Everywhere you look, shrewd people, who may not see eye-to-eye on anything else, agree on this: The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, as shepherded by United States Secretary of State John Kerry, have not a snowball's chance in hell of success.
In fact, whether you look right, left or center, you will hear many of these same people telling you not only that the talks will surely fail, but that they, in fact, should.
"If the peace process stood any chance of going anywhere, the return to boring talks would be a small price to pay," right-center commentator Shmuel Rosner wrote this week. "But it doesn’t, and this theater could prevent Israel from focusing on other problems it needs to fix."
No question - the smart money's on extremists to win, on the talks to go nowhere and on peace to recede to oblivion.
Before we bury this process, though – before it has a chance to even begin – just one question: What is the voice inside – inside a very large number of people I've spoken to, inside me as well – which says the following:
"There will be peace between Israel and Palestine."
Knowing what we know, having gone through what we've gone through – the hopes trashed, the grief eternal, the lives and decades lost – is there any rational reason to believe in the possibility of peace?
There is. And it is specifically because rational reason has nothing to do with it.
At this, point you might well conclude, it would take an extremist on the level of a fanatic to believe that peace is possible on the basis of two independent states, Israel and Palestine. And if you did, you'd be right.
On the Israeli side, it would take a majority of fanatics - fundamentalists for peace – to choose peace over settlements. It would take a right-wing leader to go against everything we know and expect about him, to make that a reality.
Yet, over and over in Israel's history, that is exactly what happened. And that choice – peace over settlements – has always been the decisive bottom line.
When Menachem Begin, the very embodiment of the Israeli right, signed a peace treaty with Egypt, he promised to return all of the occupied Sinai and to dismantle all of the peninsula's settlements – including the one of which he was an honorary member.
When Ariel Sharon, the architect and godfather of the settlement enterprise, declared, “It is impossible to have a Jewish, democratic state [and] at the same time to control all of [the land of] Israel. If we insist on fulfilling the dream in its entirety, we will lose it all," he ordered all of the settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank dismantled.
Israelis believed in them. They overwhelmingly supported both moves. In both cases, the settlers lost. Israel won.
If ever there was a time to be a fundamentalist for peace, this is the time. If ever there was a need for fanatical belief in a shared future for Palestinians and Israelis, the need is now.
The smart money is overwhelmingly betting on two states to lose. But Middle East politics has nothing to do with smart. The mind is not the organ that runs the show here, no matter how brilliant the mind. For Israelis and Palestinians alike, the brain is the servant of the heart.
That may be why there are truly two peoples here, but they don't really divide along the misleading lines of Jew vs. Arab, Palestinian vs. Israeli, right vs. left, fundamentalist vs. freethinker. The real division cuts across those lines.
From the standpoint of caring fiercely about the future of the Holy Land, there are only two kinds of people anywhere in the world:
Those who believe in the possibility of peace and those who do not.
Those who believe that the land can be de-occupied and partitioned into two states for the benefit of Israel and Palestine both; and those who believe that it cannot be partitioned, must not be partitioned, will never be partitioned.
Those who believe in settlements over peace have already begun to organize, to stand up and be counted, to devise ways to get their way even if the majority feels otherwise.
Now it’s the turn of the first group, the other fundamentalists and fanatics. The majority.
History has shown that the settlers and their allies always believe that they have much more popular support than they actually do. They also count – wrongly - on their opponents to feel powerless and slink away from the battle.
The pro-settlement group will do everything it can to brainwash, instill guilt, cajole, blackmail and otherwise persuade the rest of us to let the talks go nowhere, except down.
But there will be peace between Israel and Palestine, because people who want it will raise their voices and sign their names and pound pavements and speak with their friends – and believe.
Let it begin.
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