Sunlit Water

January 22, 2011

Peace Is Just A Word

Filed under: Culture,Land,Politics — by teofilo @ 10:49 am

One of the more depressing things about going to Israel was seeing the typical attitudes Israelis have toward the peace process.  There are a wide range of political opinions within Israeli society, of course, but it’s quite apparent both from reading the news and from talking to Israelis that the center of the political spectrum on security issues (the issues that matter most) has moved far to the right in recent years, as shown by the current far-right government with its general lack of interest in pursuing negotiations with the Palestinians.  This seems to clearly be the reason that negotiations have currently stalled; I’m not going to go as far as to say that every time the peace process has broken down it’s been Israel’s fault, but this particular instance of the process stalling absolutely is.  It’s not just that the government has no interest in pursuing an agreement, or that the rising power of the ultra-Orthodox and the Russian immigrant community gives the right a major political boost, although both of those things are true and problematic.  The bigger problem is that the majority of Israelis just don’t seem to care enough to push back against the far right.  Basically, the status quo seems to be working fine for most people.  The economy is booming, the borders are relatively quiet aside from the small-scale rocket attacks that have become somewhat routine by now, and there have been no major terrorist attacks within the heavily populated parts of Israel recently.  There is no sense of urgency, no idea that the current situation is untenable.  People are doing fine and don’t see any particular reason to push for change, so the right is free to throw whatever wrenches it wants into the peace process without losing political power.  This is in striking contrast to the feeling among the Palestinians, whose lives are of course much worse and who are quite eager to make a deal.  The Palestinian leadership has in fact made many concessions already in trying to get Israel to agree to a two-state solution, including agreeing that a Palestinian state would be demilitarized, and Israel is in a strong negotiating position from which to demand even more concessions, but the Israelis don’t seem interested in striking a deal.  They would of course benefit from no longer living in a pariah state with a vast and burdensome security apparatus impinging on their daily lives in all sorts of ways, but they’ve grown used to living like that.  When we were there we spoke to some people at the Geneva Initiative, and this is basically what they said: that one of the biggest challenges they face in getting the peace process going again is apathy on the Israeli side.  They’re basically living in this weird, paranoid, heavily armed bubble, but they don’t seem to care and they don’t seem interested in doing anything to change that.  Strange and depressing, but that’s the way it is.

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