Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace

September 14, 2010
Richard Kuper

time_vickWhy Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace

Karl Vick / Jerusalem 02 September 2010

and comment by Didi Remez of Coteret

Heli and Eli sell condos on Exodus Street, a name that evokes a certain historical hardship in a neighborhood that suggests none at all, the ingathering of the Jews having entered a whole new realm here. The talk in the little office is of interest rates and panoramic sea views from handsomely appointed properties selling on the Ashdod waterfront for half what people are asked to pay in Tel Aviv, 18 miles (29 km) to the north. And sell they do, hand over fist — never mind the rockets that fly out of Gaza, 14 miles (22.5 km) to the south. “Even when the Qassams fell, we continued to sell!” says Heli Itach, slapping a palm on the office desk. The skull on her designer shirt is made of sequins spelling out “Love Kills Slowly.” “What the people see on the TV there is not true here,” she says. “I sold, this week, 12 apartments. You’re not client, I tell you the truth.”The truth? In the week that three Presidents, a King and their own Prime Minister gather at the White House to begin a fresh round of talks on peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the truth is, Israelis are no longer preoccupied with the matter. They’re otherwise engaged; they’re making money; they’re enjoying the rays of late summer. A watching world may still define their country by the blood feud with the Arabs whose families used to live on this land and whether that conflict can be negotiated away, but Israelis say they have moved on.

Now observing 2½ years without a single suicide bombing on their territory, with the economy robust and with souls a trifle weary of having to handle big elemental thoughts, the Israeli public prefers to explore such satisfactions as might be available from the private sphere, in a land first imagined as a utopia. “Listen to me,” says Eli Bengozi, born in Soviet Georgia and for 40 years an Israeli. “Peace? Forget about it. They’ll never have peace. Remember Clinton gave 99% to Arafat, and instead of them fighting for 1%, what? Intifadeh.”

But wait. Deep down (you can almost hear the outside world ask), don’t Israelis know that finding peace with the Palestinians is the only way to guarantee their happiness and prosperity? Well, not exactly. Asked in a March poll to name the “most urgent problem” facing Israel, just 8% of Israeli Jews cited the conflict with Palestinians, putting it fifth behind education, crime, national security and poverty. Israeli Arabs placed peace first, but among Jews here, the issue that President Obama calls “critical for the world” just doesn’t seem — critical.

Another whack for the desk. “The people,” Heli says, “don’t believe.” Eli searches for a word. “People in Israel are indifferent,” he decides. “They don’t care if there’s going to be war. They don’t care if there’s going to be peace. They don’t care. They live in the day.”


This is an abridged version of an article that appears in the Sept. 13, 2010, print and iPad editions of TIME magazine.


Yediot to Abe Foxman: Are we anti-Semitic too?

Didi Remez 14 September 2010

Not exactly, but close.

For those of you who have missed the latest chapter of what Matt Duss calls “the continuing attempt to redefine ‘blood libel’ as ‘saying things about Israel I don’t particularly like’”, here’s a brief: This week’s TIME Magazine cover story was a feature by Karl Vick, entitled “Why Israel doesn’t care about peace” was not very useful from the current Hasbara perspective. Unfortunately, attacking it on its merits proved to be somewhat difficult. But Abe Foxman is always ready to play the anti-Semitism card. Haaretz:

A Time magazine cover story claiming Israelis are more interested in their booming economy than reaching an historical peace agreement with the Palestinians is another version of the anti-Semitic falsehood that Jews prefer money above any other interest, the Anti Defamation League said in a statement on Thursday.

This vile anti-Semitism has apparently penetrated Israel’s largest daily,  Yediot Acharonoth. Here’s how senior political columinist Sima Kadmon wraps her analysis of the latest polling on this morning front-page (entitled “Goodbye to peace”, full translation and poll results at bottom of this post):

What has happened to us? When did we come to be so lacking in faith? A week ago Time magazine ran a cover story about why Israelis don’t want peace. Many people criticized the article’s point of departure.

