A friend of mine posted to her Facebook wall that she was disgusted and “deeply offended” by the September 13, 2010 TIME magazine cover story entitled “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace” (which inside was titled “The Good Life and its Dangers”) A few of her friends responded with similar disgust and then they admitted they had not read the article. Now while they are free to be disguised or offended by anything, it might be worth asking the question, do Israelis care about the peace process?
Well according to an unnamed poll used in the TIME article, they do not. Just 8% of Jewish Israelis cite the conflict with the Palestinians as Israel’s most urgent problem, ranking fifth behind education, crime, national security (assume Iran on that one) and poverty.
As someone who grew up believing that Israel was always on the path towards peace, I was hopeful that Oslo would work, perhaps event the last ditch effort at Camp David and even today I hold out a little flicker of my youthful (yeah I know I am still young) hopefulness, but the numbers and the actions don’t lie. There is a very limited strategic advantage to peace right now. Sure a peaceful solution to the continued occupation would be fantastic, but at what cost and for what benefit?
That is the point of this article that has caused so much discomfort in the immature pro-Israel camp in the United States. While the article misses so many important aspects of Israeli culture and political life, it does capture the point that so many North American Jews don’t seem to understand about Israel: It is normal there. People live their lives, eat their meals (that are not always falafel and hummus) and go on their vacations and they deal with what comes…just like us.
There is a strong sense of national pride, but there isn’t an expectation that Israel is this utopian enclave that always needs to be paying attention to the ebbs and flows of the geo-political fray. Everyone does serve the state in some way, but not everyone is sporting an Uzi and sun-stroked biceps. Israeli Jews just want to live their lives and not have to deal with threats of being killed by idiots strapped with explosives, ball bearings and nails on the bus.
Israel tried and did not do everything it could to support peace, but at some point you must ask if that is really what they want. Peace is great if it is sustainable and beneficial to both sides. However, after years of dealing with irreverent rocket fire and a lack of suicide bombers, what would be the difference between the status quo and a long-term yet not so believable peace? To the average man or woman on the street, not so much.
So for those of you calling up TIME to cancel you subscriptions, perhaps you should read the article and talk to an Israeli.