Recently Eden Attias, 19, a new IDF soldier, was stabbed to death while sleeping
on a bus from Nazereth to Tel Aviv by Hussein Jawadra, a 16-year-old Palestinian
who had never met him but has two cousins in Israel prisons.
night a Palestinian home in Sinjil, north of Ramallah, was set on fire in a
“price tag” attack that sent five young children to the hospital due to smoke
inhalation. Scrawled on the burned-out home were the words: “Regards from Eden,
Balancing the politics of peace with the viewpoints of various
Israeli political leaders and their constituencies has created a process of
action and reaction that recently involved the government of Israel releasing 26
Palestinian prisoners in deference to the terms of the current peace
negotiations and then following that with the announcement of planning for new
settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
to that action the Palestinian negotiating team resigned and the Israeli prime
minister and Palestinian officials traded insults, defining the problem with the
peace negotiations alternatively as Palestinian incitement and Israeli
unwillingness to stop building.
Underneath it all is a deep and abiding
mistrust of Israelis by Palestinians and of Palestinians by Israelis following
much more than a generation of warfare including terror, assassination,
occupation, armed and unarmed resistance, house demolitions, rocket
attacks/responses and vice versa, incarceration, pain and more pain, anger, fear
and the loss of hope.
It is the growing disparity between the general
belief in peace held by both peoples and the belief that peace is impossible for
the foreseeable future that makes the current US-led negotiations so infinitely
difficult with so many politicians and pundits on all sides anxiously awaiting
the opportunity to document the next action or inaction against or in favor of
the peace process as a means to sow public discord.
To limit the ability
to derail the talks the Obama administration has smartly negotiated its own
agreement by the principals to keep the details private. But the very privacy
that places the negotiators in a cone of silence separates the public from the
peace process and reinforces the distance that has been created on both sides as
a result of the second intifada, the wall, the unilateral disengagement from
Gaza, the advancement of Hamas, the continual expansion of the settlement
enterprise, all the death and destruction and the relentless delegitimization of
the other by both sides.
It is fair to ask if peace is possible in this
environment. The answer of increasing numbers of Israelis and Palestinians is a
resounding “no.” So Israelis have migrated to the Right and believe in security
if not stability, and the iron fist necessary to guarantee
Palestinians are increasingly replacing belief in a failed two-state,
Oslo-driven land for peace formula with a goal of punishing Israel
internationally with a growing BDS campaign, legal challenges and a conviction
that time will overwhelm Israel with the democracy of demography.
doesn’t sound or feel much like a viable path to peace, even though the
alternative represents years and maybe decades more of a conflict marked by
death, loss, victimization, deep-seated hate and a level of pain that is
incalculable to those of us separated by an ocean living largely in a modern
world beyond the boundaries of tribal warfare.
To break out of the cage
that both sides have worked long and hard to place the other, and unwittingly
themselves, into, requires direct action. Israelis have been and are still being
taught every day to view Palestinians as the enemy. They are taught by events,
in schools and by their lives. Palestinians have been, are being taught every
day to view Israelis as the enemy. They are taught by events, in schools and by
their lives. It is necessary to create a process to challenge the message, to
alter the education and instill a belief that peace is possible. This can only
be done by Israelis and Palestinians coming together to meet and get to know
each other as human beings in facilitated people- to-people dialogues across the
length and breadth of Israel and the Palestinian territories.
not be a one-time event that magically plants the seeds of peace in the hearts
and minds of Palestinians and Israelis whose memories include the scars of war
and death and denial and countless acts of brutality by the enemy.
cannot begin on January 1 and end on December 31. It is necessary to build a
“peoples’ program for peace education” that will be initiated and financed by
the international community and formally endorsed by both Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to give it
the legs to stand and deliver irrespective of the success or failure of the
current round of peace negotiations.
There are lots of loaded words like
“normalization” that continue to block communication between Israelis and
Palestinians who need to talk, to listen, to learn, to understand and to accept
each other enough to believe once again in peace and work together to make it
so.The author is president of ICMEP, the Interfaith Community for Middle
East Peace, an NGO based in suburban Philadelphia, and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. The words of the author do not represent the policy of
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