Peace between Israel and Palestine seems a teensy bit more possible this week than the last.
Negotiations are apparently entering a bulldozer phase: Israeli politician Zehava Gal-On announced yesterday that the U.S. will stage an "active intervention" in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks this coming January, regardless of hesitance on either side. [Update: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry later denied that he would impose a plan, saying, "Let me categorically dispel any notion that there is anything other than the track that is formally engaged in between Israel and the Palestinians."]
And now — riding that wave of renewed hope — Israeli organization Peace Now is doing its part to align public opinion with the potential breakthrough.
Currently, popular support for a two-state solution is at about 55 percent, both in Israel and in the West Bank. But that slim majority of approval is more theoretical than practical — because most Jewish Israelis still don't want to withdraw from the settlements in the West Bank, and most Palestinians are still hoping for a "right of return" to Israel. And those figures don't even begin to address cordoned-off Gaza. As author China Miéville wrote in his tragically beautiful piece for Guernica Magazine this month: "The holy land is now a land of holes, and lines, a freakshow of topography gone utterly and hideously mad."
Peace Now, however, knows that despite the deep-set physicalities and ideologies driving the Israel-Palestine conflict, we have to find an in-road somewhere. In a video released yesterday called "Why We Struggle For Peace," the non-governmental organization — formed in 1978 to push through an Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, which they succeeded in doing — goes back to basics, reminding Israelis what's really at stake.
"For far too long we stood on the sidelines, while blood was shed, while indifference took over, while opportunities were missed, and hope was nearly lost," says the narrator, over stark, slo-mo clips of inanimate objects crashing and breaking, including a watermelon meant to evoke carnage. "But when you truly love something, you will do everything for it," says the voice, as a newborn falls into the arms of his father. The narrative also plays to Israel's head, bringing up the country's evil reputation abroad, economic troubles and omnipresent brain drain. "Although the struggle for peace may not always be popular, and may even be frightening," concludes the video, "we must never forget this is the struggle for our future."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry may finally be giving that decades-long struggle a hard deadline. Here's what's coming in early 2014, according to Gal-On:
“The Obama administration plans to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough at the beginning of 2014. The Americans want to move from coordinating between the two sides to a phase of active intervention. This coming January, they will present a new diplomatic plan that will include all the core issues and will be based on the 1967 lines, with agreed-on land swaps. The plan will include a gradual timetable for implementation and will also address the dimension of regional peace based on the Arab Peace Initiative. It will also include an economic plan to invest billions in the Palestinian economy.”
The most stubborn obstacle to peace between Israel and the West Bank, in my observation, is mutual mistrust — the sum of daily injustices that build and harden and grow deep, twisty roots. A Palestinian boy is shot by an Israeli soldier on his way home from school. An Israeli girl is hit by sniper fire in her West Bank settlement. Jewish settlers destroy Palestinian olive groves in the night, trampling their neighbors' pride and livelihood. Everyone knows someone, or knows someone who knows someone, who was hit by an IDF bomb or bullet, or targeted in an anti-Israel terror attack.
And where there's not fear, there's complacency. At least in Tel Aviv, over months and sometimes years of calm, it's easy to go about one's charmed city lifestyle and forget about the actively caged-in people just a short drive south or east.
But this status quo is no longer acceptable, says Peace Now — the process must move forward. In a statement circulated through the organization's daily news blast, Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer wrote:
"The film illustrates in a minute and a half the contemporary vision of all those who believe in a two-state solution and support reaching an agreement. The peace camp must demand that Netanyahu overcome political and psychological barriers and reach a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinian side and with the Arab world. From our point of view, possibility of holding a national referendum is real and and the work of persuasion must start from now."
For more on the U.S. branch of Peace Now and its remote crusade for a two-state solution, see the Jewish Journal interview with Americans for Peace Now founder Mark Rosenblum. Moment of truth: “What convinces people to listen to you," he said, "is when you listen to them."