For years, everyone has been asking: “Where did peace go?”
Well, I think I have been able to locate that elusive creature – but he is not in the best of shape. At this very moment, Shalom/Salaam is stuck at the border, insisting that he is not carrying a bomb.
“Are you carrying a weapon?” a string of Israeli officers ask him.
“Bro, I come in peace,” replies Peace, with his long, centre-parted hippy hair and Jesus creepers.
“But can you guarantee that you will stay in peace?”
“Just sign a peace deal and you will see the difference.”
“But can you guarantee that the Qassam rockets will stop? If we pull out of the West Bank, might the Palestinians not want more and use violence to try to get it. Israel is such a small country – at some points it is less than 10km wide. It is vulnerable to these rocket attacks.”
“Of course, Israel has the right to live in peace,” Shalom/Salaam maintains. “But even Hamas, because its charter does not recognise Israel’s right to exist, has indicated that it would accept a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 border. Besides, the Arabs have offered you a comprehensive peace deal and Syria wants to negotiate. What are you waiting for?”
“But it is impossible for us to evacuate the 400,000 people living in the biggest West Bank settlements. The political price inside Israel would be too high.”
“Why didn’t you think of that before you built them on occupied land.”
“At first, we wanted to use them as bargaining chips in negotiations with the Arabs. But, in Khartoum, in 1967, the Arabs issued their famous three ‘No’s. After that, the extremists hijacked the settlement process and built thousands of homes on the seized land.”
“But Peace comes at a price, you know,” Salaam/Shalom says, hiding, behind a melancholic smile, his feeling of being undervalued and unappreciated all these years he’s been living in exile, out in the cold. “I’m not cheap you know.”
“We can give them an equivalent amount of land in the Negev or southern Israel.”
“So, you want to give them desert in return for fertile land?”
“Water is not an issue. We can supply them with water to meet all their needs.”
Many Israelis, even my open-minded hosts, seem to be under the conviction, to varying degrees, that there is no clear end in sight, that whatever Israel does will not be enough, that as soon as Israel pulls out of the West Bank, rockets will rain down on its head every day.