The Israeli peace camp is a self-described collection of movements which claim to strive for peace with the Arab neighbours of Israel (including the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon) and encourage co-existence with the Arab citizens of Israel. The peace camp is mostly associated with left wing politics; in contrast, the right-wing collection of Israeli organizations are called the national camp. Whereas Labor Zionist members of the "Peace camp," such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres, share demographic priorities in common with the Israeli right parties, Non-Zionists and Anti-Zionists see transforming Israel into a "State for all its citizens" as a prerequisite for peace.
Peace Now was founded in the wake of the 1977 visit of Egyptian President Sadat to Jerusalem. The original feeling of euphoria was replaced by apprehension that the chance for peace would be lost, espcially due to such acts as then Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon establishing new settlements in North Sinai.
In its first year, the movement concentrated on putting pressure on the government to carry through a peace treaty with Egypt, especially via 100,000-strong gathering in Tel-Aviv on the eve of PM Menachem Begin's departure for camp David in 1978. At the time, Peace Now was careful to declare it was "neither for the government nor against it" and members of the movement actually greeted Begin with flowers at Ben Gurion Airport, when he came back from concluding the Camp David Agreement in which he undertook to dismantle the northern Sinai settlements.
However, the movement turned increasingly against Begin when it turned out that withdrwal from Sinai was accompanied by an accelerated settlement drive on the West Bank, and later when Begin appointed Sharon as his Defence Minister and launched the 1982 Lebanon War, known in Israel by the 'official name, "Peace for Galilee War".
Following the Sabra and Shatila Massacre in September 1982, Peace Now's "400,000 rally" (self-described, it is widely doubted that the participation was close to that number) led to the end of the Israeli offensive and the establishment of the Kahan Commission of Inquiry which impeached Ariel Sharon for indirect responsibility for the Sabra and Shatila massacre committed by Christian Phalange Militia.
Peace Now also advocated a negotiated peace with the Palestinians. However, Peace Now's current focus is to systematise its ongoing struggle against the Israeli settlements into a constant, day-by-day monitoring of the settlements and publication of periodic reports on their growth.
According to some columnists, Peace Now's hostility toward the settlers and its perceived lack of criticism of Palestinian Resistance can be seen to have decreased its standing within certain sections of the Israeli public (such critics completely ignoring the strong and unequivocal condemnations of suicide bombings repeatedly published by Peace Now). On March 19 2005, a pro-disengagement rally was not successful in attracting anything near its planned attendance, after only 10,000 people attended the demonstration. Critics assert that the failure is related to Yariv Oppemheimer (Peace Now's leader) strong criticism of the settlers and the radical left-wing image which may have caused centrists and mainstream public to refrain from supporting the rally. ,
The Geneva Accord, which was launched in 2003 by Israeli politician Yossi Beilin, one of the architects of the Oslo accords, and former Palestinian Authority minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, claimed to try to promote peace by showing both Israelis and Palestinians that peace accords could be negotiated, and presented a draft 'Permanent Status Agreement', which was claimed to be negotiated by hundreds of public figures from both sides. Other groups among both Israelis and Palestinians found the accord unacceptable, and some Israelis even disputed the legitimacy of such a move. As of 2004, the negotiators tried to convince the Israeli and Palestinian public that the agreement provided hope of security for both parties and that the new Palestinian leadership represents a "partner for peace". The Geneva Accord initiative was funded heavily by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. It also included a document which was printed out and mailed to each Israeli household.
At that time, surprising tribute to the success of the Geneva Initiative was paid by Adv. Dov Weissglass, confidential adviser of then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who told quite frankly of the factors which led Sharon to resolve upon Israel's unilateral disengagement plan:
"Time was not on our side. There was international erosion, internal erosion. Domestically, in the meantime, everything was collapsing. The economy was stagnant, and the Geneva Initiative had gained broad support.
As Weissglass and Sharon did not bother to conceal, the Gaza Disengagement was designed (among other political objectives) to take the wind out of Geneva's sails, in which it was eminently successful. While many on the Israeli Left and internationally considered the comprehensive peace vision of the Geneva Initiative far superior to a very partial unilateral withdrawal, the Geneva Accord was merely a theoretical draft not backed by those in power, while the other was a plan actually adopted and implemented by the government.
Eventually even Yossi Beilin, the leading proponent of Geneva, had to yield to this logic, extend a reluctant support to Sharon's Disengagement and see his brainchild pushed to the sidelines.
