It is not only the economy, stupid, it is also peace

Encountering Peace: We need leaders who tell us the truth, not spin doctors and mantra dolls. We need politicians who are as honest with themselves that are with us.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas 311 (R) (photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)
Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas 311 (R)
(photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters)
Not talking is easier than talking. This is true with regard to Iran, the Arab peace initiative and the Palestinian issue. Let’s be straight – not talking is easier than talking for both sides, not just for Israel. Enemies almost always dismiss the possibility of future peace by insisting that there is no one to talk to. They emboss their argument with a full array of national colors and declare their loyalty to their side. They raise their flag and demand loyalty to their position against the enemy. They paint anyone from within who tries to reach out to the other side or who questions the wisdom of not talking as traitors, quislings, Chamberlains, naïve, stupid or simply disloyal. The enemy is always described as cruel, immoral, fascist, racist, primitive and untrustworthy. Within this environment the infamous self-fulfilling prophecy provides continual support for the position of “sit and don’t do.”
Israeli society entering this election season has been convinced by its leaders and by itself that there is nothing to even talk about regarding the issue of peace with our neighbors. We have so easily removed ourselves from even a serious introspective investigation regarding the possibility of change. We have absolved our political leaders and striving new politicians from even having to present a platform that provides some insight into how they might meet the region on new terms, rather than continue the policy of inaction.
I DON’T understand how the leaders of the country can stand up and face us and appeal for our votes when they have nothing to show, no achievements and not even any real efforts to bring us closer to peace. One speech and a 10-month partial settlement freeze, Mr. prime minister, is not a plan.
None of the parties in the coalition have anything to present to the public in the way of a significant plan, proposal, intention or wish for peace with our neighbors. (As I wrote above, none of our neighbors have taken any real steps either to demonstrate their desire for peace, but that does not hold water as an excuse for no steps from Israel).
We are being told by the experts and by the politicians that these elections will be focused on social-economic issues. The polls continue to demonstrate that the issue of peace is way down at the bottom of list of the public’s concerns. Political strategists tell their clients not to speak about peace, it is not popular, it immediately paints you as “pro-Arab” or as a “radical leftist.”
Speaking about peace during election season is a death blow to any candidate or party, as if peace was bad for us. Our conceptual space has become so distorted that we now associate peace with lack of security. We think that peace is dangerous. We are told about the dangers of Oslo, the crimes and criminals of Oslo, the casualties of peace.
Peace is not dangerous, the absence of peace is.
There were no casualties of Oslo; there were casualties of terrorism brought on by the enemies of Oslo. The criminals of Oslo were those who refused to implement the agreements signed and those who distorted their intentions. The criminals of Oslo were the inciters to violence against peace and those who sanctioned the assassination of our prime minister.
Peace is not a crime. Politicians who speak about peace are not criminals, disloyal or radical in any way.
I HAVE no respect for politicians who refuse to speak about how they will lead this country to peace. Political parties which refuse to put the issue of peace at the top of their agenda do not deserve to win votes.
The public has been duped into believing that we have nothing to do but to wait for our neighbors to surrender their demands and simply acquiesce to whatever Israel is willing to offer. The public has been deceived into believing that we can confront economic and social issues which plague this country without resolving the issue of peace with our neighbors.
The two issues are intertwined and connected by an umbilical cord and neither can be addressed without the flow of nourishment in both directions. Israel cannot afford to close the gaps, to provide the services, enhance the health system, promote excellence in education, improve the welfare system, provide public housing and affordable housing to the middle class, pay higher salaries, and offer the good life to its people without resolving the conflicts with our neighbors.
No magician named Bibi, Shelly, Evett, or even Yair can lay the golden egg or pull the bunny from their hat of tricks and solve our social-economic problems without peace with our neighbors.
All of the people can be fooled some of the time, but apparently some of the time might be quite a lot of time. Eventually times runs out, though, and so does the magic. That time has come.
Immediately after the elections we will wake up to a new dawn of economic austerity. The elections were called because Netanyahu could not produce a budget.
His magic charts and diagrams can no longer do the math. After the elections, the winner will have to cut billions, and who will be hurt by those cuts? All of us, especially the middle class.
Even if Shelly Yachimovich were to become finance minister, she would have no choice but to make those cuts and to hurt the very people who will be sending her into the clutches of another Israeli government that refuses to make peace.
Only by being serious about making peace will there be a chance of changing the regional dynamic of not talking. Only by advancing peace will Israel become attractive once again to foreign investment and tourism. An Israeli government with a true and sincere platform of peace will be able to deal seriously with the social-economic issues. We need leaders who tell us the truth, not spin doctors and mantra dolls.
We need politicians who are as honest with themselves that are with us. It is not only the economy, stupid, it is also peace.
The writer is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit.