Regardless of what kind of coalition a bruised and humbled Prime Minister Netanyahu shapes in the new government, the prospects for peace will depend less on his government’s actions and more on the sentiments of Israel’s neighborhood.
To get a sense of those sentiments, consider the words of newly elected President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt, a country that is technically “at peace” with Israel and is critical to its security.
As reported in The New York Times, three years ago Morsi was caught on video at a rally urging his followers to “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews,” whom later that year he described as “bloodsuckers,” “warmongers” and “descendants of apes and pigs.”
Morsi is far from the exception in his Jew-hatred. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a fellow at the Belfer Center’s Future of Diplomacy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School, wrote in The Times:
“All over the Middle East, hatred for Jews and Zionists can be found in textbooks for children as young as three, complete with illustrations of Jews with monster-like qualities. Mainstream educational television programs are consistently anti-Semitic. In songs, books, newspaper articles and blogs, Jews are variously compared to pigs, donkeys, rats and cockroaches, and also to vampires and a host of other imaginary creatures.”
The vile depiction of Jews and Zionists is especially prevalent in Palestinian society, something that has been exposed in detail by the group Palestinian Media Watch.
It is this vicious Jew-hatred, above all, that has killed every hope for peace.
As Ali writes: “So many explanations have been offered for the failure of successive U.S. administrations to achieve that peace, but the answer is in Morsi’s words. Why would one make peace with bloodsuckers and descendants of apes and monkeys?”
Israelis are not stupid. They read all this stuff. They haven’t given up on peace, but they’ve given up on peace illusions.
The conventional wisdom before Election Day was that Israel is “moving right.” As I see it, it is reality that has moved right, and Israel has had no choice but to adapt.
Ever since the heady days of Oslo 20 years ago, Israelis have gotten burned whenever they stuck their collective necks out for peace.
They saw how all the years and hopes they invested in Yasser Arafat were wasted on a duplicitous conniver who launched a terror war that murdered a thousand Israelis; they saw how terror rockets were launched on Israeli civilians after they evacuated Lebanon and Gaza; and now they see their so-called “peace partner” Mahmoud Abbas trying to make peace with Hamas, a terror entity sworn to Israel’s destruction.
Israelis see an Arab Spring that has generated even more Jew-hatred and even worse conditions for peace.
When they look east, they see an Iranian madman building a nuclear arsenal to wipe Israel off the map. And when they look north, they count their blessings that they never gave up the Golan Heights to a murderous despot now fighting a horrendous civil war.
Simply put, Israelis have come to understand that no amount of concessions or settlement freezes or red-carpet summits will thaw the icy Jew-hatred that lies at the core of the conflict.
They’ve come to understand the perverted and ruthless logic of the Middle East: The more you want peace and show weakness, the more you get war.
The more desperate you appear for a solution, the further you get from it.
Many American Jews are perplexed and exasperated that Israel has not been more “practical” or done “whatever it takes” to get their enemies to come to the peace table.
They assume that the more you push for something, the better your chances of getting it. They can’t see how “dig in and tough it out” can even be an option.
What they’ve missed is that, in recent years, Israel has taken on a very Middle Eastern attribute: patience.
Essentially, Israel has been telling the Arab and Muslim world: We’ve waited 2,000 years to come home, and we’re ready to wait another 2,000 years to make peace. Whenever you’re ready to accept us, we’ll be here, ready to talk peace.
In the Middle East, patience is leverage.
Patience itself is a very centrist idea. It avoids the extremes of both sides.
Bibi is fortunate that a centrist party, Yesh Atid, has done remarkably well. This will help him shape a more reality-based coalition.
This reality cuts both ways. On the one hand, it means recognizing that Israel must eventually make peace with its neighbors, and never lose hope.
On the other, it means recognizing that if the conditions are not ripe for peace, pushing too hard actually can backfire.
Let’s hope that Bibi’s new coalition will be able to pull off that balancing act: to show the world that Israel is absolutely ready to make peace, while exercising the hard-nosed realism that the neighborhood demands.
Israelis have learned the hard way that pushing for peace with those who hate you can bring you further from peace, and that showing weakness with those who compare you to pigs and apes can be an invitation to another war.
David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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