Gush Shalom is a radical leftist movement, and its classification as a peace movement is disputed by the Israeli right . Uri Avnery, the Gush Shalom leader and a former Israeli journalist, was among the first to meet and negotiate with PLO leader Yasser Arafat. Following the victory of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian elections, Gush Shalom members opened dialogue with elected Hamas parliamentarians in East Jerusalem, who declared their wish to put an end to bloodshed and establish "a decades-long truce" with Israel. The dialogue was, however, cut short by the government arresting all the Palestinian participants in it. Although Gush Shalom earned itself respect among peaceseekers in Israel as well as the United States and Europe, it is regarded by some Israelis as a pro-Palestinian movement whose leadership are equivocal towards violence and terrorism against Israelis. Gush Shalom itself states that being pro-Palestinian and being a patriotic Israeli, far from being in contradiction to each other, are completely compatible - and claims that only peace and integration in the Middle-Eastern environment can ensure Israel's long-term survival in a predominantly Arab region.
Another widely publicized project is the "National Census" - a self-described peace initiative by former Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon and Palestinian professor Sari Nusseibeh. The current activity of the National Census is to sign as many Israelis and Palestinian on a petition which outlines a two-state solution without the right of return of Palestinians into Israel. While Ayalon had attempted to avoid from being identified with the political left, he later joined the Israeli Labour Party.
In Israel, the left-wing parties are self-described as members of the peace camp, although successful peace treaties were achieved only by right-wingers (Menachem Begin, with Egypt) and from the center-left (Itzhak Rabin, with Jordan). This apparent paradox is explained by the assumption that the more right-wing the leader who undertakes a peace plan and adopts some part of the traditional left program, the less of an opposition from the right he or it would encounter. The same was manifested in PM Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan from Gaza where his being the leader of the main right-wing party while being supported by the left-wing parties, left the real right-wing isolated in opposing the move.
The traditional self-described "peace lobby" in the Knesset is composed of the Israeli Labor Party and Meretz-Yachad. Hadash is self-proclaimed Jewish-Arab socialist co-existence front, who was founded by the Communist Party of Israel, which was the first party in Israel to oppose the Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza, and to call for a two-state solution.
Many Israelis do not consider the Arab parties as part of the Israeli peace camp.
The liberal party Shinui while a significant force in Israeli politics for a short time was totally wiped out in the 2006 elections. It was not considered as a part of the peace camp due its hard-line approach toward Palestinian political violence, Yasser Arafat as well as many right-wing Knesset members. Also, the fact that Shinui supported Ariel Sharon's policy, a long-time loathed figure by hardcore of the peace camp, prevented Shinui from joining the peace camp leadership.
In January 2008, Israel's parliament passed a new law requiring organizations to publicize financial contributions from foreign governments. This law was generally aimed at organizations in the peace camp (specifically Peace Now) who many Israelis have come to view as agents of foreign governments acting against the State of Israel's national interests.
The right wing also have strong criticism over the left's "partner for peace". They claim that the true intention of "Arafat's terrorist Tunis gang" is the destruction of Israel, and that the Oslo accords were actually a Trojan horse. Following the al-Aqsa Intifada and major Fatah involvement in terrorism against Israel, many in the Israeli public agreed that the right were justified in their criticism and warnings about the PLO.
Criticism from the center says that the right-wing was right about the PLO and that in Yassar Arafat, Israel did not have a sincere Palestinian partner for peace. The peace camp apparently followed a contradictive peace position and suggested the need to 'disengage' from the Palestinians and the need to give them a state of their own so they won't be a demographic and political burden over Israel. Many of this group are what the Israelis call "Oslo disappointed" (מאוכזבי אוסלו ) – people who used to support the peace process and the peace camp until the al-Aqsa Intifada. This group favor unilateral actions to disengage from the Palestinians and widely support the Israeli West Bank barrier and Israel's unilateral disengagement plan of 2004.
Centrists usually refrain from voting to the left and support it publicly since many of them believe that left-wing politicians (such as Yossi Beilin) are incapable of standing up for Israel's rights and fear that they might endanger Israel by trying to appease the Palestinians.
Ami Ayalon has criticized Peace Now for demonizing the Israeli Jewish settlers, often treating them as "enemies", thus encouraging hate towards settlers, and providing the general public reasons to dislike the peace camp. Ayalon scorns Peace Now for failing to rally the masses in support of the Israeli peace movement, although surveys indicate that the Israeli public supports a separation from the Palestinians and a peaceful solution. Ayalon explains that this because Peace Now and the left wing have shown alienation, hostility and a patronising attitude towards the general Israeli public, and that this attitude combined with increased terrorist activity over the past four years are to blame for Peace Now's current poor standing within the Israeli public, which feels the peace camp is not committed (enough) to stop Palestinian political violence and protect Israel's interests.
Ayalon concluded that many settlements should indeed be disbanded, but the transferred settlers should be embraced and receive support - both financial and moral - from the state and the public, and not being treated as enemies. ,
Of the far left groups Gush Shalom is one that sticks to the two-state solution. Moderate left-wingers often blame the far left for the bad image the Israeli peace camp has in the eyes of Zionist Israeli public.