"Hope is the thing with feathers," wrote the American poet Emily Dickinson. In Israel, the hope for peace is today like a plucked, limp-winged bird that many people, including the foreign minister, believe is not even fit for the pre-Yom Kippur kapparot sacrifice.
Nevertheless, if there is any hope for the peace process at the dawn of the Jewish Year of 5771, it is pinned primarily on the historical irony that occasionally results in our region when the extremist turns conciliatory or the peacenik gets caught up in war, and occasionally forced the parties into doing the unavoidable.
Over the past year, however, it has been hinted that our future will be determined not by declarations and diplomatic evasiveness but rather by deep tectonic shifts. Last year on the eve of Rosh Hashanah Israel received a holiday gift, bitter as wormwood, in the form of the Goldstone report on Operation Cast Lead. The United Nations report on the Gaza aid flotilla incident is scheduled for release next week.
These two reports, problematic as they are, symbolize the shocking erosion of Israel's international image over the past year: an erosion that is gradually expanding from a performers' boycott to a popular consumer boycott and even to loathing on the part of leaders, and which sometimes no longer distinguishes between the settlements and the Green Line, between the "occupation" and Israel's very right to exist.
One can dismiss this as an atavistic wave of hatred that is linked to the latest incarnation of anti-Semitism, and to respond, as various ultranationalist groups that have cropped up in Israel this year propose, by going on the offensive in support of an inert "Zionism" that is centered around the settlements and the Israel Defense Forces, in an effort to annihilate freedom of speech in the media, academia and the Supreme Court.
One can also, on the other hand, try to break down the walls that are closing in on Israel by shaking off the foreign-policy status quo that is strangling our existence and our future.
On the eve of 5771, the need to disengage from the stigma of the "occupation state" is already seen by many, even within the ranks of the realistic right, not as a luxury but as an emergency lifesaving operation. We can only hope that it's not too late to wish that Israel, dynamic and vibrant, will once again extend its wings fully within the family of nations.
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