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Why Israelis Care about Peace

Why Israelis Care about Peace

Despite the disappointment and trauma, Israelis still yearn for peace.

by

Imagine that you're a parent who sends her children off to school in the morning worrying whether their bus will become a target of suicide bombers. Imagine that, instead of going off to college, your children become soldiers at age 18, serve for three years and remain in the active reserves into their 40s. Imagine that you have fought in several wars, as have your parents and even your grandparents, that you've seen rockets raining down on your neighborhood and have lost close family and friends to terrorist attacks. Picture all of that and you'll begin to understand what it is to be an Israeli. And you'll know why all Israelis desperately want peace.

Recent media reports, in Time magazine and elsewhere, have alleged that Israelis — who are currently experiencing economic growth and a relative lull in terrorism — may not care about peace. According to a poll cited, Israelis are more concerned about education, crime and poverty — issues that resonate with Americans — than about the peace process with the Palestinians. But such findings do not in any way indicate an indifference to peace, but rather the determination of Israelis to build normal, fruitful lives in the face of incredible adversity.

Yes, many Israelis are skeptical about peace, and who wouldn't be? We withdrew our troops from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip in order to generate peace, and instead received thousands of missiles crashing into our homes. We negotiated with the Palestinians for 17 years and twice offered them an independent state, only to have those offers rejected. Over the last decade, we saw more than 1,000 Israelis — proportionally the equivalent of about 43,000 Americans — killed by suicide bombers, and tens of thousands maimed. We watched bereaved mothers on Israeli television urging our leaders to persist in their peace efforts, while Palestinian mothers praised their martyred children and wished to sacrifice others for jihad.

Given our experience of disappointment and trauma, it's astonishing that Israelis still support the peace process at all. Yet we do, and by an overwhelming majority. According to the prestigious Peace Index conducted by the Tamal Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University and released in July, more than 70% of Israelis back negotiations with the Palestinians, and nearly that number endorse the two-state solution. These percentages exist even though multiple Palestinian polls show much less enthusiasm for living side by side in peace with Israel, or that most Israelis believe that international criticism of the Jewish state will continue even if peace is achieved.

Israelis have always grasped at opportunities for peace.

Indeed, Israelis have always grasped at opportunities for peace. When Arab leaders such as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat or King Hussein of Jordan offered genuine peace to Israel, our people passionately responded and even made painful concessions. That most Israelis are still willing to take incalculable risks for peace — the proposed Palestinian state would border their biggest cities — and are still willing to share their ancestral homeland with a people that has repeatedly tried to destroy them is nothing short of miraculous.

It's true that Israel is a success story. The country has six world-class universities, more scientific papers and Nobel Prizes per capita than any other nation and the most advanced high-tech sector outside of Silicon Valley. The economy is flourishing, tourism is at an all-time high and our citizen army selflessly protects our borders. In the face of unrelenting pressures, we have preserved a democratic system in which both Jews and Arabs can serve in our parliament and sit on our Supreme Court. We have accomplished this without knowing a nanosecond of peace.

We shouldn't have to apologize for our achievements. Nor should outside observers conclude that the great improvements in our society in any way lessen our deep desire for peace. That yearning was expressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the recent White House ceremony for the start of direct negotiations with the Palestinians. Addressing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as "my partner in peace," Netanyahu called for "a peace that will last for generations — our generation, our children's generation and the next."

For Israelis who don't have to imagine what it's like to live in a perpetual war zone, that vision of peace is our lifeline.

This op-ed originally appeared in the LA Times.

Published: September 19, 2010


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Visitor Comments: 11

(11) helen Schwab, October 8, 2010 4:06 AM

I'm NOT "still willing to share (my) ancestral homeland with a people that has repeatedly tried to destroy" us. It is not "nothing short of miraculous" that some Israelis still hope that peace can be made with the PLO student, Abbas; it is dangerous foolishness. The PA charter still calls for the destruction of Israel. Abbas refuses to recognize a Jewish state. If he ever does, be assured it will only be in order to enable him to gain an upper hand in the "struggle for liberation", which means the desruction of Israel.

(10) Debbie, October 3, 2010 5:53 AM

NO MORE LAND FOR PEACE

yes, Israel needs and wants peace, but we'll never accomplish this by giving away our G-d-given land. Look to this week's parsha (Bereishit). Hashem created the world and chose to give this land to us; we have no right to bargain it away. Nothing good will come of giving holy places to our enemies or to anyone.

(9) , October 3, 2010 12:23 AM

peace is not piece. we want true peace bu t the arabs want a piece of every country in the world and israel is no exception to their raveous appetite. the only way for peace to take place is for the arabs to give away their lands so many of miles so much land so much oil so much of everything. The arabs are the stumbling block to peace. they want war as they have always had. even during wwII they tried to interfere and make more war and more troulbe. they were on the nazi side and tried to deliver the Holy Land to them. Buth G-D saved us from them. to achieve peace send the arabs home to their homeland. Establish branches of the AAA the Association for the Aliyah to Arabia. This is the one land where the arabs will flourish and become rich. it is for thier good.

(8) MARK, October 1, 2010 12:23 AM

CANCEL TIME-LIFE SUBSCRIPTIONS

The day this magazine arrived in my office, I had my secretary cancel our subscription not only to Time, but to all Time-Life magazines. Please join me and cancel your subscriptions to Time, People, Money, Sports Illustrated, etc

(7) Anonymous, September 30, 2010 3:14 PM

We have wised up and know what will bring lasting peace. As the PM said, we aren't looking for ways that will bring temporary peace, but long term. So many good changes are happening.

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