When one reads the findings of this poll, one is forced to contemplate the possibility that that thesis is not so ludicrous.

Goodbye to peace

Sima Kadmon, Yediot, September 14 2010 [page three with front-page teaser]

Profound pessimism — that would probably be deemed the understatement of the year in describing the Israeli public’s positions on the morning that the prime minister leaves for a summit meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh.

A Mina Tzemah poll that was conducted yesterday proves that the Israeli public has lost its faith: it has lost its faith in Netanyahu’s intentions, it has lost its faith in Abu Mazen’s abilities and his intentions to be a partner, it has lost its faith in peace. And worst of all, it has lost hope.

It would seem that somewhere along the way to a peace arrangement with the Palestinians we turned into a bitter, untrusting, weary and despairing people. Only that can explain how 48% are opposed (versus 45% who support) a peace arrangement with the Palestinians in which they recognize Israel as a Jewish state and Israel concedes most of the territories in the West Bank, while keeping the settlement blocs in Israeli possession. Since when would a plan of that sort be unacceptable to the public, when would we not have endorsed such a plan wholeheartedly?

Perhaps the reason is that only 36% of the public believes that Netanyahu is sincere in his intentions to reach an arrangement with the Palestinians. Fifty-six percent believe that he is doing everything as a result of American pressure. And that is relatively good in comparison to what the Israeli public thinks about Abu Mazen’s intentions. Only 23% believe that Abu Mazen and the Palestinians are sincere in their intentions. Seventy percent believe that they were forced into the talks by American pressure. So is it any wonder that only a quarter of the Israeli public, 25%, believe that there is a chance that the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will lead to a peace agreement? Seventy-one percent reject that notion.

And if that is the state of affairs and there is no chance of reaching a peace arrangement, why continue with the internal disagreements about a construction freeze? Why continue to wrack our brains on compromises, on calming tempers? Let’s tell everyone we’re not playing that game any more and go all out. When the respondents were asked whether they believed that the resumption of construction would lead to the derailment of the talks with the Palestinians, 68% said they believed it would certainly lead to their derailment. Nevertheless, 51% of the public believes that construction should be resumed everywhere throughout Judea and Samaria. In other words, despite the fact that a large majority believes that a resumption of construction while talks are underway will derail those talks, that course of action is acceptable to more than half of the Israeli public.

Even when the respondents are offered the option of a compromise in which construction is partially suspended and will be pursued mainly in the settlement blocs—a compromise that on the face of things ought to be acceptable to a majority of the public—it turns out that only 42% are prepared to consider that possibility. Thirty-two percent of the public object to that compromise because they believe that the construction moratorium ought to be ended altogether.

What has happened to us? When did we come to be so lacking in faith? A week ago Time magazine ran a cover story about why Israelis don’t want peace. Many people criticized the article’s point of departure.

When one reads the findings of this poll, one is forced to contemplate the possibility that that thesis is not so ludicrous.


Poll: Majority opposed to moratorium

Poll by Dahaf Polling Institute, Yediot, September 14 2010 [page three with front-page teaser]

Q: Should Netanyahu extend the settlement construction freeze after September 26, or should construction be resumed?

Extend construction freeze: 39%

Resume construction: 51%

No response/don’t know: 10%

Q: Would you support a compromise in which construction in the territories is partially suspended—in other words, for there to be construction only in the settlement blocs?

I would support such a compromise: 42%

I am opposed because the construction freeze should be comprehensive: 20%

I am opposed because the construction freeze should be ended: 32%

No response/don’t know: 6%

Q: Do you believe that Netanyahu is serious in his intentions to reach an agreement, or do you believe that he has entered negotiations because of American pressure?

Because of American pressure: 56%

His intentions are sincere: 36%

No response/don’t know: 8%

Read more…

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