question of whether if there was a real partner for peace on the other side would they be willing to make substantive concessions to secure that peace, the overwhelming number of people on both sides respond positively. For this reason I believe that the major task for those in both societies who support peace is to demonstrate the existence of partners. The rebuilding of Israeli-Palestinian partnerships across the conflict lines is an essential element of demonstrating to the publics on both sides that we can find partners if we search for them and that working on building partnerships builds the genuine path toward peace.

The work of building partnerships across the conflict lines is mainly the task of civil society today – including non-governmental organizations, businesses and academia. The work of building partnerships at the leadership level is in the hands of the leaders and when the government coalition fails to undertake this existential task, it is left to the opposition to do it.

Netanyahu and his coalition members have refused to every attempt to search for partners on the other side. In the past few months I have approached three different ministers in the Israeli cabinet proposing to them to conduct discreet, private meetings with senior PA officials. All refused. Only one of them even spoke to the prime minister about it and was told not to meet; the two others refused to even bring the matter up.

The Palestinian officials were and are prepared to meet anyone that I have so far proposed.

I have not given up those efforts to get officials from both sides to begin to talk peace again. I have not yet found the leaders from the Right in Israel who are willing to meet their counterparts in Palestine. If that does not happen, we need credible leaders from the opposition to stand up and reach out to the other side.

Partnerships will have to be built and the sooner the better. The more credible the leaders are on the Israeli side, the faster the Israeli and Palestinian publics will understand that we must work on building partnerships.

Gershon Baskin ist Autor des Aachener Friedensmagazins Seine Beiträge finden Sie hier

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Beiträge von Gershon Baskin

Israel needs a fully functioning opposition

Putting the end forward

Speaking peace out loud and all over

Secret back channels

Left, Right, Zionist, anti-Zionist

Clear and measurable steps


Palestine-Jordan confederation and peace

The waiting game

The apology, democracy and peace

Sisi, the peace broker


The republic of Israel-Palestine?

My enemy's leader

De-risking peace - Part 5

De-risking peace - Part 4

De-risking peace - Part 3

De-risking peace - Part 2

De-risking peace - Part 1

The Left is right

The French connection

The United Nations and Israel’s legitimacy

A moment of opportunity

The darkness of our times

Addressing the core

The worst negotiations, the best negotiations

Palestinian turmoil and Israeli interests

This one is for you - the Palestinians

Palestinian suffering makes no sense for Israel

Creating a compelling vision for peace

It is also in our hands

Sooner or later

There is no partner

There is no partner


Yes, it is difficult to make peace

What does he really want?

To those who oppose Israeli-Palestinian peace

Israel – my sad home

Have I got news for you

It is still not too late for peace

Netanyahu, tell us what you really think!

The partnership challenge

The binational reality that we are experiencing

Abbas is still the leader who can make peace

A new intifada?

After Abbas

The distance between here and peace and security

Doing the wrong thing at that wrong time

The one and only solution!

Yeshayahu Leibowitz was right!

The disengagement – 10 years on: What we choose to forget

Needed - a new approach to Gaza

A bad agreement is better than no agreement

Obviously no peace now, so what then?

Ramadan Kareem!

Israel’s strategic choices regarding Gaza

Anti-normalization hypocrites

FIFA, soccer and the Palestinians

Both sides now

It’s time for Palestine

The citizens’ challenge – from despair to hope

We have the chance to do the right thing in Yarmouks

The world is not against us

This is what you voted for, and this is what you will get

The no decision elections

A cautious peace, but peace nevertheless

For the sake of Israel, Netanyahu must be sent home

Going ballistic even prior to an agreement

To the new IDF chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot

The Peace Bridge

The choices we must make

Israeli elections – It’s not about the economy

Threats and security


Returning to negotiations

Our most important elections

The missed opportunities

We want peace, but they don't

Our future is in our hands

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Unlike religious wars, political wars have solutions

Today and tomorrow

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Jerusalem of peace, Jerusalem of war

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The end of the ceasefire, the renewal of war and the end game

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Mutual and reciprocal recognition

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My Conversation With Hamas

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