No one values peace more than the Jewish people, and no one has paid more for the peace process — a misnomer if ever there was one — than the Jews of Israel.
For starters, there is the price of housing that forces young couples in and around Yerushalayim to live in storage rooms. Every time Israel announces it’s going to build a few apartments in Ramat Shlomo or Gilo, there is an outcry from Washington and Europe about the need to avoid unilateral moves that could “derail” the peace process.
It doesn’t matter that we’re talking about places that in no circumstances will be handed to a Palestinian entity; any announcement regarding building tenders evokes a Pavlovian response.
One Israeli government after another, whether from the right, left or center, has been intimidated by Peace Now and its supporters in Europe and refused to build affordable housing in Beitar Ilit, Adam (less than 10 minutes north of Yerushalayim), Tel Zion and dozens of other communities that could give young couples normal homes and easy access to employment.
The result is a shortage of housing and skyrocketing prices that are out of reach for most young couples, courtesy of the peace process.
Since signing the Oslo Accords in 1993, Israel has taken dramatic steps to advance the peace process that cost the country some NIS 453 billion, according to calculations by MK Moshe Feiglin.
In a recent speech to the Knesset plenum, Feiglin teased Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, who during the recent election campaign asked, “Where is the money?” Lapid suggested that money that could have gone to the middle class was going to “settlements” and yeshivos. Feiglin did some digging and found that the money went to pay the peace-process tab.
By his calculation, Israel has spent NIS 86 billion in transfers to the terrorist regime in Gaza; NIS 28.5 billion in additional funding for the General Security Service to fight terror; NIS 87 billion for additional IDF deployments; NIS 4.7 billion for the security fence; and NIS 123 billion in lost tourism revenue caused by Operation Defensive Shield (begun in response to the Park Hotel Seder night massacre).
NIS 453 billion could have paid for smaller class sizes, could have built and equipped more hospitals and provided more medicines for the “medicine basket” provided by the Health Ministry. It could have upgraded social welfare services, allowed the government to lower taxes (instead of raising them) and improved the quality of life for each and every Jew — and Arab — in Israel.
The yeshivah budget that keeps Lapid up nights doesn’t hold a candle to the peace process budget.
The highest price, of course, that Israel has paid for the peace process is in human life. Between 2000 and 2005, some 1,100 Israeli citizens were murdered, and 8,000 more were wounded. The bloodbath was unleashed after Israel’s then-prime minister went to Camp David and offered Yasser Arafat, yimach shemo, a Palestinian state with Yerushalayim as its capital.
There were fatalities before and after, but not with the same intensity, and not following what should have been a breakthrough in the peace process if the Palestinians were really interested in peace.
Compounding the suffering of those who lost their loved ones to terrorism, Israel is now freeing their killers. The two terrorists who firebombed the bus carrying Rachel Weiss and three of her children, Hy”d, as well as IDF soldier David Delarosa who died trying to save the family, are going home to a hero’s welcome.
The prisoner release is not only a statement about how Israel values the lives of its citizens — no other Western country would agree to free murderers, especially not the United States — but makes a mockery of deterrence; and this from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who preached for years about standing up to terror.
No one expects the talks beginning this week in Yerushalayim to result in peace. The best the sides are hoping for is to prove that they’re interested in peace and that the other party is the recalcitrant one.
Logic would dictate that Israel has already made its case. Logic would suggest that peace is a Palestinian interest as well and that Israel shouldn’t have had to make painful concessions just to get them to show up for talks. But logic doesn’t hold sway in Washington or Europe.
This is a dangerous time. Israel is entering the diplomatic lion’s den. Secretary of State John Kerry has reportedly warned Netanyahu that if the talks collapse, Israel will face international isolation. Kerry’s hand-picked “mashgiach” to the talks, the man who will determine who really wants peace, is Martin Indyk, who served as chairman of the New Israel Fund’s International Council and has been an outspoken critic of Netanyahu.
That means that when Abbas demands that Netanyahu put a map on the table, demarcating the borders of “Palestine,” and Netanyahu insists that he can’t do so until they agree on security arrangements, Indyk will weigh in on the Palestinian side. At each juncture, he will be there, not as an observer, but as a participant, pushing a U.S. State Department-New Israel Fund agenda.
During this month of rachamim we daven that Israel emerge from this process with real peace, or at the very least, with universal recognition that it was willing to go the distance to achieve it.