Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Give Peace Talks a Chance: Part Two

August 16, 2013 6:30 am 1 comment

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat address reporters on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations at the U.S. Department of State. Photo: State Department.

After recently publishing “Give the Peace Process a Chance” in the Huffington Post and Jerusalem Post, quite a few comments came my way – some highly critical.

They were from the left and right, once again giving me the joy of being the target of both political poles.

The criticism from the left boils down to three main points.

First, “Israel is not interested in peace.”

To which I say, rubbish!

No country anywhere is more interested in peace. Israel’s goal from day one, against the backdrop of relentless persecution of Jews in Europe and across North Africa and the Middle East, has been peaceful coexistence with neighboring states. But it takes two to tango, and, with only a few notable exceptions since 1948, the dance partner has been missing.

Israel is perhaps the only country that, victorious in wars it did not seek, has ceded acquired land in the hope of advancing peace. Witness the treaties with Egypt and Jordan, not to mention the unilateral withdrawals from Gaza and southern Lebanon.

Second, Prime Minister Netanyahu is untrustworthy.

Really?

Isn’t he the very same prime minister who, unlike his predecessors, agreed to a ten-month freeze on settlement building as a confidence-building gesture, only to be confronted by a Palestinian leadership that was AWOL?

And didn’t he defy up to 90 percent of the Israeli public who were opposed to releasing Palestinian prisoners with blood on their hands – the blood of Israeli children and Holocaust survivors – by handing over 26 convicted terrorists this week, with another 78 to go?

And didn’t he take this step not at the end of talks with the Palestinians, but rather before they even began, in order to show the degree of his commitment?

Does anyone think this was an easy decision for Netanyahu? If so, think again. Indeed, ask yourself how many other world leaders would act similarly. The answer, I’d say, is few to none.

And third, if Netanyahu were serious, why did he announce new settlement building this week?

Actually, this wasn’t a surprise. As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed, the Israeli leader was up front about his intentions. Both the Americans and Palestinians knew about it in advance. And, as Kerry stressed, the move does not change the peace map. The building will take place in areas that all sides know will remain in Israeli hands, should there be a two -state deal.

Sure, the Palestinians are railing against the move in public, but it’s a show for their own constituency. And speaking of constituencies, Palestinian leaders aren’t the only ones with a “street” that needs to be taken into account. Israeli leaders also have to think about domestic politics.

And then there are the vocal critics on the right. Their arguments also boil down to three.

First, I must be “delusional” to think a peace process is even possible.

Does it then mean that Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ya’alon, and the other Israeli leaders involved – not exactly from the left end of the Israeli political spectrum – are also delusional? Have they simply fallen on their heads because they concluded it’s worth exploring, for Israel’s sake, if Palestinian calculations, supported by some key actors in the Arab world, have changed, as the U.S. believes might be the case?

The part I don’t get is what exactly the critics suggest as an alternative.

Is it simply to “hang tough,” as if the status quo were infinitely sustainable? Oh, one critic contended, you’re giving away a “state secret,” namely, that Israel might not endure if things don’t change. Nonsense. This subject has been discussed ad infinitum in Israel. Of course, as a strong, resilient nation, it can endure, but doesn’t Israel owe itself the obligation to leave no stone unturned in seeing if a partner, absent yesterday, might somehow show up today?

Second, the United States cannot be trusted to stand with Israel.

Frankly, if you think Washington can’t be trusted, all bets are off. In truth, Israel has no better friend, irrespective of who sits in the Oval Office. The notion that today’s America will sell Israel down the river is, frankly, quite absurd.

One may or may not be a Democrat – I happen to be non-partisan – but it should be abundantly clear to all but the most jaundiced that the U.S. has, as they say, Israel’s back, even as Israel must always be strong enough to defend itself – by itself.

And third, I am “naïve” to think that if the talks fail because of the Palestinians, the world will blame them, and not the Israelis.

As I wrote in the previous piece, of course there’s a global chorus that will blame Israel no matter what. This goes without saying. They don’t like Israel, period. Many of them don’t want Israel to exist. Their outlook is on automatic pilot, at least where Israel is concerned.

But there are others eminently capable of thinking for themselves and seeing the facts as they are. Bill Clinton could not have been clearer in assigning blame for the failure of Camp David to Arafat. Read My Life, Clinton’s autobiography. The vast majority of the American people have figured it out as well, judging from one poll after another. And even Saudi Prince Bandar, then his country’s ambassador in Washington, publicly pointed the finger of responsibility at Arafat.

Sure, many Europeans have a problem separating fact from fantasy when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and they’re not alone.

But the truth is the truth, and we can have no stronger weapon.

So left-wing and right-wing critics aside, there’s a tiny glimmer of hope now.

The peace talks may or may not go anywhere. There is no shortage of reasons why they could well fail. But we should never be fearful of going the extra mile in the hope that maybe, just maybe, something has changed – that, against all the odds, progress can be achieved.

After all, aren’t we commanded to be “seekers of peace”?

This article was originally published by The Jerusalem Post.

1 Comment

  • ISRAEL HAS BEEN GIVING PEACE A CHANCE FOR OVER 4000 YEARS

    NOW ITS TIME TO GIVE ISRAEL A CHANCE BY LEAVING IT ALONE.

    PEACE TALKS?
    RELEASING KILLERS PAYMENT TO ”TALK”?
    THIS WAS DONE YEARS AGO AND
    APPROX 1,100 KILLERS WERE RELEASED,
    GUSH KATIF GIVEN FOR PEACE
    COUNTLESS ATTACKS SUCH AS THE ‘FOGEL FAMILY’
    BUS BOMBINGS,
    ETC ETC ETC

    GIVE PEACE A CHANCE?

    ISRAEL ONLY GOT PEACE THROUGH MIGHT
    KING DAVIDS’ MIGHT…NOT DAVID HARRIS DREAMS.
    KING DAVID PRAYED THEN WENT TO WAR.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    JNS.org – Alan Gross used to be nothing more to me than a tragic headline. When I started my position at this news service in July 2011, Gross had been imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for what that country called “crimes against the state.” Gross, a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet. After his arrest, he received a trial he describes as a “B movie,” […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    JNS.org – When I saw the recent Academy Award-winning film “The Big Short,” I was struck by the sheer genius of the financiers who devised the schemes and packaged the loans for resale, but it left me with unanswered questions about how the properties these loans represented were moved. “The Big Short” was largely about paper transactions, big money, and wealthy investors, and it mildly touched on the way the actual end-users — the home buyers and brokers — played into this […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Why do we think so negatively about psychiatrists that we still insult them by calling them shrinks? Some medics might be quacks, but we don’t generally refer to them as witches! Shrinks; The Untold Story of Psychiatry, by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, is a sobering account of how psychiatry has swung from a marginal, unscientific mixture of weird theories into one of the most common and pervasive forms of treatment of what are commonly called “disorders of the mind.” Is it […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion At Forbes Summit in Israel, Entrepreneurship Is a ‘Common Language’

    At Forbes Summit in Israel, Entrepreneurship Is a ‘Common Language’

    JNS.org – Nine months ago, Seth Cohen, director of network initiatives for the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and Randall Lane, editor of Forbes Magazine, were schmoozing about the “vibrancy of Tel Aviv and soul of Jerusalem,” as Lane put it. They dreamed about how they could bring young and innovative millennials to the so-called “start-up nation.” From April 3-7, Forbes turned that dream into a reality. Israel played host to the first-ever Forbes Under 30 EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) […]

    Read more →