Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Eleventh Hour

The majority of Israelis no longer believe in peace.

That is the only conclusion one can reach from the recent Israeli elections.

It is the only conclusion one can reach from a recent poll done for Israel's Channel 2 TV station. According to Angus/Reid, 51 percent of "Israeli adults" oppose the creation of a Palestinian State, while only 32% support it. (I think it goes without saying that virtually all the 51% do not envision giving Palestinians the right to vote in the "one state solution". The numbers are even worse than they appear, if we take the report at face value: that the survey included all "Israeli adults", including Israeli Arabs. If we assume that the 18% of the Israeli population that is Arab is all buried within the 32% who support a Palestinian State, then the number of Israeli Jews that oppose the idea of a Palestinian State is 62% versus 17% for. )

That most Israelis have given up on peace, is also the only conclusion one can reach from this story in Haaretz - about Israel rejecting an offer for $850 million (yes, almost 1 billion !!) to build and operate a hospital and "Peace Campus" on the Israel/West Bank border. The hospital would serve both Israelis and Palestinians. The campus was to be built in the Israeli side of the border, and was to serve residence of the Jenin area of the West Bank and the Afulah area of Israel. But it has been nixed by the Israeli security establishment. Their reason:
Why should we look for trouble? What will happen if Hamas takes control of the West Bank? And what will we do if a terrorist infiltrates the compound and kidnaps a doctor?
The project organizers, the Turkish government (yes Turkey: one of Israels only friends in the Muslim world) has offered to pay for the construction and operation of any security measures the Israelis wanted. Still no approvals. The projects sponsor,
Prof. Ali Dogramaci, rector of Bilkent University in Ankara, is saying that if Israel does not approve the project soon (he has been in negotiations for 2 years) he will take his project elsewhere.

The Haaretz article concludes with:
An aide to the director general of the Prime Minister's Office informed Paz [Dogramaci's representative in Israel] that due to "a lack of security feasibility," the project was not approved. This was at the height of Operation Cast Lead, which sparked a severe crisis in Israel-Turkey relations. Dogramaci continued to believe, however, that the Israeli side would keep its promises.

After repeated requests for comment, Paz offered this reply: "It's too bad that after so many of the country's leaders welcomed the project, they're letting the defense establishment sabotage it. I certainly don't belittle security considerations, but the time has come to stop viewing everything through the hole of the gun-sight and to understand that a political-security reality is not built solely by means of targeted assassinations and checkpoints. Anyone who claims that the compound will constitute a security hazard hasn't bothered to read the plan."

Namik Tan, the Turkish ambassador to Israel, confirmed that all the politicians who met with Dogramaci praised the project, but said that unfortunately, "for practical reasons," it did not take further shape, so that now all he can do is hope that the new government will approve it. He said he also hoped that the political echelon would take advantage of the opportunity to also instruct the security echelon to remove the obstacles standing in the way of plans to build industrial zones in Tarkumiya and Jalama, on Palestinian land.

Tan says that his government invited experts and officials from Israel to Turkey so they could see similar projects built by Dogramaci that have been a great success. "My government, including the most senior echelon, considers the Peace Campus in Gilboa to be a most important project. The entire Turkish establishment wholeheartedly supports it," says the ambassador. ...

Danny Atar is from the mainstream of the Labor Party, and was among the first to press the political echelon to build the separation fence. Still, he believes that such barriers alone are not a long-term answer. "For years, every time terror increased, we told the Palestinians that as long as we have no quiet, they would pay the price. Now, in the past year, thanks to a courageous and wise governor, Jenin has become the quietest place in the territories. Governor Kadura Musa's message to his population has been that economic well-being and health services go hand-in-hand with law and order. If we kill the Turkish peace compound, we'll be showing them that he was mistaken."

Atar emphasizes that Dogramaci asked him for nothing at all except for a suitable piece of land near the seam line. As for the security officials' arguments, he says: "As a former military man, I say with full confidence that there is no security problem here. This is just an invented excuse and everyone can see that. It's a policy of fear befitting unenlightened regimes."
As I said, most Israelis no longer believe in peace. The only question is: is this just a reflection of their assessment of the short term prospects, or is it a value statement about the "way the world works"? In any case, the former attitude always slides towards the latter: "pragmatic" cynicism quickly turns into a permanent hardening of the heart; and acting on the belief that peace is impossible can quickly become a self fulfilling prophecy: war becomes the permanent state of being, and the only question is how to effectively manage it: kindness is for fools.

We are at the 11th hour.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Herzl doctrine that we need a Jewish state because the whole world is antisemitic has been an undercurrent in Jewish thought and a nasty one at that, Israelis seem to have made it a central philosophy and fundraisers in the diaspora pushed for it. This is the result- Peace undermines Zionism.

8:07 am  

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