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We finally had some good news this morning. Amram Mitzna took the Labour Party leadership with 54% of the vote. While recognizing the need to caution ourselves from being burned in the past, it seems that Mitzna truly does represent a new breed of Labour Party leaders. Despite the campaign over the past weeks when politicians usually work overtime to hide what are usually perceived to be unpopular views, Mitzna has been steadfast in holding and presenting his positions. Just two days ago he restated that he would, as Prime Minister, immediately evacuate Gaza, including all the settlements and the IDF, he would call upon the Palestinian leadership to re-enter negotiations from where they ended. He says clearly that he will remove and evacuate settlements in the West Bank. He believes that Jerusalem must be a shared city. In short, he knows what is the price of peace and he is willing to pay it.
Mitzna’s victory now presents a challenge to the rest of the peace camp – the challenge of unity. In order to stand any chance of getting back into power, the peace camp in Israel must unify its forces. It must speak in one clear honest and direct voice. It must present the truth of Israel’s political options to the public. It must be a Jewish-Arab united front. There is no justification for splitting ranks. Meretz, Labour and Arab parties must come together to run in this election as one united list. Palestinian Israelis must be allocated 20% of the realistic places in the list. Women must be represented by the Scandinavian standard of 40% representation.
It is time now – and there is very little time – for members of the peace camp in Israel to come out of the feeling of despair and trauma. Now is the time to rebuild. Now is the time to believe once again that peace is possible. Now is the time for new hope. It is true that changes must also take place on the Palestinian side. They too must present new leaders with renewed visions of peace. The election of Mitzna can be a catalyst for change on the Palestinian side as well. But even if that change takes more time to come, it is now time for Israelis to stand up and say: enough killing, enough violence, enough occupation. Even if the Peace Camp in Israel will not win the coming elections, for the first time in the two worst years in Israel’s history, we will have a real alternative to the policies of violence, settlement and occupation.
Mitzna victory can be a turning point. Now it is up to us to make the real difference.
Gershon Baskin, Ph.D., is Co-Director of Israel / Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), a joint Palestinian-Israeli public policy think-tank, founded in Jerusalem in 1988.