Israel Doesn't Want Peace
by Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz
www.zmag.org, April 11, 2007
The moment of truth has arrived, and it
has to be said: Israel does not want peace. The arsenal of excuses
has run out, and the chorus of Israeli rejection already rings
hollow. Until recently, it was still possible to accept the Israeli
refrain that "there is no partner" for peace and that
"the time isn't right" to deal with our enemies. Today,
the new reality before our eyes leaves no room for doubt and the
tired refrain that "Israel supports peace" has been
It's hard to determine when the breaking
point occurred. Was it the absolute dismissal of the Saudi initiative?
The refusal to acknowledge the Syrian initiative? Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert's annual Passover interviews? The revulsion at the
statements made by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House
of Representatives, in Damascus, alleging that Israel was ready
to renew peace talks with Syria?
Who would have believed it? A high-ranking
U.S. official says Israel wants peace talks to resume and instantly
her president "severely" denies the veracity of her
words. Is Israel even hearing these voices? Are we digesting the
significance of these voices for peace? Seven million apathetic
Israeli citizens prove that we are not.
Entire generations grew up here weaned
on self-deception and doubt about the likelihood of achieving
peace with our neighbors. In our younger days, David Ben-Gurion
told us that if he were only able to meet with Arab leaders, he
would have brought us peace in his time. Israel has demanded direct
negotiations as a matter of principle and Israelis have derived
great pride from the fact that their daily focus on "peace"
has concealed their state's lofty ambitions. We were told that
there was no partner for peace and that the ultimate ambition
of the Arabs is to bring about our destruction. We burned the
portraits of "the Egyptian tyrant" at our bonfires on
Lag Ba'omer, and were convinced that all blame for the lack of
peace lied with our enemies.
After that came the occupation, followed
by terror, Yassir Arafat, the failed second Camp David Summit
and the rise of Hamas to power, and we were sure, always sure,
that it was all their fault. In our wildest dreams, we wouldn't
have believed that the day would come when the entire Arab world
would extend its hand in peace and Israel would brush away the
gesture. It would have been even crazier to imagine that this
Israeli refusal would have been blamed on not wanting to enrage
domestic public opinion.
The world has been turned upside down
and it is Israel that stands at the forefront of refusal. The
policy of refusal of a select few, a vanguard of the extreme,
has now become the official policy of Jerusalem. In his Passover
interviews, Olmert will tell us that, "The Palestinians stand
at the crossroads of a historic decision," but people stopped
taking him seriously a long time ago. The historic decision is
ours, and we are fleeing from this crossroads and from these initiatives
as if from death itself.
Terror, used as the ultimate excuse for
Israeli refusal, only helps Olmert keep reciting, ad nauseum,
"If they [the Palestinians] don't change, don't fight terror
and don't adhere to any of their obligations, then they will never
extract themselves from their unending chaos." As though
the Palestinians haven't taken measures against terrorism, as
though Israel is the one to determine what their obligations are,
as though Israel isn't to blame for the unending chaos Palestinians
suffer under the occupation.
Israel makes a point of setting prerequisites
and believes it has an exclusive right to do so. But, time and
time again, Israel avoids the most basic prerequisite for any
just peace - an end to the occupation. Of all the questions asked
during his Passover interviews, no one bothered to ask Olmert
why he didn't react with excitement to the recent Arab initiatives,
without preconditions? The answer: real estate. The real estate
of the settlements.
It's not only Olmert who is dragging his
feet. A leading figure in the Labor party said last week that
"it will take five to 10 years to recover from the trauma."
Peace is now no more than a threatening wound, with no one still
talking about the massive social benefits it would bring in development,
security, freedom of movement in the region and by establishing
a more just society.
Like a little Switzerland, we are focusing
more these days on the dollar exchange rate and on the allegations
of embezzlement leveled against the Finance Ministry than on the
fateful opportunities fading away before our very eyes.
Not every day and not even in every generation
do we encounter an opportunity like this. Although it's not for
sure if the initiatives are completely solid and believable, or
if they are based on trickery, no one has stepped up to challenge
or acknowledge them. When Olmert is an elderly grandfather, what
will he tell his grandchildren? That he turned over every stone
in the name of peace? That there was no other choice? What will
his grandchildren say?