Israel Is Missing Another Opportunity for Peace

The Israeli government doesn't want peace; there's nothing new in that: It has been the proven way since the establishment of the state. But the public, for its part, does want peace.

Reading through the papers these days gives one a sense of deja vu - as if we are back in 2002 and the Saudi peace initiative is being presented for the first time: All the Arab states are offering Israel full normalization of relations "in the context of peace," in return for an independent Palestinian state in keeping with the 1967 borders and a just solution to the refugee issue.

An amazing historic initiative - and, seemingly, Israel's greatest dream and its perfect triumph. But the Israeli regime doesn't even respond, displaying total disregard as if the initiative never existed.

In 2007, the Saudi initiative was again approved by the Arab League, and still - not a single voice in response. The initiative was even ratified by the Organization of the Islamic Conference; but from Israel - nothing. It doesn't even consider the option of entering into negotiations over it.

The thing is, it is not only the regime that is displaying total disregard. The Israeli media - frighteningly institutionalized as it has always been - also almost completely ignored the Saudi initiative. In fact, the initiative was so ignored that the vast majority of Israeli citizens - yes, all of you - aren't even aware of the existence of the initiative and its historic, revolutionary content. And even those who did notice it thought to themselves: If it is getting overlooked that way, it must be really negligible and it's probably me who misunderstood it.

And now, in real time, it is happening once again: Hamas is suspending its acts of terror, opting for popular resistance, recognizing a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders and even joining the Palestine Liberation Organization, the organization empowered to conduct negotiations with Israel. They aren't saying it outright, but joining the PLO also means accepting the agreements signed with Israel; and there is also the recognition of Israel, as well as responsibility and partnership in political decisions.

This, too, is a truly historic event. Granted, Ismail Haniyeh did visit with the Muslim Brotherhood on Saturday and make declarations about the destruction of Israel; but he is the man who wasn't consulted vis-a-vis joining the PLO and who is about to lose his post as prime minister, and he is kicking and screaming - not at us, but at Khaled Meshal.

On the other hand, at the same time, the Palestinian Authority has proposed that Israel release 100 prisoners in return for the resumption of talks - prisoners from the pre-Oslo period, less than one-tenth of the number released in the Shalit deal. But from Israel once again - absolutely nothing.

A spokesman for Netanyahu - not even the man himself - explains why it isn't good and isn't even being considered; and the media again fall in line, dedicating barely a report and a half with the word "historic," in the same tone as if the issue at hand was the crowning of the "American Idol" winner.

Gideon Levy wrote about it yesterday in an article in Haaretz; and on Thursday, Haaretz published an editorial on the subject - everyone plays his part and the caravan moves on, as if nothing has happened.

Instead of drawing our attention to the new opportunity, the media and politicians continue to distract us with their obsessive wallowing in the issue of the yellow stars. The Holocaust again - and again, and again and again. Why give a chance to something that can extricate us from this pattern of the victim that we find so cozy to live in?

And meanwhile, in Bibi-land, new settlements are sprouting up and outposts are being authorized; and Minister Yisrael Katz is pushing ahead quickly with the rail line and Israeli sovereignty from Ariel to the Tapuah Junction to ensure the demise of the two-state solution. The Israeli government doesn't want peace; there's nothing new in that: It has been the proven way since the establishment of the state.

But the public, for its part, does want peace. The public did actually want an agreement. But the public, as usual, is exhausted from it all. Who cares? After all, there aren't any terror attacks, so we don't see Palestinians, not even on television. We don't see the settlements either. Who can remember the particulars about Migron and Ramat Gilad when the cost of living is pressing down so hard?

But when the public wakes up one day and wants to know how it became so exploited by its government, how it continued to be sent to man checkpoints and lose sons under the excuse that there is no partner for a deal and no one with whom to make peace, when in fact there was, it would be worthwhile to think back to these very days: Here's another opportunity that beckons before us, right under our noses; but our noses are stuffed by the stench of political and social rot, which continues to accumulate with every passing day.

Read this article in Hebrew.