Opinion: Netanyahu’s rejection of peace must mean British recognition of Palestine

On ‘Call Clegg’ this week Nick robustly declared that “if Benjamin Netanyahu now unilaterally has decided to rule out the prospect of a Palestinian state then I think it is inevitable that British parliament, as it voted a few months ago, should rule a Palestinian state in.” The contrast with Cameron’s (is it unthinking or calculated?) support for Netanyahu’s hope-destroying election victory is both massive, and very welcome. It is great to see the Liberal Democrats standing up for the peace process rather than for an obstructionist right-wing government.

It has become a cliché to say that ‘paradoxically Netanyahu’s election victory is a good thing’: that with the emperor’s new clothes exposed for what they are, there can be no more pretending that there is an Israeli partner for peace.

I’m not so sure. There is no evidence that a prime minister who openly exploits prejudice against Israel’s Arab citizens will suddenly show any serious commitment to a negotiated solution to the conflict. And just as those of us who support an end to the illegal and divisive policies of the occupation want a just peace for the Palestinians, we also recognise that such an outcome will be to Israel’s benefit too. We want a safe, decent and prosperous Israel as a genuine partner for Palestine: an Israel which is becoming ever more unequal, racist, militarised and beholden to its extremists cannot be a partner for peace, let alone a decent place for Israelis to live. This election result is a tragedy for both sides.

It is reported that Netanyahu is rowing back on his election promises, although “Mr. Netanyahu did not say he was ready to return to negotiations or to present any new ideas for achieving peace” and President Obama is unsurprisingly said to be unimpressed.

Widely considered an untrustworthy opportunist, Netanyahu should be judged by his actions. During his years as Prime Minister these have included the ramping up of illegal settlement expansion – one of the biggest hurdles to good-faith negotiations, never mind the possibility of an eventual two state solution; toleration for constant harassment and even killing of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories; a refusal to engage with Mahmoud Abbas “the Palestinian president [who] has abjured violence and maintained security co-operation with Israel in the West Bank”; and we cannot of course forget the terrible price paid by civilians in his collective punishment of Gazans before and during Israel’s ‘Cast Lead’ battle with Hamas.

Most western countries are committed to a two state solution; something predicated on the opposite of what Netanyahu is set out to do. His promises to rip up of the fundamentals upon which any two state solution must be based and his racist denigration of Israel’s Arabs cannot but invite another comparison: in 2006 Hamas won the Palestinian legislative election on a platform of continued resistance to the occupation, but also upon the prospect of a generational truce with Israel and a tacit acceptance of the 1967 borders as the basis for a two state solution. Western governments for the most part chose not to believe that Hamas’ change of direction was genuine, or worth exploring, citing the movement’s refusal to disavow violence or accept an Israeli state as a precondition for talks as reason to boycott it. How will Western states now respond to an Israeli government which actively promotes the violence implicit in settlement expansion and which rules out the creation of a Palestinian state?

Editor’s note: All comments on this post will be pre-moderated

* Jonathan Brown is an activist from Chichester, an executive committee member of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine and a Syrian rights campaigner.