Sunday, September 05, 2010

What do you mean by peace?

"Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace"

This was the headline that accompanied a Time magazine article on the Israeli public's cool and indifferent view of the peace negotiations that were recently restarted in Washington.

The problems with this headline are numerous. First of all, it becomes clear in the article that the author is not really referring to peace as much as he is referring to the peace process.

When he does refer to actual peace, the feeling one gets from the article is that Israelis no longer believe in peace.
"Listen to me," says Eli Bengozi, born in Soviet Georgia and for 40 years an Israeli. "Peace? Forget about it. They'll never have peace. Remember Clinton gave 99% to Arafat, and instead of them fighting for 1%, what? Intifadeh."
I can say that this disbelief is one of the most common views I have heard from Israelis. Many people here will make the same argument, which sounds something like this: "It doesn't matter what we do, or what we give up, it will never be enough for them. There will never be peace here. I would give up all the West Bank and even Jerusalem, but that won't bring peace. As long as Israel is here, they will want to destroy us."

This perspective, from what I understand, didn't really exist ten years ago. If it did, it certainly wasn't main stream. But after the Intafada, the Second Lebanon War, Cast Lead, and all the other countless incidents Israel has experienced in the past decade, belief in peace has withered greatly.

The author of the article never really delves into what Israelis think of as peace, or what they envision peace will be like. It must be said, however, as Backspin pointed out in their critique of this article, that this is an abridged version of the story. It's possible that the author goes deeper into the issue in the print version of the magazine.

Yet, more than anything, I think the writer misses out on a big part of the story even though it's staring him in the face in his own article. Israelis don't really care about the peace process or about achieving peace with their neighbors, because to a great extent they already have it or, at least, something close enough to it.
… the truth is, Israelis are no longer preoccupied with the matter. They're otherwise engaged; they're making money; they're enjoying the rays of late summer …
Now observing 2½ years without a single suicide bombing on their territory, with the economy robust and with souls a trifle weary of having to handle big elemental thoughts, the Israeli public prefers to explore such satisfactions as might be available from the private sphere, in a land first imagined as a utopia.

Want Israelis really want is normalcy - quiet, mundane existence. They don't see that in the peace process, which has failed to bring security, and has mostly brought international scorn and condemnation.

What has worked for Israel is military action. The Intafada was quelled not with diplomacy, but with force. The Second Lebanon War returned quiet to the northern border. Cast Lead brought some respite for the southern communities.

Until Israelis are convinced that the Arabs want real peace with them, they will continue to ignore the much touted peace process and will instead rely on the might of the IDF to bring the security they so desperately crave.

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