The land-for-peace process that the international community, in cooperation with Yasser Arafat’s PLO, so self-righteously and with exaggerated attention foisted upon the region was not only supposed to bring stability, but also to draw Jews and Arabs closer together in peaceful coexistence.
It has failed to accomplish either goal, and has actually had the opposite effect. The region is far more volatile today than it was 15 years ago, and according to a new poll, Jews and Arabs west of the Jordan River now can’t stand to be close to one another.
Carried out by the Israel Democracy Institute, the poll asked Israeli Jews various questions regarding their Arab countrymen. The results were that 46 percent of Jews don’t want to live near Arabs and 53 percent of Jews think their government should encourage local Arabs to emigrate to one of the surrounding Arab nations.
Most media coverage of the poll stopped there in order to paint Israel’s Jews as racist. But the Arab respondents were equally intolerant.
Seventy percent of Israeli Arabs said they don’t want to live near homosexuals (only 25 percent of Jews were opposed to living near gays), 67 percent of Arabs don’t want to live near religious Jews, 65 percent of Arabs will not live near Jews who at any time lived in Judea and Samaria, and nearly half (46 percent) won’t be neighbors with foreign laborers.
Just 10 years ago, the situation was not this way. While there were certain taboos on moving into ethnically-dominated neighborhoods or towns, Jews and Arabs freely entered one another’s communities on a daily basis with little or no fear of prejudice or harm. In fact, it was equally as common for Jews to enter Palestinian Arab areas for a day out, and vice versa.
The results of the Israel Democracy Institute poll are representative of a broader phenomenon that is seeing Jews and Arabs retreat into their own communities have far less trust for one another. This phenomenon can only be blamed on the circumstances created by the so-called “Oslo” peace process.
With the introduction of Arafat’s PLO into the region, and Arafat’s belief that past terrorist activities had won him that diplomatic victory, violence against Israel’s Jews increased exponentially. That naturally led to far less trust from Jews for Palestinian and even Israeli Arabs, many of whom were being taken in by Arafat’s message. The resulting Israeli security measures in turn irreparably damaged the trust local Arabs had for Israeli Jews.
Far from bringing the two sides closer to a genuine peace (and not just a signed document), the current peace process has served to entrench the sides in ethnic conflict for the foreseeable future, further driving a wedge between local Jews and Arabs. And the gap is only getting wider with each passing year, even as world leaders declare that they are getting ever closer to concluding a peace agreement.
So much for the wisdom of men.