The headline of Gideon Levy’s article today is even more provocative than mine: “Quiet is muck” is how it reads in the English translation. He leads off with this:
- A great disaster has suddenly come upon Israel: The cease-fire has gone into effect. Cease-fire, cease-Qassams, cease-assassiations, at least for now. This good, hopeful news was received in Israel dourly, gloomily, even with hostility. As usual, politicians, the military brass and pundits went hand in hand to market the cease-fire as a negative, threatening and disastrous development.
Even from the people who forged the agreement – the prime minister and defense minister – you heard not a word about hope; just covering their backsides in case of failure. No one spoke of the opportunity, everyone spoke of the risk, which is fundamentally unfounded. Hamas will arm? Why of all times during the cease-fire? Will only Hamas arm? We won’t? Perhaps it will arm, and perhaps it will realize that it should not use armed force because of calm’s benefits.
It is hard to believe: The outbreak of war is received here with a great deal more sympathy and understanding, not to say enthusiasm, than a cease-fire…
So maybe this is the obverse side of the “bellophilia” (love of war) that Meron Benvenisti diagnosed sweeping the Israeli public in 2002. We could call the present phenomenon eirenophobia, the fear or hatred of peace.
- Hamas wants the calm because it serves its goals. That is not necessarily bad for Israel. A few months of quiet and the lifting of the terrible siege on Gaza could create a new reality. Noam Shalit’s protest is understandable, but the new atmosphere of calm is precisely the time to finally secure the release of his son Gilad and hundreds of Palestinian prisoners – two positive developments for the two peoples.
Yes, the zero-sum game between us and them ended long ago. It is a shame we are the only ones not to have internalized it… A new and somewhat better life in Gaza will assure a new life for Israel, too. It is not for nothing that the days when the fence was breached between Gaza and Egypt were the quietest days the Negev had known in two years.
In the wake of the cease-fire, a Palestinian government of national unity may arise and be a real and not virtual partner, the representative of the entire Palestinian people and not half of it. True, Hamas will not quickly abandon its hard-line positions, but under the aegis of a unity government it may surprise people, at least in a passive way. An agreement with such a government will not be an agreement of puppets between Ramallah and Jerusalem, the one known as the “shelf agreement.” If it is attained, it will be a real agreement. The cease-fire has already proven that not only is Israel willing to negotiate with Hamas, Hamas is willing to negotiate with Israel. Is this not good news?
The largely negative and fearful way that most Israelis have responded to news of the tahdi’eh with Hamas has also been remarked on by the NYT’s Ethan Bronner. He writes:
- After a year of painful violence — Hamas rockets flying into Israeli communities, soldiers killed and wounded on forays into Gaza — one might have expected the start of a six-month cease-fire with Hamas to be hailed here as good news. Yet what was the front page headline in Maariv newspaper that day? “Fury and Fear.”
That says a great deal about the mood in Israel, a widely shared gloom that this nation is facing alarming threats both from without and within. Seen from far away, last week must have offered some hope that the region was finally at, or near, a turning point: the truce with Hamas, negotiated by Egypt, started on Thursday; other Palestinian-Israeli talks were taking place on numerous levels that both sides said were opening long-closed issues; there were also Turkish-mediated Israeli negotiations with Syria, and a new offer to yield territory to Lebanon along with a call for direct talks between Jerusalem and Beirut.
But it looked very different here. Most Israelis consider the truce with Hamas an admission of national failure, a victory for a radical group with a vicious ideology. As they look ahead, Israelis can’t decide which would be worse, for the truce to fall apart (as polls show most expect it to do), or for Hamas actually to make it last, thereby solidifying the movement’s authority in Palestinian politics over the more secular Fatah…
The backdrop for all of this is the fear of Iran’s growing power and the world’s inability so far to stop it from working on atomic weaponry. But it is not only foreign relations that so depresses the Israeli public. It is also that their political system is in crisis with the leaders under investigation and feuding among themselves.
“It is not ‘the situation’ that darkens the mood here in Israel,” wrote Yossi Sarid, a longtime leftist politician, in an opinion article in the newspaper Haaretz. “It is the lack of exit from the situation. There is not really any hope for change. Who will rescue us from depression? Who will give us expectations?”
Bronner then notes that, whereas in the US, many people are pinning considerable hopes on Barack Obama as offering a chance for a “new beginning”, and a way out of a still gloomy national situation, in Israel there is no such immediately evident and compelling alternative to the current, chronically logjammed and distrusted crop of political leaders.
Crucially, he notes this:
- One point many commentators made last week is that while there may be a state of “calm” with Hamas, there is still nothing resembling that between Mr. Olmert and his defense minister, Ehud Barak. They remain at war. And the feuding goes beyond the two of them.
Both of Mr. Olmert’s two main lieutenants, Mr. Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, have called publicly for him to resign over an investigation into whether he took envelopes of cash from an American Jewish businessman. Everyone assumes there will be a new government by year’s end. Yet a vote tentatively planned for the coming week in Parliament, on whether to dissolve itself and trigger new elections, may not happen because so many parliamentarians worry they will not be re-elected.
Bronner ends with a few quotes from that supremely irrelevant and silly man, Tony Blair. He quotes Blair as saying that,
- as he now understands it, what started in late 2000 when the second Palestinian uprising began and Israel counterattacked was “a complete breakdown in the credibility of peace.”
What an idiot Blair is. From 2000 till last year he was Prime Minister of Britain, and therefore had access to all the best “intelligence” the Britas and Americans could muster about the situation in Israel/Palestine. And it is only now that he finally understands that what happened in 2000 was a complete breakdown in the credibility of, as I understand what he’s saying, the kind of coercive peace process the western powers had been trying to shove down the Palestinians’ throats since 1993? When I took part in the 2-week-long Quaker fact-finding mission to Palestine/Israel in summer 2002, the breakdown in the credibility of the post-1993 “peace” process was already extremely evident. We wrote a lot about it in the book we then jointly published; and I wrote about it here on JWN and elsewhere on many occasions back then…
But the present developments in Israel are still very interesting indeed: the eirenophobia, the uncertainty about their national future, and the stalemate and strategic stasis of their political leadership.
I still don’t buy Sayed Hassan Nasrallah’s analysis that Israel is like a spider’s web that is on the point of collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions. But if this is the response of most Israelis to news of the ceasefire with Gaza, then maybe Israel is closer to being an unsustainable spider’s web than than it previously appeared.