No ‘hummus in Damascus’

No ‘hummus in Damascus’

Newsweek’s Dan Ephron, writing from Jerusalem, reports that Israelis are weary of striving after peace – and we don’t doubt it. Who can blame them, after sputtering starts and stops, one-sided concessions, and little or no international recognition of their efforts?

This is not to say that they are eager for war. “[I]n fact,” Ephron reports, “more Israelis than ever (including [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, though with major provisions) now say they’re willing to live alongside an independent Palestinian state.”

But there’s been a change in the diplomatic weather. The days of “hamatsav” – “the situation,” meaning the daily stresses and literal terrors of one intifada or another – seem (keyn eynhora) to have passed, at least for the time being.

But instead of renewed energy for peacemaking, Ephron observes, “more Israelis than ever … seem to feel little urgency about reaching that goal. This,” he continues, “as much as any reluctance on Netanyahu’s part, may pose the greatest obstacle to the Obama administration’s efforts to reach a peace agreement before 2012…. Instead of pining for peace, they’re now asking who needs it?”

Well, they do. And so do we all.

Israelis are enjoying a halcyon period of stability. Ephron characterizes it as “a peace dividend without a peace agreement.” But it is an unstable stability, if we may say so. At any moment it may degrade, like uranium, and return to hamatsav.

“In the short period after Oslo,” Ephron writes, “Israel coined a phrase: eating hummus in Damascus,” meaning a regional peace during which Israelis could move freely about. Today, he says, after so many setbacks and so much disappointment, “hummus in Damascus,” whether on a personal or business or diplomatic level, “has lost its appeal.”

This is unfortunate. We’re glad Israelis have this breathing space, but there are so many pitfalls, so many dangers in the region. Peace efforts should not be permanently placed on the backburner.


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