On air in Israel: Why is compromise not on the agenda?

None of the four leading parties (Likud, Kadima, Yisrael Beiteinu and Labor) opposed the Gaza offensive, and Likud would have continued it.

I haven’t heard any of the four give any details on how they might accept some Palestinian or Syrian demands concerning the Golan Heights, the West Bank settlements or Jerusalem in return for a lasting peace deal. I’ve seen none of them making the case for compromise. Nor should they, many of you would I know reply. Israel is under threat, has no obligation to deal with ‘terrorists’ and antagonistic neighbours goes the argument.

Looking at the polls we can all agree that this is how most Israelis want their politicians to lead them in this crisis.

But it is striking that in a country that is clearly tired of the conflict with Palestinians, and which seems strangely unmoved by this election, that there’s little political capital to be made by arguing that to literally and figuratively give ground will bring benefits.

Does that surprise you? Or do you admire the insistence that some issues are non-negotiable, even if that may delay a peace settlement?

(Shira was a guest yesterday responded to a question about the West Bank settlements, by saying the land was given to Jews by God. That for her was not something to discuss with Palestinians or anyone else. Our Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen found the same on a visit to a settlement.)

Or might compromise only create more problems anyway? Is it false logic to suggest that by giving some ground, Israeli life will be more peaceful and Israel’s position in the region will be stronger and more stable?

I always remember hearing FW de Klerk say that a crucial moment in his negotiations with the ANC was when he realised to compromise and find agreement would be an achievement for the people he represented and not a defeat. The end of conflict was worth more than the things that had been given up.

Just such a case had to be made by the Republican and Unionist leaders in Northern Ireland who signed up to the Good Friday agreement. You can find another parallel in the deal cut by Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga in Kenya last year. That said some of you are furious that PM Odinga didn’t get the outright victory many observers thought he’d won. The compromise some of you told us wasn’t worth it.

Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu may well be Israel’s next PM and he’s been in particularly uncompromising mood in the final week of the campaign.

He wants to topple Hamas in Gaza, he won’t negotiate on Jerusalem, and a couple of days ago in the Golan Heights (which is part of Syria according to the UN) he said, ‘Years from now, my son will bring his children here and tell them how his father planted this tree, that is so rooted in the ground, just like we are rooted in the Golan.’ He went that is you ‘stick a plough in the earth of the Golan Heights, do you find Palestinian or Syrian remains? No. You find the ancient remains of synagogues and Jewish culture.’

Mr. Netanyahu has talked of negotiation on the key land issues here as weakening Israel. Do you accept his argument? Or is it time to Israelis to see the benefits of compromise?

17 Responses to “On air in Israel: Why is compromise not on the agenda?”

  1. 1 Roberto
    February 10, 2009 at 14:51

    RE “” Mr. Netanyahu has talked of negotiation on the key land issues here as weakening Israel. “”

    ———————– Israelis have shown they can negotiate land issues, returning land to Jordan and Egypt in return for peaceful settlements and diplomatic relations.

    Israelis also made massive land concessions in the 2000 negotiations with Arafat that he ultimately trashed, so really, land is just symbolic to the larger issue, the right of Israelis to live in peace and what should be done to protect that right.

    With the death of Arafat, there is no cohesive Palestinian leadership to negotiate with, so land issues are just election posturing points. Until Pals can govern themselves, the status quo remains with the larger West bank managed in cooperation with Palestinians under quasi military law, and Gaza kept cordoned off and under periodic siege in response to attacks.

  2. 2 mike levine
    February 10, 2009 at 15:10

    the question should be, “why are we not in favor of MORE compromises?” so far we have made compromise after compromise and all it gets us is more terrorism. what could be a bigger compromise than expelling our own people from Gaza in hopes that Gaza would become the example of what the palestinians can do when left to their own devices. have they built a single sewage plant? a new hospital? decent dwellings for their teeming masses living in slums? their only new industry is rocket making and firing! the tenor and tone of your headline and article is biased against Israel, which is nothing new for CNN.

