What Is Peace?

[New York Times] Yossi Alpher - Israelis want peace but don't believe it's possible, according to a host of opinion polls. For many Israelis, the peace with Egypt and Jordan has not appeared sufficiently beneficial, despite the added security it has brought, to pursue peace with the Palestinians or Syrians. The Golan frontier with Syria is Israel's quietest border even though there is no peace agreement with Damascus. And the two existing peace pacts have not brought anything approximating "normalization" - large and important sectors of the Jordanian and Egyptian publics continue to hold strong anti-Israeli views. Unilateral withdrawal has been even more disappointing. When Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005, its neighbors got all their territory back and repaid Israelis with rockets. Some of this has to do with the rise of militant Islam in the form of Hamas, Hizbullah and their patrons in Iran. But Israelis also perceive in the response a deep-seated Arab and Muslim rejection of Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state. Israelis, then, feel that the peace agreements they do have, as well as those they may achieve, are premised at best on an Arab readiness to accept them at a superficial and conditional level, one that is little different from tactical non-belligerency. This in turn reinforces the sense that Israel's security depends far more on its military might than on any peace agreement. In 1977, when President Anwar Sadat of Egypt came to Jerusalem, told the Knesset "we were wrong to reject you," and stated that 70% of the problem was psychological, Israelis responded by abandoning their skepticism and embracing a peace that included giving up the entire Sinai peninsula. Yet no one has followed in his footsteps. The writer is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

2009-09-11 08:00:00

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