Do Israelis really want peace?

November 24, 2016 22:56

A very silly piece by Larry Derfner in the Jerusalem Post, arguing that Israelis don't really want peace. Not, you understand, that he disagrees that most Israelis are willing to give up land for peace, or accept a two-state-solution. His complaint is that Israelis are unwilling to throw their arms open, embrace the Palestinians and sing kumbaya:

...I hear this country’s mouthpieces going on about how Israelis, starting with the prime minister, are ready to accept a Palestinian state, how poll after poll shows that two-thirds of the Jewish population is in favor of trading land for peace.

The implication of this hasbara is that Israelis have become so liberal, so dovish, so open-minded about the Arabs. Oh no we haven’t. In 25 years, I have never seen this country so blindly contemptuous of everybody and everything Arab, so drawn to confrontation, so intractably closed-minded. Israelis haven’t come around to the idea of a Palestinian state because they
realize the Palestinians have rights, too, or because they think there’s something immoral about the occupation and the settlements.

Today, if Israelis thought they could get away with expelling the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza and the Israeli Arabs from Israel, they’d support it. But they know they can’t, so they want to put as much distance and as high a wall between them and the Arabs as they can.

If this is your idea of peace, then the cliché “all Israelis want peace” is true.

First, the implication of the polls is emphatically not that Israelis are so "liberal... so open-minded about the Arabs". That is Mr Derfner's interpretation alone. The polls show nothing more than that Israelis are willing to do what it takes to give the Palestinians a state. Anything else is conjecture, so he is destroying a straw man.

Second, Mr Derfner shows himself to be completely ignorant about human psychology. Which people, faced with years of conflict and bloodshed and hostility and wars, could really be expected to have warm, fuzzy feelings about the other side - as Mr Derfner seems to expect? I wouldn't think Israelis feel like that about the Palestinians, and I wouldn't think the Palestinians feel like that about the Israelis. They can't. The only way they could feel what Mr Derfner thinks they should is to shove to one side their experiences and reality and buy into some idealistic fantasy about the other side. Most people -- extreme leftists like Mr Derfner clearly being the exception -- don't work that way.

Third, positive feelings about the other side in the conflict are not a prerequisite to a settlement. They are the result, and probably follow only many years later, when the two peoples have been seperated completely and utterly and everyone has had time, a lot of time, to forgive and forget. If you are going to wait for a romance to bloom before we go ahead with this divorce, you are going to be waiting a long time.

Last but not least, I disagree with Derfner that most Israelis want to reach a settlement because they somehow "hate" Arabs. Obviously, some do. But most Israelis are, first of all, being pragmatic. They understand that the best thing for both peoples is to seperated right now (they just wish they could convince the Palestinians of the same thing, as I wrote in my column this week).  They are also tired and frustrated and just want a normal, quiet life.

Moreover, I believe that a lot of Israeli antagonism to the Palestinians, as it exists, is shallow. The fact is that unlike the Palestinians, who seem to have a problem with the very idea of Israel and Israelis, most Israelis do accept that the Palestinians are here to stay, and will have their own state. The hostility comes because they see the Palestinians want to hurt them. When they see otherwise - that the Palestinians are genuinely interested in building their own state, not destroying the Jewish one - the negative feelings of many, if not most, will go away.

I cannot help but remember how Israelis regularly visited the Arab towns and villages in the West Bank before the first intifada, and how quickly they returned during that brief period in the 1990s when it seemed that peace was on its way. It may take a very long time - see again my column this week - but if there is ever a settlement, i hope it could happen again. 

November 24, 2016 22:56

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