  3. February 10, 2009 at 16:08

    Obviously Israelis feel that there’s been all kinds of compromise. If only they could see themselves through more objective eyes, they’d see that nothing substantial has ever been exchanged and that’s why they’ve never settled the issue. I don’t feel confident that the Israelis and Palestinians can broker their own deal, so to speak. But they’re like the embittered married couple who thinks they can deal with things on their own when they desperately need a neutral third party — preferably not the cops! — to come in and show them and the Palestinians alike what’s reasonable. And even then: you can lead a horse to water, as the saying goes, but these two countries aren’t ready to drink. I don’t know what it would take but probably something nearly catastrophic with the world crying out against them.

  4. 4 Michel Norman
    February 10, 2009 at 16:39

    I think that you are being very superficial here, Liberman is prepared to divide Jerusalem, Livne is campaigning on keeping the Peace talks going, Barak is definitely in favor of negotiations and peace, Netanyahu is also willing to negotiate but sees that the negotiations are going nowhere because of the complete inflexibility of the other side. On the golan the Syrians are not exactly sending a message of peace – they have been in violation of 1701 from the day it was signed, they actively support Hammas – they have convinced us they want the Golan (with additions) but have not made one peaceful gesture.

    Liberman, with all due respect is just a pale reflection of the Palestinian authority

  5. February 10, 2009 at 16:51

    The Palestinian issue is a strong card in the hands of Israeli politicians with which they can sway the voters and appeal to their nationalism. No Israeli politician seems ready to risk his/her political future by going beyond asserting the need for peace with the Palestinians and the Arab countries. As for territorial matters, there can be signing of agreements, like the 1994 Oslo accord, which fall short of being implemented because of lack of mutual trust.

    Perhaps for the Israelis, delaying any compromise is an opportunity to give nothing and to maintain negotiations at the staring point despite the apparent rounds of talks that have been going for years.

    It’s no wonder that the public inside and outside Israel have grown sceptical of any settlement between the Israelis and their opponents in the Arab world as each side portrays the other as uncompromising and offering very little to get too much. Maintaining one’s ground is the best mean for attack and offence. For how long will this continue? Only the politicians- from all sides – who hide their cards can decide.

  6. February 10, 2009 at 17:33

    Not reaching a compromise about standing issues concerning the Golan Heights, Jerusalem and an independent Palestinian state will maintain Israel in a perpetual state of war. Its very existence will depend not just on having a strong economy but also the strongest army in the region.

    Israel has so far direct diplomatic relations just with Egypt and Jordan which are subjects to ups and downs because of the fluctuations in the Palestinian territories. It will be better for all parties to reach a lasting compromise by establishing bridges of trust and by each getting one’s due rights without infringing the rights of the others.

  7. February 10, 2009 at 17:46

    Not reaching a compromise about standing issues concerning the Golan Heights, Jerusalem and an independent Palestinian state will maintain Israel in a perpetual state of war. Its very existence will depend not just on having a strong economy but also the strongest army in the region.

    In the Arab world, Israel has so far direct diplomatic relations just with Egypt and Jordan which are subjects to ups and downs because of the fluctuations in the Palestinian territories. It will be better for all parties to reach a lasting compromise by establishing bridges of trust and by each getting one’s due rights without infringing the rights of the others.

  8. February 10, 2009 at 17:47

    Salaam to Al Quds Al Sharif…
    Compromises ???? Well, when you give up something that’s YOURS inorder to reach an agreement with the other side, then that’s called compromise… The Gaza strip was before 2005 an occupied territory according to the international law (which obviously doesn’t apply to Israel b/c apparantly Israel is above the international law), so the Israeli presence in the Gaza strip before 2005 was illegal according to the international law, the Gaza strip was NEVER an Israeli property… So the argument of “We gave up Gaza” is obviously invalid b/c you only can give up things that LEGALLY belong to you… Besides, people who use that argument should add to it : We gave up the Gaza strip, but we still firmly control it from all sides, air and sea… We made the people of Gaza go through hell since they brought Hamas into power in democratic elections… We applied to them a total and strict blockade, isolated them completely from the outside world, made them suffer hunger and despairation, and also we’re absolutely ready to destroy their city entirely and cause thousands and thousands of civilian casualties among them as a punishment for launching a few number of rockets from their city that cause a very very very very small number of civilian casualties among us… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad…

  9. 9 Graham
    February 10, 2009 at 18:14

    Just listening to the programme now, and hearing all these Israelis speaking with their flawless, US English in my opinion tells you all you need to know about the nature of the conflict and Israel’s position and identity in the region.

