Shifting Reality in Israel/Palestine
Updated: Jun 10, 2021
What follows is a post from Track Two network member Yoav Peck, a Jerusalem organizational psychologist, who has just completed 7 years as co-director of the Sulha Peace Project.
Assuming the Trump-like offensive mounted by Prime Minister Netanyahu is unsuccessful, Israel's Knesset, the Parliament, will swear in a new government on Sunday. BB is desperate to lure deserters from the various center and right-wing parties that constitute the bulk of the new government, which could deprive Naftali Bennet and Yair Lapid of the 61 mandates they need to hold firm. He is lashing out at anyone and everyone who stands in his way, urging supporters to "lay into the press," for example, essentially blessing the increasingly frequent physical attacks on reporters.
Pundits are falling over themselves predicting what will be, but even an unhampered transition arouses more questions than answers as Israel looks to our first moment in twelve years without the corrupt, deeply dismal rule of Netanyahu and his poodles. I am cautiously optimistic, despite the right-leaning dominant members of the new government. Lapid and Bennet are eager to succeed, and they already show signs of diplomacy and statesmanship, as they strive to keep their scattered forces together. Both the Labor party and Meretz, the only Zionist-left party, are inside the new government, and for the first time, an Arab party is there as well.
The recent bombardment of Gaza and missile attacks on Israeli towns, the devastating Gaza destruction and loss of life, and the Israelis' sense, after our fourth such invasion, that there is no solution to all of this…. contributes to a general grim pall on both sides. The Palestinians are particularly despairing, after 54 years of occupation, and 73 years since the Nakba of '48, they are worn down and very few believe that a viable future is possible. There are strong forces within Palestinian society opposing any "normalizing" cooperation with Israelis, and even the Palestinian Authority walks on eggshells when maintaining contact with Israeli peace organizations.
So we all have our work cut out for us. We in the civil-society organizations, driven to Zoom by Covid for the past 18 months, have been deprived the face-to-face work that is our raison d'etre. My organization, Sulha (Reconciliation), is struggling to get back on our feet, as are many of the other groups. We hold Zoom gatherings, and during Ramadan we raised money for the most destitute Palestinian families. But only now, with most of us vaccinated in Israel, are we able to begin meeting once again, face to face.
I am ashamed that Israel did not extend our surplus vaccines to Palestine, when it would have been the most sensible and humane gesture. Humane gestures have been off the agenda for years, and only now can we hope for a shift in government policy, if not humane, then politically expedient.
Meanwhile, life for us Israelis is relatively comfortable, and accompanying the pervasive apathy is the sense that we are ok, even if peace seems like a distant dream. I worry about the country in which my grandchildren are growing up. I don't envy an Israeli 18 year old who has to decide whether to enlist or evade army service.
And still, despite the anxiety of the moment, Israel remains buoyant, the warm, welcoming spirit of the country is still alive, and many of us overcome our worries enough to still cling to a vision of an ethical, decent, practical Israel, where peace is still the only choice worth working for.
I appreciate the emails and Facebook responses of the Track Two family. It is truly heartening to hear from you all, and I eagerly await the chance to see you up close and to think, out of the box, together again.