Please reopen peace talks

Optimism can be stupid and it can be dangerous, but a bit of it is necessary to deal with the real world

The world is a treacherous and cruel place, and anyone who doesn’t believe that is in immediate danger. Paranoids in 1934 applied for visas and entry permits. Nice cheerful folk, who thought only the best of their neighbors, waited and waited until the lines were long and their chances slim.
Those who trusted in God to part the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and lead them to safety were disappointed. The keenest eyes, the sharpest minds looked inward and outward, and saw that violence and terror were waiting in the wings. They lived while others died.
Their personalities may have been harsher. Their capacity to love may have been constricted, their joy in life less than their more carefree relatives. But they survived.
And so, on the surface, it seems right now. Iran is slowly splitting atoms as Israel casts about for means of stopping the centrifuges, while in the United Nations its foes gain comfort from their numbers and their rhetoric. Paranoids call for action and others, the trusters, the dreamers, the kind who tattoo peace signs on their toes, they keep hoping for the best.
And when it comes to peace with the Palestinians, the paranoids say it’s impossible, there is no one to make peace with – they are all determined to drive us into the sea. And this paranoid worldview, which has ample basis in history, drives out the more optimistic songs we might sing.
This paranoid view fits in nicely with the political nationalism of some Jews on both sides of the Atlantic, who feel that the entire land, the gulp of West Bank, the smidge of Gaza, should become, will become in the natural course of time, the land of Israel, as it was meant to be. This is not paranoid, but it finds natural allies in the paranoid mind. Most nations have big dreams, expansionist thoughts, colonialist intentions, and don’t care too much about indigenous populations.
America, I’m talking about you, and you England, France and Belgium, Holland, Germany. Nationalist Jews are not alone in their desire to eat up their neighbors, plant in vanquished fields and build on the previous owners of ancient burial grounds.
The trouble is the offensive actions the paranoids are trumpeting today may, in fact, bring about the very disasters they fear. The more peaceable among us can see that while expecting the worst was just the right thing for Berlin, 1935, it could be all wrong for Tel Aviv, 2013.
Paranoia can make you deaf to an offering of connection. It can make you misunderstand the needs of others. Paranoia can make you blind to a hand held out, to a moment when something good could come to pass. Many American Jews have been persuaded that there is no peaceful Arab and no one to talk to. They have been bamboozled into thinking that peace is hopeless when it is not, at least not yet.
Optimism can be stupid and it can be dangerous, but a bit of it is necessary to deal with the real world. Sometimes your enemy is really tired. Sometimes your enemy will grow to accept your place in the world if you don’t insist on taking his.
Paranoia is a good survival tool but only in the right dose and at the right time. We need to be clear about danger and we need to be clear about what most will serve our needs.
Always hating and fearing will cause our world to collapse on our heads. Always loving and hoping and seeing rainbows where none exist will cause that same world to fall apart.
This is a time for the mind of Israel to remain clear and cool, abandoning neither caution nor hope. Hush the paranoid within, wake the dreamer into reality and, please, reopen the peace talks.
Contributor Anne Roiphe is a novelist and journalist living in New York.