  10. 10 ~Dennis Junior~
    February 10, 2009 at 18:21

    I think that the country over the years, has many compromises that have been forced onto them by the government of the day! Now, people of Israel have decided compromising is not on the agenda this time….

    ~Dennis Junior~

  11. 11 Meir Avrahami
    February 10, 2009 at 19:44

    Sorry I couldn’t make it tonight

    re: Compromise – Israel is clearly committed to a two state solution

    Both Oslo accords of 1993 & withdrawal for Gaza in 2005 were very clear compromises & how was Israel repaid? With over 1000 civilian casualties & a rain of rockets. Before there is further compromise the Palestinians have to make a very real effort to show what they intend offering to make it a real peace

  12. 12 Meir Avrahami
    February 11, 2009 at 07:28

    During the entire run up to the election the block clearly to the right of centre show a lead
    Obviously as a tacktical move in order to take votes from them neither Kedima nor Labour emphisised a wish to compromise

    Paridoxically now Netanyahu has woken up to the fact he has no easy partner to allow him the room he needs to negotiate – he would like to lead a Likud, Kedima & Labour govt but with Kedima one seat ahead of him & Labour indicating they wish to sit in opposition it won’t work for him

  13. 13 John
    February 11, 2009 at 11:31

    There can be no compromise when there is no talking. You do not talk with an enemy group unless there is a perceived benefit in doing so. In other words, as long as it is in Israel’s best interest to continue down its present path of aggression and hostility towards neighbouring peoples and countries it will continue to do reject dialogue with any group in favour of force. When it sees peace as a valuable goal in itself, then it will entertain the concept of dialogue. At the moment, Israel sees more utility in conflict than it does in talking.

  14. 14 Ibrahim in UK
    February 11, 2009 at 13:46

    The issue of population, the refugees and their right of return, is an insurmountable obstacle which Israel cannot bring itself to “compromise” on. Israel will never allow the Palestinian refugees to return home, nor will they allow the non-Jewish Arab minority to ever become a majority through natural population growth. Already, the top Israeli politicians aim to maintain a Jewish majority by “transfering” the Arab population out of Israel and into the West Bank.

    As long as there is a demographic problem (as it is called), there is little room for compromise. There is little need for real comrpromise when Israel holds all the cards, all the land, all access to the land, and all the weapons.

  15. 15 Michel Norman
    February 13, 2009 at 15:39

    I think that the issue of compromise was very much a decisive factor in the election. Abu Mazen is sold to us as a moderate yet his demands are essentially the same as Hammas, if only to be achieved by means of the delivery ward rather than the sword. In nearly 20 years of negotiating the Palestinians have not compromised on anything, they have not moved one inch, all we have is one compromise after another after another, with nothing in return. Abu Mazen’s competition with Hammas in recent weeks as to who can make the most inflamatory remarks about Israel, his wanderings around Europe trying to convince the Europeans to place sanctions on any right wing Israeli government that may be formed, even if its most extreme component – Liberman professes nothing more than a very moderate and watered down version of his own racist views, has convinced many of us who voted for left wing parties to move to the right – because if this is a partner for peace, the only “piece” we will get is a “piece of paper saying peace in our time”. Unfortunately for Abu Mazen, Neville Chaimberlain is not a candidate in these elections.

  16. 16 Shakhoor Rehman
    February 14, 2009 at 13:54

    Because Israel wears blinkers.

  17. 17 Danny UK
    February 17, 2009 at 12:48

    Its quite simple.. Palestine- stop provoking a neighbour more powerful than you and claiming you want to destroy them, this might just give Israel incentive to lift the blockade and tear down the wall ( both of which are only there due to Palestinian violence and threats). If I lived next door to Arnold Schwarzanegar i wouldnt throw sticks at his house, as i’d expect big rocks thrown back! How do they expect Israel to react to being suicide bombed, rocket attacked and threatened with destruction. If Gaza behaved civilised, established trade and an infrastructure rather than establishing bomb factorys and weapons caches next to schools, there wouldnt even be an issue. And if there was no threats there would be no blockade, making this possible.Israel was there 3000 years ago and now its back, I think the Arab world need to accept that and move on, establish relations with the Israelies and stop the utterly irresponsible promotion of Martyer’s. One of the worlds biggest and saddest cons.

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