I would like to share with my readers a response to my last blog which I received from an Israeli relative.
He read my blog with mixed emotions. On the one hand he viewed me as an insider: a citizen who had paid a heavy price when I lost my husband to war, and a person who is familiar with the culture, language, and the nuances of life in Israel, including the daily security and economic hurdles Israelis face and the difficult choices they have to make.
On the other hand he viewed me as an outsider: a visitor who arrives to Israel every year from a relatively safe and comfortable place [the US]. While it is true, he said, that US policies toward the Middle East may influence the region, with the exception of Iran, a country both Israel and the US fear, Americans do not face the risks Israelis do from other entities in the region, like Egypt, Syria, Gaza and the West Bank. Yet, he continued, in spite of these threats, especially in this tumultuous times in the region, Israelis strive to live a normal life, a task that is not easy, compared to paralleled efforts in the US, Canada, or Western Europe.
The turning point for Israelis, he pointed out, occurred with their 2005 evacuation from Gaza, and Hamas’s political and military victories over the Palestinian Authority there in 2006-2007. Since then, southern communities in Israel have lived under the threat of missiles attacks; since the fall of Mubarak the Sinai has become lawless, resulting in rocket attacks on southern Israeli cities. He asked me to try to imagine such a reality in remote American communities, assuring me that there would be zero tolerance to such threats. These opinions are not his alone, he wrote, but views that are shared around the country.
He believed there is no quick or magical solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Occupation corrupts, and Israel’s remaining in the territories does not improve matters. In an ideal world, according to him, Israel should return to the '67 borders, Palestinians should give up the right of return, and a Palestinian state should be formed side by side with Israel. But it takes two to tango, and it seems to him that not only is the dance floor called the Middle East unstable, there's no one to dance with anyway. Maybe the right thing is to stall, and wait for a more stable reality.
Perhaps, he wrote, in my position as a teacher and a writer I should consider taking a step back. He disagrees that complacency and fear exist in Israel. What does exist, he thinks, is the heavy burden of personal safety combined with a difficult socio-economic reality. Under such conditions, Israel is trying to make decisions that often minimize risks rather than maximize opportunities.
I understand the resentment of Israelis who are offended by the opinions of outsiders who do not share the anxieties of living in Israel in spite of caring deeply about the country. But sometimes an outsider, especially one who has been part of the Israeli milieu and understands it, may see things clearer than the insider, who is deeply immersed in his own reality. I liken it to a family who needs outside intervention to improve its complex relationship. As for a solution, though I didn’t attempt to offer any in my post, I too support the existence of two states. But the longer the wait, the less likely it would remain on option.
A note to my readers: I do get responses in my e-mail, which I rather see in the “comment” box at the end of my posts.