By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Other than occasional reassuring hints by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the public is being kept in the dark about the state of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The chief Palestinian negotiator is quoted to have said that there hasn’t been direct contact between the two sides in recent weeks, but that both are meeting separately with the Americans. This may account for Kerry’s seeming optimism.
Palestinians opposed to peace with Israel under any circumstances may also sense that progress is being made, which may account for yesterday’s potentially devastating bomb attack on a bus in Bat Yam intended, so it’s assumed, to sabotage negotiations. Mercifully, carnage was miraculously averted and the passengers were evacuated ahead of the explosion. There’re warnings of more such attempts as the negotiations continue.
A rocket from Gaza that, again mercifully, landed in an open field and didn’t cause any damage, may be part of the same initiative.
I’m also inclined to guess that the recent killings by Israeli forces after exchange of fire with some alleged terrorists in the West Bank should be seen in this context. Though, at least for the time being, Israel isn’t ceding any territory, as part of the negotiations it has released Palestinian terrorists from its jails and more are due to be freed very soon. By all accounts, at least some of the freed prisoners are quick to resume their deadly work. There’re hints that the Palestinians killed may have been former prisoners who’ve returned to terrorism. Israel would see this both as punishment of the perpetrators for breaking the terms of their release and a warning to those soon to leave the prisons. For obvious reasons, nobody will say so and we’re left to speculate.
It’s, of course, ironic that we should gauge the progress towards peace by renewed acts of violence, but these are realities here. There’re many who see peace as a defeat of their ideology. Therefore, they’re determined to fight it with every means at their disposal.
The opponents to peace can be found on both sides of the dispute. Thank God, Jews haven’t resorted to trying to kill Palestinians who travel on buses, but acts of violence toward Palestinians and vandalism of their property occur from time to time. The perpetrators are likely to be residents of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and their supporters elsewhere in the country. Some claim to be religious.
But there’s an important difference. Whereas we don’t hear of ordinary Palestinians demonstrating against terrorism in their midst, there’re many Israelis who are openly confronting the Jewish thugs and demanding resolute action to stop them.
I don’t know anybody who believes that it’ll be easy to make peace. Even if the negotiators agree on a formula, the people will have to approve. We’ve already been told that Israel will have a referendum about it.
The basic issue for Israel will be: can the country take a security risk for the sake of political prudence and moral probity? The Palestinians may have to ask themselves whether or not the painful realism that comes with the compromise of coexistence is preferable to a mythology that includes wiping Israel off the map of the earth.