The Flintstones movie was among the least memorable films of 1994, but it did have one memorable joke: A Stone Age newspaper with a headline reading “Israelis and Arabs seek peace.”
Thousands of years later and they’re still at it, and many people are convinced that we’re seeing the latest installment in a never-ending ritual. But optimism is coming from some unexpected places, not the least of which is Israel itself, where Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren is finding silver linings in a cloudy picture.
First and foremost, Oren insists, in an essay for The Jerusalem Post, is that the Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “strong, stable, and deeply committed to resolving the conflict based on two states for two peoples.” He praises Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for “working to restore law, order, and economic prosperity” in the West Bank. He has kind words for the White House, saying President Obama “has placed achieving peace at the top of his foreign-policy agenda.”
“Never before, perhaps,” writes Oren, “have conditions been so conducive.”
A cynic might say Oren is putting the best face on things, lest Israel take the blame should these latest talks fail. Indeed, Time magazine seems to have preemptively blamed Israel with a noxious cover story titled, “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.” The article confuses the well-founded frustration and pessimism of the average Israeli with motivation. Time after time, Israeli public opinion has confounded predictions when Arab leaders have offered dramatic gestures. You can hardly blame them, however, if they are not hanging by their thumbs.
Both sides will have to give up on some of their dreams and buck internal opposition if the peace process is to move forward. Oren extends an olive branch of sorts when he signals to the Palestinians that Israel would be willing to withdraw from settlements outside the major settlement blocs. Time will tell if the Palestinians are willing to forget their impossible dream of returning refugees to their former homes in Jerusalem.
In fact, the success of these talks seem to hinge on both sides ignoring the nay-sayers and obstructionists in their midst. If they can do so and continue to negotiate in good faith, they have the chance to write a new chapter in history.