Why has the silent majority in Israel abandoned peace? Why don’t people take to the streets anymore to support the peace process? Why have so many apparently become apathetic vis-à-vis peace with the Palestinians?
There are probably many reasons for this, but I would like to focus on one in this blog post: the absence of courageous leadership for peace.
I was visiting with a good friend of mine, Eli Slater, in upstate New York earlier this week, with my wife, Amy, on our summer vacation. She is the wife of the well-known author, Robert Slater, who was also a good friend, who passed away two years ago after a long battle with cancer. In her beautiful log cabin home in the woods in Bolton, New York, on beautiful Lake George, I came across the latest revised version of Robert’s famous biography of Yitzhak Rabin, now called Rabin: Twenty Years After (published last year by KIP Kotarim International), which was commissioned by the Rabin Center in Tel Aviv as part of the commemorations of the 20th year after the assassination.
In this latest version of the book, Bob (as I knew him) added a new concluding chapter which offered his reflections on Rabin’s legacy 20 years after the shocking and scandalous assassination of our Prime Minister (by a young Jewish extremist, who had been influenced by his rabbis to commit this heinous crime which altered the course of history in Israel, and severely wounded the Peace Process until this day). As I was reading this chapter, which, among other things, talked a lot about how Rabin paradoxically became an icon in Israeli culture after he was murdered, I was struck by one paragraph which caught my attention:
Thousands of Israelis streamed to his graveside long after his funeral. His face appeared on stamps. Songs were composed in his honor. At the time of the assassination, few could figure the reason for Israelis turning Rabin into a kind of cult figure. But in time, many Israelis took Rabin’s murder as damning evidence that they had left him alone to fight for peace, that they, the silent majority, had gone about their business and literally abandoned the streets to the political right (emphasis added).
After I read this, I wondered: where is the “silent majority” for peace now? Or, is there still a silent majority for peace anymore? Or, have the majority of the citizens of Israel given up on peace and accepted the statement of our one of our “leaders” that we will have to live by the sword forever?
And then I read some more of the last chapter of this book, and I recalled what a courageous leader for peace Yitzhak Rabin was. I remembered how he secretly launched the backchannel talks which led to the historic Oslo Peace Accord, signed by him and Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn on September 13th, 1993, almost 23 years ago. (I recommend an excellent book on this topic by David Makovsky in which he describes Rabin’s role in the Oslo peace process in great detail — Making Peace with the PLO — The Rabin Government’s Road to the Oslo Accord, Westview Press, 1995).
In addition, I remembered Rabin’s moving speech on the occasion of the signing of the Oslo Accord in Washington in which he said that he had had enough of wars, and that he wanted to establish peace in Israel for his children and grandchildren. This is why the peace process that he initiated was called “the peace of the brave”.
And then I asked myself: why is there no more leadership for peace in Israel, but only phony lip service to it from time to time, to appease leaders in the international community on certain occasions? Why has the War Process replaced the Peace Process in recent years, and even decades?
And then I said to myself: it is too easy to blame the leaders. After all, we seem to elect them again and again! The problem is not the leaders. It is, as my friend Bob Slater wrote so clearly and poignantly, it is the people, the so-called “silent majority”!
If there is still a silent majority for peace, it is time for this majority to wake up, to cease being silent, to galvanize all of its creative and constructive energy and talent to work for peace.
The current stalemate in the peace process cannot last forever and the status quo is simply not sustainable in the long run. Peace is in our personal and national interests. It must become a strategic goal, not just a line to be spouted in speeches once in a while.
But the “silent majority” is on vacation in the summer. Perhaps after the summer, we will wake up to the necessity of peace for ourselves and our children and grandchildren.