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Not by money alone

By: Gadi Baltiansky, GI Director-General, Ma'ariv (translation of op-ed which appeared in Ma'ariv and NRG in Hebrew)

12.09.10

Unable to offer alternatives to the political program of the Left, Right-wing groups attack peace organizations' sources of funding.  A response to Nadav Ha'Etzani.

There is a new fashion currently pervading the Israeli Right; not having any suggestions for alternatives to the political program of the Left, these circles resort to criticizing the sources of funding of organizations that publicly promote their own ideologies.  Such criticism is, of course, legitimate, but it is indicative more of the weakness of the critics than of the flaws of the criticized.

Nadav Ha'Etzani (Opinion, Ma'ariv 18.6) goes too far, attacking the Geneva Initiative campaign that is funded primarily by the United States government and in part by a Zionist Jew who fears for the future of Israel.  Ha'Etzani is calling for a halt to any transfer of foreign money to organizations with whom he does not agree.  Ha'Etzani, opinionated, respected and well thought of, would perhaps prefer that such organizations not exist at all.  It is not their image that bothers him but the image of Israel as it is projected by their activities. Except that it is precisely this mirror that we are unwilling to remove.

There is more than a little hypocrisy in arguing against foreign involvement in Israel's affairs.  Billions of dollars a year for the provision of expensive military equipment is fine (and indeed it is fine) and a few hundred thousand for the purpose of promoting peace is not fine?   If it is in the American interest for Israel to be strong – she should contribute to strengthening this country, and if this interest is in line with peace between Israel and her neighbors – then she should work towards such attainment. 

The way the spokesmen of the extreme Right see it there are no peace organizations; there is no communication between the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli public; there are no meetings between Shas people and members of Fatah; between parliamentary assistants from the Likud and young Palestinian politicians; between leading women on both sides - there is none of the dialogue that leads to peace.  From their standpoint they are right: after all, peace between the peoples involved would make it necessary to divide up the land and that is what they are against.  Instead of explaining their Post-Zionist truth, one that favors Greater Israel over a Jewish and democratic State of Israel, they hide behind false accusations.

One time the Right attacks the sources of funding of the Left, another time they discover an old quotation from a Palestinian leader, and a third time they rejoice in a sermon made by a Muslim cleric.  The truth is that even if the Geneva Initiative were to be entirely funded from the personal resources of its supporters, even if Jibril Rajoub were to declare his loyalty to the Zionist ideal and even if in the whole of Palestinian society there were not to be a single Ovadia Yosef – even then the settlers would ohject to the evacuation of a single plant from their houses.

In the face of their inability to suggest a workable and alternative solution to the two-state idea, the extremist Right chooses to attack the messenger.  A pity, it might just have been possible to hold a real public debate between the Zionist camp and the one bi-national state camp, if the Right would only present itself at such a debate.

If only we had no need of foreign money to fund peace organizations. The current situation is legitimate, but it is not ideal. To my mind, a peace agreement based on the two-state solution is first and foremost in Israel's interest.  So if Nadav Ha'Etzani were to found a movement that would call upon the government of Israel to carry out the activities of the peace organizations and thus to make them redundant, I would be the first to join.