Israeli group looks to bring peace back into...

Israeli group looks to bring peace back into agenda

By Mazal Mualem

On the afternoon of May 10, some 150 people gathered for “Palestinian-Israel Dialogue” in the conference hall of the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. For the most part, the conference participants identified with the hard core of the Israeli left, including Meretz members and supporters of the Geneva Initiative, which organized the event. They had come to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the wake of the decision to open the US Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14 and the deterioration of the security situation in Gaza. The participants paid rapt attention to Elias Zananiri, the deputy chair of the Palestinian Committee for Interaction with the Israeli Society, Meretz Chair Tamar Zandberg and former party chairman Yossi Beilin, one of the architects of the Geneva Initiative. Listening to them, they were filled with hope.

Anyone watching from the sidelines might think that this limited gathering was detached from all reality. Israeli fighter jets had attacked Iranian targets in Syria one night before, and Israelis living in the Golan Heights were waiting nervously for the response. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the right were soaring in the polls to unprecedented new levels, yet the organizers of the event insisted on remaining loyal to their vision of a two-state solution. They refused to abandon all hope.

Given the general mood in Israel, no one was surprised that Israeli media barely covered the event. It was certainly not on the public’s agenda. The organizers probably recognized this, given the emerging conflict with Iran and the concurrent tendency of Israelis to ignore the Palestinian-Israeli conflict almost entirely. Over the last two weeks, Israelis proved that it is easier to get them to take to the streets in response to an international sporting event, that is, the Giro d’Italia bike race, or the Eurovision song contest, after which thousands emerged at 2 a.m. to celebrate Israel’s victory. It is, of course, an important sign of Israelis living a normal existence. At the same time, however, it is worrying to think that most Israelis remain apathetic toward the conflict with the Palestinians, which directly affects the future of their country as a Jewish and democratic state.

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