Why peace is possible: the Hiriya garbage...

Why peace is possible: the Hiriya garbage dump theory

By Ori Nir, via J.Weekly.com  
Ori Nir from Peace Now shows how peace is possible and the status quo can always change no matter what our perceptions may be. 
As an Israel Defense Forces soldier in the late 1970s and early ’80s, my favorite spot to hitchhike back to my home in Jerusalem was the Ganot junction near Ben Gurion Airport. I spent dozens if not hundreds of hours standing there, waiting for a ride, gazing at the jets landing and taking off.
Unfortunately, the tantalizing view of the jets’ bellies came with a nauseating odor of garbage. Why garbage? Because on the other side of the junction was Hiriya, Tel Aviv’s main garbage dump, literally a mountain of garbage.
For years, when driving by Hiriya I would shake my head in disbelief at the pace in which the mountain grew. It was unfathomable: How did it happen that right at the gateway to Israel, on prime real estate, a putrid mountain of garbage kept growing, emitting stench farther and farther into Tel Aviv’s suburbs and beyond? Eventually Israelis demanded a solution, and it came, albeit slowly.
Fast-forward to 2011. Hiriya is now a national park (the Ariel Sharon National Park, no less). Once completed, it will be the largest urban park in the Middle East, three times the size of New York City’s Central Park, complete with hiking and biking paths, water streams, an educational recycling center and a green energy plant.
The infamous mountain has been covered and treated. The stench is gone, and its peak serves as a vista point for tourists. More than 100,000 visitors enjoyed a trip to Hiriya’s Garbage Mountain this year. Last week, a United Nations committee on global climate change ranked in first place a short video titled “A Mountain of Change” about the transformation of Hiriya.
The Hiriya story is a perfect example of how Israeli resourcefulness, ingenuity and determination can make the seemingly impossible happen. Hiriya was a terrible mistake that Israeli politicians made back in the 1950s. Alongside many things that the first Israelis did right, there was also a lot that they did wrong. Thankfully, the new Israelis have been proving that they can right at least some of those wrongs.
I thought about Israelis’ ability to right wrongs last week. On the same day that a lovely review of the new Hiriya Park was published in an Israeli daily, a poll of the Israel public was published in Washington, D.C. It showed that half of Israeli Jews (49 percent) believe that there will never be lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Another 42 percent said that although an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is inevitable, it would not happen in the next five years.
What is it that makes such a can-do society so skeptical about prospects for peace?
A major reason for this deterministic “no-solutionism” is what Israelis hear from their current crop of hardline leaders. Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman routinely make such public proclamations, as do other members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet and his ruling coalition. Do they say so because they really believe it? Perhaps. I believe that they mostly say it to create an Israeli zeitgeist that supports their status-quo policies, their insistence on avoiding a peace deal that entails removing settlements.
The fact is, however, that peace is indeed possible and it is critical to Israel’s survival. Furthermore, despite the barriers to Israeli-Palestinian peace, we are closer to this goal today than we were 15 or even 10 years ago.
Had anyone told me in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as I was standing by Garbage Mountain waiting for a ride, that 15 years later an Israeli government would recognize the PLO, or that Ariel Sharon would eventually pull Israel out of Gaza, or that Netanyahu would endorse a two-state solution, and with him two-thirds of the Israeli public, or that the Arab League would offer Israel comprehensive peace with normalization, or that an armed Palestinian military force would be fighting terrorism in the West Bank alongside the IDF, I would have told him that he was high on garbage fumes.
Israelis have shown that they can do great things, that they can quickly and quite easily transform their political attitudes. Israelis can rid themselves of the occupation of the West Bank. Once they realize how morally stinky it is and how damaging it is to their political environment, they will demand its end.