Thursday, December 16, 2010

Israel never really wanted peace

A brave and cogent essay from a professor in Hebrew University's (Jerusalem) Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies.  Among his more powerful assertions:
To a great extent, Netanyahu and his cabinet are representative of Israeli society today. Public opinion polls point to increasing extremism, bordering on racism, in Jews' opinion of Arabs, as well as to alienation and a distrust of the other side's goals and intentions. Given these circumstances, it's no wonder there is no public pressure on the government to advance the peace process and that there was no significant public response to the dramatic announcement that the talks had been suspended. . . .

In the past decade, Israel has faced a number of Arab initiatives: the Arab League peace plan, Syrian offers to negotiate, Palestinian willingness to move forward and even moderate declarations from Hamas. Successive Israeli governments responded to all of them with restraint and icy indifference (with the exception of the waning days of Ehud Olmert's term as prime minister ).

Israel's listless response to these proposals cannot be understood as coincidental or circumstantial; it is a pattern of behavior. And Israel has never proffered its own initiative that would indicate a desire for peace. This leads us to the unhappy conclusion that Israel - both its government and its people - are not really interested in peace; at most, they make the sounds of peace, but that is not enough.

There is simply no reason to expect from the current Israeli government - or perhaps from any foreseeable one - a genuine push for a fair peace that would allow a viable, truly autonomous Palestinian state.  Nor does the Obama White House have the political will, the political capital, the diplomatic savvy, or the Congressional support to move Mr. Netanyahu in that direction.

Meanwhile, Israel's anti-occupation political left is on life support, the settlers in the West Bank know that Avigdor Lieberman (as well as Netanyahu himself) has their back, and the influence of Israel's old secular Zionist leadership is continually undercut by the emergence of new elements in Israeli political culture: the often rabidly anti-Arab (and barely Jewish) Russian immigrants, and the religious conservative Ultra-Orthodox, whose influence has grown markedly within the ranks of the IDF (and some of whose rabbis - including those in the IDF - have taken to enunciating Biblical justifications for taking Arab land, and lives.

And all of them, of course, are aided and abetted by the likes of Pastor Hagee and the multitudinous flocks of Christians United for Israel, who see in the dispossession and humiliation of Palestinian Arabs the fulfillment of Biblical prophesy and the "End of Days."

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