Amir Peretz for Leader of the Israeli Peace Camp

At the Haaretz Conference for Peace this year, even under the conditions of Siberian cold, there was a scent of the good old days, when it turned out that there’s a new star.

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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MK Amir Peretz speaking from the Knesset podium.
MK Amir Peretz speaking from the Knesset podium. Credit: Emil Salman
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

This year, as opposed to last year, the organizers of Haaretz’s Israel Conference on Peace not only moved the conference on the calendar, from the broiling hot summer to the beginning of winter, they also painted it with the colors of a horrifying frost. A frightening ice cube adorned the middle of the invitation and was also displayed above the heads of the speakers on the platform.

A deputy chief of staff once said that “deterrence is like ice cream in the desert.” And then my thoughts wandered towards the North Pole, a taste of whose cold we experienced at the peace conference. I said to myself that the ice creams stay cold up there, without a refrigerator, all year round. On the North Pole, one shot of deterrence goes a long way. And my heart filled with anger at my ungrateful people, whose appetite cannot be satisfied by 100 ice cream factories. Here all types of deterrence have been tried, and nothing helps.

But at the conference this year, even under the conditions of Siberian cold, there was a scent of the good old days, when it turned out that there’s a new star for peace named Amir Peretz. Peretz delivered an enthusiastic speech, and without tying himself in knots and without excuses he presented a detailed peace plan, which could be implemented on the ground within a year. From my seat at the back of the auditorium, I noticed that the ice cube was beginning to melt and a thin stream of water was beginning to flow.

This is the first time I’ve heard a serious peace plan from an important leader in the Labor Party. This party, which talks a lot about peace, has never presented a plan.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, Tzipi Livni-Isaac Herzog-Shelly Yacimovich, Peretz has a message, and you don’t. Yes, yes, “the party’s battery is empty,” as Iraqi poet Muzaffar Al-Nawab put it. In that case, make way! Enough charging your battery from the generator of your sister party, the Likud. Really, leaders of the Zionist Union, there’s a limit even to shame.

These words are also addressed to the other Labor Party MKs. Instead of MK Merav Michaeli teaching the world how to fight the Islamic State, let her begin with her own God’s little acre. Adopt Peretz’s plan, and later it will be possible to establish a peace coalition in the Knesset.

Here’s a cold Siberian calculation: Five members of Meretz, another seven or eight from Labor, two from Yesh Atid (Ofer Shelah and Yael German), and last but not least the 13 MKs from the Joint Arab List. All together 25-30 MKs, will constitute a magnet for the sane people in the country. All that is possible, if the fire of peacemaking really is burning in the bones of the left.

Because if not, the stage will be abandoned to shallow racists. Likud Minister Yariv Levin explains (at the peace conference!) how the Palestinians are wild men. And I ask him, to myself of course: If the Palestinians are the total opposite of civilization, why are you pushing your way into their apartment and sprawling on their sofa?

And that’s not the end to the absurdity. Levin, as befits a genuine lover of peace, wants to bypass the Palestinians and build bridges with the Gulf states and the Saudi Arabians. For his information: In Saudi Arabia, exactly as in ISIS but without video clips, they still behead people. In a strategist like Levin, the Jewish people have someone to be proud of.

Many at the conference from Israel and abroad expressed an honest desire for peace. One could sense from their words that peace, in a few courageous moves, is around the corner. And on my way home from the conference — on the busy side of Tel Aviv, with the traffic jams and the noise and the feeling of strangulation — towards the spacious parking lot, right across the road, a lovely sight stretched out before me, of sand, the sea and a winter sun that warms the heart and lifts the spirit.

A sense of freedom awaited me, right across the road.