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The immediate items on the coalition’s agenda are the amendment of the Tal Law, setting down the rules for military conscription of ultra-Orthodox men, and electoral reform aimed at reducing the influence of Israel’s smallest minority parties. We need to understand that these concerns are currently uppermost on the Israeli mind. But if successful, such reforms will contribute to an environment that will enable progress on the Palestinian issue.
To be sure, we should be ready to criticize Israeli policies that we find wanting. But we should be just as prepared to point out positive steps the Israeli government takes. Within a few weeks after the formation of this government, Israel removed six roadblocks in the West Bank, reached an agreement to end a hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners and transferred 91 Palestinian graves to the Palestinian Authority as a gesture to Mahmoud Abbas. Regrettably, the voices of the pro-peace community in the United States that are often quick to criticize Israel were largely silent about these steps.
Many people have called on Netanyahu to rise to his moment of nearly unprecedented power and make the difficult decisions of leadership. Dismissing his move to a unity government will undercut any inclination he has to respond to those calls. Rather than knee-jerk distrust, the new broad coalition — especially its new moderate core — needs encouragement and support. If it fails, an opportunity to move toward a two-state solution will be lost. When the Israeli government moves to the center, supporters of this solution should applaud it every step of the way.
Peter A. Joseph is chairman of the Israel Policy Forum.