A priori, it’s an election that concerns only a tiny country – Israel – confronted with gigantic social problems: one fifth of its inhabitants, i.e. 1.6 million people – 800,000 among them children (especially Arabs or new immigrants, all of them frequently confused as communities), living below the poverty line, adjacent to some of the most advanced high-tech companies in the world and despite growth that remains one of the highest in current times.
In fact, this election concerns the entire world, whose stability relies very heavily on that of the Middle East, which itself relies largely on the capacity of Israelis and Palestinians to make peace and recognize each another.
A priori, if we may settle for a rational analysis, the best is possible: the surveys, in Israel and in Palestine, demonstrate that a vast majority of the two peoples want to recognize each other and live like good neighbors in clearly-defined, safe, and open frontiers, such as those that had been defined in the last days of Bill Clinton’s term at a moment where the solution seemed just within reach: a return to the pre-1967 borders, a division of Jerusalem and its holy places; a territory exchange, to assure Israelis a security that did not exist in the 1948 borders, and to give to the Palestinians the means to accommodate in the West Bank part of the population of Gaza, which would meanwhile have to be rebuilt according to the model of the large ports of the region such as Beirut and Dubai. Next, the creation of a common market between the two countries, which Jordan and Egypt would then join. On this solution, at least on the level of vocabulary, the major parties in Israel seem to agree.
Moreover, in the U.S., President Obama, aware of the fact that the region could taint his term in its entirety, like it tainted those of his predecessors, wishes to move quickly and has designated an exceptional negotiator, George Mitchell, perfectly capable of reaching an accord.
And the Europeans, France among them, are finally showing the will to be a balanced mediator trying to find a solution.
But, if we do not move quickly in this direction, the worst is likely: the conflict in Gaza has continued to discredit the PLO and the Palestinian Authority. It has also reinforced Hamas and all those in the Arab world who do not want a compromise; likewise, a part of the extreme Israeli right, once more in agreement with the most extreme Palestinian factions, is starting to say that there is no place for two viable states in the region. The settlements, which now number 280,000 in the West Bank, want less and less to leave and the exchange of territory will be more and more difficult.
There opens then a very brief and final window of opportunity: a newly-elected Israeli government will have all the power for several months. It will need to move quickly, to propose a courageous peace, to define the conditions of negotiation with Syria and a strategy for Iran. No one in the region has more interest than Israel in the creation of a Palestinian State, which the other states in the region have, up to this point, always succeeded in preventing.
And Israel must understand that force will not be enough and that all the military might heralds the worst while accompanied by the humiliation of those which, in any case, have to live with it.