While long-time observers of the region can be forgiven for not holding their breath... it still offers an interesting insight into a growing rift between the politicians and the military they command that may have greater consequences in the future.
There are new peace overtures toward the Palestinians coming out of Israel these days, but they're coming from the last place you'd expect: the Israeli military.
Late last week a group of over 200 former Israeli military and security officials forwarded a proposal for ending the impasse with the Palestinians and normalizing ties with the Arab world.
In tabling their action plan, the group--which includes IDF Generals as well as former high-ranking members of Mossad, Shin Bet and Israel Police--called for a freeze on settlement building, an acceptance of the Arab Peace Initiative and the concession of East Jerusalem to a future Palestinian state.
What is perhaps even more eyebrow-raising than the proposal itself is the context in which it is being brought forward. As Jason Ditz notes at Antiwar.com, the peace push follows consternation over Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who had the gall to suggest that the military should have moral standards and that Israeli soldiers shouldn't empty magazines into Palestinian girls brandishing scissors. This was followed by Maj. Gen. Yair Golan's controversial comparison of modern Israel to 1930s Germany. When Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon dared to defend Eisenkot, he was ousted from his position and replaced by ultra hardliner Avigdor Lieberman, Chairman of the far-right Yisrael Beytenu.
It is not difficult to see this latest proposal as the military and security establishment's public rebuke of the increasingly hardline government, especially because group chairman Amnon Reshef said the plan was intended to "refute the fearmongers" who say there is no chance for peace. He warned that "the current status quo is an illusion" and that it hurts the prospect of a two-state solution in the future.
As Ditz observes:
"The Israeli military has tended toward relatively pragmatic hawkishness over the years, and that used to be enough to keep them in the good graces of right-wing governments. The rightward shift has gone so far, however, that it can no longer brook any expression of pragmatism as it runs afoul of the ultra-nationalist, ultra-hawkish consensus."
While long-time observers of the region can be forgiven for not holding their breath waiting for this latest proposal to be taken up by the Knesset, it still offers an interesting insight into a growing rift between the politicians and the military they command that may have greater consequences in the future.