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Gal-On Getting It?

Zehava Gal-On is a dovish former Israeli Knesset member. She’s probably the most pacifist member of any party (in this case, Meretz) still calling itself Zionist. Gal-On is no longer in the Knesset because Meretz decided to reinvent itself by adding some negligible new members to its candidate list in the hope of challenging Labor’s grasp on the center-left electorate. Gal-On herself, confident in the party’s prospects for attracting new votes through this scheme, agreed to step down from her original slot in order to make room for a newcomer. Gal-On was supposed to be candidate number four, but the new Meretz only got three seats.

Now Gal-On, one of Israel’s most active and respected parliamentarians, is recovering from her political and personal defeat. Her first interview since the election was naturally granted to Haaretz.  In it she airs some of her frustrations with big-league mentors from the Left: On author Amos Oz’s declaration that “The Labor Party has concluded its historic role,” she says, “Oz ended up burying Labor and Meretz both.”

But the paragraph I found most intriguing in her long interview is about the Palestinian issue. Gal-On — and I cannot overemphasize her dovishness — seems to have realized, just like Avigdor Lieberman, what a joke the Annapolis Process really is. Here is her take on the desired agenda of the Israeli left vis-à-vis the Palestinians:

We have to tell the public that we have a problem with the Palestinians. What we thought would happen didn’t happen so quickly. I think it’s an urgent interest of ours to end the occupation: both morally and in terms of what’s in Israel’s best interest. But there’s a problem. What are we proposing to our public? Should we just tell them again that we’re going to talk with Abu Mazen? I’m in favor of talking with Abu Mazen, but it’s like ‘giving full gas in neutral.’ I, for example, think that we need to reach a long-term cease-fire with Hamas. At the moment I don’t see any basis for a dialogue with Hamas about a peace agreement. Maybe we have to think about the entry of a multinational force that would serve as a buffer between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza, whose role would be both security policing and economic rehabilitation.

Gal-On hasn’t turned into a hawk, of course. She would consider talking to Hamas and opposed the Gaza op from day one (she’s whining in the interview over her party’s position not being coherent). But she does understand the one simple truth enthusiastic proponents of peace do not always keep in sight: there is “a problem with the Palestinians.” The “Peace Now” slogan — one that Gal-On once uncritically supported — is no longer persuasive, not even to true-believers.



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