Yes we care

As a young Israeli, I can confidently say that this generation longs for peace and wants to see an end to this conflict, for our sake and our children's sake.

Peace Sign 311 (photo credit: Albatros Aerial Photography)
Peace Sign 311
(photo credit: Albatros Aerial Photography)
I am a young Israeli. I moved here 18 years ago from Columbus, Ohio together with my family, served six years in our military, and since then in a range of public positions. Therefore, when I saw Time magazine’s recent cover story, “Why Israelis Don’t Care about Peace,” I personally felt misunderstood – a feeling that Israelis have come to know, as Israel is all-too- often “lost in translation.”
While it’s true that the latest round of peace talks hasn’t caused much excitement on Israeli streets – at least as of yet – I can say with certainty that the overwhelming majority of Israelis yearn for peace and believe that a two-state-solution is both crucial and urgent. Following years of negotiations, summits and near-misses, the question is not if, but rather when and how this will be achieved.
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Just one year after moving to Jerusalem, at the age of 12, I remember the Oslo accords period.
Back then, in the early 1990s, the issue of a two-state solution, the creation of a Palestinian state beside our Jewish State of Israel was one that was fiercely debated. Then, the army conducted exercises based on the possibility of a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. Today, many Israelis and Israeli leaders no longer see this as a threat, but wonder whether there is a Palestinian leader capable of such a move – to focus on real nation building instead of settlement moratoriums.
IT IS true that the latest peace summit has not, at this early point in its development, taken precedence over domestic issues among the majority of Israelis. Our local media reflect that. Like all sensible people, we value intellect over indignation and speech over sword. And for that reason it is incredibly frustrating when issues surrounding the conflict take center stage. We Israelis make it a point not to let every facet of the conflict dominate our lives.
However, this does not mean we, especially those of us of the younger generation, do not want or care about peace. On the contrary, we care very deeply for peace and want to see the day this conflict comes to an end.
We wait for that day – for our own sake and for that of future generations.
We await a day when we will not have to send our children to serve in the army. We long for the day when we must no longer be on guard for terrorists. To suggest otherwise is to thoroughly misunderstand the hesitant mood on the streets surrounding the latest peace efforts.
Any skepticism is not rooted in a lack of desire for peace, but rather a variety of other realities. First and foremost, we yearn for inspirational leaders on both sides. Gone are the days of Yitzhak Rabin’s courageous leadership, Anwar Sadat’s historic vision and King Hussein’s monumental gestures.
There is now a moment of opportunity for leaders on all sides to provide such inspiration. From an Israeli perspective, it seems as if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wishes to seize the moment with declarations of willingness to make tough decisions in the name of peace. He should be applauded for this.
IN THE meantime, young Israelis are not simply sitting on the sidelines.
Organizations are being formed, movements are being born and the young generation is rising up. For example, young leaders have joined current and former political and business leaders from all sides of the political arena to form “Blue White Future” – a grassroots effort to stream the political will into an organized political campaign.
The support for a good solution exists; it simply needs a voice.
Secondly, we have tired of the all-too- familiar blame game that surrounds peace talks. Even the sides themselves find it hard to remember where everything began, and keep track of who is right and who is wrong at any given moment.
We further believe that some issues of strategic importance are not even being addressed, such as the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. How can a two-state solution be negotiated without acknowledging the vicious Hamas- PLO rivalry? This raises the question of whether there is a chance at a real peace or just a piece of paper? Answering these questions might require extraordinary risk and heart-wrenching – albeit necessary – sacrifice on our part.
Despite our doubts, we truly want to believe that these peace talks will work. We hope that this will not be another summit that ends in dismal disappointment.
This is most evident in the fact that our spirits rise every time we see a spark of potential. When Netanyahu declared that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is his “partner for peace,” the newspaper pages were filled with hope. Young Israelis are yearning for any tangible indicator that this time peace will arrive.
We want to be inspired. We so want to believe that this time is different and that the leaders of Israel and our Arab neighbors are serious.
We sincerely hope that we can put this conflict behind us. Israelis of all ages and from all sectors will come out and fill the town squares when a lasting peace arrives. Our message is, and has always been clear: “Do not doubt our yearning for peace. Do not doubt that we care for peace.”
Yes, we care. Now let’s make it happen.

The writer was bureau chief to former minister of public security Avi Dichter and a captain in the IDF (reserves). He is currently executive director of the Australian Israel Leadership Forum.