Is There Hope for Israel's Peace-Camp?

Maybe it's war trauma, or the sterile ceasefire talks that collapsed again, but lately it seems that the Israeli central-left is beginning to wake from a long dormant period.
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Maybe it's war trauma, or the sterile ceasefire talks that collapsed again, but lately it seems that the Israeli central-left is beginning to wake from a long dormant period. Ben Caspit, a leading Israeli journalist and one of Netanyahu's biggest critics, wrote an op-ed this week titled "Why I didn't participate in the left-wing demonstration". The demonstration, of the sort that used to draw 100 thousand pro-peace protesters in the good old days, managed to round up only a shriveled crowd of a few thousand this last Saturday night. "I am a pro-freedom left-winger, strongly in favor of a Palestinian state along the 67 borders - so why didn't I protest in Rabin Square?" wrote Caspit.

His answer: because the radical moonstruck-left has not only conquered the square with its intolerant loud voices, it conquered the term "left-wing" from the peace aspiring center left-wingers who do not wish to be associated with the marginal extremists and their narrow-minded ideas.

Caspit is far from being the only one who feels this way. Quite a few liberal left-wingers have been saying similiar things for a few years now, although lately, they've been daring to do so loudly and more often. It's as if a large part of the dormant peace-camp is revolting against its orthodox spokesmen.

Haim Be'er, a respected old-school left-wing Israeli author, spoke of his anguish in a recent interview, as the front-line of the left-camp has become unrealistic and impossible to identify with. "Instead of fighting for the image of the Israeli society, they fight for the image of the Palestinian society"' Be'er said. "There is a real conflict, and they have no empathy for Jewish Israelis who live in true fear, and never address the question of how to actually revert your enemy into a friend."

And there are more. Dror Feuer, a left-wing columnist for Globes, recently wrote how sick and tired he is of the way the current peace-camp rules out everything Israel stands for by some imaginary standards that no human will ever be able to meet. Same goes for Irit Linur, an author and radio host who considers herself "a left-winger who has sobered-up", and often speaks against the insensibility of the extreme left.

A.B. Yehoshua, a leading Israeli left-wing author, wrote an op-ed answering the radical writer Gideon Levy, in which he criticized the senselessness in the extreme approach. "It is not the children of Gaza or of Israel that you are pining for, because if you are truly concerned about the death of children, you would understand that Hamas must stop the firing unilaterally, hoarding missiles for a bitter and hopeless war to destroy Israel, and above all for the sake of Palestinian children in the future", he wrote. Many saw this as the author's way of differentiating himself from the extreme left, in order to be taken seriously.

Ari Shavit, Ha'Aretz commentator, senior peacenik, and author of the international bestseller My Promised Land, also wrote an op-ed denouncing extremism for its blindness. "The in-depth problem of the Israeli peace camp is currently one of the greatest obstacles to peace", Shavit wrote just before the negotiations with Abbas came to a halt. "There will be no peace if the Palestinians don't contribute their share, but they won't contribute their share if people who want peace don't insist that they do", he concluded. This line of thinking is not conventional in Ha'Aretz, which has gradually become radical-left and lost big chunks of its readership as a result (although it still regards itself as "liberal"). Amos Schocken, the publisher, raised questions of appropriateness when he published an op-ed of his own attacking Shavit for his views, thus signaling his favorable line of expression in the paper.

But some say things aren't as grim as they seem, because the Israeli peace camp is not really shrinking -- it is only silenced by radicals who have taken over the stage while alienating many center-left-wing crowds. These moderate peace-seekers, who in the last election voted for the peace promise of Zipi Livni, Yair Lapid and the Israeli Labor, which amount to one-third of the Israeli parliament today (excluding the extreme left parties), may have a chance. Their goal is to outspeak the extremists who manage to whip up a terribly improportionate amount of headlines because of their provocations, but in practice their views are considered completely unrealistic, and represent only a measely few.

The dormant center-left is a mixed-up crowd which obviously doesn't see itself as part of the right-wing, but cannot identify with the spokesmen of the extreme left either. But the fact that new spokesmen who represent this crowd are beginning to raise their heads, may actually be the beginning of this large group's important journey to redefine itself, apart from the extreme left. The hopefuls in Israel say that the sooner they will -- the sooner more voices calling for a sane agreement with the Palestinians will be heard.

* Please note that some of the links lead to the original articles in Hebrew because they were not translated.

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