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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Who needs peace?

This is the flip side of the story about how much it costs us to try to make peace. Dan Ephron reports in Newsweek that most Israelis aren't very interested in peace anymore.
Only about 40 percent of Israelis now long for a rejuvenated peace process with the Palestinians. An even smaller number, about 20 percent, believe such talks would amount to anything. That doesn't mean Israelis are warmongers, although right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often complains his government is portrayed that way. Palestinian negotiators were outraged last week when the Israelis approved construction of another roughly 700 housing units in East Jerusalem despite a freeze on new building in West Bank settlements; they claim Netanyahu's professed desire to sit down and talk is disingenuous. Yet in the long years since the Oslo process began, each side has had its turn—several turns—as the spoiler. And in fact, more Israelis than ever (including Netanyahu, though with major provisions) now say they're willing to live alongside an independent Palestinian state.

What's changed is that more Israelis than ever also seem to feel little urgency about reaching that goal. This, as much as any reluctance on Netanyahu's part, may pose the greatest obstacle to the Obama administration's efforts to reach a peace agreement before 2012. A combination of factors in recent years—an improved security situation, a feeling that acceptance by Arabs no longer matters much, and a growing disaffection from politics generally—have for many Israelis called into question the basic calculus that has driven the peace process. Instead of pining for peace, they're now asking: who needs it?


In short, Israelis are enjoying a peace dividend without a peace agreement. Clearly, that can't last. Without a resolution to its conflict, Israel will always face the prospect of international isolation and challenges to its very legitimacy. But the tendency toward short-term thinking is reinforced by another somewhat skewed cost-benefit analysis that Israelis are inclined to embrace: while the absence of peace is exacting a very low price, Israeli attempts to forge a peace deal have exacted a very high one.

Most Israelis, in this analysis, associate the Oslo accords not just with the historic handshake on the White House lawn but with the first suicide attacks by Palestinians. Ask Israelis what they got in return for their offer at Camp David nearly a decade ago to hand over most of the West Bank and they'll point to the second intifada. In Israeli minds, Palestinians should have been grateful for the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza—instead they fired rockets at Israel.
Read the whole thing.

I don't agree with everything he says, but it would be fair to say that most Israelis feel no urgency to reach an agreement with the 'Palestinians' and many of us are convinced that the current situation could last for quite some time - barring an Iranian nuclear weapon coming into play. In the long run, the fact that most Israelis don't feel that we have to make peace may be what brings the 'Palestinians' to the table without an unreasonable set of demands.


At 4:09 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Considering a cold peace with the Palestinians is what Israel has now; the only difference between that and what Israel has with Egypt and Jordan are pieces of paper with signatures on them. If its going to be a cold peace, it doesn't seem worth the bother to Israelis of going through a very expensive and pointless exercise to get it. That is exactly why Israelis are not all that enamored of the peace process and don't think the benefits from it outweigh the risks involved. Under the status quo life is pretty good and no one is in a hurry to change it precisely because real peace is far, far and far away.


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