Mitzna, a partner in peace?

by Mamdouh Nofal on 02/12/2002

It does the Arabs, and especially the Palestinians, no good to ignore the monumental significance of Amram Mitzna’s election as leader of the Israeli Labor party. The passive attitude regarding the upcoming Israeli general elections, focused on the claim that there is no difference between Netanyahu, Sharon and Mitzna, is wrong. The same applies for those in the Palestinian Authority who maintain that the Israeli general elections are an internal Israeli issue. This attitude is very detrimental to the Palestinian cause.

I always believed that the Israeli general elections were never a domestic Israeli affair because of the great impact they leave on the entire region. And while the Palestinians agree that Sharon and Netanyahu combine all the racist characteristics, one may hope that Mitzna is different. I believe this based on the man’s previous efforts to advance Arab-Israeli coexistence during his long tenure as mayor of Haifa, and his resignation from the army in protest against Sharon’s involvement in the Sabra and Shatila massacres.

Mitzna’s campaign against Binyamin Ben-Eliezer was based on the promises of saving the Labor Party from the state of deterioration it reached as a result of its participation in Sharon’s national unity government. Mitzna is raising clear slogans that call for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, without mentioning the need to stop violence as a precondition to resume negotiations, which was Sharon’s condition.

Mitzna’s victory represents a fundamental turning point that introduces the beginning of an Israeli retreat. Even if Mitzna fails in his bid to become prime minister, his victory not only brings the hope of having an “Israeli partner” for peace in the region, but also of creating a strong Israeli opposition that believes in the coexistence between two peoples in two states, as well as in the possibility of exposing the Likud policy should it remain in power.

Still, if Israel’s right remains in power, thus threatening Arab national security, the Arabs and the Palestinians will have nothing to lose by interfering in Israeli elections. I believe they can influence these elections through:

First: An attempt through all possible means to secure the widest possible participation in the elections, and that the voting must aim at increasing the number of seats for Arab representatives.

Second: To deal positively with Mitzna’s peaceful positions. All the Arabs have to do is to reiterate their position from the issue of making peace with Israel, and to stress that Mitzna’s theory remains a foundation that is valid to resume the peace process. The Saudi peace initiative that was approved in Beirut during the Arab summit, the Camp David Accords, and the Wadi Araba agreement remain standing support to the approach of Mitzna inside his party.

Third: Launching a Palestinian initiative that includes: A clear declaration by the leadership of the PLO to the effect that the election of Mitzna as leader of the Labor party as having revived hope in having a real partner for the making of peace in the region after the Israeli partner had been absent over the past two years. Declaring a ceasefire from one side, and demanding the international community to exert pressure on Sharon to stop his oppression of the Palestinian people. Needless to say that such efforts have no value unless all suicide operations stop against Israeli civilians, and the credibility of any Arab move depends on the ability to convince Hamas and Jihad as well as the other Palestinian factions to seek an approach to peace.