A Netanyahu-Barak government: Now that sends a message to the world, and to Washington above all. It says: Don't imagine you can push Israel into dangerous concessions by driving a wedge between Israel's right and left.
During Benjamin Netanyahu's first prime ministership, from 1996 to 1998, the Clinton administration treated Netanyahu as an irritating and temporary obstacle to its peacemaking plans. He was to be bullied as long as he held office--and pushed aside for a more amenable replacement as soon as possible.
The Clinton administration got its wish. Netanyahu was replaced by Ehud Barak, who showed himself to be the most ambitious peacemaker in Israel's history. Barak offered up the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, even an acknowledgement of a Palestinian "right of return."
For a brief, dizzy moment, it seemed the deal would happen: the Palestinians would get their state, Arafat his tomb in Jerusalem, Bill Clinton his Nobel Peace Prize and Israel ... well, it was never certain what Israel would get. Peace? No, not very likely. But maybe a respite before the next round of demands.
Of course, it all went wrong. Arafat declined to sign, the Palestinians launched a second intifada, Israel invaded the West Bank, the separation fence was erected, Gaza was evacuated then invaded again, and here we all are. A small cottage industry has emerged in the West to argue that the Palestinians did not really walk away in 2000. Or that if they did walk away, they were entitled to walk away. Or even if they were not entitled, they should nonetheless get yet another chance.
Some people will believe this. Some people will believe anything. But comparatively few people in Israel believe it. As Israelis of almost all ideological points of view agree, the most arresting change in their country's politics since 2001 has been the disappearance of what used to be called "the peace camp." As David Hazony observed in Commentary's blog after the February Knesset elections:
"Of the four major parties today, three of them are Likud and its spin-offs: Kadima was founded by Ariel Sharon and is mostly made up of former Likudniks; Yisrael Beitenu's chairman cut his teeth as the head of the Likud's central committee. Not only this: The classic parties of the pro-peace camp in Israel are but a tiny shadow of their former selves: Labor, which for decades, until as recently as 1996, led the country, is down to the lower teens. Shinui is gone. Meretz, the far-left party, is down from 10 seats in 1999 to around 4. If we call Kadima centrist, then the left in Israel as a whole will not break 20 seats [out of 120]."
The intellectuals of the left have reconsidered, too, most spectacularly the historian Benny Morris. Now Ehud Barak himself has enlisted in Netanyahu's new government.
What remains of the left in Israel is appalled. …