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Give Peace A Chance

Like most observers, I’m not optimistic that the latest round of peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians would conclude successfully. I do believe, however, in the significance of the process, and in the seriousness of the talks on all sides, including the Americans. And I also see a glimmer of hope that something resembling success, in spite of all the obstacles, might just come to be. Mostly though, I admit, I would like to be an optimistic for a change; I would like to see this baby grow up and walk on his own two feet; I would like to give this peace a chance because, very clearly, we’re at a point of no return as far as the two-state solution. And the alternative, the road leading to en eternal war/conflict, and to a one-state outcome with hardly a Jewish majority and character in its future—or worth, to an apartheid state—is too depressing to even contemplate.

First, as to why I’m not optimistic. A number of signs that usually point in the direction of successful peace negotiations are absent now. The negotiations between Israel and Egypt that produced the peace treaty in 1979 did not start with Sadat and Begin. The talks had started clandestinely in Morocco, a while before Sadat made his ground shaking announcement that he would come to Jerusalem and speak at the Knesset, if Israel would agree in principle to give back the Sinai Desert. The behind the scene talks were an important prelude to the successful final peace treaty. The same could be said about the Oslo Accords (and a year later about the peace treaty with Jordan). It was the talks conducted in Norway, in secrecy and over time, that had brought Rabin and Arafat to a successful meeting in the front lawn of the White House, and not vice versa. And if not for the bullets of a religious, extremist fanatic Jewish assassin, incited by the likes of Netanyahu himself, which had killed PM Rabin, the results of the Oslo Accords—and peace between the two sides—would have been markedly different as well.

Second, both Netanyahu and Abbas seemed, at least initially, like two unwilling horses being controlled and maneuvered by Obama, pulling the negotiation carriage on the road of peace in spite of themselves. As for Netanyahu, he was elected to continue the policy of settlements in the West Bank, from strength to strength; to solidify and enlarge Jerusalem as the eternal, undivided capital of Israel; and to object, as he had done plenty of times before, to the creation of a Palestinian State. As for Abbas, even though peace, supposedly, is much more in his interests, he was unable to control Hamas in Gaza to cooperate and stop shelling rockets on Israel; he (or his ministers) keeps voicing objections to fundamental Israeli demands—such as recognizing Israel as a Jewish State—and was practically wrestled and chained by the American to join the talks, though he insisted Israel should first cease all settlement activity in the territory of his future state.

Third, in spite of the grand political theater that was staged first in Washington, then in Sharm el Sheikh and Jerusalem, the results so far are not promising. To begin with, the simple demand by the Palestinians, supported by the Americans, that Israel would continue the freeze on all settlement activity beyond September 26 seem to have fallen on deaf ears. This simple enabler—simple not politically, I realize the difficulties on that front for Netanyahu’s government—but simple in the sense that you cannot continue to not only occupy your partner in peace talks’ land, but also continue to settle it with illegal settlements (illegal both by International law, and apparently by Israeli law too), and expect him to believe that you are serious in attempting to achieve peace. In short, there is a lot of grand standing so far, but no white smoke and no cigar.

But it’s only the beginning, and the cigar of peace—we better believe—may still come. Here then are three reasons why I see some encouraging signs after all. The Americans are dead serious, and the troika of Obama-Clintion-Mitchell seems to be able to enforce their will so far, and to create one key element: momentum. This element may prove to be not only crucial, but to possess a force of its own. Second reason is due to the Iranian factor. All indications, and declarations by Netanyahu since he came to power make it clear that he sees Iran, and its nuclear threat, as the most fundamental threat to Israel’s existents. And even if he can go it alone, he desperately needs the support of the American administration during the raid, and in its aftermath. In other words: give and take. Which bring me to the third reason. As I had mentioned in the beginning, successful negotiations had always started in secrecy and seclusion, far from the eyes of the media and the world. In this case, we still don’t know what Netanyahu, in the seclusion of the oval office, had promised Obama when they had met prior to the start of the current peace process (and what Obama had promised him in return, regarding the Iran threat), that had made the American president so optimistic, and so persistence so early in his administration in pursuing peace in the Middle East. On this note therefore, out of fundamental human hope and belief, I end with the immortal words of the Beatles’ song: Give Peace A Chance.

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One Response

  1. I appreciate your optimism. But as always, you forget some key points from history. Egypt was and always will be a country. The Palestinians have NEVER shown any true interest in such a thing. We also offered the Egyptians and the Jordanians a lot of money for their signatures. And what did they demand in return? “Okay, but Israel has to keep the Palestinians.” And how can peace be bought with money when the Palestinians are already getting so much with essentially no strings attached? I say just let Israel go through the motions, wait for the Palestinians to walk out, and go back to finishing the walls. There is no other logical conclusion. You know,,,, you can pray every night for rain when you live in the desert. But that hot sun will still rise the next morning. The wise man makes sure he’s prepared for it and gets on with his life. Like all good soldiers, Israel will continue to adapt, improvise and move on. Although we are privileged to criticize her, let us not forget our primary duty as Diaspora Jews is to always support Israel. May G-d bless her and guard her!

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