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If Bibi voted this way it would not only bolster the forces of sanity, it would also be in line with what poll after poll tells us Israelis themselves want: Two-thirds prefer a two-state solution. According to two different opinion surveys conducted in December even a majority of voters affiliated with Likud-Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi would approve of a demilarized Palestinian state along the 1967 lines.
Then there’s the Jewish Diaspora. We don’t need to repeat what has become a well-worn litany of reasons for why American Jews — particularly young ones — have grown disillusioned with Israel’s direction. They need a reason to believe that Netanyahu has any interest in peace. A government that included the center-left parties would offer this reassurance.
As it is, those who persist in thinking Netanyahu has any intention of resolving the conflict are hanging on to a very thin thread, namely the speech he gave at Bar-Ilan University just after being sworn in last time, in 2009. His words then were quite clear: “In my vision of peace, there are two free peoples living side by side in this small land, with good neighborly relations and mutual respect, each with its flag, anthem and government, with neither one threatening its neighbor’s security and existence.”
Were these just empty phrases, forced out of his mouth in order to appease the West? There would no longer be any other conclusion to draw if he chose to empower and validate the extreme right who have only mocked and insulted him for making that Bar Ilan speech.
Before a ballot was cast, it was a foregone conclusion who would be the next prime minister of Israel. Though no one quite imagined that Netanyahu would lose so much of his strength, the tightness of the resilts only makes the choice facing him now that much more stark.
His actions over the past four years have led us to believe that he has no real desire to engage the Palestinians and is comfortable with perpetual conflict. But in one move he could change that perception and offer hope to the majority of the Jewish people who want to believe in an Israel that is not blind to reality, a Jewish state that understands that its future can only be secure if it makes hard, painful choices now to insure its Jewish and democratic nature.
The ultimate referendum is now with Netanyahu. We know how the Israeli people have voted, soon we’ll know in what direction he has decided to take them.