Multi-tasking the Peace Process

A recent spate of articles that characterize Israelis as being indifferent to the prospects of peace in the Middle East make me wonder: What exactly does the rest of the world expect Israelis to be doing during yet another round of negotiations?

The recent Time cover story by Karl Vick “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace” and Roger Cohen’s op-ed piece in the New York Times “Peace Talks? What’s on TV?” each express bewilderment about how Israelis obliviously go about their daily business – developing software, following the latest season of Israel’s version of American Idol, getting their kids off to school, etc. – while Netanyahu and Abbas have it out over the lofty issues of Middle East peace.

Considering that the rest of the world thinks that life in Israel is “as seen on TV” – a militaristic nation of people who, when they aren’t serving in the army, are all either building illegal homes or ducking rockets, it’s not surprising that they also think that its citizens only think, talk and breathe politics. At the discovery that we don’t, they seem to think we should all turn off our TVs, cancel our gym memberships, close our businesses, and most certainly avoid going to the beach, eating in restaurants or traveling abroad, and instead gather in the town squares to wrangle over political issues until the day there is peace in the Middle East. (And I’m wondering here if Americans abandoned their TV sets when the US invaded Afghanistan or Iraq. I suspect that prime time ratings didn’t drop too much.)

Well, strangely enough, Israelis DO have lives and can multi-task the peace process. Contrary to this latest buzz about blasé Israelis, we do care. It’s just that we’ve been caring for 17 long years. After 17 years the magic fades. Indifference sets in as we exercise our democratic right to be skeptical and only listen with half an ear to the proceedings in their “same squabbles; different year” formats. We switch from the news to CSI quicker than we did when we were transfixed by the historic pictures of Rabin, Arafat and Clinton on the White House lawn in 1993.

But if and when peace does come, Israelis will embrace it with a far longer attention span than the international media, and at the same time, we’ll continue sending our kids to school, peddling apartments and, of course, watching TV.

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