The results of a poll, just released, shed light on the stall in what optimist label the peace process.
It is just a bit of light, insofar as the results should not surprise anyone.
A majority of Israelis (54 percent of those polled), are willing to withdraw from territory in exchange for a peace agreement with Palestinians.
Nothing new here. Israelis have been saying that for years.
What is more instructive, and destructive of any foreseeable agreement, is that a larger majority (72 percent) are not willing to withdraw all or part of the settlements in exchange for an end to the dispute with Palestinians.
That finding gains weight when viewed in the context of those polled: the sample did not include Israelis living in the settlements.
Other findings are that only 14 percent are willing to withdraw all settlements in the West Bank, and only 4 percent are willing to return to the borders of 1967.
The large majority not willing to withdraw settlements constrains any Israeli government, and reinforces the inclinations of the present government. Suicide bombers, rockets fired in response to the withdrawal from Gaza, and continued killings, although at a reduced rate, have made their contribution to distrust of the Palestinians. Peace is desirable, but the prospects do not seem equal to the costs of moving tens of thousands of Israelis, or perhaps even a small portion of them.
Israel is not a democracy governed by referendum. A future government might risk a great deal for peace. Menachem Begin did it with respect to Egypt and the Sinai. Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert tried it with the Palestinians. Immediate chances are not encouraging.
In a recent interview, Benyamin Netanyahu said,
"This is an insoluble problem, because it is not about territory. It''s not that you cannot give up another kilometer in order to solve it. The root of the problem is elsewhere. Until Abu Mazan recognizes Israel as a Jewish state there will be no way to an agreement."
The prevailing explanation for Palestinian reluctance to recognize Israel as a Jewish state--while they insist on removing Israeli Jews from what they claim as Palestine--is a concern for the rights of Arabs living in Israel.
Should we say "hmm," chuckle, or roll on the floor in our giggles? Or grant that the Palestinian leadership has a genuine concern for human rights?
Could they have learned that from its people pushing out the Christians from Bethlehem and Ramallah? Or perhaps their Israeli cousins taught them about human rights after turning Nazareth from a Christian to a Muslim dominated city? Or from Muslims elsewhere in the Middle East, such as those who have served Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, or Bashar al-Assad?
Israeli Arabs do endure discrimination. They have fewer occupational opportunities than Jews, and do not benefit from the law of return that Israel grants to Jews worldwide. Their towns are not served as well with paved roads, parks, schools, and other social services as Jewish towns.
One can argue with statistics and anecdotes if Israeli Arabs do better or worse than minorities in North America and Western Europe. They have about 20 percent of the population, lower than average levels of education, a history of hostility toward the Jewish majority, and a culture that differs from that of the majority on language and a number of other traits. Most Arabs vote for political parties in national elections that are chronically anti-governmental and do not play the game of going along in order to get benefits for their constituents. Their local authorities are generally in the hands of extended families that look after their own, and do not collect taxes at the levels of local authorities in Jewish towns. Among the cultural differences is a high rate of violent crime. Most of that is internal, Arab against Arab. It includes "family honor killings" of women, and protracted feuds between extended families with waves of revenge killings that erupt periodically for several generations.
We all have enough experience to keep the salt handy when listening to politicians who have reached high office.
Today''s news provokes skepticism not only about the leaders of Palestine. Egyptian authorities appear to be serious about charging Ilan Grapel with espionage and other anti-state activities. Based upon reports about other cases that appear to have been fabricated, the young man moved more by his heart than his head may be facing 15 years in a prison he will be lucky to survive.
The New York Times is reporting that the White House is excusing itself from having to comply with the War Powers Resolution in the case of the pummeling it has helped to direct against the forces of Muammar Gaddafi. The reasoning: “U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve U.S. ground troops.”
The Times reporters express their own skepticism. "(T)he White House acknowledged (that) the operation has cost the Pentagon $716 million in its first two months and will have cost $1.1 billion by September at the current scale of operations."
The preacher said it well:
"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
The preacher also wrote "Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body." (12:12)
Let me hope that he was not projecting forward to my notes.