Peace and conflict are not opposites; they are each intimately connected preconditions for the other. Violence and negotiation are not distant cousins; they are jealous siblings who stay close no matter their disagreements. Every flare-up of tragedy and cruelty against Israel should not be seen as an impediment to increased dialogue and peacemaking, but rather an opportunity. Every Israeli, Palestinian and other lost life and act of delusional savagery should be a time for both mourning and reflection.
Sadly, this is not the case. Recent attacks and killings in Israel are poignant reminders of how the delicate situation there has not gotten any better. A sustained failure of leadership has made productive discussions around security, self-determination and peace nearly impossible. Both the Israeli company-line of incitement and terror, and the Palestinian accusation of occupier and disenfranchisement, need a sunset.
That there is even a body of influence called the “Quartet of Middle East peacemakers,” made up of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, is itself laughable. The United States and Russia will unite to make peace in the Middle East? The EU will take time off from grappling with its own internal mess surrounding Britain’s possible exit to make external peace? The invariable need for a Jordanian, Egyptian or other third-party compromise, as status quo, isn’t a pathway forward.
Change for the better—even the most incremental change—will only come when it happens directly between Israel, its own diverse population and its immediate neighbors. Small change, without even addressing the fullness of peace, can only happen organically and authentically; it cannot be imposed. And regular surveys and polls show that this is ultimately what the Israeli people, and the Palestinians, want.
Which isn’t to say that violence needs to stop first. Violence and pursuing peace can happen at the same time. It’s what happened in Northern Ireland. Violence, with lamentable loss of life in its aftermath, can drive peace. But internal politics—Israeli politics and Palestinian politics alike—have to provide the soil in which such seeds can grow, and we are not at that point. What even is that point? Exhaustion? Resignation? Changes in political leadership? Changes in domestic policy forcing electoral adjustments in governing coalition majorities? If politics is the art of the possible, what can possible look like here?
Within the larger framework of ensuring Israeli security, what can be done? Is there the imagination to secure, still and now, a workable path forward?
In this week’s issue of New York Jewish Life, our Maxine Dovere has an exclusive interview with MK and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who shares with us her thoughts on issues of the day.
We also have coverage about how news in Israel is itself covered by The New York Times, with a new bureau chief appointed in Jerusalem. Both of these pieces are intertwined with recent events in Israel and how we learn about them. These media complexities include how we at NYJL strive to elevate the dialogue and discourse beyond the predictable.
Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng is also in the news, with a key role in securing funding for vital joint American-Israeli defense programs. Her steadfast commitment to constant dialogue is a refreshing counterpoint to the usual partisan rancor of Washington, D.C.
We also take seriously recent remarks by communications guru and friend Stu Loeser, quoted in the popular daily email “Jewish Insider,” on the changing nature of news:
“It’s just harder for most products and people to get a word in edgewise,” said Stu Loeser, Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s former press secretary, who now advises a range of businesses on media strategy. Loeser said the media context reminded him a bit of the months after the September 11th terror attacks. “Stories that might be fun in a different environment may come off as frivolous today.”
With Stu’s words in mind, we also have some lighter news in this week’s edition. We’re big baseball fans at NYJL, so we were excited to hear about and see photos of stars from the Mets visiting at Camp Hillel in the Five Towns. Those pictures provide an appropriate, and needed, summer counterpoint to weightier concerns.
Best wishes to you and yours as we slide into August.